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back to article Debt collectors warned off pursuing punters on Facebook

Debt collectors should not be allowed to chase people who owe them money on social networking sites, including Facebook and Twitter, the UK's Office of Fair Trading has said. The OFT issued new guidance today that warned banks, law firms, tracing agents and debt collectors that using social networks to track down debtors was " …

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Anonymous Coward

surely there are two issues here.

The tracking down is surely legitimate?

The chasing for repayment may not be. Sticking a message on a Social Notworking site might be a bit like putting a message in the debtor's or alleged debtor's local paper. I confess I have no idea how all this works so am perhaps poorly placed to comment cogently.

Have I missed some nuance here?

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Debt collection agencies have rules they are supposed to follow (and lots don't). They tend to purchase debt at 10% of it's value, so say you owed Company A £1,000, DCA would purchase that debt for £100 and then send you a bill for £2,500, even if the debt is statute barred (unable to be enforced, 5 years in Scotland, 6 in England/Wales). They will then use many underhand methods to get you to pay...

Phoning up your current workplace and informing your workmates about your debt

Phoning up your significant other and informing them about your debt

Taking you to court to obtain a CCJ even though the debt is statute barred.

Lots of DCA's are basically scumbags, worse than loan sharks, they will stop at nothing to try and get money out of you, posting it on facebook so all your friends can see it sounds like a method they would take, of course, the bad DCA's will read this post and think "shoot, why didn't we think of that?" and do it anyhow.

Google HFO Services and you'll find many horror stories about how DCA's treat people.

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And fictional/wrong debts too.

My parents had a HCEO push a letter through the door saying I'll be back later to take the car. Cue frantic phonecalls/traces to find that a) they didn't owe any debt and b) the company had just gone through the electoral role and checked the addresses to find the same name with the most expensive car.

My debts however were real and are now statute barred (6 years+), though I learnt lots of the nasty underhanded tricks they pull and now have a handy list for others to follow :-

Always ask for proof of the debt.... many have none, so it could be fictitious (had 2 of those in a year)

If they try and get you to sign ANYTHING refuse, whatever they say the reason it's most likely a lie to get you to sign a walk-in possession

never let them in, speak on the front.... sure it's embarassing but one foot in the door means they OWN everything in sight (except beds/cooker/essentials).

Most importantly never, ever agree a payment until you have concrete proof of the debt (from them). a single "token" payment restarts the 6 year statute limit.

Oh and keep as much as possible in writing.... voice isn't worth the paper it's written on :)

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Anonymous Coward

so

the real trick is to get a loan and purchase your own debt, fail to repay, and repeat; until it's reduced to a sufficiently small amount?

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WTF?

Who are the real scumbags?

People that take out the loans that they cannot pay or have no intention to pay, or the companies that try to get that debt? Your post suggests that the people who have taken out the debts are somehow victims.

Please.

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Anonymous Coward

Having worked for one of the largest debt collection companies (yes in their IT dept, joke that it was) I'm aware of some of the tricks that they can pull. They stay within the law, mainly.

Things like using an old royal mail van, wearing clothes that at a glance would make you think they work for the royal mail, and trying to deliver a parcel. Generally done to confirm you are in residence.

The smaller companies that chase the unenforceable debt however are something else.

Oh, and by the way, having a foot in your door does not give them right of entry, plus, you have the right to use reasonable force to stop them attempting to gain entry. If they have a CCJ, and they get in, then they have walking possession which is bad. And it doesnt matter how they get in, be it from climbing in a window, or putting a foot in the door and staying there until they wear you out, allowing them to fully enter (hmmm, sounds like a typical night out for a teenager...)

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Silver badge

The bit about the foot in the door applies to court appointed bailiffs, not debt collectors. Debt collectors have the same rights to enter and take property as door to door salesmen.

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Mushroom

Stick to working in IT...

...you wouldn't last in the legal dept with your grasp of the law.

Debt collectors have no right of entry to your property.

Bailiffs are a different matter, but they don't work for DCA's.

Sorry but DCS employees are bottom feeding scum. I probably hate them more than clampers.

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Anonymous Coward

"Have I missed some nuance here?"

Debt collection agencies are pirates. They often pursue the wrong people, rarely apologise, and never compensate them.

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Anonymous Coward

"publicly embarrassing to the debtor, either deliberately or negligently"

Anyone ever met a debt collector to whom this matter?!

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Facepalm

Real name on SN sites?!?!?

What sort of raving idiot publicly uses their real name on the internet? In any case how would the knuckle draggers know they had the right John Smith?

In my experience, there's only so many "No, haha, get f****d!" that they can handle. Oh and remember to refuse any recorded delivery/courier documents.

