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Debt Collectors Using Facebook To Embarrass Those Who Owe

samzenpus posted more than 3 years ago | from the pay-up-or-be-unfriended dept.

Facebook 266

Not even the tranquility of FarmVille can save you from the long arm of debt collectors. Melanie Beacham says that a collector from MarkOne Financial contacted her relatives about her past due car note via Facebook. She is filing suit alleging that the company is harassing her family. Tampa based consumer attorney Billy Howard of Morgan & Morgan says, "Now Facebook does a debt collectors work for them. Now it's not only family members, it's all of your associates. It's a very powerful tool for debt collectors to use."

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I'm Pretty Sure That's Illegal (5, Insightful)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 3 years ago | (#34255722)

I know collection debt law Is hazy as it varies from state to state and sometimes even has caveats internal to cities themselves but I thought there was a Fair Debt Collection Practices Act [wikipedia.org] to protect consumers from crap just like this. I'm not a lawyer and Wikipedia's not exactly the foremost authority on the law but:

Communication with third parties [cornell.edu] : revealing or discussing the nature of debts with third parties (other than the consumer's spouse or attorney) (Collection agencies are allowed to contact neighbors or co-workers but only to obtain location information; disreputable agencies often harass debtors with a "block party" or "office party" where they contact multiple neighbors or co-workers telling them they need to reach the debtor on an urgent matter.)

And if they posted something on your wall, that could fall under a number of these laws. Hell, if you consider 'Facebook' an embarrassing media:

Contact by embarrassing media, such as communicating with a consumer regarding a debt by post card, or using any language or symbol, other than the debt collector’s address, on any envelope when communicating with a consumer by use of the mails or by telegram, except that a debt collector may use his business name if such name does not indicate that he is in the debt collection business

And if the debt collection's profile wasn't MARKONE DEBT COLLECTOR I'd be looking at that sort of shadiness as well.

Having been the subject of a mysterious $180 debt collection put on my credit report over six years after they allege it happened in 2003 with no attempts to contact me until two months ago, I implore this woman to seek more than just a court order against MarkOne but instead to get the law amended now that social network websites are prevalent. They are a new form of contact medium that exposes far more information than the phone book and the current laws should apply or be updated minimally to reflect this.

If you're wondering about my $180, I contacted them immediately. After getting all my current information so they could commence harassment, they told me to log onto some third party site and contest it. I did. Three weeks later I got a judgment: REMAINS. I was informed that, short of litigious action, that was the extent of my rights in that situation.

Re:I'm Pretty Sure That's Illegal (3, Informative)

magarity (164372) | more than 3 years ago | (#34255800)

The article says it is the company that financed the car, which would make them the primary debt holder and not a collections agency. Read the Wiki you linked: "While the FDCPA generally applies only to third party debt collectors—not internal collectors for an "original creditor"

Re:I'm Pretty Sure That's Illegal (2, Informative)

meerling (1487879) | more than 3 years ago | (#34256002)

Yes, I agree with you, I believe that activity is clearly against the Federal laws and regulations regarding debt collection. (ianal) As to your situation, it's not necessarily over, check the statute of limitation on debts in your state. Then tend to range from 5-8 years, and it's possible that the collector was already past that point and is still trying to collect.
As to the (un-named) third party you contacted, for as far as I know, it could have been the collectors brother-in-law. Don't go by the statements of a third party the collector sends you to, contact an official state agency or a legal representative that deals with these types of issues.

Unfortunately there are a very large number of unscrupulous debt collectors out there that depend on your timidity and ignorance. Few people fight, and fewer people have any idea what their rights are, much less the restrictions the debt collectors are supposed to work under.

Re:I'm Pretty Sure That's Illegal (1)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 3 years ago | (#34256014)

Sounds like they contacted her family members or co-workers through Facebook notes, so it doesn't look as bad as posting it to the wall, but still - bringing up that they are a debtor is like you said, usually against the law.

I also had some 'debt collection agency' call me about my phone bill, from months prior. They seemed very pushy that they could "Get it sorted out real easily over phone" - meaning they wanted my credit card number.

I don't really understand the whole debt collection business, but I would find it fairly odd that my phone company would send debt collectors after me having A) Never tried to contact me and B) Continue giving me service.

I told the guy over the phone, that if I had outstanding bills with the phone company, that they should cut me off and I'll deal with them in person. I reported the phone number to the RCMP as suspicious (Because I live in Canada), and never heard any more on the subject matter.

I would hope that you are doing something similar - I assume you have your suspicions that its just a scam, right?

Re:I'm Pretty Sure That's Illegal (4, Insightful)

clone53421 (1310749) | more than 3 years ago | (#34256206)

If you're wondering about my $180, I contacted them immediately. After getting all my current information so they could commence harassment, they told me to log onto some third party site and contest it. I did. Three weeks later I got a judgment: REMAINS. I was informed that, short of litigious action, that was the extent of my rights in that situation.

I had my own encounter with debt collectors after some medical stuff (it’s nearly impossible to keep all those bills straight – you get the bill from the emergency room. and the hospital. and the doctor. and the weekend doctor. and ... they can’t combine them to make it simple, apparently).

Don’t talk to the debt collectors. Run like hell. They don’t care about you. They just care about the commission they get.

Find out who owns the debt and how to contact them. The collection agency has to tell you this. Contact them. Cut the debt collector out of the loop completely. And I do mean completely. Deal directly with the party who claims that you owe them something; once you settle the account with them, they will notify their debt collector that the debt has been canceled.

In my case it was a bill I’d overlooked; in your case, it might just be a mistake somewhere. But you’ll find out a hell of a lot more from whoever hired the debt collection agency than you’ll find out from the collection agency itself.

Re:I'm Pretty Sure That's Illegal (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34256268)

I implore this woman to seek more than just a court order against MarkOne but instead to get the law amended now that social network websites are prevalent.

That's silly, and you're as bad as the luddite lawmakers who needlessly create special cyberlaws. There's no reason why social network websites aren't covered by the existing law, so there's no need to change the law.

The only issue here is that some debt collection agencies disregard the existing law because the money they make by doing so exceeds the money they lose when someone pursues them in court. That has nothing to do with social network websites.

Re:I'm Pretty Sure That's Illegal (1)

godless dave (844089) | more than 3 years ago | (#34256558)

I work for a collection agency, and I'm pretty sure you're right. EXCEPT that the FDCPA only applies to collection agencies, not the original owner of the debt. If your creditor decides to contact you directly rather than contract it out, they have a lot more leeway.

Re:I'm Pretty Sure That's Illegal (1)

nomadic (141991) | more than 3 years ago | (#34256572)

I know collection debt law Is hazy as it varies from state to state and sometimes even has caveats internal to cities themselves but I thought there was a Fair Debt Collection Practices Act [wikipedia.org] to protect consumers from crap just like this. I'm not a lawyer and Wikipedia's not exactly the foremost authority on the law but:

Communication with third parties [cornell.edu] : revealing or discussing the nature of debts with third parties (other than the consumer's spouse or attorney) (Collection agencies are allowed to contact neighbors or co-workers but only to obtain location information; disreputable agencies often harass debtors with a "block party" or "office party" where they contact multiple neighbors or co-workers telling them they need to reach the debtor on an urgent matter.)

