Debt Collectors Target Relatives of Deceased Persons

Debt collectors are harassing individuals to pay the debts of deceased family members. Many of the targeted survivors are elderly. A WSJ article gives an example of a debt collector retained by Bank of America to collect $16K on a credit card debt from a retired 68 year widow. She received up to 10 calls a day from West Asset Management, Omaha, NE about the debt. The widow was not legally responsible for the debt, but that did not stop the debt collector.

The WSJ article has two recorded calls between the harassed widow and the debt collector. The caller starts with expressions of sympathy (really sincere!) and then goes into a discussion about how she could “get this taken off your plate.”

Mrs. Long, of Cape Coral, Fla., told the debt collector she had “lost everything.” She had sold the their motor home to help cover medical bills and funeral costs leaving only $2K from some life insurance. She offered to pay that “just to get this off of my head.”

Debts don’t survive one’s death unless surviving family members co-signed on the obligation.

One debt collector focuses exclusively on deceased debts. DCM Services brags it “manages collections on more than $1 billion in deceased accounts per year with an extremely low complaint rate.”

To target survivors, DCM Services built a massive database of the recently deceased.

Debt collectors often tell surviving family members that they aren’t personally responsible for paying the debts of the deceased. But those words barely register with grieving relatives, according to interviews with a dozen lawyers who represent about 60 families pursued for money owed by dead relatives.

Debt collectors misled some people into believing they are required by law to pay the debts of dead relatives.

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