Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social media channels are popular ways to keeping in contact with old friends and loved ones, networking and even performing business functions. However, many debt collectors are now also increasing their presence on these sites as a way to learn more about those they are trying to pursue for unpaid debts.
A recent U.S. News and World Report article highlighted the growing practice of seeking out borrowers on these websites, such as Facebook and Twitter, to gain more information about their financial and employment statuses. For example, borrowers who post information about securing a new job, getting a raise or bonus, or their updated contact details may invite the scrutiny of debt collectors. Agencies that follow individuals and see that they recently got a new job may assume they now have the money to pay off their debts and pursue action more aggressively.
“From a tech perspective, it’s easier access to public information, versus having 50 phone books or 100 phone books in my office,” Mark Schiffman, spokesperson for credit and collections trade group ACA International, told the news source. “Now you have the Internet and people putting information that’s publicly available out there. People are putting out a little billboard [for themselves].”
Although more agencies are following this trend, it’s important that individuals who are being pursued understand their rights as consumers. While debt collectors are legally permitted to obtain data about your employment and financial standing by following users’ public postings, they are not permitted to send messages or post comments about the debt on these social media sites.
The same is true for debt collectors who use social media to contact family members about a relative’s debt. In fact, agencies are prohibited from contacting family for reasons other than asking for contact information about a borrower.
Dealing with collections agencies can be a stressful situation for consumers. Working with a credit counselor to determine ways to repay outstanding debt and consulting an attorney to deal with debt companies can help individuals take more control over their situation. Lastly, borrowers should understand that they ultimately have the final say over how collections agencies may contact them. Once these requests are voiced, debt companies must comply with a borrower’s wishes.