Social media tools are used every day by collectors as skip tracing tools more than as a way to collect a debt from someone. Social networking sites such as Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn may help someone to locate a debtor; however, using any one of those websites' to announce any type of pending or ongoing collection activity would violate the FDCPA in a multitude of ways. Utilizing social networking sites to gather information and investigate a person's history requires a lot of work, and even when it is successful, it often will give you only a single chance at getting a payment.
There are many databases out there where you can join and use their services to locate debtors, and other databases provide information on bankruptcy filings or if a debtor might be deceased.
Some collectors have reported finding debtors location information by finding information in a news story or by Googling a name and checking out social networking pages. You could also set up "Google Alerts" for a specific name if you are having trouble finding that person, and Google will email you an alert each time that name is mentioned somewhere on the web.
According to the February 2009 workshop report by the Federal Trade Commission, database technology has changed the techniques that creditors and debt collectors use to find consumers. As recently as twenty years ago, collectors trying to locate a consumer were limited to calling references, trying to find neighbors through reverse-look-up directories, or visiting consumers in person. Today, you can obtain location information by accessing huge electronic databases that collect consumer information such as telephone numbers, social security numbers, real estate records, court records, marriage records, addressed, names of relatives and others living at the same address. Free telephone directories are also available on the internet, providing information nationwide.
Some databases also provide information on if a debtor has filed or been discharged from bankruptcy proceedings or if they are deceased.
In these evolving times of technology and social networking, it is important for your business to have specific social networking policies and procedures if you are going to utilize them in your business. These policies need to be written down, shared with everyone at your business and enforced. In order for your business to successfully utilize social networking sites and to permit social media, you must involve a risk-based decision-making process that requires strong business justifications that identify mission requirements and drive towards an expected outcome, such as locating a debtor or assets in order to pursue collections of a debt. Once you create these procedures, realize that they will need to be changed and looked at frequently as technology and laws change.
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