Scores of older Tucsonans have reported shabby treatment from mortgage companies, debt collectors and credit-reporting agencies, federal data show.
Nearly 70 locals age 62 and older filed formal complaints with the government about unauthorized bank fees, fraudulent credit-card charges, harassing phone calls and other financial problems.
The local complaints to the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau were among more than 1,900 filed statewide by older people since mid-2015, a new report from the Arizona Public Interest Research Group and Frontier Group shows.
The report says Arizona ranks 10th nationwide for the highest number of financial complaints from seniors, behind California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, Nevada, New Jersey and the District of Columbia.
Some Tucson complainants told the government they nearly lost their homes because banks didn’t tell them about mortgage assistance available to help them avoid foreclosure.
Others said their credit scores plunged when lenders neglected to remove inaccurate information from their credit files.
Still others said they were hounded for months by debt collectors demanding payment for debts they didn’t owe.
Some locals received financial compensation or other types of redress after filing complaints. Most of the 69 local cases were “closed with explanation,” which indicates that a complaint was substantially resolved or explains why no further action will be taken.
Diane Brown, executive director of the Arizona Public Interest Research Group, said seniors “can make tempting targets for predatory behavior in the financial marketplace.
“Scammers may look to take advantage of the savings, home equity or guaranteed income of older consumers,” Brown said in a statement announcing the findings.
Seniors with fragile finances often are tempted to take on more debt or may rely on “products such as reverse mortgages, whose risks may not be fully understood,” she said.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau was established in 2010 as part of the Dodd-Frank Act, which tightened rules for financial institutions in the wake of the Great Recession. The bureau serves all consumers, not just seniors.
Proposed changes to the law, recently passed by the U.S. House of Representatives and awaiting Senate action, would curb the consumer agency’s power and make seniors more vulnerable to the financial industry’s bad actors, Brown said.
Supporters of the changes say they are needed to stimulate economic growth.