Don’t be surprised if debt collectors slip into your DMs. A new rule allows debt collectors to contact you on social media, text or email, not just over the phone.
The rule, which was approved last year by former Consumer Financial Protection Bureau chairwoman Kathleen L. Kraninger, came into effect on Tuesday, November 30. In a 2020 blog post on the changes, Kraninger wrote that debt collectors were working with outdated standards that haven’t changed since 1977 and that the new rule reflects the use of modern technology.
The rule also clarifies the restrictions on how debt collectors can contact you, as defined by the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. Collectors should clearly identify themselves, send only private messages, and, as part of their message, offer an opt-out option to receive further messages when contacting via social media, email, or email. SMS.
When it comes to phone calls, debt collectors were already limited to seven calls within seven days, but the new rule clarifies that calls that go directly to voicemail are counted as phone contacts.
Despite these protections, consumer advocates argue the new rules expose people to increased harassment from unscrupulous lenders.
âContacting borrowers on social media is very invasive, beyond just catching up with the technology we currently have. I think it might encourage misconduct by allowing debt collectors to search people’s private accounts on social media, âsays Andrea Bopp Stark, an attorney with the National Center for Consumer Law.
Because the rule is enforced by receivables, people with three or four overdue debts already have to process as many calls in a given day, says Bopp Stark. By adding emails, texts and social media as a means of communication with borrowers, the new rule only makes it easier for debt collectors to harass people, even with the opt-out option, she argues.
Additionally, it’s not yet clear how the opt-out options will work, or how to differentiate them from potential phishing scams. The FTC already warns against clicking on hyperlinks in unsolicited text, emails and social media posts, and recommends independently verifying the sender is legitimate.
However, it’s not always easy for many Americans who don’t have regular high-speed internet access or are tech-savvy, says Bopp Stark.
âThese changes will affect those who are most in need of protection,â she says. “This opens the door to possible abuse and coercion, with people feeling pressured to click on something that might be dangerous or to do something that they would not normally be comfortable doing.”