Can a Debt Collector use Social Media to Contact a Consumer?

Posted by Ryan Howard


Having a debt go to collections can be very stressful for a consumer who is simply trying to make ends meet. There could be medical debt, student loans or a number of reasons why an account is past due. Complaints about abusive and harassing debt collection practices outnumber any other calls to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), consumers are protected against some illegal tactics. In today's ever changing world of social media and texting, there may be ways for debt collectors to get around the FDCPA. 

Is it legal for a debt collector to use social media to reach a consumer?

Debt Collection Practices

Consumers may be unaware of their rights when debt collectors begin to call. The weight of financial troubles feels heavy enough without the guilt of an account in collections. The FDCPA was passed in 1977 to protect consumers from abusive and deceptive debt collection tactics that were heavily used at the time. The act also lists out clear practices that are allowed in order for businesses to collect on past due accounts from consumers.

With regards to communications, the debt collectors are allowed to attempt contact by phone as long as calls are made between 8 am to 9 pm local time. Debt collectors are also allowed to speak to the consumer's spouse (with proper authorization). If the debt collector needs information on locating the debtor, they may reach out to neighbors and co-workers but they are not allowed to share information about the debt. Debt collectors may attempt contact with the consumer by mail, however, they are not allowed to send a postcard or any other mail where the consumer's information or debt isn't hidden. Attempts to embarrass the consumer are also not allowed.

Read more: What is the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act?


Texting & Social Media

Since the FDCPA allows collectors to attempt contact in any way that doesn't embarrass or harass a consumer, technically texts and social media are not prohibited. With that said, there are some restrictions to how these media must be used. 

  • Deception is prohibited - Attempting to deceive a consumer with a text, message or fake friend request in order to get a call back or information is still considered a deceptive debt collection tactic and prohibited under the FDCPA.
  • Disclosure is preferred - The first contact with a consumer should be a collector disclosing information such as who they are representing and that they are attempting to collect on a debt. 
  • Revealing information is not allowed - Publishing information about the debtor or the fact that a debt is owed is not allowed. Collectors are not allowed to leave a message, tweet or other post to a consumer's social network such that their contacts would see it. 

Using texts (after obtaining prior express consent under the TCPA) and social media to contact consumers can be tricky territory, however, if debt collectors remain transparent and honest in their attempts to collect, these methods may be yet another way to connect.

See also: What to expect when your account is in collections


Not all Debt Collectors are Abusive

Being a collections agency in a field that has a certain reputation is tough but BYL Collections is up for the challenge. Not all debt collectors are abusive and the FDCPA ensures that good collectors are protected as well. At BYL Collections, we aim to educate consumers on how to work with collections so that the financial burden of a past due debt is lessened. There are many options available to resolve an account in collections, without the use of abusive, threatening or harassing tactics. Our clients expect us to help retain relationships with their customers, even during the collections process. Our results create happy clients and a strong recovery rate. Contact us for more information today. 

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Topics: Debt Collection, Rent Collection