And if they posted something on your wall, that could fall under a number of these laws. Hell, if you consider 'Facebook' an embarrassing media:

Contact by embarrassing media, such as communicating with a consumer regarding a debt by post card, or using any language or symbol, other than the debt collector’s address, on any envelope when communicating with a consumer by use of the mails or by telegram, except that a debt collector may use his business name if such name does not indicate that he is in the debt collection business

And if the debt collection's profile wasn't MARKONE DEBT COLLECTOR I'd be looking at that sort of shadiness as well. Having been the subject of a mysterious $180 debt collection put on my credit report over six years after they allege it happened in 2003 with no attempts to contact me until two months ago, I implore this woman to seek more than just a court order against MarkOne but instead to get the law amended now that social network websites are prevalent. They are a new form of contact medium that exposes far more information than the phone book and the current laws should apply or be updated minimally to reflect this. If you're wondering about my $180, I contacted them immediately. After getting all my current information so they could commence harassment, they told me to log onto some third party site and contest it. I did. Three weeks later I got a judgment: REMAINS. I was informed that, short of litigious action, that was the extent of my rights in that situation.

If you're wondering about my $180, I contacted them immediately. After getting all my current information so they could commence harassment, they told me to log onto some third party site and contest it. I did. Three weeks later I got a judgment: REMAINS. I was informed that, short of litigious action, that was the extent of my rights in that situation.

Why would you log onto a third party site for a patently fake proceeding? You contest it with the credit rating agencies.

Re:I'm Pretty Sure That's Illegal (1)

Obfuscant (592200) | more than 3 years ago | (#34256590)

And if they posted something on your wall, that could fall under a number of these laws.

According to the original article, the company "contacted" her sister. What does "contacted" mean? Did they send a message to the sister saying "we need to talk to your sister, do you have her phone number?" (legal). Or did they say "your screwball sister is running from her debts, we are going to sue unless you help us get our money"? Since we don't know, it's hard to judge, isn't it? There was nothing about them writing on the debtor's wall, however.

Hell, if you consider 'Facebook' an embarrassing media:

Then maybe you shouldn't have a Facebook account, huh? It's voluntary. If you choose to participate, you get all the benefits. You don't choose to get postcards vs. letters. You don't choose to have someone put up a billboard with your face and debt details. Or to have someone sit outside your house with a loudspeaker. But Facebook, that was a choice you made. You chose it because of its communications and networking (social) abilities.

By the way, Facebook isn't "doing the work for the collector". The collector is using publicly available information. You wouldn't say that the phone company is doing the work for the collector just because they publish a telephone book, would you?

If you don't want to deal with scum debt collectors for debts you owe, don't borrow money from scum lenders that won't negotiate with you when you have problems. Borrow from a car dealer, what do you expect? Did something change in the last few years and are car dealers now in the group we'd call "honest businessmen?" (And yes, there are some. I bought my last car from one. I DIDN'T buy a car from one who proved to be a jerk, and I told him that. The salesman pushed me to buy a used car. I thought about it, told him no. Next day, his manager called me to argue about the decision. Screw them. And now, thanks to GM, they're out of business. Good riddance.)

Re:I'm Pretty Sure That's Illegal (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34256694)

Having been the subject of a mysterious $180 debt collection put on my credit report over six years after they allege it happened...
..they told me to log onto some third party site and contest it. I did. Three weeks later I got a judgment: REMAINS. I was informed that, short of litigious action, that was the extent of my rights in that situation.

As someone who has dealt with a poor credit history and worked very hard to improve not only legitimate but also illegitimate records on my credit report I have to seriously question this point. First, third-party site? There are only three (3) major credit bureaus: TransUnion, Experian and Equifax. All of these have very straight forward disputing processes online - simply log in (pay or go to www.annualcreditreport.com to view all three free once per year as recently required by the U.S. government) and if there are inaccuracies, false or misleading information attached simply click the dispute button. Pretty simple.

The bureau will conduct an investigation. Credit bureaus are required by law to remove any unverifiable information. Just because someone says you owe money doesn't mean they can prove it. I have personally had both valid and non-valid negatives removed from my report repeatedly. Just keep disputing and work with the bureau to get things removed. If you can't, then is stands to reason you are in the wrong and the creditor posting does have verifiable info. At which point you're pretty much SOL - can't complain much about a debt you owe and don't like.

As for litigious action... I find it unlikely this would be required since the credit bureaus are legally bound to verify and correct misinformation - if they don't they're on the hook. Fixing your credit isn't rocket science. Just be proactive and don't ignore it cause that solves dick in my ten-year experience of dealing with my own credit issues.

There's a couple cents to anyone interested.

Re:I'm Pretty Sure That's Illegal (1)

blobdole (942055) | more than 3 years ago | (#34256838)

Just for your information. The reason it has been just over six years is because whether or not it has been on the report the entire time, things like that automatically drop off after seven years. I had a roommate who started getting calls twice a day about an old phone bill during the last few months before the seven year mark. Few things provoke as much of a reaction from bill collectors as casually mentioning "Oh yeah, I guess it has been almost seven years." "THAT ISN'T HOW IT WORKS!!" will be the common response. =)

No bounds (1)

diskofish (1037768) | more than 3 years ago | (#34255774)

These jackasses know no bounds. Somehow a debt collector got my number thinking I was someone else and wouldn't top calling. Finally I had the phone company block the number because they wouldn't stop calling.

Re:No bounds (1)

eleuthero (812560) | more than 3 years ago | (#34255908)

and it is now even easier for those of us who otherwise have to pay a fee to block numbers--Google Voice FTW.

Re:No bounds (1)

hldn (1085833) | more than 3 years ago | (#34256696)

a well known fraudulent debt collector sent me a letter claiming i owed ~$600 for an old phone bill. i replied via registered letter that this was a fraudulent claim and they were fully aware as such and that i had also sent copies of our correspondence to my state attorney general and that any further attempts at contact by them would result in legal action. never heard from them again.

That Picture... (1)

cobrausn (1915176) | more than 3 years ago | (#34255780)

Is great. I don't know where it was found, but it could apply to so many headlines.

Re:That Picture... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34256354)

How about this one of Jesse James' "Pay-up Sucker" tattoo:
picture [secondinitial.com]
video [youtube.com]

Easy Solution (2, Informative)

Itesh (1901146) | more than 3 years ago | (#34255782)

A. Pay your debts
B. Go to your account settings in Facebook so that people can't mine all this information about you. Pass this tip along to your family and friends.

Re:Easy Solution (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34255820)

C. Be very careful about borrowing

But aside from that, I'd totally mod you if I could.

Re:Easy Solution (5, Insightful)

cobrausn (1915176) | more than 3 years ago | (#34255840)

A. Pay your debts
B. Go to your account settings in Facebook so that people can't mine all this information about you. Pass this tip along to your family and friends.

C. Delete Facebook Account.

Re:Easy Solution (1)

windcask (1795642) | more than 3 years ago | (#34256222)

It takes a truly enlightened human being to realize that no one is forcing them to use Facebook...

Re:Easy Solution (1)

PitaBred (632671) | more than 3 years ago | (#34256484)

I like Facebook because it makes it easy for me to keep in touch with family I wouldn't otherwise have a lot of contact with. Why would I want to delete my account? Maybe I should get rid of my phone, and Internet service, and any kind of contact information while I'm at it?

