Nowadays, when you meet someone one of the first things you do is search for them on Facebook. It is the quickest way to find out all types of information about them that might otherwise take several conversations or meetings. Relationship status, mutual friends, job, hometown, hobbies, likes and so forth can all quickly be learned about someone on Facebook. Certain privacy settings eliminate just how much you can find out before becoming “friends,” but once you become friends the information flows.
This easy access to information has implications on everything, including debt collection.
With the popularity of cell phones, fewer people have land lines so phone numbers are harder to come by. Mail is easy to ignore or throw away. Debt collection companies and their livelihoods depend on tracking people down and collecting debt. Naturally they are going to use whatever means available to track borrowers down.
You may not be surprised to learn, therefore, that debt collection companies are on Facebook.
How Debt Collectors Utilize Facebook
Debt collectors use Facebook to learn about your life. You may have told a debt collector you cannot pay because you are out of work, but according to your personal profile, you are working full time and have been employed without hiccup for several years. The collector now knows where you work so it is one step closer to collecting. The debt collector can now contact your employer. It is also common to see people post pictures of new cars, boats, motorcycles or other expensive toys.
In addition to learning about your work life and spending habits, debt collectors learn about your friends and family. Borrowers reported that debt collectors were contacting their friends and family on Facebook and asking them to tell the borrower to contact their company immediately. Now these borrowers have emails and messages from friends and family saying that a debt collector has been sending them Facebook messages regarding unpaid loans. Does this sound like harassment yet?
Other borrowers reported accepting friend requests from individuals claiming to be classmates or friends of friends, only to learn later that these people worked for debt collection companies and were becoming friends on Facebook to learn more about them for collection purposes. By the time they de-friended these people, it was too late.
In another complaint, a borrower said that he had been in contact with the debt collection company, but that the company sent him messages on Facebook and contacted his family members anyways.
Steps to Take to Protect your Privacy
You do not have to sacrifice your love of Facebook simply because you are afraid debt collection companies will use it against you. A few simple common sense steps can help protect your privacy.
You need to keep your privacy settings at the highest level so only approved friends or family have access to your pictures or information. This will solve a lot of problems. Do not post pictures of new purchases even if your privacy settings are on high. People may still find a way to access your pictures, so do not give them anything to look at. Do not accept friend requests from strangers or people claiming to be long lost friends. This is a good practice to keep in general.
What to Do if Debt Collectors are Using Facebook Information to Collect
First, understand your rights under the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. If you believe you have been the victim of debt collection abuse, the attorneys at Armstrong Kellett Bartholow P.C. may be able to assist you.