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Debt collectors OK'd to use social media to reach borrowers

There are strict guidelines governing how a collector can reach out on platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
Image: Cellphone user
A pedestrian holds an Apple iPhone outside a store in San Francisco, on July 22, 2021.David Paul Morris / Bloomberg via Getty Images file

Debt collectors can now use social media to send direct messages to borrowers who owe, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has ruled.

The agency says the updated rule, proposed last year and enacted this week, will clarify part of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, which governs the way agents may reach the indebted in order to collect.

"The FDCPA’s definition of communication includes newer electronic media, such as email, text messaging and social media," the CFPB wrote in October 2020.

However, the final rule includes strict guidelines governing how a debt collector can reach out on platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

First, their message must be private — none of your Facebook or Instagram friends should be able to see it, that agency said.

Second, they have to tell you who they are: “If a debt collector attempts to send you a private message requesting to add you as a friend or contact, the debt collector must identify themself as a debt collector,” CFPB said.

The debt collector's message must include a way to opt-out of receiving additional messages on electronic media, like an email, text or social media direct message, the bureau said.

The rule clarifies that before a collector can report a defaulted debt to a credit rating agency, they must either speak to the borrower in person, by telephone or wait at least 14 days after sending a letter or electronic communication — including social media message — before proceeding with reporting.

The CFPB wrote that the change "clarifies how debt collectors can communicate with you, including what information they’re required to provide at the outset of collection about the debt, your rights in debt collection and how you can exercise those rights."