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Debt collectors spying via Facebook?

Posted by Michael Bloch in online world (Wednesday May 26, 2010 )

A couple of weeks back I posted about another blogger raising the possibility of banks using social networks as a financial assessment tool. It seems that debt collectors may have already made a start.

My original post, “Bank Loan Tweeticide” was in relation to banks using social networks to assess loan risks based on the activities that applicants post about on their profiles.

It’s been reported today that Australia’s ANZ bank has launched an internal investigation into claims one of the bank’s Melbourne-based debt collectors has used Facebook to spy on customers.

The debt collector allegedly set up a fake profile on Facebook and then began covertly gather information on debtor customers.

It’s sneaky, but clever. Imagine you owe a ton of debt and cry poor to your creditors, then post on a social network site what a great night you had at a classy restaurant. That type of thing flagged with a debt collector may see you pursued with renewed vigor.

If this kind of thing is already happening in Australia, you can bet your sweet bippy it’s been happening elsewhere.

For many participants in social networks – individuals and for that matter businesses; the number of “friends” is a measure of popularity. For an individual allowing “randoms” to be “friends” (how I’ve grown to hate that word), there’s a lot more risk involved – not just from eager debt collectors, but the millions of nutters who populate the online world.

We had a sad case recently in Australia where a young woman was murdered after meeting with someone she met on Facebook who didn’t turn out to be who he said he was.

It’s a real wake-up call for parents to keep an eye on their kids’ activities online; but also for us older folks too who may let our guard down. Debt collectors are by no means the nastiest people who might hang out on social networks.

I’m not anti-Facebook at all, I think it’s a great tool; but like any tool, physical or virtual, – it needs to be handled with care.


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