Make us your home page

For older consumers keen to preserve their savings, report offers a helping hand

A new report finds older Americans filed the most financial complaints to the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau about mortgage problems. In a 2014 photo, Fran Goodnow of  St. Petersburg talked about having to move out of her Kenwood home for failing to abide by the terms of a reverse mortgage. [SCOTT KEELER      |     TIMES]

A new report finds older Americans filed the most financial complaints to the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau about mortgage problems. In a 2014 photo, Fran Goodnow of St. Petersburg talked about having to move out of her Kenwood home for failing to abide by the terms of a reverse mortgage. [SCOTT KEELER | TIMES]

Now that I am officially an "older" consumer — at least based on this report's criteria — I can offer firsthand confirmation that predatory lending and a poorly monitored debt collection industry are both alive and well in Florida.

That's why a 35-page report issued Thursday — Older Consumers in the Financial Marketplace — that looks at financial complaints filed by folks 62 and older to the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau resonates more to me now than it might have a decade ago.

The report analyzes specific complaints sent to the CFPB from older consumers nationwide. It's no shock that the 8,469 complaints from older Florida consumers was second in volume only to the 10,986 from California, a state with nearly twice the population of this one.

RELATED COVERAGE: U.S. and states accuse subprime mortgage servicer Ocwen of years of abuses.

The report is a collaboration of the U.S. Public Interest Research Group and the Frontier Group public policy firm. The report's part of a series of analyses looking at how consumers are dealing with the changing U.S. financial industry. The collapse of the financial industry in 2008 sparked Wall Street failures, forced mergers of major Wall Street investment firms like Merrill Lynch and others, and saw the Dow Jones Industrial Average plummet in March 2009 close to 7,000.

The CFPB was established in 2011 as a federal response to consumers needing more help dealing with volatile and often unfriendly financial markets and firms. Now that the economy has strengthened and the Dow has rebounded dramatically, trading this past week above 22,000, the Trump administration is eager to do away with or at least sideline the influence of the CFPB via newly proposed legislation.

This report aims, in part, to justify the value and preserve the clout of the CFPB for consumers. But that's a political agenda for another story. The latest report also has valuable insights for older consumers dealing with their financial affairs. Among the report's key findings:

• Mortgages, notably existing mortgages, account for 31 percent of complaints by older consumers.

• Among older consumers, 5 percent of mortgage complaints relate to reverse mortgages, loans solely available to older consumers that allow them to use their home equity as security. Understanding reverse mortgages can be tricky. Remember those TV ads with spokesmen like Fred Thompson and Tom Selleck earnestly pitching reverse mortgages? The CFPB has taken action against reverse mortgage companies (including the one featuring these actors) for misleading consumers about risks.

PAST COVERAGE: Complexities of reverse mortgages snag homeowners.

• Older consumers often report inaccurate debt appearing on their credit reports, including medical debt.

• Most debt collection complaints assert either inaccurate debt, or mistreatment by the debt collector.

Adding to recent concerns, if you have a credit report, there's a chance you're one of the 143 million U.S. consumers whose sensitive personal information was exposed in a data breach earlier this year at Equifax, one of the nation's three major credit reporting agencies.

"After the Equifax data breach, we looked closely at complaints from older Americans about credit reporting companies," states Gideon Weissman of Frontier Group, the report's co-author. "We found that for older consumers, credit reporting is the second-most complained about type of financial product. And two thirds of those complaints allege inaccuracies on credit reports."

Which companies got most mortgage complaints from older consumers?

Company Number of complaints

Bank of America 3,218

Wells Fargo 2,969

Ocwen Loan Servicing 2,509

Nationstar Mortgage 1,920

Chase 1,809

Ditech 1,203

Citibank 874


Who got the most debt collection complains?

Company Number of complaints

Encore Capital Group 636

Portfolio Recovery Associates 483

Citibank 348

ERC 302

Synchrony Bank 245

Where the most older consumers complained*

State Number of complaints

California 10,986

Florida 8,469

New York 4,515

Texas 4,485

Georgia 2,943

* Complaints made to federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau 2011 through July 2017

Tips for older consumers

•To file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau: visit or call (855) 411-CFPB. The Consumer Bureau sends submitted complaints to companies for a response, and allows consumers to receive status updates.

• To learn more about resources for older Americans: visit the Office for Older Americans at

• Other helpful resources for older consumers are available through the website of the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP). AARP Money, available at, can help guide older consumers on matters of managing debt, making investments, avoiding scams, and living on a budget.

Source: Older Consumers in the Financial Marketplace, U.S. PIRG and Frontier Group, October 2017

For older consumers keen to preserve their savings, report offers a helping hand 10/13/17 [Last modified: Thursday, October 12, 2017 6:04pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Black entrepreneur says city stiffing him on project after he endorsed Rick Baker


    ST. PETERSBURG — A prominent African-American resident says his endorsement of mayoral candidate Rick Baker has led city officials to freeze him out of a major construction project along the historic "Deuces" stretch of 22nd Street S.

  2. Sen. Nelson urges FEMA to examine high number of denied flood claims


    Sen. Bill Nelson urged FEMA on Tuesday to ensure fairness, proper oversight and transparency in processing Hurricane Irma aid following a report by the Palm Beach Post that 90 percent of Irma claims under the National Flood Insurance Program had been denied.

    Sen. Bill Nelson is calling for FEMA to ensure the flood claims process post-Hurricane Irma is fair and ethical following reports that 90 percent of claims under the National Flood Insurance Program were denied. | [Times file photo]
  3. Amazon expands in Tampa with Pop-Up shop in International Plaza


    TAMPA — A new retailer known largely for its online presence has popped up at International Plaza and Bay Street.

    Shoppers walk past the new Amazon kiosk Tuesday at the International Plaza in Tampa. The kiosk, which opened last month, offers shoppers an opportunity to touch and play with some of the products that Amazon offers.
[CHRIS URSO   |   Times]

  4. Study: Florida has fourth-most competitive tax code


    Florida's tax code is the fourth most competitive in the country, according to a study released Tuesday by nonprofit group Tax Foundation.

    Florida has the fourth-most competitive tax code, a study by the Tax Foundation said. Pictured is  Riley Holmes, III, H&R Block tax specialist, helping a client with their tax return in April. | [SCOTT KEELER, Times]
  5. Trigaux: On new Forbes 400 list of U.S. billionaires, 35 now call Florida their home

    Personal Finance

    The latest Forbes 400 richest people in America was unveiled Tuesday, with 35 billionaires on that list calling Florida home. That's actually down from 40 Florida billionaires listed last year when a full 10 percent listed declared they were Floridians by residence.

    Edward DeBartolo, Jr., shopping center developer and  former San Francisco 49ers Owner, posed with his bronze bust last year during the NFL Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceremony in Canton, Ohio. DeBartolo remains the wealthiest person in Tampa Bay according to the Forbes 400 list released Tuesday. 
[Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images]