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Beware: Collectors Use Social Media to Track Those in Debt

The world of social networking is rapidly growing, and debt collectors have found a way to use it to his and her advantage.

Now debt collectors are looking at people’s profiles and updates online, and depending on what has been posted, consumers who are attempting some sort of debt relief can be negatively affected.

A recent article in the Philadelphia Inquirer explained how collectors are using the information, and what rights debtors have.

Here’s how it works: A person has $25,000 in credit card debt, or some sort of debt, and claims he or she cannot pay it back. The collector believes this, until he or she checks on Facebook and sees a photo of the same person who couldn’t pay on a luxurious vacation cruise, or maybe standing next to a newly purchased $60,000 sports car. Now, the collector starts to question whether or not that person really doesn’t have the money to pay.

However, even though that information may have been seen online, consumers do have rights protected by the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. So, even if a vacation or new extravagant purchase was posted online, a collector is not allowed to use that information to shame a person into paying. And, if a collector sees this information and wants to contact someone, he or she must first identify themselves, and give reasons as to why he or she is contacting a person about his or her debt.

But, the information that is posted online is still fair game for a collector to determine whether or not a person really can pay back debt, which could lead to a person who owes being taken to court.

To avoid having collectors use social media sites against a consumer, sources said the best bet is to not have any personal information online. Things like who an employer is, where a person lives and any big purchases or trips being planned, should not be posted. Social media sites also have privacy settings that can be updated to control who sees information on a person’s page.

Source: The Philadelphia Inquirer, “Debt collectors may use social media to track debtors,” Eileen Ambrose, 2 Nov 2010

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