Your Facebook profile can and will be used against you.
A recent segment on KDVR, the Fox affiliate for Denver, reminds us that collection agencies are happy to go through social media channels if they think it will help them squeeze money out of someone.
Debt collectors will "set up fake profiles and befriend you on Facebook, just to get into your personal information," says Denisa Tova, a financial planner, on the KDVR segment.
It's not a new tactic — debt collectors have actually been using Facebook for years to reach out to people. Collectors have also been accused of impersonating a debtor's friends online, or posting public messages saying the person owes money. In an increasingly aggressive environment, those tactics may be used more often.
Last year, the Federal Trade Commission received a record number of consumer complaints about debt collectors — little wonder, when collection agencies are allegedly doing things like leaning on people who don't actually owe money, and threatening to exhume the dead loved ones of debtors if they don't settle their accounts. A few such recipients of hostile attention have begun to fight back with lawsuits.
Last fall, in the U.K., the Office of Fair Trading, which had been receiving consumer complaints about online harassment, made it illegal for debt collectors to contact people through Facebook or Twitter.
Social media is just one of many frontiers where debt collectors, regulators and consumers are fighting their ongoing battle. Collection agencies have become increasingly nasty in recent years, resorting to ever more inventive and abusive tactics as the industry grows more competitive, and as cash-strapped debtors — against a wider backdrop of high unemployment, low wages and lack of savings — are increasingly unable or unwilling to pay up.