SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – Along with messages from friends about pictures of their kids on Facebook, some people may start getting messages from people they don’t want to hear from, i.e. debt collectors.

A new rule from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) will allow debt collectors to contact someone via social media.

“The fact that people have social media and use it so much more than the traditional means of communication really kind of lends itself to the notion that debt collectors should be allowed to use it,” said Doc Compton, a consumer advocate who operates a business that teaches people how to seek legal action against robocallers.

“I think one of the big things that people need to understand about the new rules of them being able to contact you on social media is the fact they still have to give some disclosures,” said Compton.

He says a debt collector must:

  • Disclose he or she is a debt collector and making contact to try and collect a debt
  • Indicate that any information obtained will be used in the effort to collect the debt
  • Say what company they represent
  • Provide a phone number or website to allow you to see details of the debt
  • Let the consumer know they have the right to opt-out of further communications.

“So as long as you understand that you have the right at any time to tell them not to contact you, you’re going to be OK,” says Compton.

Compton says most legitimate collection companies will follow the rules, but some may not, so it’s important to know your rights, especially in terms of the new rule about social media.

He adds that there may be some pros to the new rule, i.e. if someone contacts you claiming you owe money and it is actually a debt you forgot about, you may be able to clear it without any further trouble.

But Compton says there can be cons as well, again, because some debt collectors may not follow the rules.

And he has another concern — scammers who hear about the social media rule and decide to try to cash in by claiming to be a debt collector.

“The CFPB is already seeing an increase in the number of people saying they’re trying to collect a debt, so there are going to be scammers, and people just have to really arm themselves with the information,” says Compton.

“It’s an open door for a lot of ‘would be’ scammers to start hitting people up and it’s no secret they’re going to seize every opportunity they can,” he continues. “If someone contacts you, for example, on Facebook, and says you owe me a thousand dollars and you have to pay it right now, anything that’s high pressure like that that would automatically throw up a red flag for me.”

Compton points out that a real debt collector does have the right to try to collect the debt but that consumers have rights as well.

“Consumers just need to know what their rights are,” he says. “Once they’ve told a debt collector that they don’t wish to be contacted via that particular social media platform (or by phone or letters or anything else) the debt collector then has to respect that,” says Compton.