U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer is asking for a federal inquiry into a growing number of reports that debt collectors are attempting to “shake down” surviving spouses and children of deceased credit card debtors, even when those family members are under no legal obligation to pay off the debt of their deceased loved ones.
The Democratic Senator from New York sent a letter to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) this week, citing several recent media reports of companies that “call surviving relatives, often shortly after the death of a loved one, to coax or cajole them into making payments on the deceased relative’s credit card.” Senator Schumer’s letter asks the FTC to investigate these allegations, and requests an inventory of how many debt collectors may be engaged in such unlawful practices, and which credit card companies may be contracting with the offending collection agencies. Senator Schumer calls the practice “distasteful and unethical,” and declares that these collectors may also be violating a federal law called the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act lays out what creditors and collection agencies can and cannot do in attempting to collect money owed. Typically, a debt collector is not permitted to communicate with family members or other third parties linked to a debtor, unless the third party is somehow legally obligated to pay the debt in question, or is acting as executor or administrator of the deceased debtor's estate.