Debt Collection Agency Uses Facebook to Contact Debtor, Gets Sued
Collection agencies will stop at very little to contact debtors and try to get them to pay what is owed, or alleged to be owed. Just recently on FindLaw's Law and Daily Life we told the story of a Pennsylvania debt collection agency which used a fake courtroom, fake bailiffs and a fake judge to try and scare debtors into payment. That agency is now being sued the Pennsylvania Attorney General.
Now a Florida woman has filed suit against a debt collection agency for contacting her friends and family on Facebook.
Melanie Beacham is suing the debt collection agency Mark One LLC for violation of privacy and violating Florida's consumer protection law, which prohibits collectors from harassing people, reports the Associated Press. Beacham was allegedly contacted six to ten times a day by phone, sent text messages, had her neighbors contacted and was sent a letter at her workplace. Beacham is asking the judge to prohibit Mark One from contacting her or her family through Facebook or Twitter.
"It's an invasion of privacy on steroids," Beacham's attorney Billy Howard told the AP. "Normally, it takes a while for collection agencies to contact family members or friends, or co-workers, but on Facebook you have a very powerful harassment tool at your fingertips."
The actions of the agency may also have violated the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act. This act governs the behavior of debt collectors and prohibits them from making false or misleading statements to collect a debt. However, in this case, maybe Mark One just skirted the edge of the law in its attempts to contact Melanie Beacham. According to the AP, one of Beacham's family members received a Facebook message from a Mark One representative calling himself "Jeff Happenstance."
"Please Have Melanie D Beacham call me ... Thanks," the message said. The family member replied by saying he should try contacting Beacham himself. Perhaps Beacham's relative was tipped off by a "friend" referring to her as "Melanie D. Beacham," something only someone who is trying to guess which Melanie Beacham they are trying to find, would do.
Safety tips for Facebook behavior always include: beware who you friend. The AP reports Jeffrey Hyslip, a Chicago lawyer, told of one client who was friended on Facebook by a young woman in a bikini. The friend in the bikini turned out to be a debt collector, something his client found out when the "friend" posted a message on his wall: "Pay your debts, you deadbeat."
- Women Sues Debt Collector Over Facebook Messages (ABC News)
- Don't Let a Debt Collector "Friend" You on Facebook: The Legal Issues Posed by Internet Debt Collection (FindLaw's Writ)
- Not so Friendly: Debt Collectors on Facebook (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)