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Electronic Messages Are Harassment

Adam J Krohn / Posted: 2012-08-16 12:00 am
Provided they abide by the legal rules, under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) debt collectors are allowed to call alleged debtors over the phone in an attempt to collect debts. However, with changing times, new steps in the credit applications process, and advanced communications technology, have led to other forms of collections communications which can likewise be abused by unscrupulous collectors.

When many people apply for a credit card, they fill in their email address on the company’s forms. Going further, social networking sites like Facebook, MySpace and Linkedin can be used to track consumers. On these sites, consumers’ information often remains public and debt collectors can easily attack through these sites.

Let us understand how Facebook can help debt collectors target debtors. Debt collectors typically depend on phone calls, assuming that if they irritate a debtor repeatedly, he will give in and make payment. If these debt collectors are unable to get the response they want, they resort to other means. Facebook and similar pages provide a public domain where debt collectors can often easily access the personal and contact information of a consumer and what his situation in life is.

Any electronic message that is tantamount to harassment from debt collectors can be treated as a piece of evidence if a debtor brings a claim under the FDCPA. Electronic messages are powerful harassment tools that debt collectors can access easily. In a typical scenario, a consumer gets a friend request, perhaps with an attractive photo on the account – but when he accepts, messages such as “pay up you deadbeat”, “time you pay your debts”, and “you cannot escape us, better pay up” start appearing on his wall. This is only the beginning of the harassment. Once the debtor has “friended” the collector, the collector accesses his profile, including his list of friends. The collector then begins sending messages about the alleged debt to the victim’s friends and relatives.

Debt collection agencies likewise unleash their agents to create accounts on chat boards, email platforms, and social media sites. These so called friends will gain access to private information like the places the consumer will visit, the money she plans to spend to buy an asset, and the assets she already owns and bought recently. All this helps them assess what they can attack to get payment from that consumer. However, under federal law, a debt collector must disclose his identity and intentions before attempting to communicate with a debtor. The typical pattern of social media harassment described above therefore violates federal law.

Under section 192e of the FDCPA, “The use of any false representation or deceptive means to collect or attempt to collect any debt or to obtain information concerning a consumer” is strictly prohibited. Violation of the FDCPA through deceptive practices subjects collectors to a fine of $1000 and actual and punitive damages as decided by the court. If you have experienced harassment by a debt collector, whether on social media, through email, or otherwise, talk to an experienced debt collection attorney. Your attorney can help you to stop the harassment, and perhaps to collect this fine.
Tags : Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, Fdcpa

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