New rules to know about debt collection via social media

NEW YORK (WABC) -- The federal government recently enacted new rules that give wide reach to debt collectors, including contacting you through social media.

But you still have rights.

During these tough financial times, it's easy to get behind on a bill and go into collections. And thanks to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, debt collectors can invade your social media platforms beginning next year, contacting you on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat.

The new rules allow collection agencies to send text messages, email, and direct message your accounts, which is raising privacy and harassment concerns.

So first and foremost, be careful what you post .

"That is really scary, that debt collectors are basically able to, for lack of a better word, stalk somebody, or a debtor, through their social media, to find out what they're up to, and use that information against them," debt tamer and financial attorney Leslie Tayne said.

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She advises people to be proactive before the new rules take effect, and don't post anything you wouldn't want a debt collection agency to know.

Next, always verify who is calling you, and never verify yourself with a Social Security number or birth date to a caller. Instead, hang up and call the original creditor to substantiate the debt in writing.

It is against the law for debt collectors to threaten to sue or arrest you, or say they're going to publicize your debt to others -- that is a sign of a scam.

When it comes to debt collection, it helps to know your rights as a consumer.

You have the right to specify the phone number to reach you, and you can say things like, "Don't call this number, it's my office."

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You also have the right to set the time frame in which to reach you, for example, "Don't call me after 8 p.m." or "Don't call before 9 a.m."

And the new rules outline that if a debt collector contacts you on social media, they must provide a clear way for you to opt out.

Still, this is going to change the way many approach social media accounts as an escape from reality. Because now, that daily distraction will be a debt reminder.

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