Debt collectors may soon be sneaking into your DMs, or trying to befriend you or follow you on social media.
The debt collection industry was recently allowed to expand its reach to social media platforms based on rule changes by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
Perhaps not a welcome sight in any medium, debt collectors have legitimate reasons to contact consumers, but with permission to use social media, there are limits.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) recently updated its rules, allowing debt collectors to send direct messages on platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Debt collectors can also ask you for friends, send emails and text messages.
“They can’t post in a way that would be visible to the general public or even just visible to your social media contacts,” said attorney April Kuehnhoff of the National Consumer Law Center.
The National Center for Consumer Law explains that social media posts must be private and that a debt collector cannot post to your page or comment publicly.
They must also identify themselves as the debt collector in all social media posts and wait at least 14 days after messaging to notify the credit bureaus that you have defaulted on a debt.
The CFPB said it would not tolerate “excessive messaging”, but it’s unclear how that translates on social media.
With phone call attempts, the CFPB defines excessive as “more than seven calls in seven days” about a single debt, and a call that goes to voicemail is counted.
But the CFBP hasn’t defined “excessive” when it comes to social media attempts.
“Although the consumer does not know exactly what this line is, consumers have rights,” Kuehnhoff reminds.
Consumers have the right to refuse to be contacted by debt collectors on social media. The new rules require debt collectors to provide an “easy way to opt out of receiving further communications from them on this social media platform.”
If that doesn’t work, you can file a complaint with the CFPB.
The CFPB said it expects debt collectors to verify consumer identities and the underlying debt. It is a violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and new rules to contact the wrong person about a debt.
For its part, the industry representing collectors – the Association of Credit and Collection Professionals – said it had “invested thousands of hours and significant resources to comply with CFPB rules”.
He added that “consumers deserve to know their options for resolving legal obligations through modern forms of communication.”
One of the concerns of privacy advocates is how recipients of these types of social media messages will be able to tell the difference between a legitimate contact and a phishing attempt.
The guidelines are unclear, but everyone is still advised not to click on any link from an unknown party.
To learn more about consumer rights when contacted by a debt collector, click here.