Commentary

Debt Collectors Have A New Contact Point: Social Media

There is no escaping debt.

Now, thanks to a new rule from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, debt collectors can contact you via your private Twitter and Facebook Messenger inboxes.

And this rule may impact tens of millions of Americans.

While the Debt Collection Rule, which became effective Nov. 30, allows debt collectors to remind you of your unpaid obligations on social media, no one else will see the message.

There are caveats: The debt collector must be transparent in the message. The company has to be clearly identified and tell you the purpose of the message. Users can also opt out of getting more messages this way.

The rule states a collector must either speak to the borrower in person or by telephone or wait at least 14 days after sending a letter or an email -- including a social-media message -- before reporting a defaulted debt.

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However, the rule has its detractors. Critics worry the access could mean an invasion of privacy and a host of new online scams.

Still, lenders pushed for the change, which was approved last year under Donald Trump. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, which regulates the industry, became law in 1977, nearly 50 years before texting or social-media networks were commonplace.

Mark Neeb, CEO of the debt collector trade group ACA International, stated the change represents "a small step forward in modernizing communications with consumers."

CBS News estimated that approximately one-third of Americans who have generated a credit report have a debt that’s been forwarded to a collection agency.

As many a politician has learned to their detriment: What happens on social media, often stays on social media -- even if a word or photo is decades-old. We may misplace our morals, but debt? That’s something no one, least of all your creditors, will ever forget.

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