Town to Increase Collections by Posting Debtor Names on Facebook

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A town in Mississippi recently discussed the possibility of publicly naming the people who owe it money, including using popular social media site Facebook to distribute the list, all in the name of stepping up its debt collection results.

The Daily Corinthian (via the Associated Press) is reporting that the Board of Aldermen in Farmington, Miss. last week approved the creation of a system that would publicly disclose the name of anyone that owes money to the town. Once the system is set up, the Board will then vote to approve it make it live.

Officials there reckon there is no legal problem with the plan, since owing a debt to the town is a matter of public record. There were no details on how, exactly, Facebook would be used.

The subject of using social media, specifically Facebook, in the debt collection process is a topic of intense debate in the ARM industry. There are plenty of cautionary tales regarding the use of social media in the collection process. There is also some pretty sober thinking about how social media can help in the ARM process (mostly with skiptracing).

Due to third party disclosure concerns, most debt collection agencies have not developed a structured program for social media use (in collections). But a municipality using this avenue to post publicly-available information does not present the same legal issues. This is yet another way the rules are different for third party debt collectors and others that directly “compete” for a debtor’s wallet share.

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Posted in Collection Laws and Regulations, Collection Technology, Debt Collection, FDCPA, Featured Post .

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  • avatar jessie-gomez says:

    It is good to see someone stepping up to the plate to expose the consumers that is running from their debt.

  • avatar gpaul says:

    Woah! It is not always that a consumer is running from debt! There are a lot (loads) of people that have debt for medical services, tax debt, and others that are NOT of their own doing. I don’t really see how making a “debt” public is going to help in collections. Nor do I see that this sort of “public flogging” for owing property taxes to a municipality that says that a property is worth $X dollars when it only worth half that should be used to humiliate and demoralize already stressed consumers. Debt is a financial issue – A lot of Debt is brought about by “overly extending” credit to individuals without any support for how the debt will be repaid. As explained, not everyone (actually very few) are running – most are trying to just stay afloat….

  • avatar Eugene Joubert says:

    Using Social Media and publicly exposing peoples private debt is a TOTAL NO NO !!!!!

    In South Africa you can we can face a lawsuit that you cannot handle !!

  • avatar Jill Garance says:

    This channel for collections does not have to be a public flogging, as gpaul states. Just as government entities and private companies post the names of folks with uncollected monies due back to them, this can serve as a notification or reminder to folks that genuinely are not aware of their debt. I am very curious about what information they will actually publish (last name only, debt amount, years past due, etc.). Who knows, someone googling their own name amy run across the site and make good. Or, a neighborhood may rally around a neighbor with fundraisers and bake sales to help them meet the obligation. On the other end of the spectrum, this will have no impact on the people who simply don’t care.

  • avatar Ameripay says:

    @gpaul – Oh so it’s the creditor’s fault you borrowed too much money? They put a gun to your head and forced you to not only borrow, but then spend those funds so you couldn’t pay your debt back?

    Yeah right, grow up and pay your bills. Quit blaming other people for your problems.

  • avatar jessie-gomez says:

    Jill Garance,

    The states can post First, Middle, Last name, city, state. And when someone serve you by published they can put the same info above.

    I think the reason the cities, counties are doing this is to let everyone know that beware this person owe us money.

  • avatar jessie-gomez says:

    The cities, county, and states are protected by the.
    Communications Decency Act of 1996

  • avatar FriendoftheCourt says:

    From the FDCPA

    § 806. Harassment or abuse

    A debt collector may not engage in any conduct the natural consequence of which is to harass, oppress, or abuse any person in connection with the collection of a debt. Without limiting the general application of the foregoing, the following conduct is a violation of this section:..

    (3) The publication of a list of consumers who allegedly refuse to pay debts, except to a consumer reporting agency or to persons meeting the requirements of section 603(f) or 604(3)1 of this Act….

    A debt collector that fits the definition as set by the FDCPA would lose big time if he pulled this stunt.

  • avatar Commercial Guy says:

    FOTC, you are right that a debt collector would be treading on very thin ice doing this, but a municipal entity is not a debt collector by definition.

  • avatar MedCreditCollector Man says:

    Wow. Have they tried Credit Reporting? Judgements?

