New rules from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which went into effect last week, provide instructions on how debt collectors can contact borrowers on social media to receive payments for unpaid debts.
Kathleen L. Kraninger, the former director of the CFPB who spearheaded the rule changes, said changes are needed because the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act is more than four decades old.
Industry representatives welcomed the development as a welcome change from the outdated methods of the collections industry.
The new rules state that debt collection companies that contact borrowers via social media must identify themselves as debt collection companies when making a friend request. Borrowers must also have the option of not being contacted online, and all messages between debt collection companies and borrowers must be done privately and cannot be seen by others.
Collection agencies can also e-mail and text borrowers, but the latter should still have the option to opt out.
April Kuehnhoff, a staff attorney at the National Consumer Law Center, said consumers should instead have the choice to opt into electronic messages rather than being given the choice to opt out, adding that many people do not regularly check social media and may therefore overlook critical information about a debt.
Kuehnhoff also argued that using social media enables criminals and fraudsters to contact borrowers to have another avenue to swindle money out of other people’s pockets.
Kuehnhoff urged consumers never to click on links from people they don’t know, and encouraged them to report problems with debt collection messages on social media to the CFPB.
The new rules also restrict debt collectors from contacting borrowers up to seven calls a week per affected account.