Re:Easy Solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34256642)

It works for me!

-Anon

Re:Easy Solution (0, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34256106)

A. Pay your debts

B. Go to your account settings in Facebook so that people can't mine all this information about you. Pass this tip along to your family and friends.

Oh fuck you.

I have been harassed on 4 different occasions over the last 18 months by collection agencies trying to collect debts from people who have the same name or the same last name.

I have no debts. I owe nothing but monthly utilities. I still get harassed.

Re:Easy Solution (3, Informative)

clone53421 (1310749) | more than 3 years ago | (#34256338)

That’s actually worse than getting pegged rightfully, because if you’re the wrong person (a) the debt collector won’t believe you and (b) there’s nothing you can do to correct the debt. (If you’re the right person, there are actually more legal protective steps for you to take against this sort of harassment!)

Still, you might be able to find out from the debt collector who actually owns the account (the creditor) and contact them. If anyone can do anything, it’s the creditor.

Re:Easy Solution (1)

Miamicanes (730264) | more than 3 years ago | (#34256790)

Someone please mod the parent up. I went through 3 years of fighting with a collection agency due to some guy who gave my phone number when he checked into a hospital. The moment they found out I wasn't him, they wouldn't even tell me who to contact to get myself permanently out of the loop. They'd promise to not call me again, and I'd get another call (presumably from a different collection agency) 3-4 months later. I finally had to lie and say I *was* him to trick them into giving me the info (that's how I found out it was a hospital bill), then forge a letter under that guy's name to the hospital demanding that they discontinue any and all communication with me, and pursue the matter in court if they so desired. I never heard from them again after that.

In any case, it's a major hole in debt-collection law. If you're the debtor, you can demand that they cease all communication (and pursue a lawsuit, if that's what they really intend to do). If you're NOT the debtor, you have basically NO legal recourse against being bothered over and over again by bill-collectors trying to collect someone else's debt.

Re:Easy Solution (1)

arkane1234 (457605) | more than 3 years ago | (#34256336)

Your "A" solution segment is about like saying "don't fight" when your in Vietnam during the war.

Sometimes, your just thrown into the shit, and you can't help it. (i.e. lose your job, hospitalized extensively, etc)
It's never black and white.

Re:Easy Solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34256832)

Yeah. I have an old landlord in a large apartment complex that refused to fix my shower (the wall was falling in; there were open gaps between the studs), by giving me constant excuses like "the computer deleted our maintenance requests", "the maintenance guy has the weekend off", and "we are understaffed." They were also nice enough to inform me that if I was using it in a state in which it would obviously damage the building that I would be held responsible for the repairs. After 16 days of excuses, I moved out 1 month early, and still paid the last month's rent for a borderline uninhabitable dwelling that I was not using. I have an almost OCD girlfriend that helped me clean the place...we left it flat out spotless aside from what was left of the bathroom. The apartment complex kept the entire deposit and demanded an additional $170 citing things like several hours of cleaning at $75 an hour (this place has one cleaning woman on staff) and repainting the walls we had explicit permission to paint.

I live in Arizona, where both parties must lay down the right to representation to go to small claims court, so there is jack shit you can do against an apartment complex that is owned by a large property company and has attorneys on staff, aside from letting the collections agent know you refuse payment and awaiting a court summons. You don't have even have to be in extraordinary circumstances to get debtors on your ass. You just have to be too principled to pay $200 you don't owe.

Re:Easy Solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34256508)

Yeah, because debt collectors never make mistakes or do something crazy like continually call a phone number that now belongs to a completely different person or something like that.

Re:Easy Solution (1)

mr_bubb (1171001) | more than 3 years ago | (#34256670)

A. Kill all the debt collectors B. Kill all the lawyers There, fixed that for you.

So pay your bills (0, Flamebait)

scubamage (727538) | more than 3 years ago | (#34255796)

Seriously. Pay your bills, and then you don't have to worry about this. Simple concept. If you don't have a reliable stream of income, don't incur debt. I understand there are situations outside of your control, however most places won't send you to collections if you pick up a McJob or two and pay SOMETHING to them until your situation evens out (speaking as someone with a fair amount of debt for his age, despite a few jobless stints, who has never once missed a bill payment).

Re:So pay your bills (0, Offtopic)

scubamage (727538) | more than 3 years ago | (#34255902)

Why exactly was my post marked as trolling? Would this persons situation NOT have been prevented by not simply paying their bills?

Re:So pay your bills (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34256010)

You do know they can't reply if the modded? or did something change?

Anyways, ti's not that simple and you know it. You were probably marked troll because you are making a trollish statement.

There can be many, many reason whys someone doesn't pay there bills. For example, after the .com bust, I was out of work for a number of months, and yes some bill went unpaid for a while. People have unexpected medical expenses and life changes. There are perfectly valid reasons for not paying a debt. But you went for the troll response.

Re:So pay your bills (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 3 years ago | (#34256194)

Heck, they might well be somebody else's bills.

"Same address - must be the same person" is how many of them operate.

Re:So pay your bills (1)

OldeTimeGeek (725417) | more than 3 years ago | (#34256458)

This happened to me.
One of my wonderful neighbors moved and the new address and phone number that they gave to their creditors was mine. After six months of me trying to explain that I wasn't the person that they wanted to talk to, I let them know that if I heard from them again, my next call would be to a lawyer. They finally got the point.

Re:So pay your bills (1)

clone53421 (1310749) | more than 3 years ago | (#34256232)

You do know they can't reply if the modded? or did something change?

They can by posting anonymously from a different browser, or clearing their cookies.

Re:So pay your bills (4, Insightful)

JWW (79176) | more than 3 years ago | (#34256254)

Would this persons situation NOT have been prevented by not simply paying their bills?

1) Erroneous attribution of a debt to you that is not your debt.

2) An error by the company you paid your bill to, making them think you haven't paid when you actually have.

3) Mail/On-line banking/transaction problems

4) Recordkeeping errors at billing company or debt collection company

5) A scam.

There, FIVE things that could get you calls from debt collectors when you pay your bills on time.

I've personally experienced the second one where the company cashed my payment check and did not credit it to my account.
The actually acknowledged that my check was cashed, but still demanded that I pay them again!!! I contacted the Attorney General for my state and they convinced them to stop calling.

Suffice it to say, simply paying your bills does not necessarily keep collectors at bay.

Re:So pay your bills (2, Insightful)

scubamage (727538) | more than 3 years ago | (#34256364)

Again, speaking from my own experience a few phone calls/faxes of proof of payment has fixed any issues I've encountered. (1) can be provided if you present a utility bill for your current location, and if they call more than 3x in one month you can press charges for harassment. (2,3,4) can be solved by providing proof of payment, and if the issue is pressed, I send them a copy of my proof of payment and an invoice for my contractor hours based on the time they waste, as well as a notice that they will be sent to collections if they continue to waste my time. (5) Scams nothing will protect you from, even the law. Its not a perfect solution, but these have worked for myself and my family. Harder to avoid was when a prior inhabitant at my address had a warrant out for his arrest; sheriffs don't accept proof of payment :)

Re:So pay your bills (4, Insightful)

darth dickinson (169021) | more than 3 years ago | (#34256486)

...and if they call more than 3x in one month you can press charges for harassment...

