Debt collectors that stalk and harass debtors on Facebook and other social networks have been around for a while. Now, one woman is fighting back with a lawsuit.
Melanie Beacham and her attorney Billy Howard want the collection agency, MarkOne, banned from using Facebook for skip tracing. They claim that the agency contacted Beacham’s sister and other relatives through the network for delinquent car payments, even though they weren’t listed as contacts.
The story of debt collectors using social networks to stalk debtors has been kicking around for more than a year, but it’s rare to hear about people fighting back against the collection agencies in court. This case is also novel because it suggests the agency was trying to embarrass Beacham by contacting her relatives through Facebook.
Some state laws, along with the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, place restrictions on how debt collectors can contact debtors, but Facebook stalking and contact is a gray area, particularly with the federal law, because it doesn’t explicitly deal with social media.
There is at least some precedent: In Minnesota, a collection agency learned about a woman through MySpace and used this information to confront her. Reportedly, the agency told the woman she had a “beautiful daughter” and insinuated that it would be awful if something happened to her kids while the sheriff was taking her away. The woman sued under the FDCPA and won.