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Many Miami residents enjoy updating their social media sites and have carefully curated their LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter pages.

What most consumers never consider as they utilize social media in their interactions with family, friends and business contacts is that debt collection agencies can scroll through social media pages of debtors too. They can use information culled online to collect debts.

This is all legal — with some caveats. Skip-tracers access social media sites to learn where their targets have relocated. A simple Google search can yield a surprising amount of personal information on consumers. But debt collectors can get in hot water with the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act by using these tools.

“1692c: Communication in connection with debt collection.”

Because a consumer’s Facebook page is more public than private, connecting with someone is like talking to a person at a crowded party where you’re always free to shut down the discussion and move along. If your Facebook page is set to “Public,” a debt collector can reach out to you there also. But if a debt collector posts information about your debts on your social media page, this is a violation of the prohibition against third-party disclosures.

“1692e: False or misleading representations”

According to provisions of this subsection of the FDCPA, “A debt collector may not use any false, deceptive, or misleading representation or means in connection with the collection of any debt.” This means that a debt collector would violate the law if they attempt to “friend” a consumer they are pursuing for debt repayment under false pretenses and try to glean more information about them, their lifestyle or employment. They also can’t communicate with you about your alleged debts or try to get you to agree to make payment plans under the guise of a Facebook friendship.

Consumers with outstanding debt who are worried about privacy concerns should edit their social media pages accordingly, with the awareness that any financial or employment information you post may be useful to your creditors.

If you are tired of creditor tactics and ready to get serious about dealing with your financial situation, a legal professional can discuss the pros and cons of filing for bankruptcy in your particular situation.

Source: Array Services Group, “Will You Accept My Friend Request? Using Social Media in Debt Collection” Ashley Holmgren, Jun. 19, 2014