Hell, if that was true half the debt collectors out there would be out of business. In a past life, I had some calling three times a day.

Re:So pay your bills (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34256672)

Haha you love the cock.

Re:So pay your bills (1)

clone53421 (1310749) | more than 3 years ago | (#34256366)

I sound like a broken record (I’ve posted a couple of times already)—

Don’t deal with the debt collection agency. Find out who holds the debt and deal with them directly.

Debt collection agencies are little better than sleazy scummy crooks.

Re:So pay your bills (1)

davev2.0 (1873518) | more than 3 years ago | (#34256660)

And, exactly none of those situations apply in this case.

Re:So pay your bills (1)

windcask (1795642) | more than 3 years ago | (#34256262)

Welcome to Slashdot moderation. Support personal privacy, unlimited freedom of expression, and hardline consumer protectionism or be crushed...

Re:So pay your bills (1)

travdaddy (527149) | more than 3 years ago | (#34256404)

Why exactly was my post marked as trolling? Would this persons situation NOT have been prevented by not simply paying their bills?

Seriously?

Because you're using the "Blame the Victim" argument which is not only a weak argument but also kind of inflammatory. Maybe this specific person could have simply paid their bills, but there are plenty of other people that have a very good reason to get into this situation, such as illness. Also, you may have never let a bill go late, but don't consider that a simple task, you're underestimating yourself! That's actually quite an accomplishment. It's an easy thing to misplace a bill or get something lost in the mail. I've done it and I know plenty of people who have as well. The issue here is if we have a late payment, do we want to let creditors be able to post to us and our friends on Facebook? Argue Yes or No on that question, and you're less likely to get modded down.

Re:So pay your bills (0, Troll)

scubamage (727538) | more than 3 years ago | (#34256506)

Why is she a victim? I'm pretty sure the company she owes money is the victim. She disregarded her obligation, and did so with enough consistency that the company had to forfeit a substantial percentage of what they were owed to hire a collection agency. She breached a contract, and by doing so cost the company money. So, how explain to me again how she is a victim?

Re:So pay your bills (1)

windcask (1795642) | more than 3 years ago | (#34256566)

Argue Yes or No on that question, and you're less likely to get modded down.

I agree with that statement, except the "Yes or" part...

Re:So pay your bills (1)

davev2.0 (1873518) | more than 3 years ago | (#34256864)

The "victim" is not a victim. She should have paid her bills. She didn't. If one can't pay one's bills, especially for a car loan such as this, there is something called a voluntary repossession. And, I am pretty sure if she had actually talked to the bill collector, none of this would have happened.

The issue here is if we have a late payment...

Don't have a late payment. Call your creditors if you do. Then you don't have this kind of problem.

Re:So pay your bills (1)

delinear (991444) | more than 3 years ago | (#34256492)

If only it were that clear cut. My first ever internet service was dialup with Demon, when I eventually moved home, I called to cancel because I was getting cable at the new address and their systems were down so they advised me to email them, which I immediately did. I then cancelled my direct debit just to be on the safe side. Almost a year later I got a letter from a debt collection agency saying I'd missed 9 payments and owed them something like £180 - it turns out not only did they not bother to cancel my payment, but they also let 9 whole months of payments elapse before they even tried to get in touch, and when they eventually did they went through a collection agency instead of speaking to me direct (I know they didn't try and contact me because the old address/phone number is my parent's place and I had a forwarder set up for all of my mail). I was furious, but at the time I was in the middle of applying for a job with a financial organisation who were extremely cautious about not hiring people with bad credit, so I had little choice but to pay up or risk being turned down through no fault of my own.

I spoke to Demon again, explained I was not happy with the way they'd dealt with this matter (why not contact me after the first payment failed, for instance, or why have the first point of contact be a threat of legal action). I thought the matter was sorted, next year they did exactly the same thing - they'd still not cancelled the account and yet again they let it lapse 9 months before getting in touch. This time I did contest it and they dropped the charges and I never heard from them again. Note that this is a company that's generally pretty well respected, also note that I have never been in debt (mortgage aside) my entire life, I've never taken an overdraft, I use a credit card for online payment for the payment protection but always pay it off within the month, I didn't even take a student loan at university, I worked to pay my way. If this company had bad mouthed me all over Facebook, or its equivalent at the time, I not only would have been mortified, I probably would have lost the job I was going for to boot (and since I'd already moved home on the basis of the job because the credit checks were just a technicality, I'd have been out on the street too).

That is no doubt why you were marked troll, because your post either shows an incredible level of naivety about how these companies operate (they don't care about the circumstances or the consequences of their actions, they just want the money no matter what), and about the fact that it's easy to end up on the wrong side of them regardless of whether you actually did anything wrong or not (and that's without even going into the fact that life often ruins the best laid plans and renders people unable to repay when they were otherwise comfortable), or you knew this full well and were just trying to get a reaction from people. A lot of people borrow beyond their means and create a rod for their own backs, but by no means does that apply to everyone - debt collection agencies, however, fail to see the distinction.

Re:So pay your bills (1)

yog (19073) | more than 3 years ago | (#34255944)

McJob? No such thing. Work is work, and nonwork is nonwork. I absolutely agree about your advice to pay one's bills and avoid the embarrassment of bill collection. But let's not put down people who do menial work. There but for the grace of God go I. I am fortunate to have a good education and the opportunities to sit on my butt at a desk all day, getting fat and a bad heart and building a nice retirement account. They (people working the grill or the counter) are fortunate to be moving around, interfacing with people, and bringing home a paycheck (and maybe getting free food).

Re:So pay your bills (1)

scubamage (727538) | more than 3 years ago | (#34256098)

I wasn't actually deriding menial labor, I've spent my time there as well :) I was using it as a simple job that can be gotten with pretty much no effort to bring in some income until a more suitable situation can be found.

parent +5 insightful / informative (1)

eleuthero (812560) | more than 3 years ago | (#34256012)

honestly, it probably is somewhat trollish, but really--scuba has stated his opinion (common slashdot) and expressed his potential solution to the problem noted in the article (also common on slashdot) while backing this up with his personal experience (pretty much universal on /.).

Re:So pay your bills (2)

Anrego (830717) | more than 3 years ago | (#34256110)

I generally agree.

I think all sides are a bit extreme in a lot of these debt situations.

Banks and creditors should do more to protect people from themselves (obviously this is counter to their goals.. they make money by keeping people in debt as long as possible).

Consumers should be more financially responsible. Yes, there are cases where it is unavoidable (illness for instance).. but I have little sympathy for people who simply live beyond their means because they can.

Debt collection needs to be much more regulated. A little gental harrassment and public shaming.. fine.. but these cases you hear where people are driven to suicide need to stop. Also you hear about people being mistakenly targetted.. this needs to stop as well.

My general belief is that one should never use credit to buy something that costs less than one paycheck. Just wait until you actually _have_ the money. Obviously stuff like houses, credit is (barely) worth it.. because we want a house now, not when we are 60, and are willing to fork out an obscene amount of extra money over the long term to get it sooner. I almost think this should become a law. There is _no reason_ to rack up debt to buy a stereo.

Re:So pay your bills (1)

oobayly (1056050) | more than 3 years ago | (#34256488)

My general belief is that one should never use credit to buy something that costs less than one paycheck

I see what you're saying. However I've several credit cards - I money of petrol if use an Asda one at an Asda pump. I can use the portable hand scanner at Waitrose and not have to queue to pay if I use a Waitrose card, and I have a credit card provided by the bank. I very rarely use my debit card unless I'm going to be charged for using my credit card.

