If you head over to Denver’s Fox31 site, you can watch a woman named Denisa Tova sort of categorically not get it regarding Facebook and debt collection.
“Could Your Next Facebook Friend be a Debt Collector?” the headline asks, and that’s a complicated question because, for instance, yes, a debt collector could be your next Facebook friend if you’re friends with someone who works in the ARM industry in that capacity.
However, what Denisa Tova wants to talk about are collectors setting up fake profiles in order to sneak into someone’s Facebook friends list. And what Denisa Tova never really mentions is: you can’t do that. She hems and haws about the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and how it’s Very Old and such advances as the Internet, text messaging, and Facebook (if Facebook can be called an advance; I have a Lot of Feelings about that) — but the point she doesn’t make is: legitimate, law-abiding collection agencies aren’t doing this, fake-friending consumers, in order to better infiltrate themselves into a consumer’s life.
While the FDCPA is definitely pre-Facebook and pre-MySpace (oh, were we ever so young?) and pre-Twitter — in some respects it doesn’t have to be new technology savvy. As a debt collector, you’re not allowed to misrepresent yourself as something you’re not in the service of collecting a debt. So, right there, Denisa Tova’s opening scenario of a collection agent creating a fake account in order to contact a debtor is a non-starter.
But even if, say, a collector, uses his own Facebook account under his own name to attempt to friend a consumer: he still shouldn’t use any public messages like a Facebook wall or a public tweet in order to remind the consumer that she has some back credit card debt that she might want to think about paying back. A collector dumb enough to do that is dumb enough to have committed a third-party disclosure violation — and legitimate collection agencies train their collectors too well to make an amateur mistake like that.
Mostly what the folks at Denver’s Fox31 site want to do is drum up a little anxiety: Debt Collectors Are Coming For You On Facebook. It’s a sexier story to push, and traditional media like television and newsprint like to sound like they’re still hip and relevant with the things that the young people are doing these days.
Mike Bevel is Associate Editor at insideARM.com. He’s big on the social media (and in Japan).