Saturday, April 23, 2011

Watch Out for Collection Agencies on Facebook, Twitter


COMMENTARY | Social media is all the rage for businesses today. It seems that businesses from taverns and hotels to rental agencies and local grocers are jumping into the fray with Facebook pages and Twitter accounts. The one type of company that just about everybody seems to have forgotten about are debt collectors.

Recently, a Florida judge issued a preliminary ruling that prevented a company from using Facebook messages to collect a debt. Additionally, that company, MarkOne Financial, was calling the woman in question more than 20 times a day. The Facebook messages could almost be understandable if only personal messages were being used to contact the debtor. However, messages were also being sent to everyone on her friends list.

Consumers would have to be a little on the naïve side not to think that debt collectors do not have employees creating social media accounts for the sole reason of tracking people down. Another reason would be to see if a consumer would have any assets that could be used to take care of the debt. Of course, using social media comes with a certain amount of discretion, something many people take for granted. The decision in Florida represents the first time a court has specifically banned the use of social media by debt collectors.

As anyone who has had the unfortunate luck of falling behind on payments, which covers a lot of people due to the recession, debt collectors can come off a little on the harassing side. It is an embarrassing situation in its own right just to have to talk to someone calling the house or cell looking to get paid, but to have an agency send Facebook messages to everyone on your friends list asking you contact the agency is over-the-top.

Still, one of the best ways for anyone to deal with falling behind on payments and collection agencies is to answer the phone and talk to them. Lots of people fall behind on their payments, and recently more than a few folks have encountered financial trouble. Taking control of the situation and working things out is generally one of the easiest ways to stop the phone calls.

Using social media to collect a debt is ridiculous. Using Facebook or Twitter to locate someone who skipped out on payments is one thing, but masquerading as someone else just to get on a contact list seems a little like fraud. Unfortunately, collection agencies and bill collectors have their place in the world and economic landscape, but they do not necessarily have to tweet all your followers to let everyone you know you are a month down on that credit card bill.

Jason Gallagher is a former travel professional and long-time Pennsylvania resident. These experiences give him a first-hand look at developing situations in the state and everything included in the travel industry from technology to trends.

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