5 charts that show older consumers' biggest financial gripes

Key Points
  • 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.
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Protecting your parents

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.

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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

Top elder complaints PIRG

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%
Mortgage complaints

Types of mortgage complaints PIRG

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 mortgage686,3%

Top mortgage complaints PIRG

Problem area Percent of complaints
Trouble during payment process41%
Struggling to pay mortgage40%
Applying for or refinancing a mortgage14%
Closing on a mortgage5%
Credit report complaints

Top credit complaints PIRG

Complaint Percent of complaints
Incorrect information on report67%
Unable to get credit report or score13%
Problem with investigation into credit report problem11%
Credit monitoring or ID theft protection services5%
Improper use of report4%
Debt collection complaints

Top debt collection complaints PIRG

Complaint Percent of complaints
Attmepts to collect debt not owed51%
Improper communication tactics20%
Other18%
Insufficient written notice11%