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How to thwart debt collection tactics through social media

Many Tennessee residents have been through this annoying experience: your cell phone rings and you don't recognize the phone number. "Shoot," you think. "It's those debt collectors harassing me again. How can I put a stop to this?"

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act protects people in debt from just such a situation. The law outlines what behaviors and actions are prohibited for debt collectors. The law, however, was written in 1978 and obviously did not take measures to block online creditor harassment. Recently there have been lawsuits accusing collection agencies of online harassment, as the tactic is seeing a boom in popularity.

For those with outstanding debt, there are a few ways you can preserve your online sanctity that do not involve deleting your Facebook and Twitter accounts. The first thing to realize is that there are privacy settings on Facebook you can utilize to block anyone from accessing your personal information. Establishing these parameters is a crucial first step.

You also need to reflect on how you act on social media sites. Do you post statuses that give away job information, location or your cell phone number? It is best to think it through before making this sort of information public - especially if you are in debt.

Also, do you "like" banks or credit card companies that have pages on Facebook? You may actually like the way your bank or credit card company has treated you in the past, but the simple act of giving them a "thumbs up" could give away your information and allow creditors the opportunity to contact you.

One final thing you can do to protect yourself from debt collection tactics online is to refrain from accepting any and all friend requests. If you do not know the person trying to "friend" you or if you cannot establish how your friends know this person, the friend request might be coming from a debt collection agency posing as a forthcoming individual.

In the end, if you believe creditors are harassing you in an attempt to garner outstanding debt, you can file a motion or grievance against the agency. Not only could your legal fees be paid for, but you could be entitled to an award if it is found that the agency obstructed the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.

Source: USA Today, "Can Debt Collectors Contact You via Social Media?," Susan Johnston, Feb. 13, 2012

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