Can Collectors Use Social Media?
Social media is being used for everything from promoting products, product information, finding jobs, contacting and locating business associates to networking with business contacts, locating and contacting friends, and expressing opinions. We don’t usually think about collectors using social media as a means to locate debtors through their relatives and friends, communicate with debtors, learn more about debtors’ assets, and where debtors are at any given time…but they are!
Some of the examples of popular social media sites are Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter. Facebook is become more popular with collectors. In both Facebook and MySpace, you become a very open book by including posting pictures of you, your family, your home, new cars and vacations. This provides invaluable information to the collectors; they could be tipped off that you have money that could be used to pay your debt. It is becoming very popular to post what you are doing and where you are on Twitter. You need to restrict access and control who follows you.
Collectors using social media for skip tracing usually don’t have enough information to verify that this is the correct person; there can be many people with the same name. This is one area where Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) violations can occur. Another is misrepresentation by a collector that they are a friend and want become your friend on Facebook. Contacting or sending a direct message in social media as a collector is a violation of FDCPA, because this information is being disclosed to others.
Since social media did not exist when the laws governing the FDCPA were written, no laws prohibit its use for collections. But the FDCPA can still apply such as harassment, misrepresentation, improper disclosure, etc.
You should be careful of whom you include in your circle for any of the social networks. You should not be open to anyone and only accept those you know. You never know who may be trying to contact or follow you.
John Ulzheimer is the President of Consumer Education at SmartCredit.com, the credit blogger for Mint.com, and a Contributor for the National Foundation for Credit Counseling. He is an expert on credit reporting, credit scoring and identity theft. Formerly of FICO, Equifax and Credit.com, John is the only recognized credit expert who actually comes from the credit industry. Follow him on Twitter here.