Nobody likes calls to debt collection agencies, especially if you don̵
A recent change in the rules by the US Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) allows debt collection agencies to contact you via a direct message on social networks, email or text message. However, the collection agencies cannot post in public places, such as your Facebook wall. While it sounds bad to get a direct message on Twitter or a message on Facebook Messenger, the rules have steep limits.
Social network and email limits will protect you
That’s partly because most social networks, such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, already make it difficult by default to send a stranger (DM). Unless you open DMs on Twitter, only people you follow can message you. Facebook hides almost all messages sent by strangers. Instagram has similar rules and so on.
So, of course, the solution is to befriend a person on a social network. But the new rules explain that idea. If a debt collection agency wants to meet you on a social network, he or she must use his or her real name and clearly identify themselves as a debt collection agency.
So as long as you keep your DMs closed and don’t accept or follow strangers (especially if someone labels themselves as a debt collection agency), you won’t get this DMS.
Emails are tricky because you can’t easily stop someone from sending you an email. But most email services offer spam detection, and that can automatically clean up the messages from the collection agency. In addition, you can create filters to remove them automatically. And at this point most people are “trained” to deal with unwanted emails. For those reasons alone, email might not be such a tempting option.
Is that text message a scam or a collection agency?
Text messages, on the other hand, offer little of that protection. That’s clear from the scam text message scam that has hit people in recent times. Few providers and apps offer spam text detection and removal, and the few that often rely on self-reporting, similar to spam phone call apps. And at least with spam calls, you can just ignore the call.
That doesn’t leave you a way to prevent debt collection agencies from contacting you, and a difficult problem. How do you tell the difference between a scam text message that isn’t legitimate at all, a debt collection notice for a debt you have already paid, and a debt collection notice for a debt you owe?
Unfortunately, it is all three scenarios that people deal with regularly. Debt collection agencies are not perfect and often try to collect a debt that is not legitimate, either because it is a debt paid or the details are incorrect and someone else owes the debt.
If you get a call, you can at least try to make things right. But text messages don’t solve a problem that quickly. You could block the number used for text messages, but anyone who has dealt with scam calls can attest that this is not a great solution. Whether it’s a scammer or a legitimate debt collection agency, they can always contact you from a different phone number.
You can unsubscribe
The silver lining here is that the updated rules require collection agencies to provide you with a way to unsubscribe from further communications, be it email, text or direct messages. However, you may need to call or email the debt collection agency to unsubscribe; they don’t have to provide it directly in text or social networks. Even if they do, it could be through an SMS service that charges a fee – as long as the money doesn’t go directly to the collection agency.
Unsurprisingly, consumer privacy advocates don’t appreciate the rule changes. Consumer Reports has already filed a petition to quash the rules. But unless that happens, we’ll soon be living in a world where you need to check that that “obvious spam and scam” text isn’t really a legitimate “debt recovery attempt.”
Source: CFPB via The Register