On Tuesday, November 30, 2021, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau approved a new set of rules that alters how debt collectors contact you. Debt collectors are now allowed to contact you on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or any other form of social media. They are also able to “friend” or “follow” you on any social media platform. This change will affect millions of Americans as one-third of adults in the U.S. carry some form of debt.
The New Rules
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has put some restrictions into place that should protect the debtors, but many are concerned that these rules are not enough to stop unwanted messages or scammers. In order for a debt collector to contact you on social media, they must follow these 3 rules: keep the messages private, identify themselves as a debt collector, and lastly offer you a simple way to opt out of receiving further communication on that social media platform.
How Will This Affect Those With Outstanding Debts?
The first obvious flaw in this new set of rules is that debt collectors don’t need permission from you to contact you over social media but rather you can only opt out after you have been contacted. The Bureau also did not put any limitations on the number of messages sent or what hours you may be contacted. Additionally, they have a rule set in place that prohibits debt collectors from posting public messages, this means they cannot post on your Facebook page but rather only direct message you. This rule helps ensure the consumers privacy, but it also leads to another shortcoming. Debt collectors have no way of verifying that they are messaging the correct person before it is too late. As a result, the wrong individual could have potentially read a message that contains confidential information about you and your debts.
This updated protocol has been a long time coming as the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act was first passed in 1977. At this time, it was rare for most to have a mobile phone or an email which was still a new concept, let alone the ability to text. Debt collectors believe these updated rules will put them on a level playing field as well as allow them to contact consumers via their preferred method of communication. Unfortunately, this also means consumers could miss messages or notices from collectors as not everyone has 24/7 access to the internet or may have been locked out of certain accounts.
Limiting Debt Collectors
These new set of laws will limit how often debtors can be contacted via phone. Subsequently, debt collectors cannot contact consumers within one week after speaking to them on the phone about a specific debt. In addition, collectors cannot make more than seven calls a week about a specific debt. However, these new rules don’t apply to emails, text messages or social media messages. Prior to this there was no threshold on the number of calls collectors could make as long as they were not harassing consumers. This restriction is beneficial to consumers, but it is not perfect. If you have four separate medical debts that are in collections that could mean up to 28 calls a week.
How to Protect Yourself from Scams
There is also the concern that this new avenue of communication will allow scammers easier access to vulnerable individuals with debts. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau suggests not clicking on links from people you do not know and report any suspicious or illegal messages you may receive.
If you have burdensome debt and are fed up with debt collectors contacting you, it may be time to explore your debt relief options. Call Hoglund Law today to set up a free 30-45-minute consultation with one of our experienced attorneys. Together you will explore what debt relief options you may be eligible for and set up a plan to help you get back on your feet.