Watching Your Wallet in 2024

Nancy Olumekor

January 8, 2024

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The Consumer Finance Protection Board (CFPB) is a federal agency created to ensure consumers are treated fairly.

The CFPB Office for Older Americans works to protect retirees and seniors by helping them make sound financial decisions. A CFPB presentation titled, Watch Your Wallet: Making Housing Decisions, Managing Debt and Avoiding Scams as You Age, focused on three issues that can impact older adults – Debt in Retirement; fraud, scams and financial exploitation; and housing.

The CFPB’s work on Debt in Retirement addresses excessive credit card late fees through rulemaking, educates consumers about their rights when attempts are made to collect a deceased spouse’s credit card and medical debt, and helps older student loan borrowers protect themselves from Social Security offsets as repayments restart in fall 2023.

The CFPB has taken steps on Medical Debt when you face debt collection, coercive credit reporting from medical debt, including from inaccurate billing.

A joint letter was issued with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to clarify debt collection and consumer reporting practices involving invalid nursing home debts. Caregivers should not be held personally responsible for nursing home debt as a condition of admission of a loved one.

The CFPB has resources for what to do when a loved one dies and debt collectors call, how to manage health care credit cards with deferred interest rates, if you are wrongfully billed for Medicare costs, and an explanation of Social Security and Veterans Affairs (VA) benefit protections from automatic garnishment. The CFPB has a series of sample letters you can use to dispute debt collection.

Fraud and Scams

The CFPB has identified “red flags” for when debt relief or credit repair services are scams. These include upfront fees before they have negotiated or reduced your debt; fees before you have signed an agreement with the creditor or collector; or fees before you make any payment to the creditor or collector. Fraudulent companies often fail to explain what you can do yourself and tell you to dispute the entire credit report, even if it’s accurate and timely.

The CFPB works to protect older consumers from Fraud Losses and holds companies accountable for failing to protect consumers, ensures that consumers receive quality customer care when they report fraud, helps improve reporting and response by financial institutions in compliance with laws, and builds local relationships and coordinated responses in communities nationwide. The Money Smart for Older Adults is a scam awareness resource guide.

Managing Someone Else’s Money is a guide for caregivers who handle finances for family/friends who are incapacitated agents under a Power of Attorney, guardians and conservators, trustees, or Social Security and Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) representatives.

Resources are available on planning for diminished capacity and illness, choosing a trusted contact, designating a trusted contact for financial account, preventing elder financial abuse, and guide for family and friends of people living in nursing homes and assisted living communities.

When Fraud or Scams happen, notify your bank, financial service provider, and file a police report. Report all incidents of elder abuse by contacting 911 and Adult Protective Services. Also, report to or call 800-677-1116, and the FTC at Report Mail Fraud to the U.S. Postal Inspection Service at

Making Housing Decisions

Resources are available to help you Age in Place when you own your home. Home equity may be a lifeline for older homeowners. The CFPB has guides for: making housing decisions after losing a spouse or partner, when your health changes, leaving a home to your children or heirs, and using home equity to meet financial needs. Housing Counselors’ agencies, approved by HUD, also has information on housing issues. ■

Resources: The CFPB Office for Older Americans:

Submit complaints to or call (855) 411-2372.

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