Collection agencies using social media to track down debtors

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PHOENIX - “Here in Phoenix, there was a guy who was behind on his car payments,” social media blogger Joe Cockrell explained. “When he checked in on 4-Square they knew he was at this restaurant and came and repo-ed his car while he was eating dinner.”

Cockrell says he's heard horror stories from people who've been pursued by debt collectors online.

But they aren't just trying to track your location.

Cockrell says they're also creating fake accounts.

“It’s not hard to create a fake account,” he said. “And what these bill collectors will do is they will pick photos that are probably not them they're photos of attractive people.”

They add you as a friend, then prowl your profile for proof that show you're spending money you say you don't have.

They look for posts about shopping trips, vacations, even where you're eating out.

“That’s the sort of predatory behavior that I've heard about from bill collectors on Facebook,” Joe said.

“A debt collector cannot misrepresent who they are,” Brad Klein, president of the Arizona Collector’s Association said.

Klein says collection agencies who use social media are looking, mainly, for two things: a phone number or an address.

“The responsible debt collector is going to use it exactly like they would a phone book,” he explained.

Klein says collectors are not supposed to post comments on your profile, even direct message you.

Doing so could violate your rights under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, a 30-year-old law Klein says needs a status update.

“Social media didn't exist back them,” he said.

Bottom line, Klein says people who owe money shouldn't run from it.

“Avoiding is the worst thing you can do,” he said.

Often times creditors will settle for less than the balance.

And even if you don't owe money, you have to watch what you post because too much information is not always a good thing.

“Using common sense and privacy settings you should be able to protect yourself,” Cockrell said.