Debt Collectors Infiltrate Facebook to Track Down Delinquent Borrowers

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FacebookBy Mandi Woodruff

Debt collectors have time and again proven to be ruthless in tracking down delinquent borrowers, so perhaps it was only a matter of time before social media became their go-to hunting grounds.

In a report on the government's attempt to tighten laws on collection practices, attorney Billy Howard tells Bloomberg's Carl Dougherty about his client's run-in with social media loan sharks:

Howard said he's seen more aggressive use of social media by debt collectors, including rude postings on a person's "wall," the part of a Facebook account that a person's friends can see. Some collectors masquerade as friendly personalities to catch an alleged debtor's attention.

"You get a friend request from some chick in a bikini," said Howard, a lawyer with Morgan & Morgan P.A. in Tampa, Florida. "You say yes, and then somebody says, ''by the way, I'm a debt collector.'"

As of January, most debt collectors have been officially herded under the regulatory umbrella of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. In tangent with the FTC, the consumer agency is working on implementing new regulations that would prevent debt collectors from unnecessarily harassing consumers in default.

The rules call for collectors to streamline consumer complaint practices, keep borrowers informed of any legal actions from start to finish, and tone down aggressive language. It might also restrict them from contacting borrowers on social media sites like Facebook (FB), Google Plus (GOOG), Twitter, Yelp (YELP), and LinkedIn (LNKD).

We've already seen the CFPB's power in play with the recent $112.5 million civil judgment against American Express (AXP) for shady lending practices.

But chances are that the debt industry won't take kindly to the new Sheriff in town. The CFPB estimates as many as 30 million consumers are being pursued by collectors today, accounting for more than $12 billion in revenue for per year.

It's a lucrative business, and since many forms of debt -- including medical bills and student loans -- can be sold off multiple times to different collectors, persistent collectors can easily chase borrowers well into their retirement years.

"In just a few months I'm going to turn 62 years old," said a former Psychology student in a debt story posted on studentdebtcrisis.org. "I've been attempting to pay back my [$44,000 in private] student loan debt for 22 years."

Word to the wise: If you're being hounded by debt collectors the old fashioned way (by phone) or otherwise, the best way to report aggressive tactics is to either alert the FTC or submit a complaint to the CFPB. And don't forget, you have rights, too.

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kalarogers1

Pay your bills aye? for me I wish I really could. This is easy for most folks to say that have a roof over their heads, with "well paying jobs", a car to get around, fare for transportation, clean clothes to wear everyday, food on their tables and not stuck in a homeless shelter, on the streets trying to scrape for change to get food going from one friends house to another at the good ol age of 23...ridiculous right? I have looked for jobs and still so till this day, it's not easy out here I have put in so many job applications that I have honestly lost count...just now before reading this article or posting this comment I applied for three department stores and applied for help desk positions and at every job interview it's always the same nonsense "we'll call you" what...? I have no phone! I have to give these places my friend's numbers...Note: I'm at a friends house this moment using his computer so please don't assume "well if your homeless how are you using a computer?" Or your "friend should just loan you money and let you live there with him" I'm trying make it without trying to borrow, live off them or take from anyone also my parents don't want me back home...so I'm left out here in limbo. I have been homeless and out of work for 2 years now and please believe I want to pay off my student debts and medical bills but have no way of doing so, these places out here need to hire people "willing and able to work" trying make a honest living. Sure there is the military for a young one like myself but who wants a bloody homeless person in their ranks with debt riding their tails?...the military does credit checks too as does many other jobs don't they? So much for hope.

May 15 2013 at 11:28 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
kidsrunning

Very good Advice. Yeah it looks like Lexington Law has a good reputation of fixing your credit. Looks like they have helped a lot of people get their financial lives back.

January 30 2013 at 12:40 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
jubileeworry

You know I don't agree with this a lot of this is so dumb small bill that is error on the credit report. good idea to check your reports and if you find anything negative get it fixed. Probably best to hire a established and reputable repair company like Lexington Law. They have a good rep and get stuff done.

January 30 2013 at 10:52 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Welcome honey

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January 27 2013 at 6:49 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Welcome honey

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January 27 2013 at 6:49 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Welcome honey

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January 27 2013 at 6:49 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
dave and mary

Everybody's a victim these days. Pay your frickin' bills - so MY interest rates don't go up.

January 27 2013 at 6:38 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
investrman

Facebook is evil- period. Laugh if you will all who so freely surrender your privacy for ther entire world to see and follow.

US Govt agencies (local & state) are using them too to see pics posted of parties being held and such so they can send Zoning Officials to charge residents for 'special events" and not getting proper permits in place first before even large birthday parties were going on.... it is getting worse everyday.

January 27 2013 at 10:54 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
lifehub

Not a good idea to post your real name online unless absolutely necessary such as online shopping.

January 27 2013 at 9:25 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
HARPER57

Even if they find you on facebook, that doesn't mean they
can really find you. Most people have privacy setting on.

January 27 2013 at 9:16 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to HARPER57's comment
lifehub

That's true. I think this was meant to discourage and frighten fb users, instigated by AOL who has a widely known mad jealousy towards fb.

January 27 2013 at 9:27 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply