Debt collectors can now text, email and DM you on social media: NPR

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In this photo illustration, the Facebook and Instagram applications are visible on the screen of an iPhone.

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The next time someone tries to befriend you on Facebook or follow you on Instagram, it could be a debt collector.

New rules approved by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau which went into effect on Tuesday, dictates how collection agencies can email and text people, as well as send them social media messages asking for debt repayment unpaid.

Kathleen L. Kraninger, the former director of CFPB who oversaw the rule changes, said last year it was a necessary update to the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, which is older. of four decades.

“We are finally leaving 1977 behind and developing a debt collection system that works for consumers and industry in the modern world,” Kraninger said in a blog post.

But consumer advocates say borrowers risk missing key debt information or falling prey to illegal scams if contacted online.

“The rules are really disappointing and worrying in a lot of ways,” said April Kuehnhoff, an attorney at the National Consumer Law Center.

New rules set limits for debt collectors

Under the new rules, debt collectors who contact you on social media must identify themselves as debt collectors, but may attempt to join your network by sending you a friend request. Collectors should give you the option to opt out of being contacted online, and all messages they send should be private – collectors can’t post to your page if it can be seen by your contacts or the public.

Collection agencies can also send emails and texts to debtors, but should always offer the option to opt out. Industry officials hailed the move as a welcome change from obsolete methods currently used by the collections industry.

“Consumers involved in the collection process deserve to be on an equal footing with others in the financial services market, recognizing their preference for the use of email and text messaging over other obsolete methods, such as faxes, as stated in the current law, ”Mark Neeb. , CEO of ACA International, a trade association for debt collectors, said in a statement.

Advocates say consumers will pay the price

Kuehnhoff said consumers should have been given the option to accept email messages rather than being forced to unsubscribe. She suggested that consumers who don’t regularly check social media or miss an email may not see critical debt information. Many people also do not have regular internet access, she added.

Allowing debt collectors to email, text, and use social media to contact consumers also gives criminals a new way to try and scam people with their money, a practice Kuehnhoff hopes. increase in the future.

“In fact, I already received my first spam debt collection email even before the new rules went into effect,” she said. “So we should definitely anticipate more bad actors trying to scam people into paying them money on so-called debt.”

Kuehnhoff suggested consumers shouldn’t click on links from people they don’t know and said they can report any issues with debt collection messages to CFPB.

The new rules were crafted under the Trump administration, when the office became more business-friendly than it had been in the past. Kraninger resigned in January at the behest of President Biden, who appointed Rohit Chopra to be the agency’s new director.

The new rules also set for the first time a limit on how often debt collectors can call you. Agencies will be limited to seven calls per week per collection account.



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