Debt Collectors in Your DMs?

Consumer Bureau Rule Allows Debt Collectors to Use Social Media for Collection Communications

Andy Spears

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Who is that sliding into your DMs? It could be a debt collector, thanks to a rule implemented by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) that went into effect this month. The rule was codified during the tenure of Trump Administration CFPB Director Kathy Kraninger.

NPR reports on the rule change:

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

New rules approved by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau that took effect on Tuesday dictate how collection agencies can email and text people as well as message them on social media to seek repayment for unpaid debts.

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

Advocates at the National Consumer Law Center (NCLC) raised concerns about the opt-out provision, noting that an opt-in provision protects consumers while requiring consumers to opt-out means debt collectors have an advantage.

NCLC attorney April Kuehnhoff urged states to take action to protect consumers and expressed hope that the CFPB will revisit and revise the rules.

“The CFPB indicated that it can still revisit the rules in the future, and we urge them to do so. In the meantime, we call on states to enact additional protections to prevent vulnerable families still recovering from the pandemic from harassing and abusive debt collection practices.”

In addition to concerns specific to social media contacts by debt collectors, NCLC raised the following broad concerns:

  • Phone Calls. Collectors might harass consumers by making up to seven attempted calls per week per debt, either to the consumer or to friends and family to ask for the consumer’s contact information. A consumer with 5 medical accounts in collection could receive 35 attempted calls per week.
  • Electronic Communications without Consumer Consent. Collectors can…

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Andy Spears

Writer and policy advocate living in Nashville, TN —Public Policy Ph.D. — writes on education policy, consumer affairs, and more . . .