Halifax annoyed me so they lost over £20K and I never even needed to consult my solicitors!

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Anonymous Coward

Halifax?

Halifax as in RBS?

As in owned by the government/taxpayer? I.e. we, the UK readers of The register.

And you're here showing off about costing "them" £20k?

"What sort of raving idiot" indeed.

If one legitimately owed money and got out of it, what would make them any better than, say a benefits cheat?

Freetarded excuses leads to freetarded behaviour.

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FAIL

Simply another reason not to have a social site 'real' ID.

But how do these debt collection agencies get to post on an individuals social site page, do they not have be friends to do that??? Failure by the proles for having open profiles that anyone can access.

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Stop

Well...

Debt collectors are scumbags to be sure, and chasing people down over social networks is a really crappy thing to do.

However, social networks typically make you unfindable if you don't want to be found, and people are typically all frothing at the mouth to embarrass themselves with their latest escapades, comments and pictures anyway. A part of me does say that people ask for it.

Anyway, rather than tackling a method used by scumbag agencies, the issue of the scumbag agencies should be addressed first.

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FAIL

"social networks typically make you unfindable if you don't want to be found" ?!?

In what universe is that true ?

Because in this one, social networks are there to show you, whether you want it or not.

If you want to hide, don't join a social network.

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FAIL

Well...

I have a Facebook account and absolutely no-one who has ever tried to find me has been able to do so - I get complaints about it from time to time from people and I always have to add them rather than them adding me. Most of the time, of course, they aren't worth adding - I use Facebook as a way to stay in touch with friends and family, not a resource for stacking up acquaintances and receive non-stop invites to events, nightclubs, etc.

So you failed, utterly. Try joining this universe. It's warm and we have chocolate buttons!

p.s. There's a difference between hiding and not wanting just anyone to find you on a whim.

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Anonymous Coward

As another poster says ...

ALWAYS demand proof of debt. A friend ran up over £6,000 of debt with Lloyds in the 90s. They pestered him, and finally sold the debt. He was contacted by the DCA, and immediately asked them for proof of debt. It never came. They started harassing him, and eventually he lodged a complaint. Turned out they didn't have the proof from Lloyds who, having got their wedge, by now had no interest in producing the paperwork. Result: £6,000 written off. When I related this story to a colleague who worked in banking, he said it was incredibly common for DCAs to lose, or not bother getting, the original proof of debt.

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WTF?

Unbelievable

So why did your "friend" not pay the debt back in the first place?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Unbelievable

So how is that any of your business?

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Re: Re: Unbelievable

"So how is that any of your business?"

Because you mentioned it in the first place.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Re: Re: Unbelievable

I didn't. Anonymous Coward did.

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Flame

This is very worrying as a sign for the future.

We are facing the possibility that "authorities" public or private will use the new social media as a means of pursuing/persecuting somebody they do not like (for what ever reason). This is only one of the reasons why I am *very* bloody careful what I put on the web. If you knew my real name you could of course "google" me. However, the only thing you would discover would be where I had done my degree and what subject I took - which is one reason why the only personal things I have said about myself here is what my "trade" is and which country I live in. That certain people are interested in social media as a way of reintroducing the stocks as a punishment (without inquiry or trial) is not something that surprises me in the slightest.

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a depb collector should shoot on sight, they are the scumbag of humanity

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Flame

Scugbams, the lot of 'em

I've got two debt collectors chasing me for debts that simply aren't mine. Their technique seems to be to write nasty letters to people with the same name as the debtor so that the innocents will ring them up to prove they aren't in debt. They use an 0844 phone number so you have to pay them for the privilege of speaking to them. When you get through, they won't tell you what it's about until you give them a lot of personal information. If you don't respond to them, they assume you're the droid they're looking for and start sending even more threatening letters.

I have quite a stack of their threat-mail piling up but I assume that more vulnerable people are panicked into doing their job for them and so their sordid parasitic little businesses thrive.

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Thumb Up

Re: Scugbams, the lot of 'em

I've experienced this on and off, and have resorted to advising these worms that I'm on the verge of using my solicitor to deal with them, that I always prosecute, and that I always gain compensation for bogus claims. They tend to fuck off back underneath their stone that way. As to payment of real debts, this kind of thing tends to make life harder for the herd, for the economy. It's best that people do not take up debts they may not be able to afford. It's cheaper to save up for things. You can interest on the way for one thing, you don't pay interest for another, and you don't face the uncertainty of being chased by what appear to be unprincipled scum bags.