    IMO this seems like some small town clerk who is bored all day and sits on FB instead of picking up the phone. With ideas like this NO WONDER they are having problems collecting their debt. Sounds like their office is full of lazy employees who cant perform and are trying to justify their poor work ethic.

    I sit behind a guy who makes 3 calls an hour and does his online college classes all day! Doesnt collect anything. Just wants all the GIMMIES from house payments. Makes me sick. I work and treat debtors with respect (unless they are beligerant) and I make the same as this joker in front of me who is just wasting my companys money. The collection industry is full of these people and I celebrate they day he leaves.

  • avatar MedCreditCollector Man says:

    Next they will be adding debtors as neighbors on Farmville! Imagine getting spammed Farmville requests from a Debt Collector. lol

  • avatar Mavis Pye says:

    I doubt it will ever go live, but imagine the threat of it being so public and available I bet it has feared or will fear a lot of those who can afford to pay to actually pay prior to going live…

  • avatar jessie-gomez says:

    The deadbeat consumers should be scare if someone going to expose them. Remember consumers if you owe child support the state can put your name in the newspaper and no one ever sued the newspaper for doing so. I think once Mississippi does it other states will follow suit.

  • avatar Debt Guy says:

    I don’t think there is anything wrong with the idea of publicly shaming someone into paying their debts. It’s against the law for a collector do it and I’m a by the book kind of guy so I don’t engage in such tactics but I wish the laws would change. What’s more damaging to a consumer? Being motivated to pay up by being made to feel bad for not paying your debt or paying significantly more to be sued, slapped with a judgment and then being garnished or having assets seized? People ought to feel bad about not repaying their debts and in fact most do. But there are also plenty of people who could care less and shame would be a useful and reasonable tool to use on those folks.

  • avatar Marc Johnston says:

    Jessie Gomez – The attitude that they are all “deadbeats” is the attitude maintained by the “rogue” collectors this site often mentions as being responsible for most of the negative press we get. Not the right ASSumption at all!

  • avatar MedCreditCollector Man says:

    Agree with Marc. Its like saying all debt collectors are wolves. Granted I know some snakes, but they are mostly older and have been in collections since you could smoke at your desk. I wish they would leave.

  • avatar jessie-gomez says:

    No consumer like to be expose to the world that they are a deadbeat. With the alarming rate of consumers defaulting on their obligation to the creditors something need to be done.

  • avatar Marc Johnston says:

    Ditto MedCred….I have an office full of $15k-$20k fee collectors and not a one of them treats people like “deadbeats”. The moment they start doing so is the moment i terminate them. Perhaps Jessie is independently wealthy enough to not have to worry about money….but most are not. At this level, we see very few “credit criminals”. Mostly, we see regular people just like you and I Jessie…that are struggling due to numerous factors (and yes irresponsibility is one of them)..but this in no way makes them deadbeats! LIghten up on the inflammatory “deadbeat” talk and start preserving peoples dignity and your own results, whether those of a collector or manager, will improve.

  • avatar jessie-gomez says:

    I do treat consumers with respect an dignity until they lie to me. I will admit the consumers have made me a good living and about 45% come to us with their hat in their hand and want to pay the debt and we work with them and the other 55% we deal with them in away they only understand.

  • avatar Nicholas Myrben says:

    This is a bad idea for third parties. If 1st parties are able to use it and it works effectively it means less placements to third parties.

  • avatar Ron Williams says:

    I think, legally, it’s an invitation to be sued. Imagine someone with a common name, say, “Mike Smith,” is reported as having owed the city money. Anyone else with the same name could easily sue for common-law slander or the like.

    Also, since the publication of the list of debtors is, presumably, a de facto attempt to collect a debt (why else are they publishing it?), said action would probably violate the Mississippi Deceptive Trade Practices Act, title 75, ch 24 of the Mississippi Code if the town published inaccurate information regarding a debt, or, say, a person with the same name as a debtor published was denied employment, credit, etc. on the basis of his name appearing on said list.

    If the town fails to properly record a payment made on account, that’s no big deal. But once you publish the alleged debtor’s name, now it’s libel, if it ain’t true.

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