I raise my hand, guilty as charged; I admit to being addicted to my social networking sites and statistics support I am not alone. According to a recent study conducted by Pew Internet, Social networking sites and our lives the number of people using social networking sites has nearly doubled since 2008.
Social networking has become part of our daily routine; the ability to share what is happening in our lives is convenient, fun and addictive. But are we opening ourselves up to be victims of online predators; identity thieves, stalkers and believe it or not debt collectors?
Isn’t it enough to have debt collectors calling you several times a day at the most inopportune times, at work, in front of friends that now they are using your social profiles to hunt you down. Is this legal? The guidelines set under The Fair Debt Collections Practice Act should apply to social sites just as much as they do to landline and face-to-face communications; but because debt collection companies know that enforcement is more difficult and the likelihood of them being reported is lower, many of them push the limits when it comes to contact over social sites, even if it means opening themselves up to potential penalties.
Just as they may try to push the limits by contacting you, your friends, relatives, and neighbors via phone or mail, they may make attempts at making contact via social networks. They do have to abide by the law but beware anything you post on your wall, twitter feed, or LinkedIn profile is fair game.
So if you have debt and are being pursued by your collectors via your social networks here are a few things they can’t do—knowing your rights is important!
- Hide their identity. Creditors are not allowed to contact a debtor under false pretenses or conceal their true identity. They have to say who they are and that they are attempting to collect debt, they can’t pretend to be someone else.
- Limited contacts. Legally, creditors are only allowed to contact you, your attorney, any co-signers and your spouse.. If they are trying to locate you, they may ask others if they know where you are, but cannot reveal that they are trying to collect a debt.
- Get it in writing. Within five business days creditors are required to provide you with a notice of the debt owed in writing. The notice should say who is owed; the amount owed, and should provide the owed party’s contact information.
- Contact you at work. If you ask them not to contact you at work they must abide by this. A creditor can contact you at work when trying to locate you, but can never disclose any debt information to co-workers or supervisors.
- Contact you if you ask them not to. Those in debt do have the right to ask a creditor to not contact them again.
Protect Your Social Life
It is important to protect yourself in our new “social world”. Just as in the real world predators are there to jump on your ignorance and mistakes. Here are a few tips to keep your profiles safe.
- Privacy settings. Set your profiles to private, by leaving it open to the public you are increasing your chances that a collector is watching your wall or photos.
- Selective posting. Our social profiles connect us with friends and family all over the world—we fell safe we are just communicating with friends but to reduce the chance of being stalked watch what you post. You never know who is checking out your friends page or perhaps they get hacked.
- Keep personal info to a minimum. Collectors have the ability to see what you post; your phone number, address, workplace. By posting this information you have made it public.
- Don’t friend strangers. Don’t approve friend requests from people you don’t know. It could be a friend of a friend, but it could also be a collector, identity thief, or a stalker.
- Watch what you “like”. By liking your bank, mortgage holder, or payday loan company (ha, ha) you may be opening yourself up to providing them with information they may not otherwise be able to retrieve from you.
By knowing your rights and how to protect yourself you can prevent becoming a victim.
If you are struggling with debt know that you have options when it comes to debt relief and avoiding your debt collectors only makes things worse.
Have you been contacted by a debt collector via one of your social profiles?