YOUR MONEY: Debt collectors will soon be able to contact consumers through social media

YOUR MONEY: Debt collectors will soon be able to contact consumers through social media

BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Debt collectors will soon be able to contact consumers through Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

That’s on top of what they can already do through phone calls, text or email.

Lisa L. Gill is an Investigative Reporter with Consumer Reports. She read through the ruling to find out how it would affect Americans with debt and wrote this story.

According to her research, nearly one in four Americans have a bill in collections at any given time. That’s nearly 70 million Americans.

“The biggest takeaway was that collection agencies will be able to contact you with private messages on Facebook, on Instagram, on Twitter, with unlimited amount of contact," said Gill. "So the CFPB says that consumers will be able to opt out of that so you will be able to say please don’t contact me that way but they can also email you, they can text message you and they can make up to seven phone calls a week. With one conversation and in some cases possibly even more than that and that’s seven phone calls per bill in collections so you could just be utterly overwhelmed and inundated with calls and points of contact.”

Keep in mind, this new ruling takes effect about a year from now. Before that time rolls around there are some things consumers need to know.

When you get a call or any form of communication from a debt collector make sure the debt they’re calling about is actually yours.

If there is someone out there with the same name as you and that person has a bill in collections the debt collector can still call you and ask you to pay it.

So here’s what Gill recommends.

“When they call you and you don’t recognize the name of the debtor, like the original group that you, the original company or organization that they are trying to collect from or the amount, or even if you do and you’re like I think I paid that, you can ask them to validate the debt. They have to, within five days, in writing, have to send you what they’re trying to collect from you, how much they think you owe, and to what company or organization," she explained.

She also recommends checking your credit every single week. Gill says you can go to annualcreditreport.com to access it for free once a week. This website is set up by the three major credit bureaus: Experian, Equifax and TransUnion.

Due to the pandemic, consumers can get a free credit report from each of these credit bureaus each week until the end of April 2021.

There’s also something called “zombie debt."

“It’s possible that it is actually your debt but it’s old debt that you did not pay and one thing I learned in reporting this story is that debt expires in many states after about, somewhere between 3 and 6 years, sometimes a little longer. Sometimes a little shorter," Gill said. "Debt collection agencies purchase your debt anyway and they try to collect it. So the really bad part is you might not owe it but you try to make a payment on it you will suddenly revive the debt. It’s called zombie debt so don’t offer to make a payment on that first or even second contact. Make sure that you actually owe it otherwise you could be on the hook for something that you don’t actually need to pay.”

At the end of the day consumers are responsible for knowing what they owe and paying it off.

To read Gill’s findings, CLICK HERE.

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