Reported today in The Huffington Post, a Florida woman filed a lawsuit against a debt collector for harassing her family through Facebook regarding her debt. Debt collectors are always looking for creative ways to bully consumers into paying their debts. The vast majority of people want to pay their debts and would if they had the ability to do so. But, with a 9% national unemployment rate, many people simply can’t make ends meet.
People who are saddled with debt they cannot pay do have protections from unscrupulous creditors. Under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, a debt collector is prohibited from telling a third party about your debt or posting your status on a social media site like Facebook. It’s illegal to attempt to threaten or humiliate a debtor, and posting a “you owe us” message on someone’s Facebook wall absolutely falls under that umbrella. It’s also illegal for a debt collector to contact a third party to embarrass you. While it may be permissible to ask a third party on your friend list if s/he has your address, they could not advise the third party that they are a debt collector, the amount of money that you owe, and then ask for your address. Even if they simply ask for the debtor’s address, if the third party tells them that they do not have any information or do not wish to talk to them about the debtor, then it’s illegal for them to continue reaching out to you.
This is one more reason to use caution when using social media. You should accept interactions only with people you know.