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Debt Collectors Have a New Tool: Social Media

Consumer advocates fear harassment, scams
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 2, 2021 5:20 PM CST
Debt Collectors Have a New Tool: Social Media
Debt collectors can now move past mail to social media, emails, and text messages.   (Getty/artisteer)

(Newser) – People with social media accounts could be receiving more friend requests than usual. It might be because debt collectors now can use social media to reach people who owe money, the Washington Post reports. Text messages could increase, too. The changes in the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act were introduced by the Trump administration and took effect Tuesday. The Trump appointee behind the move, who has resigned at President Biden's request, said the change would "modernize the legal regime for debt collection."

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But it could also lead to harassment of struggling borrowers, Michelle Singletary writes. They also could become victims of online scams, per NPR. "I have actually already gotten my first spam debt collection email even before the new rules took effect," said a lawyer for the National Consumer Law Center. "So certainly we should anticipate more bad actors who are trying to scam people into paying them money on alleged debts." She advises not clicking on links from anyone you don't know. The new rules were welcomed by the collection industry, which said many people prefer to communicate by text or email.

The new rules add a few restrictions on debt collectors. They'll be limited to seven phone calls per week per account. Messages sent to debtors through social media can't be viewable by anyone else. Friend requests from collectors have to be clear about the reason for the request. And consumers have to be able to opt out of future messages on that platform. TransUnion reported that after the third quarter, 77.6 million US consumers had at least one debt in collections. Outstanding balances totaled $188 billion, the report said. (Read more debt collection stories.)

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