Debt collectors now permitted to contact you through social media, text, and email

The CFPB (Consumer Financial Protection Bureau) now allows debt collectors to contact you on social media.


Why this is bad for consumers

Unethical debt collectors

It’s now unknown how debt collectors can contact you on social media. It’s unknown if they have to send you a private message or (hopefully not) if they can post a public message on your social media feed or contact someone from your ‘friends’ list. But, if unethical debt collectors stay true to form, they will violate the rules and use unscrupulous methods to connect with their debtors. Debt collectors are sure to threaten to contact friends of the people whom they’re trying to collect payment. And, some will follow through on the threat to embarrass the debtors.


Consumers are at risk of being scammed and/or getting personal info

It’s not just debt collectors that may cause problems for consumers. Once consumers are aware that debt collectors are allowed to contact them on social media, email, and text, scammers are certain to take advantage of this and inbox consumers about their (non-existent) debt. In fact, there was report of such a scam before the new debt collection rules even took effect.


Protect yourself from online debt collectors and scammers posing as debt collectors

If you have bad debts and prefer to not have debt collectors contact you through social media, there are a lot of drastic measures that you can take to prevent them from contacting you through your social media accounts.


Don’t include your real name in your social media username

This makes it extremely easy for debt collectors to contact you. If your  real name is already in your username, you may be able to change your username. But, depending on how the social media site or app handles username requests, changing your social media username may be a futile attempt at dodging debt collectors. This is because your username and posts may still be in search engines. A determined debt collector may be able to locate your new account.


Keep your profile private

Even before debt collectors could legally contact you on social media, it was always a good idea to keep your profile private and away from the eyes of scammers and potential employers.


Screen friend requests and other requests to view your profile

Screen friend requests. Be sure that you know the person that you accept to view your private profile. If you’re someone who typically accepts friends requests from anyone, this could weaken your chances of keeping debt collectors away as they could be one of the people that you approve to see your profile.



Be wary of links in messages sent to you through email, text, and social media

As always, you should be cautious about the links that you click online, especially if they’re from someone that you don’t know. But, even then, many people have been the victim of hacking, which resulted in hackers/scammers gaining access to their contacts and sending malicious messages to them. So, before clicking on links, hover over them to ensure that it’s a safe link. If you’re unsure of the link, try researching the link through a search engine.


If you’re still unsure of the legitimacy of the link or message that you received, use a different method to contact the person who supposedly sent the message and ask them if the message and link were truly sent by them.


Don’t divulge personal info without confirming who you’re speaking to

Your social media account settings may allow people that you’re not friends with to message you. As always, if you receive a message from someone whose identity you can’t confirm, don’t divulge any personal information, including your name or any location info without confirming who you’re speaking with. If you don’t know them, don’t provide this info at all.


If all else fails, get rid of your account

This is by far the most drastic measure, but it’s the most promising way to avoid debt collectors. To make the process easier, contact people who you wish to stay in contact with and provide them with your new contact info. Be sure that your new social media username does not contain any reference to your old username or your real name.


Avoiding debt collectors doesn’t resolve the issue

You always have the option of asking that the debt collector not contact you again. But, you would be confirming that they have accurate contact info for you. If your debt is sold to another company, the new collections agency could legally contact you using your info. Debt collectors have access to many databases of information that makes it somewhat difficult to avoid them without without taking extreme measures, like screening and avoiding phone calls (or any of the measures listed above).


Even if successful at avoiding debt collectors or getting them to abide by requests to stop contact, this doesn’t resolve the core issue, which is that you owe a debt. The debt may actually continue to grow the longer that it goes unpaid. Aside from the mounting debt, your credit is sure to be impacted. Even if you’re unable to pay all of your debt at once, it’s best to communicate with your debt collector to find out what your options are. 


How to file complaints about unethical debt collectors

File a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). You can reach them by phone, or email.





8 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET, Monday through Friday (except federal holidays). 

More than 180 languages available.


TTY/TTD (for consumers who are deaf, have hearing loss, or have speech disabilities through): 855-729-2372


The CFPB will forward your complaint to the credit bureau electronically or by mail. Most companies that receive from The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau respond within 15 days. The 15-day response time is for all companies and industries that the CFPB submits complaints too, not just debt collection agencies. The suggested response time is 60 days and the CFPB will give the collection agency more time to respond if needed. 


Are you afraid to file a complaint because you don’t want the collections agency to have your real address or other personal info? The CFPB does ask for personal details, like your phone number, when assisting with certain complaints. Fortunately, for debt collection complaints, you’re encouraged not to provide any personal info. This is presumably to protect you from someone posing as a debt collector. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau does state that it may ask your for additional info at a later point, though. If you’re still uncomfortable providing your personal info, which may confirm that you were the person that the debt collector reached on social media, explain that to the CFPB and they should be able to let you know your options. But, at this point, the collections agency, if they wanted to, could link the social media interaction that they had with you to your subsequent complaint.


You’re still strongly encouraged to file a complaint, which will help The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau track trends in complaints filed about the collections agency and take action if needed.