FDCPA updates OK debt collectors to use text and social media


Tired of debt collectors flooding your mailbox and voice mail? Get ready for them to start contacting you via text message, email, and social media.

There may not be enough angry emojis to show your reaction to the message.

But starting in November 2021, from Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Opened the floodgates for debt collectors to contact you via SMS, email, and even social media. Although there are some new marginal protections for ordinary citizens, there are also many new and potential related rights for debt collectors.

Since 1977, the Fair Debt Collection and Practice Act (FDCPA) has not been updated. In our digital age, this means that we are largely immune from debt collectors harassing us online. no longer.

Requires pre-debt verification and consumer education

under New FDCPA rules, The debt collector must provide you with Debt verification Provide information during the initial communication with you or within five days of the initial communication.

Previously, these debt verification and Debt certificate It must be paper and mailed in the old fashioned way. But under the new rules, the verification can be provided electronically or even verbally-as long as the verbal verification is provided in the initial communication.

Expert tips

The debt confirmation letter must include how much you owe, who you owe, and actions you can take. It is one of the main tools for finding errors or fraud.

This is very different from the old rules, which were created because the debt industry believes that mailing verification letters is too expensive for them. The CFPB under the Trump administration stands on the side of the debt industry and opposes the arguments of consumer advocates on this issue.

It is important to know that if the debt collector did not provide verification during the initial contact and you paid before the five-day period expires, they no longer need to provide you with that verification.

New regulations for electronic communications

Now that debt collectors can contact you online or via SMS, let us delve into what this means for your communication with them.

When debt collectors contact you via email

Under the new regulations, debt collectors can now contact you via email.

However, Bruce McClary, vice president of communications at the National Credit Counseling Foundation in Washington, stated that if debt collectors send you an email, they may use it as an opportunity to start collecting payments without clearly explaining that you have Right to know the information, DC

This confuses consumers even more, as debt verification letters can now be provided electronically.

“They may include document signature elements in these emails so that people can ask for debt verification-or reach an agreement to repay the debt,” he said.

However, just because a debt collector sent an email does not mean you will receive endless messages.

The rule does require debt collectors to provide a “reasonable and simple method” to opt out of future communications through these methods.

If the debt collector contacts you via electronic communication, you can request to stop the communication. Remember, this communication must be in writing-telling them over the phone will not work.

When debt collectors contact you via text message

Now, debt collectors can also contact you via SMS. When it comes to electronic communications, there is no mention of the limit on the number of contacts. If you don’t have an unlimited texting plan, an enthusiastic debt collector may quickly send your mobile bill to the roof.

You will want to stifle this situation in its infancy by immediately communicating that they should stop contacting you via text. Again, please make sure to make this request in writing.

Now debt collectors are also allowed to use hyperlinks in their texts, which is confusing in a world where we are taught to never click on links from people we don’t know. The CFPB allowed this because it concluded that it would be easier for consumers to access verification and verification information through these hyperlinks.

But it may also open the door for scammers.

When debt collectors contact you via social media

Perhaps the most worrying thing is that the change in rules has opened the door to social media communication.

According to McClary, debt collectors are not allowed to disclose any information about the debt to anyone other than the debtor-even the reason for the contact. There is one exception: if you manage the estate of a deceased person, debt collectors can also contact you about their debts.

Because they are not allowed to disclose debts to anyone other than you, any posts or messages they send to you on social media platforms cannot be made public.

“One debt collector even suggested…they will be able to connect with people using social media tools such as WhatsApp,” McClary said. “This is a bit worrying. When you start talking about social media as a communication tool for debt collectors, privacy issues arise.”

You also need to watch out for debt collectors who are trying to make friends with you on Facebook, Instagram, or any other social media network to establish contact.

New rules for telephone collection

Another change to this new rule is that making more than seven phone calls for a particular debt within a week is considered harassment. Once the payee talks to the consumer, the collection agency must wait a week before calling the consumer again about the debt issue.

This seems reasonable, but people who are overdue rarely owe only one account.

“If you think about it, a person may owe more than one debt-they may also owe three debts, so they are allowed to try to contact 21 times a week,” McLarry pointed out. “It is easy to understand that this may add more pressure than some of the current regulations.”

Protect yourself from online debt collection scams

If you are not sure whether the person you are contacting is a legitimate debt collector, you can use a strategy called “out-of-band authentication” to reduce your chances of falling into a scam.

Out-of-band identity verification is a peculiar term. If someone contacts you on one platform, you can verify their true identity by looking up them on another platform. In this case, if someone enters your DM due to debt, you can find the collection company, verify its legitimacy, and then call them directly to request a debt verification letter.

Keep at least one communication line open

even though You don’t think you are in debt Or think that this may be a scam, and you should at least maintain a communication channel with the collection agency.

“Regardless of whether you talk to them or not, their efforts to collect debts will continue,” McClary said. “It is better to have a conversation and understand what their next step will be, rather than guessing…and proceed based on the hope that they will not upgrade their accounts or take some type of legal action.”

Depending on the state you live in, you may also have additional consumer protection rights.You can go to your State Attorney General website.

Pittsburgh writer Brynne Conroy is the founder of the Women’s Thrift blog and the author of “The Handbook of Feminist Finance.” She is a regular contributor to The Penny Hoarder. This report contains information from Penny Hoarder author and editor Tiffany Wendeln Connors.


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