A Florida consumer, Melanie Beacham, has sued a debt collector for allegedly contacting one of her family members by using Facebook. The lawsuit alleges that Mark One Financial created a Facebook account using the pseudonym “Jeff Happenstance” and sent a message to Beacham’s cousin asking him to have Beacham call a number that leads to a Mark One collection representative. Beacham also maintains that Mark One used Facebook to contact her sister.
When reached for comment by the Huffington Post, a Mark One spokesman denied any knowledge of “Jeff Happenstance” and claimed that the company only uses Facebook when there is no other way to contact a debtor. In Beacham’s case, however, Mark One called her numerous times before resorting to Facebook, which indicates that Mark One already knew how to contact Beacham and resorted to Facebook to attempt to shame her into paying the debt.
The lawsuit, which seeks to restrain Mark One from using Facebook to contact debtors, appears to be the first one of its kind. But others are almost certain to follow as the economy continues a slow recovery and Facebook and other social media grow in popularity. And the use of social networks to contact debtors raises a number of interesting questions. For example, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act requires that every communication from a debt collector contain a notice that “this communication is from a debt collector.” Does a message through Facebook fall under the FDCPA definition of “communication” and therefore require the notice? I say yes, but the ultimate answer will be up to the courts.
Woman Sues Debt Collectors Over Alleged Facebook Harassment | Huffington Post | November 17, 2010