Legal-Ease: Debt Collectors Take to Social Media


Most people have dozens of online subscriptions, social media, and traditional email accounts. Frequently, a single social media platform includes multiple windows of communication through direct messages (often referred to as DM), instant messages (often referred to as IM), and other feeds, such as emails, texts, and messages. group messages.

With all of the struggles and potential pitfalls of using social media to date, social media has remained a place devoid of one particular action: communication from creditors / debt collectors. As we perused photos of our friends’ pets and food, we never had to worry about a creditor interrupting this thoughtless scroll. But, over the past month, the law changed and debt collectors have been welcomed deeper into our smartphone-centric lives.

Creditors don’t have to be people to whom we owe formal debts like mortgages or car loans. Creditors also include mobile phone companies, utility companies, and other service providers (such as insurance companies and online subscription companies). Creditors can include medical service providers who have ultimately been told by your insurance company that you are owed a copayment or deductible.

We may have our monthly payments due to creditors automatically deducted from a bank account or credit card account. Some “one-off” creditors such as medical providers may send paper invoices. Sometimes we have already unknowingly “60 or 90 days late” when we finally receive an official invoice from a creditor / debt collector.

Therefore, for these reasons, even an “undebted” person can have creditors and technically be considered a “debtor” at any time of the month. Legally, “debt collectors” are generally third parties who collect debts on behalf of creditors. However, sometimes creditors are also legally considered to be debt collectors.

Traditionally, debt collectors could send mail and call suspected debtors. From last year, debt collectors could also send text messages to suspected debtors.

From the beginning of the month, debt collectors can “ask a friend” for suspected debtors on social media. Debt collectors do not need prior authorization to contact a suspected debtor through a friend request, but the friend request must identify that the “friend” is a collector. However, sometimes a creditor / debt collector can include their identity as a debt collector among other information such as, “Hello, I want to be your friend on social media. I am the XYZ bank with which you have a checking account and a car loan. But perhaps the greatest value a debt collector can derive from being a “friend” on social media is having access to the identities of your closest family and friends.

Additionally, this month, debt collectors were allowed to send direct / instant / other messages to suspected debtors. Debt collectors also do not need prior authorization to initiate these messages, but there are some limitations. First, the message must be private (only visible to the intended debtor). Second, the message must include the identity of the debt collector. Third, the message should include an easy way to “opt out” of receiving future messages from that debt collector. Regardless, a debt collector can only message a suspected debtor regarding each individual debt seven times a week.

Lee R. Schroeder is a Licensed Ohio Lawyer with Schroeder Law LLC in Putnam County. He limits his practice to business, real estate, estate planning, and agriculture in Northwestern Ohio. He can be reached at [email protected] or 419-659-2058. This article is not intended to serve as legal advice, and specific advice should be sought from the licensed lawyer of your choice based on the specific facts and circumstances you are facing.


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