Does Facebook Contact Constitute Debt Collector Harassment?
Currently, over 500 million people around the world use the social networking site Facebook. For some, it has become one of the only means of communication. Therefore, it seems harmless that a creditor would use the website to contact a debtor who owes money, right? Wrong, according to one such debtor, who has filed a lawsuit against a debt collection firm after a representative allegedly sent messages to the debtor’s family members in an effort to get in contact with the debtor. Attorneys and advocates say that this kind of contact from creditors crosses the line, and is a potential violation of privacy and consumer protection laws, as well as the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.
According to the lawsuit, a representative from debt collection firm Mark One LLC sent messages to members of Melanie Beacham’s family asking them to have Beacham contact the firm to resolve a $360 car loan debt. Upon learning of the contact, Beacham was humiliated that her family was now aware of her financial problems. “I was shocked,” she said. “I’m angry they caused me so much embarrassment with my family.”
According to attorney Jeffrey Hyslip, Beacham’s case is not the first of its kind. He recalled a client who was Facebook friended by a young woman in a bikini. Upon accepting the friend request, he received posts on his public Facebook wall from his new ‘friend’, telling him to “Pay your debts, you deadbeat.”
According to digital media consultant Amy Webb, if people with debt have personal information on the Internet, it is going to get used by creditors. “The reality is that debt collectors…are using Facebook as well as geo location networks such as Gowalla and Foursquare to track people down,” she said. “They can contact people through their connections and ultimately collect a debt or get incriminating information.”
Source: Orlando Sentinel, “Woman sues debt collector over Facebook messages“, Tamara Lush, 18 November 2010