SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – A new rule allows debt collectors to send you unlimited private messages on social media, as well as text messages about your debt.
“This is giving the businesses an open door to come into your private life,” said Utah attorney Eric Stephenson, who represents clients that say they’re being harassed or abused by collectors.
Here’s what just happened: The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s new Debt Collection Rule places limits on how many times a debt collector may call you, but also opens up social media as an updated means of communication.
The collector must identify themselves in the message, and there must be an option to opt out — which Stephenson says you should do immediately.
“They can’t harass you, they can’t go too far with it. So if you’re getting 5 to 10 messages a day from the same debt collector, that’s gonna be harassment,” said Stephenson.
Utahns are no stranger to debt; a report shows Utah ranking 13th among states for per capita debt.
For decades, there hadn’t been a limit on the number of phone calls a collector could make; the new federal rule sets a limit on seven phone calls per week for collectors. Still, Stephenson says the social media messaging is problematic for those who are struggling to pay off debt.
“There’s lots of ways that these debt collectors can still abuse you. With these direct messages, it’s going to be a major concern because some people will share a social media account with their spouse, it might be an account they use at work. And so their employer might see it, or a co-worker might see it,” said Stephenson.
“If that’s the case, there might be a violation for the debt collector,” added Stephenson.
Here are some of his recommendations: try calling the debt collector to negotiate a lower payoff, or to set up a monthly payment plan. Never admit, in writing, that you owe the debt — or write that you’ll promise to pay the debt — because that can reset the statute of limitations on older debts.
And, he says, if you have questions about your rights or you feel like you’re being abused, you can always reach out to an attorney — especially if the debt isn’t yours.