Social Media and Collections

Social media is everywhere these days, and 95% of people who use the internet have some sort of social media account. In fact, in 2010 on Facebook alone people spend over 500 billion minutes per month (that is 347,222 days, or 951 years)! It is no wonder that businesses, including collection agencies, are working hard to connect with people over social media

(For other cool social media facts check out http://www.digitalbuzzblog.com/infographic-social-media-statistics-for-2013/).

New technologies often remake business relationships (like how iTunes is busily remaking the music industry), and in the process there is always controversy and upset, as well as great opportunity.

While there is a lot of information online about how collectors use social media, there is not a lot of ‘best practices’ for how to use it, and I am not pretending to create a list here. It is important to know that regulators are looking (see the Federal Trade Commission’s 2011 report on debt collection and social media, linked below). While collectors may not be generating a lot of rules and practices, regulators sure are!

Below are a series of links that connect you to lots of advice for collectors and for individuals.

Tips for collectors

Tips for consumers

In general, as consumers and as practitioners, we need to use our common sense when it comes to privacy and the internet. As a business especially, privacy laws do not go out the window because a new communication tool has come along.

CONSUMERS: watch who you friend (are they friends or collectors in disguise?); watch what you post (you may be pleased about that new car or job, but it can give the right cause to collectors to take you to court or place a lien). Also think twice about “liking” your bank or credit card company (even if you are just getting a deal) as you may expose contact and other information that may be used against you.

COLLECTORS: LinkedIn, Face Book, Twitter are all fair game for locating debtors and digging into their information. For instance, a debtor who puts their cell number online cannot reasonably be upset when they get a call, even from someone they do not want to hear from! Note that the person who brags about their new boat, or who posts great pictures from their Caribbean holiday makes themselves fair game for collectors trying to prove that the debtor does have the means to pay their bills.

Most o the legal cases you can easily find online do not disallow the use of public information available from social media sites, but they do place restrictions on contacting people via social media or posting comments on public forums.

Ultimately social media is about individuals, and they feel that their account is personal space and that they have the right to choose who can come into that space. While that may not be 100% true under the law, intrusions into that space by anyone (especially those looking for money) are extremely unwelcome, and intrusions that lead to public embarrassment or publication of personal information are against the law.

Do you have collection/social media best practices? Email us if you would like to share!

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