Debt collectors are allowed to DM you on social media now

Young Woman Using Smart Phone
New rules lay out how debt collectors can contact debtors on social media. Isabel Pavia/Getty Images
  • New rules came into effect Tuesday governing how debt collectors can contact debtors.
  • The rules lay out how debt collectors can contact debtors using social media.
  • All messages must be private and the collector must identify themselves straight away.

New rules governing how US debt collectors can make contact with debtors came into force on Tuesday, including precise guidelines on using social media.

Legislation that governs how debt collectors could contact debtors has been covered by the 1977 Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, largely drawn up prior to the advent of the internet and social media.  

Changes to that act, announced by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) in October 2020, came into force on November 30.  It now provides firm guidelines on how debt collectors can use email, text, and social media to contact debtors.

The new rules also impose some limitations on how debt collectors can contact debtors on social media.

Firstly the messages have to be private, so debt collectors will have to use direct messages (DMs) rather than posting publicly on somebody’s Facebook wall, Twitter page, or Instagram comments for example.

The debt collector must also identify themselves straight away — they cannot send a friend request without telling the debtor who they are and why they’re getting in touch.

Finally debt collectors have to give debtors the option to opt out of receiving messages on a particular social media platform.

When the rule changes were announced in October 2020, then-CFPB director Kathleen Kraninger said in a statement: “We are finally leaving 1977 behind and developing a debt collection system that works for consumers and industry in the modern world.”

In September the New York Federal Reserve said US household debt passed $US15 ($AU21) trillion for the first time in Q3 of this year, CNBC reported.