In a recent online forum a debt collection agency revealed that they now routinely use social media as a source of intelligence on debtors. An example was given recently of one man who had pled poverty to them, but was presenting himself online as a successful entrepreneur. The debt collection agency threatened bankruptcy and was able to secure a £10,000 in settlement of the debt.
Social media is becoming the new doorstep collection: a practice used to embarrass debtors on their doorsteps to pay up and reveal information about themselves, which collectors then use to enforce debts.
If you use social media and are having financial difficulties, what type of information should you avoid posting?
Here yourdebtexpert.com looks at five examples of the type of information collectors may be seeking:
- Where you work: this information could be used to embarrass you by contacting you there or even arresting your wages.
- Your bank’s identity: Obviously you would not reveal account numbers, but it’s not unthinkable you may say something like “I am sick of the Bank of xxxx”. This information could be used to attach funds, even without account numbers.
- Mobile Phone Numbers: with more and more of us increasingly using mobiles as our primary number, you may suddenly find yourself receiving multiple text messages and unwanted calls.
- Photos of your cars: especially where they show the type and model and registration number. Saves chapping on your neighbour’s door and asking if you own a car that could be attached.
- Lifestyle Information: Any information you wouldn’t want them to know, such as the type of holidays you take or their frequency; how often you go out. Taken out of context this may scupper any attempt you or your adviser has of negotiating a repayment agreement.
The Office of Fair Trading, the UK Government regulator charged with regulating debt collection, is aware that some companies are using social media to assist in debt collection. In October 2011, when they revised their Debt Collection Guidance they included as an example of bad practice and psychological harassment the posting of messages on social media that an identifiable person was being pursued for debts.
Even that Guidance, however, does not prevent debt collectors using such sites as intelligence sources. We, therefore, need to be aware that it’s not just our families and friends that are browsing our sites, but possibly also those we would rather not. Perhaps it’s time we checked our security settings, and think about what we share online.