With the economy struggling and many people finding it difficult to meet their bills, debt collection agencies are feeling the pressure to track down consumers. In a creative attempt to find consumers, some debt collectors have gone online, friending consumers on Facebook, LinkedIn, and similar social networking sites.
While pretending to be your online “friend” to collect a debt may feel like a sneaky debt-collector trick, it’s legal as long as the debt collectors follow the rules laid out in the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), according to the Federal Trade Commission. For instance, debt collectors must identify themselves as debt collectors when they friend you – they can’t pretend to be a long-lost college buddy and then hit you up for cash.
Also, debt collectors who contact you online must behave themselves. Just like when they call you on the phone or send mail to your house, debt collectors who communicate with you online may not use abusive, threatening, or profane language. With household budgets shrinking all over the country, some debt collectors are forgetting this rule, and consumers are fighting back. Complaints of inappropriate behavior by debt collectors soared by 50% in 2009, with a full 35% of the increase coming from consumers who were subjected to foul language by debt collectors.
If a debt collector makes you their online friend, what should you do? If the debt collector has resorted to threatening you or using inappropriate language, make a record of the event – print out the online message along with the date, time, and if possible, the web page on which the inappropriate words appear. Then, contact an experienced debt collection practices attorney.
If you have been harassed or bullied by a debt collector, or if your credit report is inaccurate and the credit reporting agency will not fix it, email Attorney Gary Nitzkin or call toll free (888) 293-2882. For more information about our firm, visit our website, Michigan Consumer Credit Lawyers. We have a lot of good information including short “how to” videos that you will find useful.