Debt Collectors Can Now Contact Borrowers Through Social Media

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Talk about pushing boundaries.

Debt collectors have rules to follow in reaching out to people who owe money. They can't, for example, call you at unreasonable hours, such as very early in the morning or very late at night, nor can they threaten to arrest you or cause you physical harm if you don't make good on your outstanding financial obligations.

But debt collectors are allowed to be persistent in their efforts to recoup whatever you owe. That means they can call you frequently, send you letters in the mail, text you, and now, reach out to you on social media.

The last wasn't always the case. But this year, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) changed its rules to allow debt collectors to contact people through their social media accounts. And that could open the door to a world of unpleasantness.

Your social media accounts are no longer off-limits

Many people log onto social media to stay in touch with friends and loved ones -- and to entertain themselves and unwind. But if you owe money to a creditor, whether it's for unpaid balances on your credit cards or a medical bill you've yet to take care of, be prepared for debt collectors to contact you via your social media accounts.

The good news is that debt collectors must still abide by rules if they use social media as a communication tool. For one thing, they can't mislead you into connecting with them, which means they can't pose as a friend or social contact, then send you messages about the money you owe. Rather, debt collectors who reach out through social media must make it clear from the get-go that they're seeking to collect on an outstanding obligation.

Furthermore, debt collectors can't discuss your debts in a public forum. In other words, a debt collector can't post a message on your Facebook wall reminding you to pay up or face serious consequences. However, that debt collector can send you a private message through Facebook asking you to pay up.

Know your rights

Unfortunately, debt collectors now have a lot more leeway in getting consumers to pay. But that doesn't mean they're allowed to break the law. If you feel that a debt collector has gone overboard, read up on your rights (the CFPB has lots of information on its website about what debt collectors are and are not allowed to do). And if you're certain your rights have been violated, consider contacting an attorney to take legal action.

Like it or not, debt collection laws are shifting with the times. Given the ways so many people use social media, this change does make sense, even though it's not a positive one. On the other hand, maybe it'll inspire more people to spend less time on social media. That's a kick in the pants a lot of us could certainly use.

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