All my cards get paid off in full by direct debit. So basically they act as debit cards. I'm the worst possible customer for credit card companies as they'll never make a penny from me.

On topic, I received a letter addressed to "The Occupier". It was asking if I knew contact details for the previous tennant. I called them up and cheerfully asked if I get a commission for providing the information. When they said no, I told them I couldn't be bothered to tell them. That gave me a good feeling for the day.

Re:So pay your bills (1)

Anrego (830717) | more than 3 years ago | (#34256824)

All my cards get paid off in full by direct debit. So basically they act as debit cards.

Yeah, I don't really consider that "using credit". I mean, technically you are, but if you have the money before you make the purchase "on credit" and never really carry a ballance, then the credit card just becomes a money transfer mechanism.

I do the same .. you get all the rewards and bonuses they use to lure people in.. without the crippling debt. For online purchases you also get the security.

I'm the worst possible customer for credit card companies as they'll never make a penny from me.

Indeed.. credit card companies _hate_ this. Not only are you not making them money, you are probably costing them money!

Re:So pay your bills (-1, Troll)

cobrausn (1915176) | more than 3 years ago | (#34256132)

This should not be Troll. Whoever marks advocating personal financial responsibility as Troll has serious problems. Allow me to provide examples for future reference.

If you incur debt voluntarily, you should pay those bills. Yes debt collection agencies suck and often partake in shady collection practices, but they wouldn't be after you if you didn't short somebody. [Not Trolling]

But then again, if you look to our benevolent liberal overlords for financial responsibility examples, it would seem perfectly reasonable. [Trolling]

I wonder how long until this gets marked Troll...

Re:So pay your bills (1)

delinear (991444) | more than 3 years ago | (#34256616)

Read my comment [slashdot.org] on how someone who has lived debt free can end up on the receiving end of these companies through no fault of their own. It's not just the financially irresponsible that these people go after, and that's even if they're going after the right person at all (plenty of other comments where people are being pursued as a matter of mistaken identity). I agree people should generally act responsibly with their money, in fact I'm generally the first to advocate this (see the debt free part) but to apply it to a particular person's situation without knowing all of the circumstances is most certainly trollish.

Re:So pay your bills (0, Troll)

cobrausn (1915176) | more than 3 years ago | (#34256736)

I am aware that some people end up on the receiving end of debt collectors without reason or under unfair circumstances. Those people are the exception, not the rule. It has to be, or there would be a lot more outcry.

His comment was obviously directed at those who just weren't paying their bills. It's not hard to see the distinction, and as educated readers we should be able to tell the difference in intended target. It certainly wasn't trolling when applied to those to whom it was meant to apply to.

Re:So pay your bills (0, Offtopic)

cobrausn (1915176) | more than 3 years ago | (#34256882)

I wonder how long until this gets marked Troll...

In answer to the final question, less than one hour. You did not disappoint, /. mod system.

Well, rather, you did not diverge from expectation.

Except when they are wrong. (1)

gblackwo (1087063) | more than 3 years ago | (#34255804)

I got back to the country after six months to find two dozen garbled voicemails from a debt collector. My voicemail message stated that I was out of the country and could be reached at a certain e-mail address. It turns out the hospital had misfiled a claim and the insurance providers contract with that hospital required that claims be filed properly within six months. The hospital ate it, but not before I went through weeks of torture. Try explaining to a debt collector over the phone that the bill was a mistake and that it is being taken care of. The response being in poor english: "I don't understand sir, why don't you just give me your credit card information..." They threaten to have your house/vehicles taken away and will do anything to get the money, because they get a large cut of the debt. Had they simply listened to the voicemail message, they could have gotten their money properly.

Re:Except when they are wrong. (1)

AnonymousClown (1788472) | more than 3 years ago | (#34255844)

They threaten to have your house/vehicles taken away and will do anything to get the money, because they get a large cut of the debt.

File a complaint with the FTC against those people.

Re:Except when they are wrong. (1)

gblackwo (1087063) | more than 3 years ago | (#34255878)

Like I said, the hospital ended up eating the debt because their debt collectors couldn't figure out I wasn't going to be reachable by phone. I would have gladly had insurance pay the bill correctly. I haven't the patience to discipline them further.

Re:Except when they are wrong. (1)

hsmith (818216) | more than 3 years ago | (#34255946)

I have a friend that had something worse happen. Someone with the same name as him stole some golf clubs, had charges pressed, etc. The debt was sold to a collection agency.

The collection agency, of course, didn't do their homework and submitted the information to EVERYONE in the area that shared the same name (fairly common name) - so a good 10 people.

Yes, they messed up the credit of 10 people because they were lazy.

So, he has had to jump through hoops to get his credit fixed, because of some lazy jackhole.

Re:Except when they are wrong. (1)

clone53421 (1310749) | more than 3 years ago | (#34256266)

Ignore the debt collectors, deal with the debt-holder. Once you straighten things out with the debt-holder, their collections agency will be notified without you needing to talk to them at all.

I had a somewhat similar situation, so I speak from a little experience.

Re:Except when they are wrong. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34256650)

This only works for some categories of debt. Some creditors will sell the debt outright to the collection agency (at a loss, naturally) and the agency is then the debt-holder (and the difference between the price at which they bought the debt and the price they can get you to pay represents their profit). At that point the original creditor that you did business with is no longer involved.

Ugh (1)

mark72005 (1233572) | more than 3 years ago | (#34255814)

I can see why embarrassing someone with the goal of shaming them into paying their debts may be an effective tactic, but this may not be technically illegal.

It's illegal to discuss the nature of the debt but you are allowed to contact other people to try to "locate" that person. Saying "I'm with MarkOne Financial, do you know how I can reach this person who it says is your sister" is probably legal, saying "Did you know your sister hasn't paid her car payment in 6 months" is not.

TFA leaves out the important details.

Privacy Settings (1)

ThinkWeak (958195) | more than 3 years ago | (#34255828)

This is why there are "privacy" settings on Facebook. This person probably had their profile open to everyone and allowed anyone to see their friends list. It wouldn't take too long to locate someone with the same last name.

Personally (1, Insightful)

Anrego (830717) | more than 3 years ago | (#34255872)

I think this style of approach should be perfectly allowable, but it should be regulated because one can obviously go too far. Not sure what form this regulation would take.. maybe some kind of government run website where people not paying their bills are listed.

Personally on the whole financial debt/credit issue.. I think both sides need a good dose of reality.

You have banks which specifically target and hope for people to get into crippling debt, because this is how they make their money.

You have consumers who go through credit cards like candy.. and even when the bills and creditors are calling, still think nothing of getting a new credit card and buying a new computer they don't really need.

You have bancruptcy as (or atleast percieved) an "easy out".

And you have collections agencies literally driving some to suicide.

And yes, I know people get into debt for reasons beyond their control. Illness probably being the big one. But I think if you live beyond your means for no other reason than you can.. then you get what you've got coming when debt collectors pull this shit.

Re:Personally (1)

metlin (258108) | more than 3 years ago | (#34256104)

Well said. I strongly recommend watching Maxed Out [maxedoutmovie.com] -- great documentary on the current state of debt in the US.

