Debt can be very stressful. When it comes to financial concerns, it is one of the most common in the United States. Dealing with debt is one of the most prevalent topics for financial advisors and debt relief is a huge industry for that very reason.
For some people, bankruptcy might be the best option. But the process can take time, and even preparing to file can be confusing and frustrating without the right guidance. In the meantime, you might be wondering just how legal it is for creditors to contact you about your debt.
Here is what you need to know about what the law says regarding debt collection and the rights of creditors to communicate with consumers:
Changes to Laws to Keep Up with Changing Times
Laws are constantly changing and evolving to keep pace with current social norms. A prime example of this is the advent of legislation involving cell phones and phone calls received on mobile devices. Those laws were not necessary even a decade before they became commonplace, but we cannot imagine a world without everyday cell phone usage today.
Those changes in consumer behavior are what make the law regarding business behavior an ever-changing landscape. It is also why some things have to now be clearly outlined by the law that were once a gray area. Can debt collectors use social media to get in touch with those in debt, for example? That is a question that now has a firm legal answer.
Can Debt Collectors Use Social Media?
Can debt collectors use social media to contact you? The short answer is yes. As of Tuesday, December 2nd, 2021, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau or CFPB has ruled that debt collectors in the United States can now legally reach out to consumers via social media. Platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and others are all technically fair game when it comes to this new debt collection rule.
However, there are very strict rules in place to help protect consumers in the face of these changes. Understanding these rules can help you better understand your rights regarding debt in collections and your privacy. They can also help you avoid being plagued by messages you do not legally have to receive or falling prey to online scams.
Privacy is Paramount
Speaking of privacy, that is the most important concern when it comes to allowing creditors to reach out to consumers via social media.
When you are contacted by a company or creditor via a platform like social media, you may already feel vulnerable. For many people, their social media pages are a personal space where they connect with loved ones, share personal information, and feel comfortable and relaxed. The invasion of that space by a company seeking debt repayment is already uncomfortable and jarring. Adding issues of privacy to that just makes things even more so.
Most social media platforms offer both public communication and private. Posts and comments on these platforms are generally visible to the public at large, or at least to a consumer’s friends or contacts. No creditor should contact you in this way. Rather, they should use the private messaging feature of the platform to ensure communication is private and secure.
Adequate Identification is Key
Have you ever received a message and wondered who it was from? This should never be a concern when you are receiving communication from a debt collection agency.
Any creditor that contacts a consumer via social media should immediately and clearly identify themselves. They should make it obvious what entity is trying to reach you and why. They should not require you to click through to another page to find this information or to take the conversation elsewhere unless you request this.
Opting Out is an Option
Can debt collectors use social media to legally contact you regarding your debt? Yes. But can you opt of receiving those communications? The answer to that question is also yes.
Not only should a creditor who is contacting you via social media properly and promptly identify themselves, but they should also make it easy for you to opt out of receiving these messages altogether. This should include information about your legal right to end these communications or receive them in another way, as well as links or instructions for how to do so. The idea is that opting out should be a simple and safe process.
However, not all businesses are going to use best practices when it comes to offering you the opportunity to discontinue communications. They may unknowingly omit this information or may even deliberately mislead you. As this change in the law is very recent, it may take time for everyone to get on the same page, which advocates have vocalized concern about.
As with many things, the power is technically supposed to be in the hands of the consumer – but that does not mean it actually will be. It may take some time for creditors to understand the extent of their rights under these new laws, which is why consumer education is vitally important.
Keep Yourself Safe
Online scams are some of the most prevalent financial pitfalls in today’s world. People unknowingly hand over their personal and financial information to scammers every day. While protection and recourse for this under the law is becoming the norm, legislation is still lacking and lagging in many areas.
Be proactive. Protect yourself in these situations by opting out of communication on non-secure channels like social media. Request email or written communications to ensure maximum protection. Never follow any links to other websites or provide any private or financial information without verification that you are doing so safely. This will help you prevent fraud and protect your finances and future.
If you are concerned about the way you are being contacted by debt collectors, get in touch with the team at the Van Horn Law Group. Our experienced team can guide you through the process of opting out of social media communications, help you understand your rights, and more. Contact us today for more information!