Whether debt collectors can legally use Facebook or other social media sites to try to collect debts has to do with whether they are crossing the line from communication into harassment. Debt collectors can use social media to locate people, but debt collectors are in violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act if they use social media to harass a person or to publicly disclose that a person owes a debt. They can also not use social media to try to "friend" a person or communicate with them by posing as a friend or acquaintance.
An attorney quoted in a recent MSN Today article on the topic said that some debt collectors are deliberately using social media as a tool to harass people. A debt collector can find one person and easily find their friends and family on their profile page and contact them, telling them about the debt and asking them to have the person they are targeting call the debt collection agency. This is an illegal practice, but some people may just pay the debt to get the harassment or public embarrassment to stop.
Some of these debt collectors that use Facebook to contact people's friends and relatives aren't doing it because they can't find them. The MSN Today piece cited a case where a debt collection agency definitely knew how to contact a woman, but still contacted her friends and family with her personal financial information, clearly just to embarrass and harass her.
The next post will look further into this case and this issue.
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