One of the points made by the movie is that credit card companies love folks who've already filed for bankruptcy for two reasons -- one, they cannot file for it again; two, they have learned the hard way that they cannot live beyond their means.

That said, I think that credit cards and debts are just easy traps. Unless you've had a good reason (to your point, medical expenses for example), you should be held accountable for your debt. Hell, they had debtor's prison not too long ago. Arguably, sending someone to prison would not be particularly useful since it works against your ability to pay back (plus, it creates a deterrent, which I suppose would work against what the credit card companies want -- pay back and get in debt again).

I'd say that at any point in your life, you shouldn't have more than 5% of your annual income in debt. You don't need that brand new car -- you can buy something affordable, and pay cash. I know buying a home is the "American dream", but how about saving up for it, managing your finances well and buying something you can afford? Or -- strange as this may sound -- renting one for life because you do not make enough to buy one. No one is entitled to anything.

Here's a simple trick I use when I am tempted to spend money - I just buy stocks instead. So, if I see a nice jacket that I like that costs $200, I just buy stocks for $200 instead. So, now I'm out of my discretionary spending, and I just invested more money. Happiness all around.

Re:Personally (1)

gblackwo (1087063) | more than 3 years ago | (#34256216)

Or -- strange as this may sound -- renting one for life because you do not make enough to buy one. No one is entitled to anything.

\ If you can afford to rent for life, you should be able to be making house payments instead of rent payments. Then you are investing and not throwing your money in a hole- then for those poor at saving, at least they have something to retire on.

Re:Personally (1)

Anrego (830717) | more than 3 years ago | (#34256324)

I almost think credit should only be allowed for specific items. You shouldn't be able to credit a stereo or the jacket you mentioned. If it's something you don't really _need_.. wait till you actually have the money.

I think there are exceptions though. Houses being the big one. No one wants to wait until they are 60 to buy a house. We want it now, and are willing to pay a rediculous amount of extra money over the long run. Personally I find it preferable to pay ever month to a mortgage than to rent.. because even though it's a tiny piece, some of that money is actually going towards you owning the house.. and it's an investment for retirement.

That said, I think there should be way more restrictions. I think a 20% down payment should be manditory. Lets face it.. if you can't get 20% in a reasonable time, you probably can't afford the payments. Billy working at his McJob making minimum wage shouldn't be able to walk into a bank and buy a 200k house.

Re:Personally (2, Insightful)

Anrego (830717) | more than 3 years ago | (#34256384)

Quick addendum:

Here's a simple trick I use when I am tempted to spend money - I just buy stocks instead.

I actually do the same thing. Except instead of stocks I move it into my retirement savings. Once it's in there, it's a hassle to get it back out. I generally do this shortly after getting paid. If it's not there.. I'm not tempted to use it!

That said, I think it's important to spend money on stuff that brings you happiness _right now_. Those stocks or my savings are useless if I get hit by a ostritch or something. As long as it's within your means and you are putting away for later.. dropping some money on something you didn't really need is ok once in a while.

Re:Personally (1)

wierd_w (1375923) | more than 3 years ago | (#34256816)

The issue I have with the current financial industry, and the whole lending infrastructure, is the dependence on prior debts as the basis for assessing risk:

EG, If you DON'T own and use a credit card, or have several lines of credit with your banking institution, your credit score looks just as bad as the repeat bankruptcy offender with a credit report a mile long filled with unpayed debts in collections, because there is no history from which to measure your "risk."

Essentially, you HAVE to carry debt of some sort in order to have a good credit score. If you don't have a good credit score, you get shitty interest rates on things like houses and cars, even if you are financially solvent with good income-- Hell, you might not even get approved for a line of credit from your bank when you actually need one, or if you do, you will get a really lousy deal.

Case in point: Myself.

I have only ONE outstanding debt; My house. I make payments on time, and am more than halfway through my mortgage. I have enough liquid capital to pay it off immediately if necessary. I do not use credit cards, because I acknowledge that they are a shister's con-game, designed to suck your bank accounts dry. Instead, I use a bank card that links to real money. The issue? Purchases made with the bank card do not improve your credit score, like purchases made with a real credit card. Result-- My credit score is sub optimal. Thank gawd I have a fixed rate.

What does this do to me? In the recent aftermath of the financial meltdown, pretty much every industry that deals with any sort of financial risk has re-assessed their rates, including insurers. Guess what-- My home owner's insurance, which USED to be around 600$ a year, is now closer to 2K a year, simply because of my credit score. (I know, I called and asked-- Wouldnt you?)

It shouldn't be too hard to see how this is a serious problem.

Re:Personally (2, Insightful)

bjourne (1034822) | more than 3 years ago | (#34256856)

I'd say that at any point in your life, you shouldn't have more than 5% of your annual income in debt. You don't need that brand new car -- you can buy something affordable, and pay cash. I know buying a home is the "American dream", but how about saving up for it, managing your finances well and buying something you can afford? Or -- strange as this may sound -- renting one for life because you do not make enough to buy one. No one is entitled to anything. Here's a simple trick I use when I am tempted to spend money - I just buy stocks instead. So, if I see a nice jacket that I like that costs $200, I just buy stocks for $200 instead. So, now I'm out of my discretionary spending, and I just invested more money. Happiness all around.

You buy stocks instead of clothes? Because you think everyday people waste their money on useless junk, like you? Not everyone can be a fortunate son like you. Your numbers are so out of touch with reality it isn't even funny. You can't buy a home anywhere in the world without incurring a debt that is many times your yearly salary. In my case, it was 5 times it because I'm making fairly good money and the apartment is small. In basically every city in the whole world there is a shortage of rentable apartments. No one is asking for a condo in downtown manhattan, just two rooms in some far out suburb. It is still hard to get. Then you have student loans. Most of us didn't have a college fund because our parents didn't have enough money to save anything. Unless you already are rich, there is no way in hell you can live a decent life without having more than 5% of your income in debt.

It's back to how you use FB (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34255920)

It's pretty despicable what the collections companies do... but really it still comes down to what information you are freely publishing on Facebook. If you are going to put yourself out there by exposing all your information then you really should not be complaining because someone has figured a way (or rather yet another way) to leverage that data for their own means. It's Facebook, how many loud discussions have taken place about how to reduce your exposure on FB to date? Just my 2 cents...

Curious how this plays out (1)

hilldog (656513) | more than 3 years ago | (#34255986)

You have the right to demand that any collection action be done in writing and no calls to ones job or family, friends etc. However how that plays out on public social media is unknown. While there are rules about harassment and such would posting 'you owe us money and are late' constitute such? I have been late on a payment with a bank - by 1 week mind you - and had 5-8 calls a day on my cell phone using different numbers to cover who they were. Disgusting yes but illegal no.

Don't buy stuff you can't afford (0, Troll)

schwit1 (797399) | more than 3 years ago | (#34256024)

The debt collectors and repo men perform a valuable service. If they don't collect then the costs get passed on to the honest consumer.

It's the AHOLES who run up the thousands on their credit card to eat out every night or buy stupid stuff like clothes and the latest cell phone or cars they can't afford.

Certainly collectors can be rude, but it's even more rude to buy something knowing you can't afford it and then complain when somebody wants their money back.

