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Idaho law lets debt collectors reach you on social media

According to the Urban Institute report, the typical adult in trouble with bill collectors has a median debt of $1,350.
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According to the Urban Institute report, the typical adult in trouble with bill collectors has a median debt of $1,350.

Idaho debt collectors are no longer limited to traditional mail notices, thanks to a new rule that lets debt collectors use email, text and even social media to get a hold of consumers.

The law went into effect late last year, but the Idaho Department of Finance is starting to inform consumers. A press release regarding the law was released on Thursday.

"The reason behind this rule is really to try and bring communication from debt collectors into the modern era," said Erin Van Engelen, the department’s Consumer Finance Bureau Chief, on Idaho Matters.

Collectors will usually try to contact you via mail first, but may digitally reach out if they feel the need to. The Department of Finance still urges consumers to be wary of scams online, and to validate any information prior to responding to messages.

"The most important part is to make sure that you scrutinize the information and the communication received," Van Engelen said. "If you don’t recognize the debt they’re trying to collect on, that’s a red flag."

Debt collectors are still required to provide validation paperwork upon request to verify debts. This paperwork indicates the value and reason for the debt and includes a section where consumers can designate their preferred method of communication.

Consumers can still opt out of these digital messages and request paper communication instead. Any communication between consumers and debt collectors must also be private and not visible by a consumer's friends' social media, the law states.

As a newsroom intern, I craft some of the stories you hear on air and online that (hopefully) put you a little more in touch with our community.