I just received a message on my social media account from a debt collector. Is this legal?
This week I received a telephone call from a nervous client of mine in Hillsborough County. She had just received a message on her Facebook account from a company purporting to be attempting to collect a debt. Earlier in the week, an associate of mine received a similar call from a client in Orange County who said he had received a DM on his Instagram account from someone claiming to be a debt collector. It may come as a surprise but the person contacting you in 2022 on social media may not be looking to be your friend. From Miami-Dade to Duval County, consumers are now being contacted by debt collectors through their social media accounts.
Rules approved by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) that recently took effect dictate how collection agencies can contact consumers on social media to seek repayment for unpaid debts. A debt collector can contact you on social media, but they must follow certain rules and tell you how you can opt out of social media communications. The CFPB's new rule could have broad implications for the nearly 1 in 4 adult Americans who have a bill in collections at any given time, according to the National Consumer Law Center.
First, the message must be private. A debt collector can only communicate with you on social media platforms about a debt if the message is private. A debt collector cannot contact you on social media about a debt if the message is viewable by the general public or viewable by your friends, contacts, or followers on the platform. This would include any part of the platform where other people can see the message.
Second, the debt collector must identify themself. If a debt collector attempts to send you a private message requesting to add you as a friend or contact, the debt collector must identify themself as a debt collector.
Third, they must include a way for you to stop receiving messages from them. Even when a debt collector properly identifies themself in a private social media message, they must give you a simple way to opt out of receiving further communications from them on that social media platform. Collection agencies can also email and text message you but must still offer the ability to opt out.
For the consumer: be careful! With these new laws in effect, we have already heard of various scams involving phony debt collectors contacting consumers on Facebook and Instagram. If you receive a letter, email or a direct message on a social media account from an alleged debt collector and you're not sure who its from, don't panic. Whether you're in Manatee, Orange, Duval, or any of the other counties in Florida, reach out to the folks at Holland Law Group and let us put our expertise to work for you. We deal with debt collectors everyday so that you don't have to. Across Florida, our clients benefit from the combined experience of attorneys who's primary focus is helping consumers in financial distress. We look forward to helping you as well.