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A Gadgetology study on social media conducted by Retrevo recently discovered that 32% of all respondents have posted something online that they regret. For many people, this meant posting racy photos on Facebook, airing dirty family laundry, or even letting slip about an affair.
But if you’re in debt with loans in default, social media could be dangerous even if you keep all your comments and photos clean and professional. An alarming trend has creditors taking advantage of social media to track down holders of delinquent accounts.
Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter are just a few of the social networks creditors are using to track down delinquent debtors — who may have foiled creditors attempts by changing their address, phone number, and even their job to avoid collections.
We’re All Connected
On Facebook and LinkedIn, people need your permission to “friend” or “follow” you, but these creditors can get around anything. And besides, how many people really investigate friend requests closely? Social networks are growing so large, that if someone you don’t personally know sends you a friend request, you’re likely to assume it’s just a friend-of-a-friend with a common interest.
That’s one way creditors are reaching debtors online — they will “friend” their friends, establish relationships and, finally, “friend” or follow the debtor.
By doing this, creditors can discover valuable information, such as:
- Assets you have that may be repossessed
- Your job, so they can garnish your waves
- Your phone number, email address and home address
- Other information that may help them collect the debt
Is This Legal?
The Fair Debt Collections Practices Act (FDCPA), written and signed into law in 1968, protects debtors from being harassed, mandates that collectors must disclose their attempts to collect a debt and the fact that any information obtained with be used for those purposes, and prohibits collectors from doing or saying anything misleading in their dealings with debtors, their friends or family members.
Unfortunately, when the FDCPA was written, no one had even dreamed of social media, so there are no explicit laws stating creditors can’t use social media to attempt to collect a debt.
But hang on just a second. Isn’t there that little thing called the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act (FDCPA) that, “protects debtors from being harassed, and also prohibits collectors from doing or saying anything that’s false or misleading”?
Blogger Amanda Miller explains the situation very well in this compelling post at the website How to Get Out of Debt.
How to Protect Yourself
Obviously, the number one way to protect yourself against harassment from debt collection agencies is to pay off all your debts. But if you’ve gotten yourself into an unfortunate situation with debt you can’t afford to pay back, and your accounts are delinquent by 90 days or more, you can protect yourself from the illegal and harassing efforts of debt collectors, especially on social media.
- Use a different name on social media.
- Investigate anyone who wants to connect with you before adding them to your social networking list. On Twitter, make sure you can identify all your followers.
- Don’t reveal personal information, such as your full name, address, phone number or place of business on social media
- Do not reveal details related to purchases or income
If you feel harassed and believe your creditors are breaking the law and acting against FDCPA guidelines, call a lawyer immediately. Remember to keep records of all your creditors’ attempts to contact you, by phone, mail or on the Internet.