This account is pending registration confirmation. Please click on the link within the confirmation email previously sent you to complete registration.
Need a new registration confirmation email? Click here
TheStreet Open House

How to Avoid Debt Collectors on Facebook

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- While there is a lengthy list of what debt collectors are not allowed to do, federal law makes no mention of how collection agencies can use social media. For some debt collectors that is permission to get creative.

It is astonishing how many debt collection firms have a policy on how to use Facebook (FB) to track people down. It has become a part of the digital world in which we live in, and collection agencies are routinely using social media as a source of information.

Some debt collectors create a fake Facebook account and try to "friend" someone. If the message is accepted, even if they don't know the person, the door is opened: A debt collector can learn all sorts of things about your relationship status, mutual friends, job, hometown, hobbies, likes and so forth.

There are steps you can take to avoid dealing with debt collectors in your social media world.

Strangers are not your friends! Don't accept friend requests from strangers -- ever. It might be a friend of a friend, but it could also be a debt collector or a spam machine.

Keep your business private. It is shocking the number of users whose Facebook profiles are set to completely public. Even people who are not your friends can see all your pictures and some of your information. Setting your profile to private reduces the likelihood a debt collector can access your profile and photos.

Don't give out too much information. Most people don't post their Social Security or credit card numbers online, but they will list a birthday or their phone number. If someone walked up to you on the street and asked your date of birth, would you tell them? Probably not. If you know you owe debts and get a new cellphone number, do you think it is a good idea to post that cell phone number online? Definitely not.

Less is always more. Share too much information online and you leave a trail of bread crumbs for anyone to follow. Do you really need to tell everyone the exact time, date and location of that family reunion?

Honesty is a virtue. Don't post pictures of your new speedboat or that trip to the Caribbean, then tell debt collectors you are broke. Living well is fine. But don't expect to fool your creditors. It will always come back to haunt you.

Get help. No one enjoys being behind on their debts, but there is a tendency to stick your head in the sand. The problem won't go away by itself. Most reputable debt collectors are just doing a job and would be perfectly happy to work on a payment plan that fits your budget. You won't know until you talk to them and try. Regardless, make a plan to become debt free. Then you can avoid aggressive debt collectors completely.

If you are contacted by a debt collector, print the message or save the screenshot. Go online to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and file a complaint. The CFPB is serious about debt collectors who cross the line, and your complaint really does mean something. If all else fails, talk to a consumer rights lawyer. Maybe you have grounds to sue.

Bill Bartmann is the CEO of debt advisory firm, Bartmann Enterprises, and the CEO of CFS II, a debt collection company. Bartmann is the author of Bailout Riches! How Everyday Investors Can Make a Fortune Buying Bad Loans for Pennies on the Dollar. His recently published book, Out of Control: Cases of Debt-Collection Abuse in America and What We Can Do About It, documents clear patterns of abusive tactics used by unethical collectors.

Select the service that is right for you!

COMPARE ALL SERVICES
Action Alerts PLUS
Try it NOW

Jim Cramer and Stephanie Link actively manage a real portfolio and reveal their money management tactics while giving advanced notice before every trade.

Product Features:
  • $2.5+ million portfolio
  • Large-cap and dividend focus
  • Intraday trade alerts from Cramer
  • Weekly roundups
TheStreet Quant Ratings
Try it NOW
Only $49.95/yr

Access the tool that DOMINATES the Russell 2000 and the S&P 500.

Product Features:
  • Buy, hold, or sell recommendations for over 4,300 stocks
  • Unlimited research reports on your favorite stocks
  • A custom stock screener
  • Upgrade/downgrade alerts
Stocks Under $10
Try it NOW

David Peltier, uncovers low dollar stocks with extraordinary upside potential that are flying under Wall Street's radar.

Product Features:
  • Model portfolio
  • Stocks trading below $10
  • Intraday trade alerts
  • Weekly roundups
Dividend Stock Advisor
Try it NOW

Jim Cramer's protege, David Peltier, identifies the best of breed dividend stocks that will pay a reliable AND significant income stream.

Product Features:
  • Diversified model portfolio of dividend stocks
  • Alerts when market news affect the portfolio
  • Bi-weekly updates with exact steps to take - BUY, HOLD, SELL
Real Money Pro
Try it NOW

All of Real Money, plus 15 more of Wall Street's sharpest minds delivering actionable trading ideas, a comprehensive look at the market, and fundamental and technical analysis.

Product Features:
  • Real Money + Doug Kass Plus 15 more Wall Street Pros
  • Intraday commentary & news
  • Ultra-actionable trading ideas
Options Profits
Try it NOW

Our options trading pros provide daily market commentary and over 100 monthly option trading ideas and strategies to help you become a well-seasoned trader.

Product Features:
  • 100+ monthly options trading ideas
  • Actionable options commentary & news
  • Real-time trading community
  • Options TV
To begin commenting right away, you can log in below using your Disqus, Facebook, Twitter, OpenID or Yahoo login credentials. Alternatively, you can post a comment as a "guest" just by entering an email address. Your use of the commenting tool is subject to multiple terms of service/use and privacy policies - see here for more details.
Submit an article to us!
DOW 17,233.56 +76.71 0.45%
S&P 500 2,009.43 +7.86 0.39%
NASDAQ 4,586.1220 +23.9330 0.52%

Brokerage Partners

Rates from Bankrate.com

  • Mortgage
  • Credit Cards
  • Auto

Free Newsletters from TheStreet

My Subscriptions:

After the Bell

Before the Bell

Booyah! Newsletter

Midday Bell

TheStreet Top 10 Stories

Winners & Losers

Register for Newsletters
Top Rated Stocks Top Rated Funds Top Rated ETFs