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That Facebook Friend Could Be a Debt Collector

April 06, 2011

Here’s a story you’re going to post on your Facebook (News - Alert) page, as we just did: Be careful of unwittingly friending a debt collector.

According to Portland, Ore.’s KATU News, social media gives debt collectors a whole new way to catch scofflaws. KATU spoke with Tim Mabry, who owns a debt collection agency.

Mabry loves Facebook. He told KATU that he gets told oh, I don’t have the money to repay them now, I really don’t, but “you go on their Facebook page and [they’re] standing out in front of the pickup with big tires and fancy wheels -- you have to be careful.”

According to a recent item on FoxBusiness, a St. Petersburg, Fla. judge recently ordered a debt collection agency to “stop contacting one debtor’s friends and family on Facebook” in an attempt to find a woman who owed $362 on an unpaid car loan.

Personal finance consultant Gerri Detweiler of Credit.com told FoxBusiness that using Facebook “is legal when trying to locate a debtor,” adding that they can’t just use any means they want. “They have to follow the law— it's not necessarily that they can’t use Facebook to find more information about a debtor. For consumers, if you owe debt, be well aware that anything you post online is fair game for a collector.”

And be careful if you get a friend request from Tim Mabry. Might want to check to make sure you’re paid up as well.

And yes, debt collectors do Facebook. As KATU reported, “the owner of a Portland-area collection agency said they have a contest to see who can collect the most debtors as friends.”

It’s not just Facebook. KATU’s report found that debt collectors say career networking site Linkedin is “particularly helpful if debtors make a big deal about not being able to pay bills because they’re unemployed. It’s hard to make that argument if their Linkedin profiles detail their current employers, positions and job descriptions.”


David Sims is a contributing editor for TMCnet. To read more of David’s articles, please visit his columnist page. He also blogs for TMCnet here.

Edited by Janice McDuffee

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