Re:Don't buy stuff you can't afford (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34256154)

Yeah! And screw those AHOLES who run up debt that they normally can afford but are then slammed with tens-to-hundreds of thousands in medical bills like the selfish, greedy pricks they are. Christ almighty, if they just laid down and died, THEN they'd have an excuse to skip on their debts.

Preach on, angry brotha-man. Stick it to the poor, sick people.

Re:Don't buy stuff you can't afford (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34256724)

Umm... yea. Well. If you ain't saving for medical or other emergencies then yes, you are living beyond your means. Therefore, you're an unenlightened asshole, just like most of us.

This is exactly why socialized medicine is good: people are notoriously hard to convince to save money - it must be taken from them by force of State, so that they can be cared for to a reasonable extent and made fit for work again.

Moreover, the providers of healthcare are motivated by profit, so to get prices down you need competition or, failing that (and that always fails, even in a regulated market), you need to be a customer with very deep pockets, like WalMart, whom no-one dare refuse.

Does that sound callous and disparaging of your fellow man? That's because it is, and yet it's how it is. Do you detest the idea of being a client of the state? You already are a client of the state, which takes money from you for a million other things, such as roads, courthouses, schools and a police force.

Re:Don't buy stuff you can't afford (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34256196)

Yes, because every time someone can't pay a debt it is because they "ran up" their credit card, not because they lost their job, had an illness, or has their entire region wiped out by a flood. Asshat.

Re:Don't buy stuff you can't afford (0, Troll)

Bobfrankly1 (1043848) | more than 3 years ago | (#34256260)

The debt collectors and repo men perform a valuable service. If they don't collect then the costs get passed on to the honest consumer.

It's the AHOLES who run up the thousands on their credit card to eat out every night or buy stupid stuff like clothes and the latest cell phone or cars they can't afford.

Certainly collectors can be rude, but it's even more rude to buy something knowing you can't afford it and then complain when somebody wants their money back.

Whoever modded this "Troll" either blindly hates debt collectors, or feels entitled to spend more then they make. While the collectors and repo men frequently use tactics that turn the stomach, how many people really respond to a "please pay" request when they are in over their heads? Living within your means just seems to have fallen "out of style", and that is a large contributor to the economic mess that prevails today.

Re:Don't buy stuff you can't afford (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34256414)

Or maybe the mod understands that most people do pay there debts, and most people that end up with debt collection because they ended up in a different situation then when they incurred the debt. A large position of people want to pay there debt, but can't. Add to that, being unexpectedly out of work for a few months can destroy credit.

That jackass seems to think some how people can get huge lines of credit without a regular income. The people he is thinking about si a very tiny minority of people debt collators are going after. But hey, its not bad enough, lets humiliate embarrass and destroy their lives?

you know, sometime someones means change.

Twad.

Re:Don't buy stuff you can't afford (1)

RKThoadan (89437) | more than 3 years ago | (#34256536)

I won't dispute that debt collection is necessary, but I will dispute that it's just a matter of people living beyond their means.

The majority (roughly 60% according to Google) of bankruptcy are due to medical bills, which are not voluntarily incurred and are usually by people with insurance.

Another factor that is causing major problems right now is that peoples "means" are frequently taking sudden and severe drops. Someone making $50K and living on $40K is generally doing great, but even they won't last long when their income suddenly drops to $20K.

Re:Don't buy stuff you can't afford (1)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | more than 3 years ago | (#34256898)

The debt collectors and repo men perform a valuable service. If they don't collect then the costs get passed on to the honest consumer.

Unfortunately, this is being practiced on national scales in the Euro Zone: Fiscally responsible countries are forced to bail out fiscally irresponsible ones. Of course the better off countries could refuse to fund bailouts, but the Euro would then go to Hell in a hand basket. And political turmoil for all countries involved would follow:

  • Country A - "Why should my country be forced to implement austerity measures dictated by the EU and country B?"
  • Country B - "Why should my retirement age be raised to 67, so that we can bail out country A, who have a retirement age of 60?"
  • Country C - "Hey, why should I worry about our national debt? Country B will bail us out. They did it for country A, so it is only fair that they do it for us as well."

It would be ironic if the Euro, the currency symbolizing European Unity, were to become the cause for its unraveling.

Disclaimer: It's cold and rainy outside, so I am feeling a wee bit grumpy.

Surely this is illegal . . . (1)

Shadmere (1158007) | more than 3 years ago | (#34256056)

I don't know the specifics of the law and I admit that. But if this kind of thing is illegal, why hasn't it been happening for years?

This isn't necessarily an internet-specific issue, either. If this is legal, then what's to stop them from printing a list of "PEOPLE WHO OWE MONEY" in a newspaper ad? True, that costs money. But is it just the cost of the ad that has kept them from it?

What if they were to put a website up with a list of everyone who is more than a couple months behind on their payment? And why simply contact my relatives on Facebook? Why not post on my Facebook wall about how I don't pay my debts and shouldn't be trusted, or something to that extent? Sure, I can delete it. But I probably won't notice immediately, and if they're going after shame . . . that's the ticket.

Regardless of legality, I hope we can agree that this is disgusting.

I knew Facebook was good for something (1)

digitaldc (879047) | more than 3 years ago | (#34256078)

Harassing people!

Illegal? Think again (1)

killthom (1942188) | more than 3 years ago | (#34256122)

Of course you have your rights to privacy, and you can even change your privacy settings as much as you want. But everyone needs to remember that going on to the web is the same as going to the grocery store. You're in a public place and there is only so much that you can hide. Boost your privacy settings, or even more simple, pay your bills!

Burn them (1)

JockTroll (996521) | more than 3 years ago | (#34256162)

Debt collection agencies must be destroyed, there's no way around it. To all who say "just don't get into debt" I unkindly remind that companies like Intrum have been known to exort sums from people for eBay or credit card transitions that have never happened. They count on the "scare" factor and on the fact that most people prefer to pay up rather than face legal action. If a private citizen is found guilty of extortion, he ends up in jail. Those POS do not. Corporations are above the law. But as I will never tire of repeating, they are not immune to physical violence: lawyers' bones break like everyone else's.

If YOU want MORE READ THIS !! (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34256166)

Ever since last week's rumors began about the new Facebook e-mail system supposedly designed to kill Gmail, Hotmail and Yahoo! Mail, I began to wonder why I'm not more enamored with the service. And now I think I know why. I see Facebook as the next iteration of AOL.

I was never a huge fan of AOL once the Internet came along. It had its moments, yes, back when the competition was BBS systems and peer-to-peer download sites. But once dial-up went away, the service began to fall apart and never fully modernized. If it could have modernized, it would be exactly like Facebook.

Facebook offers a closed experience much like AOL; it's comfortable place people go and check in. All that was ever missing from Facebook to make the relation more obvious was e-mail and a deep voice saying "You've got mail."

In this analogy, MySpace is actually Compuserve. Myspace is a little rougher edged than Facebook, just as Compuserve was a rougher edged version of AOL.

When the Internet came along, there was a lot of denial regarding the future of these services, and they managed to stay afloat by becoming conduits into the Internet when they should have been conduits from the Internet. The model was backwards.

Eventually, AOL bought Compuserve, and right at the peak of its popularity, it managed to merge with Time-Warner before its long slide to marginalization.

