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Monday
Jun132011

Debt Collectors Seek to 'Friend' Delinquents

Comstock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Seeking to catch up with changing technology, the nation's debt collectors want the laws changed to allow them to reach out and touch delinquents by email, cellphone and text messages.

On Monday, the Association of Credit and Collections Professionals introduced a blueprint for modernizing debt collections. Their goal: to increase collections by finding more ways to contact their targets.

The trade group wants to change laws including the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, which were written before the age of robo-dialers, texts, Facebook and wide use of cellphones. Collectors use these methods to contact consumers now, but they may open themselves up to fines and sanctions under current laws.

In 2010, the Federal Trade Commission saw complaints against collection agencies rise to more than 108,000, a sharp increase from the 69,000 consumer complaints.

Last year, 21 percent of complaints filed with the FTC claimed that debt collectors used third parties for location information. It's one tactic that has driven consumer complaints to a high.

"I don't believe harassment drives any more return on collections than treating a consumer respectfully," says Mark Schiffman, ACA, director of public affairs.

"Posting anything on someone's Facebook wall is a violation, and talking to someone [that is not the debtor] on Facebook violates the third-party disclosure,” Schiffman said. “Neither one is acceptable. It is unacceptable in any circumstance."

"Debt collectors can use social media just like they might use the yellow pages to find information about somebody," says Schiffman. "They can't do anything misleading. They can't friend people using fake identities. They can't post on your Facebook wall."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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