Are Debt Collectors Using Your Social Media Posts Against You?
January 10, 2018
Debt collectors can use social media to conduct investigations on individuals who owe debts, but they cannot use the platforms to publicly shame debtors. Debt collection companies that harass or otherwise attempt to shame individuals via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. are not in direct violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. However, while it is not a specifically identified and allowed method of contact, the FDCPA does allow creditors to make contact with individuals via their Facebook or other social media accounts.
Watch What is Posted Online
While debt collectors cannot contact or otherwise harass debtors via social media, they can review posts, pictures, etc. for information such as financial habits and assets that can be seized. For example, if they see pictures of luxurious family vacations and expensive purchases, it could be very difficult if not impossible to secure lower interest rates or favorable settlement offers. Consumers can help protect themselves by judiciously monitoring their social media profiles to ensure they are locked down and set to private so that only close family and friends can see what is posted. Better still is to simply not post anything at all until the debt is resolved.
Transparency is Essential
Creditors cannot use false and deceptive practices to obtain information about a debtor. They cannot contact a friend or colleague via social media and use false premises to deceive the individual into divulging personal and confidential information. All communication they send must clearly identify who they are, the entity they represent, and the purpose of the contact. Most importantly, they cannot divulge an individual’s personal financial information to third parties such as parents, spouses, and other individual’s.
The Court’s Rule
Courts have ruled that debt collectors must follow the standards set forth within the FDCPA in regard to the use of social media. Companies that use social media to harass, shame, or otherwise use deceptive practices to obtain information can face significant fines and penalties. While no legislative action has taken place to update the FDCPA to include social media practices, the courts are enforcing the same standards applied to mail, phone, and other forms of contact.