You Can Collect Debts, Just Not via Facebook
In 2010 there were over 12,000 lawsuits filed against debt collections. Some were filed because of abusive practices, some were filed because of failure to comply with state and Federal collection laws. And still some where filed when the collector did nothing wrong, other than being in the wrong industry at the wrong time. So what does it say when a collector attempts to collect a debt by using social media sites, which is not expressly prohibited by the Fair Debt Collection Practice Act (FDCPA)?
Social media sites have become all the rage, and not just for you and I. They’ve also become all the rage for collectors trying to track down delinquent debtors. Consumers’ willingness to “friend” with people they don’t know unknowingly lets debt collectors in their front door.
In Florida a judge just ordered a debt collector to stop contacting a debtor via Facebook. When debtors won’t answer their phones or pay their bills collectors are going to try to find other ways into their wallets. Unknowingly friending with a collector on Facebook is the equivalent of answering their phone calls, and then showing them all of your pictures. And, if you’re actually foolish enough to post your actual date of birth on your Facebook profile then it’s the equivalent of giving them your driver’s license.
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, and most state equivalents, prohibits debt collectors from harassing debtors. They also can’t use abuse behavior. Bothering someone on Facebook is apparently abusive especially when the collector calls a debtor a “deadbeat”, which is what happened in a different case based in Illinois.
Debt collectors are paid a commission based on how much they collect. They’re going be diligent, and you can’t really blame them. The problem for them is not only do these two lawsuits underscore the creativity of debt collectors but it also sets the precedence that the courts are not going to look kindly on abusive activities, regardless of whether they’re via a phone call or posted on someone’s Facebook “wall.”
John Ulzheimer is the President of Consumer Education at SmartCredit.com, the credit blogger for Mint.com, and a Contributor for the National Foundation for Credit Counseling. He is an expert on credit reporting, credit scoring and identity theft. Formerly of FICO, Equifax and Credit.com, John is the only recognized credit expert who actually comes from the credit industry.