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Anonymous Coward

Selling Debt

The law should be changed so that if a debt against you is sold you are offered first refusal at the same rate, many people would gladly settle at the amount the debt is sold for. From the banks point of view they are no better/worse off regardless of who pays it and if they are prepared to settle for less from the DCA why not settle for less from the person you are chasing.

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Flame

That has got to be the stupidest idea I've heard in a long time. Do you have any idea of the amount of people that would running up a stupidly large debt, then simply not pay it, just so they literally buy the get the goods for a tenth of their value. Get real!!

I have a better idea, how about people just pay off their debts. The number of people who probably say they can't afford to pay off the 50" LCD they "bought" but can still manage to buy a packet of cigarettes everyday would probably scare us. There are genuine reasons for getting into debt, but very few genuine reasons for at least attempting to get out of it. The number of people that can't afford at least a £1 a week is not high.

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Anonymous Coward

dumb idea, maybe or maybe not

Settlement shows up as a form of default so you wouldn't do it if unless you wanted to ruin your credit score and many people prepared to do that are most probably happy not to pay the debt off anyway.

The potential that people could game the system should also make the banks a bit more cautious on handing out debt as well you would hope.

What it would do is allow debt to be cleared without a particularly nasty sector of the economy driving people to despair and depression, really some of these people work at a level that can only be called harassment. I've known people get to the point they are afraid of the mail coming and won't answer the phone.

Repeated slaps on the wrist are part of their business model, wouldn't surprise me if they even factor in a level of fines.

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Whoever would of thought.

Two can play this game however.

When a company decides it's going to make things personal with you; simply do the same with them.

They have more to lose than you do when all their info lands up on the front page.

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Anonymous Coward

Whoever would OF thought?

You mean 'Whoever would have thought' or 'Whoever would've thought' which abbreviates the word 'have'.

And exactly how do you make things personal with a DCA?

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Anonymous Coward

I can't even get the ex roomate's collectors off my case

It's been over a year since the roomate moved. Still I get calls and letters. I send them what contact information I had, and that's still not enough. Reporting them makes no difference as the company changes names or "goes out of business" like a Chinese pirate manufacturer but still comes back with the same voices on the other end of the line.

Not to mention repeated calls of a debt that I paid ten years ago. Proof of payment shuts down one "company" but they sell that "debt" off to some other sucker who starts calling again. A month later, rinse and repeat. No legal recourse since the "company" stops calling after receiving payment proof but nothing I can afford legally will stop them from selling that fake debt off again.

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Seen decent collectors too

Legitimate debt collection agencies that play by the rules have lots of lawyers/solicitors. They know the rules and use them very effectively.

If you have a legitimate debt that was sold, you can always try to negotiate a settlement that is less that you owe. Remember if they bought for around 10% of value, paying 20% of value and getting them to remove it from the credit reporting agencies can be a very good deal. Just get the terms written down (including the removal from the credit reporting agencies).

Scum exists in all industries, just most decent people don't want to deal with most of the people that run up debt with no intention of paying it (which apparently is a lot of the debtors).

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Anonymous Coward

And there's the other side ...

There's the scumbag companies with sales and accounting departments that could tell their a**e from their elbow if you gave them a map. For example, a well known mobile phone company with a colourful name who quite happily sold me a contract on one set of terms and then billed it under a different set of terms. Other than the first bill (with only up-front standing charge), not a single bill produced during 18 months had more than a passing resemblance to reality.

I tried really hard to persuade them that all I wanted was for them to bill me what I'd contracted to pay - but the clueless muppets didn't seem to understand that setting up their billing system to match the terms on their website didn't constitute giving me a personal tariff ! And that's after 12 months of them just repeating "I've added up the bills, the total is correct, pay it" - do they train people to be incapable of understanding the simple concept of "the contents of these bills is incorrect" ?

Needless to say, they employed the sort of debt collection agencies people here mention - the phone calls, the "on the edge of legality" letters, etc. In all, between them they owe me getting on for £200 - but still put a bad entry on my otherwise unblemished credit records. I was really tempted to take them to the small claims court, but it coincided with a difficult time for me and I couldn't do it.

Unfortunately, back then you couldn't use the useless adjudication schemes they are all required to be members of - because the scheme this company was a member of required a deadlock letter from the company before they'd stat a case. Needless to say, the company kept forgetting to issue one ...

As an aside, no-one has mentioned the credit reference agencies that will quite happily post libelous statements from businesses with no more proof than "they told us that information". When you try to post a statement that there is no debt as the company concerned failed to bill properly and failed to keep it's accounts properly - then the reference agencies refuse to post it as it's libelous.

In this, the OFT are a bunch of useless muppets who don't seem prepared to tackle this imbalance of rights.

Posted AC for obvious reasons.

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