We’ve all been told to beware of messages sent online that say we owe something.
They can often be a red flag for a possible scam.
But times are changing.
If you’re in debt, that message could now be legit. Just make sure you do some digging first before you respond.
This week, debt collectors have been given the go-ahead to use social media to contact borrowers.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau says debt collectors can now reach out to people on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
But there are strict guidelines governing how collectors can message you.
A message through Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook must be private, so your friends shouldn’t be able to see it.
“There aren’t messages that are going to be posted to your timeline. You’re not going to see Happy Birthday, Happy Birthday, you owe us $500, Happy Birthday,” said Matt Smith, a spokesperson for the Connecticut Department of Banking.
The agency regulates collection agencies.
“If somebody is reaching out to you on Facebook or Twitter, the first thing you should think about is, 'Do I actually owe any debt?'” said Smith.
Per Fair Debt Collection Practices Act guidelines, the debt collector has to tell you who they are and they must include a message so you can opt out of receiving additional messages through electronic media.
“We’re already inundated with spam, and voicemails, and robocalls,” said Connecticut Attorney General William Tong.
Tong says he pushed back against this communication method and he’ll be keeping a close eye on its impact.
“If you get a call or email or a text message ever, I think the best practice is to take their name and number and say let me look at my records and call you back,” Tong said.
That way you can do your research and call the debt collection agency directly.
To check if a collection agency is legit and licensed by the state head to the CT Department of Banking’s website.
Select “verify a license,” then “consumer collection agencies,” and then click “NMLS Consumer Access,” that stands for nationwide multi-state licensing system.
There you can search their company name or license number.
But like with anything these days, trust your gut, “If it looks fishy, it probably is,” Smith said.