Social Networking Sites: A Useful Tool for Debt Collectors

1 10 2010

Social Networking is a great way to reconnect with old friends, network with people that share common interests, and get information about people, companies, and groups.  

Facebook, Twitter, Linked-In and other social networking sites are used to promote and advertise for companies, recruit new hires, and check up on people for free.  Debt Collection agencies now utilize these sites to gather information about debtors that traditional ways do not provide.  The issue of collection agencies finding information through these sites stirs up controversy over consumer privacy.

Debtors’ believe that a collector using social network sites to find information violates their rights. However, Facebook and other social sites provide privacy settings to block people outside of a user’s network from seeing their profile.  Users can deny or accept any friend request they receive, allowing them to only share personal information with the people of their choice.

Debt Collectors view social network sites as a useful tool to find information regarding a debtor’s financial status.  If the debtor’s profile is set to public anyone can easily view their information which can prove that a defaulter can pay their debt.

Controversy arises because if a profile is set to private, collectors sometimes construct profiles under false names and provide misleading information about their identity when friend requesting a debtor. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, FDCPA, requires that a collector discloses who he or she is when contacting a debtor regarding collection, so requesting a nonpayer under a false name is in violation of FDCPA guidelines. If the communication does not involve collection, than requesting to friend under a fake name is okay.

It is important for Social Media Network site users to understand that information provided on their profile is open for the world to see.  Users should set appropriate privacy settings and only accept friend requests from people they know if they do not want financial or personal information revealed, especially if they owe money.

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