Facebook is AOL II. Only it began where AOL left off. If Facebook decides to buy MySpace sometime in the future, the analogy would be perfect.

In the end, AOL was stopped by the invention of the World Wide Web. And it took six or seven years before anyone noticed that the Internet gave you everything AOL gave you, only for free.

What's interesting to me about Facebook is that the user paradigm is skewed to be user-centric rather than Facebook-centric. Or so it seems. Everyone has their own virtual website with everything is centered around it. MySpace also uses this model. This was pioneered by LiveJournal, from what I can tell, but was taken to the extreme by MySpace then perfected by Facebook.

It was a different era when AOL was around, and this inside-out concept was never considered. The MySpace/Facebook idea is also different from the vanity pages and Geocities concepts because it's more like a gated community (like LiveJournal) than just tract homes (Geocities).

I was never sure that any of these folks actually knew what they were doing, but instead thought they were flying by their seat of their pants. Seeing that it has taken so long to add the email paradigm just confirms it my assumtion. Even the name "Face" "Book" is moronic, although I've never heard anyone point that out.

In other words, LiveJournal, MySpace, and Facebook are all sitting ducks for a genuine visionary who can take this to the next level. I sure hope Facebook isn't the end of the lineage. And since it took so long to bury AOL once the process began, we can expect the same with Facebook, but in the meantime, we'll just keep hearing more and more and more about Facebook in the years ahead. Ugh

Can you guys do me a favor?? (-1, Offtopic)

killthom (1942188) | more than 3 years ago | (#34256252)

I'm in TC 201 at Michigan State University. My professor gave us this assignment: "Post a comment to Slashdot.org. Your XP will be based on how many points your most highly rated comment receives. Post a link to your favorite comment that you wrote in the Gnomish DropBox." Yes, our class is based on XP and we complete quests(tests) rather than using the conventional teaching method. The points I get for this assignment depend on the score I get for a post!! Can anyone help and get my post score higher than 1??? Thanks you soooo much!!

Re:Can you guys do me a favor?? (1)

cmiller173 (641510) | more than 3 years ago | (#34256742)

Allow me to help. 1.) Post an on-topic comment. 2.) Make sure the comment in from step 1 is useful in some way, either bringing special insight to the discussion or at least additional information. 3.) ... 4.) Profit.

Re:Can you guys do me a favor?? (1)

a-zarkon! (1030790) | more than 3 years ago | (#34256862)

So instead of taking the time to ponder the discussion and contribute to it in a positive manner, or maybe do a little searching and come up with some new information to add to the conversation you're going to play the pauper and beg for karma points so you can get a good grade? That's really not how things work here. If you add to the conversation, you'll get modded up.

Karma whoring is lower than trolling. I wish I had a mod point to reward you accordingly. Someone please nuke this creep from orbit - it's the only way to be sure.

Debtors' Prison (1)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | more than 3 years ago | (#34256410)

Wow, this motivated me to look up Debtor's Prison in Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Debtors'_prison [wikipedia.org]

The content surprised me; I thought that this practice disappeared around the time of Charles Dickens. Bad publicity on Facebook pales in comparison to this:

  • US - It is still possible to be incarcerated for debt, though this may be unconstitutional unless the court finds that the debtor actually possesses the means to pay
  • Greece - Imprisonment for debts, whether to the tax office or to private banks, was still practiced until January 2008, when the law changed after imprisonment for unpaid taxes or other debts to the government or to the social security office was declared unconstitutional after being practised for 173 years, but still retained imprisonment for debts to private banks
  • Germany - A maximum 6 months of coercive arrest (Erzwingungshaft) is still available for a sworn affidavit for insurance of a debtor under 901 ZPO.
  • UAE - Debtors in the United Arab Emirates, including Dubai, can be imprisoned for failing to pay their debts.
  • China - While Hong kong has long imprisoned debtors, the first mainland prison sentence for unpaid debts was handed down in 2008. Life imprisonment is possible for non-repayment of debts incurred with "malicious intent".

Re:Debtors' Prison (2, Informative)

nomadic (141991) | more than 3 years ago | (#34256662)

In the US you can't be directly incarcerated for debt; you can, however, be incarcerated for refusing to obey a court order that you pay the debt, which courts don't usually order unless the judge is convinced you have the money.

What happens when they screw up? (1)

GodfatherofSoul (174979) | more than 3 years ago | (#34256442)

I've been receiving mail for 4 years for the previous occupants of my house and getting phone calls for 2-3 for the previous owners of my phone number from debt collectors. What recourse do you have when these guys screw up because your name is John Smith and your a slightly obese farmer in Oklahoma who happens to resemble another couple dozen guys in your city with the same name?

Re:What happens when they screw up? (1)

clone53421 (1310749) | more than 3 years ago | (#34256474)

What recourse do you have when these guys screw up

Very little, unfortunately. In fact, less recourse than you’d have if you were the droid they were looking for.

Ah debt collectors (1)

shelterpaw (959576) | more than 3 years ago | (#34256522)

I remember getting a call from a collector looking for payment on a mortgage for an house in San Francisco. I didn't know I had a house and San Francisco, so I guess it was good news and bad news.

She is suing? (1)

FriendlyPrimate (461389) | more than 3 years ago | (#34256630)

I'm not sure why she is suing on behalf of her relatives. Wouldn't it be more logical (and stronger from a legal perspective) for her relatives to sue the collection agency for harassment?

Not my debt, don't contact me... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34256728)

... I have a big problem with the legality of someone else contacting me in pursuit of someone else's debt. If I am not that person or that person's spouse or their lawyer, and the debt is not in my name, leave me alone. I'm not the one who failed to be responsible, or to work with the debt collection company.

I once received a call from a Debt collector for my husband's ex-wife. My phone number was in my maiden name and there was no record of us being legally married. I was pissed off at both the collection agency and the husband's ex-wife. She still owes money and still hides from collection agencies, but somehow she can afford Steeler's season tickets....

learn how to configure your privacy settings (1)

Col. Panic (90528) | more than 3 years ago | (#34256830)

ugh. why does this pose a problem to people?

They still get around the law.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34256844)

We've all made mistakes when we were younger... some of them continue to haunt us for what seems to be an interminable period.

My wife had defaulted on her student loan, and had since been making sincere efforts to try to make payments on it while on a very low income, even though the payments were little more than "good faith" payments, that could not even cover the interest (living about 30% below the poverty line is not fun).

After almost 10 years of this (student loan debts cannot be forgiven by bankruptcy), she heard about an agency that would handle extreme student loan cases, and took on an attorney from the agency to manage the situation, who would be paid based solely on his ability to resolve the debt. From that point on, the collection agency was required to only contact her through her attorney.

However, at least once every week, sometimes two or three times, we will still get a call with an automated recording from this company instructing her to call the collection agency with regards to an "urgent business matter". Suspecting it was from the collection agency with regards to her student loan debt the first time we received such a call, my wife contacted her attorney about it before returning it, who advised her to *NOT* return such calls, because apparently if she did, she would be presumed to be contacting the collection agency on her own to offer to repay the debt and they would no longer have to deal with her attorney, and the whole thing would have to start from square one. He advised her that agencies have found a quaint loophole in the law that permits them to keep recontacting the debtor if the contacting is done wholly by machine, because apparently the prohibition applies only to the employees of collection agencies, and machines are not considered employees.

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