Recently we found a list of top 10 social media collections tips on the fascinating Credit and Collections blog, a website for the debt collection trade. It’s amazing – but not surprising – to find that some debt collectors are using underhand tactics to find debtors online.
We’re right to be nervous about unscrupulous agents. Last year Facebook warned debt collectors not to use its service to track down those owing money after a woman in Florida was stalked for non-payment of a car loan. In April this year the judge told the collector to cease and desist.
While these are stories from the USA it doesn’t mean these tactics aren’t been used in the UK; we’ve certainly heard anecdotal stories about collectors using social media to track their clients’ movements.
So how can you avoid debt collectors contacting you via social media? Here are 10 quick tips to help you stay safe online!
- Don’t use any email account when speaking with debt collectors as they can then use it to “search by email address” on social networks
- Rather than using the web to speak with debt collectors, always correspond by letter, and keep a record of everything you send
- An obvious one, but never respond to a message from a debt collector on social media
- Don’t instant message (IM) anyone you don’t know (read these IM safety tips)
- Remember that your social media conversations can be public and are searchable by your name
- Do a Google search for your name – does a social media or website profile or any of your conversations come up in the results? If they do, take steps to make the page(s) private, or email the website and ask them to censor your name
- Change privacy settings on social networks to avoid your profile appearing publically. For Facebook go to your privacy settings and lock it down; for Twitter go to the settings page, unclick “Let others find me by my email address” and click “Protect my tweets”; for other social networks search their help pages for “privacy settings”
- Be wary of any name or company that wants to follow or friend you if they sound (or feel) fake
- Do not accept friend or follower requests if you don’t know who they are
- Stay safe online and if you need advice get impartial debt help
The main thing to remember is that a debt collections agency does not have any more legal powers than the original creditor and they have to follow Office of Fair Trading (OFT) guidelines (PDF) on fair debt collection.
Do you have any tips to avoid debt collectors finding you online? Have you had someone stalk you for money on a social network? Let us know!