IS IT LEGAL FOR DEBT COLLECTORS TO USE FACEBOOK?

In this era of Facebook, Linked In, Stumble Upon, Google Plus, and Tumblr (just to name a few), debt collectors are able to gain more access to and more information about people.  The United Kingdom has already banned debt collectors from using social networking sites but so far, there is no such ban in this country.  In fact, the main federal law regulating debt collections, The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) makes no mention of the legality of using social media sites.  For a simple reason really, there were no soical media sites back in 1977 when the FDCPA was written.  With the absence of any law prohibiting social media sites, debt collectors are able to use social media sites as long as their involvement is consistent with the FDCPA.

The FDCPA was written with the intended purpose of preventing debt collectors from using abusive or harassing tactics.  The FDCPA makes clear that abusive behavior is prohibited.  When it comes to social media however, just what constitutes abuse, is not so clear.  Debt collectors use the public information that can be found by a simple search of your name to locate you and also your family and friends, some go as far as impersonating another and then asking to be in your inner circle. The creditor is looking to locate you, to see if you have any assets that they can collect or if you make any statements inconsistent with your declaration that you do not have the ability to pay back your debt.   In some cases, creditors go so far as sending a public message confronting you about your debt in front of your family and friends.  For example, "Hey Rebeka, why haven't you paid your Capital One bill?"  Courts have found that this behavior is clearly a violation of the FDCPA;  but, nevertheless, the damage to the person's reputation was already done.

 

The bottom line is that you should be aware of what you are posting and how it will look to outsiders.  If you have debt collectors, think twice before posting a picture of your new boat or car.  There are tools on social networking sites that limit the amount of content that people can see publicly.  You should use these privacy settings to your advantage.  Finally, think twice before accepting a friend request or other request to see your more privately posted content.


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