Consumer Law

Lawsuit Points to Alleged New Tool in Debt-Collection Arsenal: Facebook

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When Melanie Beacham was on medical leave from her job last summer, she got behind on her car payments.

Although she called the finance company to explain, debt collectors not only telephoned her repeatedly but found another way to make her life difficult, the 34-year-old Florida resident says: Facebook.

Locating her social networking site also helped them find relatives’ Facebook pages. Then, she alleges in a lawsuit, they sent messages on the social networking site to a sister and a cousin of hers, prompting a wider family discussion about Beacham’s financial situation, reports the St. Petersburg Times.

She is seeking damages from Mark One Financial of Jacksonville for harassment and invasion of privacy, as well as a court order prohibiting the company from contacting friends and family members through Facebook or any other social networking site.

A representative of Mark One declined the newspaper’s request for comment.

However, the company’s managing director, Bruce Newmark, told WKMG, speaking generally, that the company will use Facebook to contact a client when it can’t reach an individual by phone.

Beacham’s lawyer, Billy Howard of Morgan & Morgan, says he’s never heard of another case alleging harassment by bill collectors via a social networking site. But, he predicts, there will be more such suits:

“Debt collectors,” he says, “are like any other business. They change according to their environment.”

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