Federal government clears debt collectors to use social media accounts

Odds are most people know someone who has significant amounts of debt and hide from phone calls and receive tons of junk mail from debt collectors looking for money. The US government has given debt collectors a new method to go about trying to collect money in the US. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has cleared debt collectors in the United States to go after people using their social media accounts.

This means that collectors can pursue those who owe money via Facebook and Twitter, among other avenues. Some rules are focusing on how debt collectors can use social media. Collectors aren't allowed to post messages that can be seen publicly. Social media users are also allowed to tell debt collectors to stop using social media to contact them. The debt collectors are legally obligated to stop using social media if asked not to.

That said, debt collectors aren't exactly known for following the rules. Many people and consumer protection agencies are against the new regulations. Consumer Reports created a petition this week, aiming to stop abusive debt collection. The petition warns that the collectors could harass people even if they don't owe money.

These new rules were released at the end of October and went mostly unnoticed outside of the debt collection industry. When the rules were published, there was no specific mention of using social media, but inside the 132-page report, the ability to use social media was outlined. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau says that the update clarifies how the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act passed in 1977 applies to newer communication technologies, including email and text messages.

That means that email and text messages are part of a collector's arsenal at this point. We all know how hard it is to get away from text messages about your car's warranty. If you owe money, harassment via text may get worse. The rules stipulate that debt collectors need to make a firm connection before sending a private message or Facebook friend request or following a user on Twitter.