Nearly everyone has some type of social media account, from Facebook to
Twitter to Instagram. While most people use these accounts to keep in
touch with family and friends, debt collectors may be using them to find
and track people who owe money.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) which regulates debt collection laws
has not passed any regulations specifically limiting how debt collectors
can use social media. However, existing regulations in the Fair Debt Collection
Practices Act (FDCPA) prohibit debt collector harassment and violations
of the debtor’s privacy. Even though social media use may not be
technically regulated by the FDCPA, many of the actions that debt collectors
take on private media are illegal.
For instance, debt collectors are not allowed to disclose a person’s
debt to his or her family and acquaintances, and a debt collector may
be liable for damages by disobeying the rules in the FDCPA. Debt collectors
have contacted a person’s friends, family, and even distant relatives
on social media with private messages related to the debt. Employees of
debt collectors may use their own private accounts or dummy accounts to
“friend” relatives and acquaintances of the person who owes
the debt in order to track that person down.
Debt collectors use these tactics because they are embarrassing, and consumers
will often pay a debt rather than dispute it to avoid the embarrassment
of explaining the debt to family and friends. In some extreme cases, debt
collectors have used social media to shame people who owe money by posting
public messages for everyone to see. This is a clear violation of the FDCPA.
These tactics are becoming increasingly common across social media platforms.
Because fewer people have landlines, it has become more difficult for
debt collectors to reach a human being. Additionally, many younger people
refuse to answer calls from numbers that they do not recognize and prefer
texting to talking on the phone. As a result, many debt collectors have
resorted to illegal texts or social media messages to reach the person
who owes the debt.
Even if a debt collector doesn’t use social media to message a person,
they may still be using the accounts to find that person. They can scan
profiles to find information like where a person works, where a person
lives, and what type of resources that person has to pay the debt. While
this is not illegal per se, people who owe money to debt collectors should
be wary of accepting friend requests from people they do not know. Additionally,
it is worthwhile to make social media accounts as private as possible
to avoid unwanted attention from debt collectors.
If a debt collector has engaged in harassment or abuse over social media,
you may be able to file a claim seeking damages under the FDCPA. At Loan
Lawyers, our attorneys can review your claims and advise you of your legal
options at no cost to you. To set up your risk free, confidential consultation,
contact Loan Lawyers today by calling (888) FIGHT-13 (344-4813).