Social media is really tempting for debt collectors who have a penchant for technology. As a matter of fact, social media bridges the gap in information that is required to locate a defaulter or even an absconding debtor. But the real question is — how legal is the process? Is it alright for you, as a creditor, to reach out to your customer through social media?
The answer is not an easy one. In some cases, it is quite alright to use social media to reach out to your debtor, and in others, the client can sue you back for the violation of his/her privacy. The trick is to understand how to harness the power of social media to collect your debt.
Here are a few points you must remember in case you want to reach out to your client(s) on the pretext of missed debt consolidation loans payments:
- You need to disclose your identity and purpose – as the FDCPA act of 1977, Section 807(1) specifies, you need to disclose your identity and the purpose of your message in the initial rounds of communication with your client/debtor. You must also make your intentions of using any and all the information gathered from the conversation for debt collection purposes completely clear. This disclosure provisions apply to any and all messages/texts/other forms of communications sent by the creditors to their consumers.
- You cannot talk about the kind or amount or the existence of the debt to a third-party – in this regard, a third-party would mean anyone besides the debtor, his/her attorney, any other legal aid, the creditor, his/her attorney and you. As a matter of fact, you should not even post the list of non-compliant customers who are currently refusing to pay debts.
When are the situations where you can actually send messages to your debtor over social media?
- When you are sure that the profile/channel is solely used by the debtor only. No one else should be privy to the messages sent by you/collection party to the debtor.
- This can also be the case when the debtor has specifically requested that you contact him via messages over Facebook and/or Twitter. If you are thinking of reaching out to your debtor over social media channels, you should have sufficient proof of the request made by your debtors.
- While using social media, be conservative. Keep the contact with your debtor to a minimum or the slew of messages and pokes can be used as evidence for harassment against you and/or your company.
In case you are unsure about using social media channels for urging loan payments, here are a few things you can do to stay on the good side of the law:
- You can contact your debtor via voice calls between 8 am to 9 pm. However, make sure not to leave voice messages once you get disconnected or in case you cannot reach your debtor. Voice messages can be accessed by anyone and everyone, and your company can face lawsuits for the violation of your debtor’s privacy.
- With proper authorization, a collecting party can speak to the consumer’s spouse. In case you need information to locate your rogue debtors, you are allowed to speak with their neighbors and co-workers without disclosing the details of the debt. Including the amount and/or the nature of the debt.
- You can even send direct mails to your debtors. However steer clear of postcards as they are not very private. Make sure to send sealed envelopes that are properly addressed to your debtors only.
Not all debt collectors who are snooping around on social media are necessarily abusive. Most debt collecting agents are simply using social media at the moment to collect useful information that can be used to locate their debtors before their lapsed payments surmount to an unrealistic amount.
There are tons of options that collectors can use that are as far away from abuse, threats, harassments and public shaming as possible. The FDCPA ensures that all good collectors have the same advantage as the rogue ones, and this encourages healthy collector-debtor relationships.
If you are a creditor looking for legal ways to contact your client you should remember the points mentioned above. In case you are new at this or are too confused with the forever evolving rules and regulations, simply give your legal aid (attorney) and/or collection agency a call. Most experienced collection agencies have legal aide in tow, and have a working idea of consumer protection acts that need to be upheld during the contacting process.
Author Bio: Isabella Rossellini an author, blogger and financial advisor who has been working for the last decade with debt collection agencies. She also believes that, when used right, social media channels give up useful information for locating your customers without violating their privacy.