Don’t worry, debt collectors won’t be able to comment on your posts or write up something for the public to see. But according to a release from the CFPB Tuesday, they now can privately message you on social media.
The debt collectors must clearly identify themselves, and they also must include a way for you to stop receiving their messages, basically providing a mechanism to opt out.
Changes to integrate modern technological communication methods into the CFPB have been over a year in the making. In October 2020, Kathleen Kraninger, director of the CFPB at the time, announced in a blog post that the agency was making upgrades to the capabilities of debt collectors.
“Advances in technology in particular have transformed how we communicate,” Kraninger said in the post. “But debt collectors and consumers have been trapped in a time warp. They have been required to communicate with each other under standards Congress enacted in 1977.”
Other than social media, debt collectors also can use phone calls, email, text messages and letters to communicate with consumers.
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While debt collectors have several mechanisms at their disposal, the 1977 Fair Debt Collection Practices Act prohibits harassing, abusive and unfair debt collection practices as well as false and misleading representations by debt collectors.
The CFPB’s Debt Collection Rule bans collectors from calling more than seven times within a seven-day period or within seven days after engaging in a phone conversation with you about a particular debt.
However, the CFPB guidelines don’t include any limits on how often a debt collector can reach you via text, e-mail or private messages. It only says that they need to provide you an option to unsubscribe.
Debt collection is a multi-billion dollar industry with more than 8,000 debt collection firms in the United States. While many contact points from debt collectors are legitimate, it’s also important to watch out for debt collection scams, the Federal Trade Commission warns.
A caller may be a fake debt collector if they want you to repay a debt you don’t recognize, refuse to give you their mailing address or phone number or try to scare you into paying by threatening to report you to law enforcement or have you arrested, the FTC says.
Consumers have rights when it comes to being contacted by debt collectors, and keeping them in mind will help you spot scammers and prevent harassment, the CFPB says.
Michelle Shen is a Money & Tech Digital Reporter for USA TODAY. You can reach her @michelle_shen10 on Twitter.