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Security & privacy

A new rule lets debt collectors message you on social media – Here’s what they can and can’t do

Social media connects us to others — but not all those connections are good. Sometimes you’ll come across people you’d rather not see or, even worse, an old friend trying to lure you into a pyramid scheme.

Curiosity is natural when you get a new friend request, but be careful. It could be a jealous former lover, an acquaintance trying to pull one over on you, or even a scam. How do you spot these malicious friend requests? It’s not always easy. Tap or click here for some tips on making better decisions on social media.

Here’s one message you undoubtedly don’t want to receive: Debt collectors can now legally contact you through social media.

The new rules

Updates to the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, first passed in 1977, kicked in this week. Debt collectors can now reach out online as long as they follow certain rules, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

No, they can’t post on your Facebook wall that you owe money or pretend to be someone else to get close to you. Here’s what they can do:

  • The message must be private. Debt collectors cannot communicate with you on social media about a debt if the public or your friends, contacts or followers can see the conversation. So, no, they can’t post on your wall or comment on your posts regarding debt.
  • The debt collector must identify themselves as such. When sending you a message or adding you as a friend, they must let you know that they are a debt collector. No sneaky tricks.
  • Most importantly, the debt collector must provide you with a method to stop receiving their messages. After identifying themselves, they need to give you a way to opt out of receiving any more communication from them on that social media platform. You can simply tell them to stop.

Related: Other people can see the embarrassing things you ‘like’ on social media

They found you. Now what?

Once you’re in touch with a debt collector, they have to give you information on the debt in writing or electronically. This is called the validation notice. It includes the following information:

  • The debt collector’s name and mailing information
  • The creditor’s name
  • Any account numbers associated with the debt.
  • An itemization of the total debt including interest, fees, payment and credits
  • The current amount of debt as of the validation notice
  • Information about your debt collector rights and how to dispute the debt

The notice must include a form you can send back to the debt collector to dispute the debt or take another action. A message that simply says, “Hey, you owe this company $200. Pay up now!” won’t suffice.

What if you’re in contact with someone who isn’t following the rules? You can submit a complaint with the CFPB at consumerfinance.gov/complaint. If you prefer to call, dial 855-411-CFPB (2372).

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