New financial regulations allow debt collectors to privately message people on social media services such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram in an attempt to collect a debt.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's new Debt Collection Rule, which went into effect on Tuesday, is part of the overarching Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, which governs the way debt collectors contact people they're trying to collect from. Essentially, the rule makes it illegal for collectors to harass or threaten debtors. The act was passed in 1977, before the arrival of social media, and so recent additions were made.
Although debt collectors can contact people on social media, there are restrictions:
- The messages on social media must be private and not viewable by anyone outside the debt collector and the debtor.
- The debt collector must identify themselves as soon as they contact a debtor.
- The debt collector must provide a way for debtors to opt out of receiving further communication from the collector on social media.
The new rule potentially impacts millions of American. According to a CFPB survey in 2017, more than 70 million people had been contacted by a creditor or debt collector about a debt in the previous year.