In our previous post, we began to share parts of an important conversation had among professionals in the debt collection field. The panel discussion was organized by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and consisted of attorneys from different parts of the country, including Florida.
With the economic hardship of the past few years, more bankruptcy attorneys are dealing with clients who claim that they are victims of creditor harassment. Where social media comes into this conversation is when we need to define creditor harassment.
Social media opens up avenues of contact and communication. That’s why so many of us love it, right? But when it comes to our consumer debt and collection practices, social media can quickly become something we hate. The last thing many people with credit card or other debt need is another medium through which collectors can hound them.
The panel got together to discuss ethics regarding social media and debt collections. Sources report the major conclusions that came out of the important conversation:
Information that people post on social media outlets really isn’t private information. Consumers need to wrap their brains around that fact and maybe be a bit more careful about sharing their personal information. It should be no surprise to consumers and shouldn’t be considered illegal for collectors to use information gathered from social sites.
While information is free game, members of the panel largely agreed that there is a big difference between collecting knowledge on sites and using social sites to contact debtors. When collectors use social networking sites to contact debtors, they reportedly often wind up contacting and harassing the wrong person, which violates the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act.
Workers from debt collection agencies shouldn’t mislead debtors online in order to try to initiate social contact with them. Also, collectors should not post anything about a supposed debtor’s debt on any public forum, such as a Facebook wall. That violates a consumer’s privacy.
While the above points are steps toward ethical clarity among the field, it’s obvious that more strict guidelines need to be created and followed when it comes to collections practices. What do you think about this issue? Do you feel that social media forums should be off limits for collectors?
Collections&CreditRisk.com: “The Debate Over Social Media In Collections Heats Up,” Peter Lucas, 9 May 2011