The survey provides a comprehensive insight into consumer experiences with debt collection activity which occurs when a debt collector, collection attorney, or collection agency contacts consumers to collect unpaid debts. These debts include various past due loan and bill payments.
The following is a summary of the CFPB’s key findings:
About one-in-three consumers with a credit record (32%) indicated that they had been contacted by at least one creditor or collector trying to collect one or more debts during the year prior to the survey. Most of these consumers (72%) reported that they had been contacted about two or more debts.
Past-due medical bills, credit cards, and student loans were among the most frequently cited debts consumers were contacted about. The prevalence of contacts about credit cards and student loans in collection differed across demographic and credit-score groups. In contrast, the shares of consumers who were contacted about past-due medical bills were more comparable across income levels, credit scores, and ages.
More than half of consumers (53%) who were contacted about a debt in collection in the past year indicated that the debt was not theirs, was owed by a family member, or was for the wrong amount. Roughly one-quarter (27%) of consumers who were contacted about a debt in collection reported having disputed a debt with their creditor or collector in the past year.
About one-in-seven consumers (15%) who were contacted about a debt in collection reported having been sued by a creditor or debt collector in the preceding year. Twenty-six percent of consumers who were sued reported that they attended the court hearing.
More than one-third of consumers (37%) contacted about a debt in collection indicated that the creditor or debt collector that had contacted them most recently usually tried to reach the consumer at least four times per week and 17% reported that the creditor or collector usually tried to reach them at least eight times per week. Close to two-thirds of consumers (63%) contacted by a creditor or debt collector said they were contacted too often.
Forty-two percent of consumers with collection experience in the past year said they had asked at least one creditor or collector to stop contacting them. One-in-four consumers who made this request reported that the contact stopped.
Consumers most commonly indicated that they would prefer to be contacted about a debt in collection by letter or phone. Consumers most commonly identified in-person contacts as the way they would least like to be contacted.
Consumers feel it is important that others not overhear a message about their debt from a creditor or debt collector. At the same time, most consumers also want the creditor or debt collector to include, for example, their name and the purpose of the call (debt collection) on a voicemail or answering machine.
Consumers tend to take a more favorable view of creditors seeking to collect a debt than of debt collectors. Consumers were more likely to report that debt collectors contacted them too frequently compared with consumers contacted with the same frequency by a creditor. Consumers contacted by debt collectors were more likely than those contacted by creditors to report negative experiences such as being treated impolitely or threatened.