Credello: What Can You Do About Debt Collectors Over Social Media? What Are Your Rights?

 Annoying collection calls at dinnertime are a thing of the past. Smartphone users simply don't answer them. Most of us are more likely to respond to a text or instant message. Collection agents know this, and they've adapted their strategies accordingly. Have you been approached on social media yet? Be prepared. If you have accounts in collections, it's coming.  

The Consumer Finance Protection Bureau (CFPB) recently expanded on the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) enacted in 1977. The modifications are long past due. Where the original rules were focused on phone calls and written communication (snail mail), the CFPB now has guidelines for dealing with debt collectors via text, email, and social media.   

CFPB Changes as of November 30, 2021

Effective as of Nov. 30of this year, the CFPB has expanded how debt collectors can reach out to debtors, but they also put some checks and balances in place to protect the consumer. Collection agents are now allowed to contact you on social media or by text, but only with private messages. They can also use email if it's addressed to the debtor only. 

All collection actions in this category are required to include an "opt-out" option that the consumer can use to stop receiving further emails, texts, or social media messages. Think of it as a "Do Not Call" option like the DNC registries that were put together several years ago. The difference here is that opting out is a one or two-click option.

The rules for phone calls were also changed. The original FDCPA restricted collectors to seven calls in seven days, but they didn't count calls that went straight to voicemail. The new rule includes those calls, so collectors can't simply count contacts. Unfortunately, this only applies to a single debt account. Consumers with multiple debts could get several calls a day.

How to Protect Yourself from Debt Collectors

Critics of the new rules believe that social media collections are too invasive, and that opt-out methods won't work because it's impossible to distinguish real collectors from phishing scams. The CFPB is already warning consumers not to click links in social media messages. This new "opt-out" system for stopping collections runs contrary to that.       

As a consumer, you have the legal right to know who is contacting you, which debt the call or message is in relation to, and the name and address of the original creditor. Collectors are also required to tell you that you can dispute the debt. Rather than clicking a link in the message, respond back that you need all this information. Legitimate collectors will send it. 

The next step is to double-check the information they send against your credit report. You can get a free copy of your report at FreeCreditReport.com. Once the debt is verified, find a way to pay it. That is the best way to stop collection calls, emails, texts, and social media messages. If you can't afford it, ask the debt collector if there's a settlement offer available.

The Bottom Line: Ignoring Them Won't Make Them Go Away 

Social media collection messages are going to be annoying, but they're no different from collection phone calls when you put them in perspective. Ignoring them won't make them go away. Opt out if you can confirm they're legitimate. Respond and negotiate payment if you're able. Resolving the account is by far the best way to stop collection action.

If you're being harassed by collectors who are violating the new rules, visit the CFPB online or call 855-411-2372 to lodge a complaint. You can also find help at the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) by calling 877-382-4357. Or call your local Attorney General's office.    

Sources: 

USA Today  

CNBC 

Source: Credello

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Categories: Personal and Family Finances

Tags: Debt, Financial Services, Personal Finance


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