5 On Your Side

Struggling with bills? Debt collectors will start texting, emailing and messaging you

Posted January 14, 2021 11:35 a.m. EST
Updated January 14, 2021 6:21 p.m. EST

Starting in October of this year, debt collects will be able to send you unlimited texts, emails and messages on social media, such as Facebook and Twitter.

The changes, approved by the Consumer Protection Financial Bureau, impact an estimated 70 million people.

"Debt collection is always a top complaint for our office," said North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein.

He added that he was against some of the changes.

"I, along with 27 other attorneys general, issued comments about a year ago, urging them not to do a number of the things that they are doing," said Stein. "So I’m disappointed with some of the rules that they are adopting."

Yes, everyone needs to pay what they owe, but the concern is when it becomes harassment.

Right now, debt collectors can call debtors between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. The hours won’t change, but with the new rules, they will be allowed to call up to seven times a week per debt, along with unlimited emails, texts and messages on Facebook and Twitter.

So, the 18 million Americans who have more than one bill in collections could get a lot of communication.

Another concern is that the new law does not require companies to verify the money that’s owed. So, you could be contacted simply by having the same name as someone or about debt you recently paid off.

The collection industry describes the changes as "…a small step forward in modernizing communications with consumers," adding that in 2019, the industry "returned $90 billion back to small businesses and other creditors…"

"A lot of people are going to be having trouble paying their bills and meeting their financial obligations because of the pandemic and so much job loss," said Stein. "If you get behind, it is so much better for you to affirmatively reach out to whoever you owe money to, to try to work out a plan than it is to just kind of put your head in the sand and wish that you weren’t going through the times you’re going through."

If contacted, consumers can request verification of the debt and expect to receive it by mail, within about five days.

If you don’t recognize it, check your credit report to make sure you weren’t a victim of identity theft. You can get a free report at annualcreditreport.com.

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