If you're behind on your bills, beware of any stranger attempting to "friend" you. It could be a debt collector taking advantage of new federal rules approved by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau that allow them to use social media to communicate with debtors. The new rule went into effect on Tuesday
Under the new rules, debt collectors who contact you on social media have to identify themselves as debt collectors but can attempt to join your network by sending you a friend request. Collectors must give you the option to opt out of being contacted online, and any messages they send have to be private — collectors can't post on your page if it can be seen by your contacts or the public.
Collection agencies can also email and text message debtors, but must still offer the ability to opt out. Industry officials praised the move as a welcome change to the outdated methods currently used by the collections industry.
"Consumers in the collections process deserve to be on a level playing field with others in the financial services marketplace with recognition of their preference to use email and text messaging over other outdated methods, such as faxes as outlined in the current law," Mark Neeb, CEO of ACA International, a trade association for debt collectors, said in a statement.