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Social media rules for debt collectors

Mar 23, 2011 Kyle Duncan

Social media has changed the game for businesses all over the United States. The fact that more and more people have made sites like LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook a part of their lives means that people in all sorts of different businesses have been able to get a better idea of their customer bases. In recent months, one specific business sector has been taking advantage of the medium for another purpose - debt collection.
 More and more debt collectors are turning to the medium in order to track down people who owe money to creditors. But a recent ruling by a Florida judge may change the plans for many who have used these types of tactics. A recent ruling by a St. Petersburg judge ordered Mark One Financial to cease trying to track down a debtor, Melanie Beachman, through Facebook. Beachman took Mark One to court after the company tried to contact her and family members through the popular website while pursuing the $362 she owed for a car loan. In a recent interview with Fox Business, personal finance expert Gerri Detweiller said that those that were in debt must be careful about what information they make public when they share details with the online community. "They have to follow the law — it's not necessarily that they can’t use Facebook to find more information about a debtor," she said. "For consumers, if you owe debt, be well aware that anything you post online is fair game for a collector." Detweiller went onto say that debt collectors must give disclosure about who they are when contacting the person they are pursuing, something she refers to as a "mini-Miranda." They must also provide a written notice of the debt, with information regarding to whom the debt is owed and how to contact them. "They have to say who they are and that they are attempting to collect debt," she told the news source. Many people in the country have taken debt collection agencies to court to settle disputes. A judge in New York recently ruled that Jonathan Hess had the right to sue a law firm for violating the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, the Syracuse Post-Standard reports. Hess took Cohen & Slamowitz to court after the firm sued him in the incorrect jurisdiction.