If you’ve had some debt sent to collections, it may be time to set your Instagram profile to private. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has announced new rules for how third-party debt collectors can engage with consumers.
In an attempt to modernize the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), revisions have been made to clarify and update how collectors may use electronic communications — which includes social media and text messages.
Beginning this fall, the following changes will take effect:
- Modern communication options. Debt collectors can now contact consumers using text message, email and social media messages. Some consumers may find it a more convenient communication line than snail mail, but if you’re uncomfortable with the method, the collector is required to detail how to limit or end communication by that method.
- Frequency of communication. Debt collectors are limited to seven calls per week per account. After having a conversation with a consumer, collectors can’t reach out again for seven days. If you have multiple accounts in collections, this can still tally up to a mass amount of calls. Additionally, this only applies to phone calls, so collectors could still reach out via email, text and social media.
- Consumer credit reports. New information will be announced in December about when collectors can add information about debt to consumer credit reports.
Nat Tsang, CEO of Wall Street Zen, told us about one of the most concerning updates, “Debt collectors will not be required to confirm that they have accurate information about the debt and the identity of the debtor before attempting to collect it.”
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This can translate into a confusing situation for a borrower. “You could get a message from someone on social media who says you owe money, and the debt may have been paid, discharged through bankruptcy, or not even owed by you in the first place,” Tsang explains. When contacted about a debt you don’t recognize, you have the right to ask the debt collector to send a debt verification letter in the mail.
Know your rights as a consumer
The FDCPA currently requires debt collectors to be truthful and prevents them from using harassing, threatening or violent language. Collectors also can’t collect more than owed, threaten to confiscate property (when not allowed by terms of your debt) and can’t ask for a post-dated check under threat or initiating prosecution.
As a consumer, you have the right under the FDCPA to request the debt collector cease communicating with you or specify when and how they’re allowed to. If a collector is seeking debt repayment from you, but you doubt the specifics of the debt, you can request a debt verification letter with more detailed information. If you’re concerned about a debt collection inquiry, revisit these points to take the best approach:
- Don’t pay a debt collector without first verifying the debt and that the collector has the right to pursue it.
- If you start receiving communications from a debt collector but never received an initial notice about the debt, it could mean it was sent to an older email or social media account.
- Request the initial debt notice and specifications before addressing collection.
It’s important to reiterate that these only apply to more than 6,000 third-party collection agencies operating in the U.S. If a collector works directly with the original creditor, they are not held to these standards.
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