Social media has become ubiquitous with advertising in today’s society. As recent media stories have revealed, part of the ability for Facebook to remain a complimentary service is its ability to sell targeted advertising campaigns to businesses based on information collected about users’ preferences and habits.
Indeed, this information was likely used for nefarious purposes in our last election and to spread propaganda (i.e. “fake news”). The notion that a user’s Facebook friends “liked” a particular advertisement likely enticed the user themselves to “friend” them as well.
Because so many consumers willingly accept invitations appearing to be suggested by friend, debt collection companies have gotten into the act of seeking debtors out through social media invites.
If you believe that this may be uncouth and ultimately illegal way for creditors to find you and reach out to your social circle, you might be right.
Federal law (through the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act) prohibits debt collectors asking friends and family members about your debt obligations. This rule applies regardless of whether it is over social media, emails or other modes of communication. Personal debts are a private matter under the FDCPA, and revealing such information to others is contrary to law.
Regardless, some debt collectors will still try to operate as close to the line as possible when it comes to finding out as much about you over social media. As such, the following nuggets of caution should be used:
Be wary of your your privacy settings – Most people’s settings are set to public, which enables everyone (especially debt collectors) to see what you post, what pictures you upload and elements of your profile so that they can make targeted assumptions about you. If you change your privacy settings, this can reduce the likelihood that collectors will contact you social media.
Be careful about what you include in your profile – Most profiles include information about where you live, work and who you are married to. Before you share other important details about your life, realize that you may be telling debt collectors what you are up to.
Beware of new “friends” – That pretty girl who wants to be your friend out of the blue, or that handsome gentleman who suddenly wants to know you may not be the person behind the picture. These may be attempts for a debt collector to “catfish” you.
If you have additional questions about debt collection over social media, an experienced attorney can advise you.