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FTC examines issue of debt collection via social media

Jun 09, 2011 Mike Garretson

In response to a precedent-setting case in which a debt collections agency was sued for sending Facebook messages to a debtor and her social network, the Federal Trade Commission recently discussed the use of social media for collecting debts at a seminar titled Debt Collection 2.0. St. Petersburg, Florida, resident Melanie Beacham filed a lawsuit against collection agency MarkOne Financial for contacting her and third parties who were connected to her via Facebook, despite already having her address, email address and phone numbers for her home and work. A court order was issued for the agency to cease its practices. According to the FTC, social networking sites such as Facebook may be used for skip tracing purposes. However, writing on consumers' walls or using the internet to contact their friends and family in an attempt to recoup debt is a violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, which states that "debt collectors may not harass, oppress or abuse you or any third parties they contact." The FTC has yet to determine exactly what kind of regulations should be put in place in order to address the issue. When the FDCPA was approved in 1978, technological advances such as text messaging and online social networking had not yet come into existence.