Debt Collectors Creating Fake Facebook Profiles to Reach Debtors

Debt Collectors Creating Fake Facebook Profiles to Reach DebtorsDebt collectors are creating fake Facebook profiles, even posing as bikini-clad models, and you may unknowingly befriend one of them who is targeting you.
The practice of debt collection agencies using social media to sneak into the lives of their targets is getting a lot of attention lately.
It also could very well violate existing laws aimed at protecting the privacy of consumers.
Bloomberg featured the practice in an article Thursday. Kathryn Haralson told Bloomberg that she went into her Facebook account one day to find an unwelcome inbox message about her debt.
“It’s not like they needed to go on Facebook to find me,” Haralson told Bloomberg. “I was in contact with them all the time. That crossed the line.”
Haralson’s lawyer, Billy Howard, said he has seen very aggressive intrusions into Facebook accounts by debt collectors, including rude postings on a person’s wall that can be seen by all of an individual’s Facebook friends.
“You get a friend request from some chick in a bikini,” Howard, a lawyer with Morgan & Morgan P.A. in Tampa, Florida, told Bloomberg. “You say yes, and then somebody says ‘‘by the way, I’m a debt collector.’”
U.S. consumer agencies have also noticed how debt collectors have found a new avenue into consumer’s private lives and they are poised crack down on this practice in coming weeks or months.
This month, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau assumed authority over debt collectors with more than $10 million in annual receipts from debt collection activities. The Federal Trade Commission already enforces debt collection rules and will work with the CFPB on some cases.
The CFPB estimates that its n new authority would cover about 175 debt collection firms — or 4 percent of debt collection firms. These firms account for 63 percent of annual receipts from the debt collection market.collectors
Additionally, the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council (FFIEC) this week released proposed guidance on the “applicability of consumer protection and compliance laws, regulations, and policies” to activities via social media by banks, savings associations, and credit unions — as well as nonbank entities supervised by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and state regulators.
The FFIEC in their guidance refers to the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), which already restricts how debt collectors may collect debts.
The FDCPA generally prohibits debt collectors from publicly disclosing that a consumer owes a debt.
“Using social media to inappropriately contact consumers, or their families and friends, may violate the restrictions on contacting consumers imposed by the FDCPA,” the council’s guidance said. “Communicating via social media in a manner that discloses the existence of a debt or to harass or embarrass consumers about their debts (e.g., a debt collector writing about a debt on a Facebook wall) or making false or misleading representations may violate the FDCPA.”

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