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5 charts that show older consumers' biggest financial gripes

  • Mortgages are the financial product older adults complain about most, accounting for 31 percent of complaints to the CFPB.
  • Debt collection and credit reports tie for second, each accounting for 17 percent of complaints.

Older adults can be tempting targets for bad actors in the financial marketplace.

Mortgages, debt collection and credit reports account for the bulk of complaints to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau from consumers age 62 and older, according to a new analysis from the U.S. PIRG Education Fund and Frontier Group. The advocates analyzed more than 72,000 complaints from seniors in the government watchdog's database.

(See charts below for some of the top-reported problems.)

"It shows that older Americans do indeed face unique threats in the marketplace and the CFPB is protecting them," said Mike Litt, consumer advocate at the U.S. PIRG Education Fund.

Cognitive decline and health problems can incite predatory behavior, Litt said. But even 1 in 18 "cognitively intact" older adults is victim to financial scams, fraud or abuse in a given year, according to a recent study in the American Journal of Public Health.

Senior couple retirement
Image Source | Getty Images

Older consumers having difficulty with a financial product have several groups that can help them get recourse, said Susan Weinstock, vice president of financial resilience programming for AARP.

"The best resource out there is actually the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau themselves," she said.

That's because the CFPB actually works to get company responses for complaints people submit, Weinstock said.

Your local Agency on Aging may also have resources to make a complaint or get help with financial matters, she said. There's also AARP's Fraud Watch Network, which maps user-submitted fraud warnings and lists local law enforcement scam alerts.

Top financial complaints

Product
Complaints
Percent of complaints
Mortgage 22,648 31%
Credit reporting, credit repair services, etc. 11,945 17%
Debt collection 11,907 17%
Credit card or prepaid card 11,126 15%
Checking or savings account 9,016 13%
Payday loan, title loan or personal loan 1,753 2%
Vehicle loan or lease 1,618 2%
Student loan 1,034 1%
Money transfer, virtual currency, etc. 973 1%
SOURCE: U.S. PIRG Education Fund and Frontier Group, using CFPB data.

Mortgage complaints

Mortgage Product
Complaints
Percent of mortgage complaints
Conventional home mortgage 12,195 54%
Other type of mortgage 5,034 22%
FHA mortgage 1,852 8%
Home equity loan or line of credit 1,839 8%
Reverse mortgage 1,042 5%
VA mortgage 686 3%
SOURCE: U.S. PIRG Education Fund and Frontier Group, using CFPB data.
Problem area
Percent of complaints
Trouble during payment process 41%
Struggling to pay mortgage 40%
Applying for or refinancing a mortgage 14%
Closing on a mortgage 5%
SOURCE: U.S. PIRG Education Fund and Frontier Group, using CFPB data.

Credit report complaints

Complaint
Percent of complaints
Incorrect information on report 67%
Unable to get credit report or score 13%
Problem with investigation into credit report problem 11%
Credit monitoring or ID theft protection services 5%
Improper use of report 4%
SOURCE: U.S. PIRG Education Fund and Frontier Group, using CFPB data.

Debt collection complaints

Complaint
Percent of complaints
Attmepts to collect debt not owed 51%
Improper communication tactics 20%
Other 18%
Insufficient written notice 11%
SOURCE: U.S. PIRG Education Fund and Frontier Group, using CFPB data.