Law firms, private investigators, and the IRS have all used Facebook to track people down. Now you can add a new group to the list: Debt collectors. According to MSNBC, one Florida woman found that out the hard way when she fell behind on her car payments after an illness. The bill collector was calling and texting her 20 times a day. They even contacted her neighbors, delivered letters by hand to her workplace, and used a caller I.D. “spoofer” so it looked like their calls were coming from her mother-in-law. When she still didn’t pay up, they sent messages to her and her family on Facebook trying to embarrass her into paying up. Instead, she decided to fight back.
She’s suing the collection agency for violating her privacy, and ignoring Florida’s consumer protection law, which prohibits collectors from harassing people. Experts say they also may have violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices act – which states that collection agencies can only contact third parties, meaning your friends and family, to confirm the debtor’s address. So, how can you protect yourself so you don’t end up being harassed on Facebook?
- First, don’t post any information on Facebook or elsewhere on the Internet that you wouldn’t want a stranger to know.
- Also, don’t “friend” people you don’t know. If you do, they instantly have access to your private information, including your list of friends. One debt collector set up fake profiles, and sent “friend requests” to people who were behind on their debts. The minute they became Facebook friends, comments would be posted on their wall like: “Pay your debts, you deadbeat.”
- If you’re getting calls from a debt collector, know this: They’re required by law to stop calling your home or workplace if you ask them to communicate only in writing.
If you’d like to go further, check out the Federal Trade Commission website at FTC.gov.