Debt Collectors May Seek You Out Via Facebook

Your online profiles can help you get a job--or help a collector to garnish your wages.

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Do you keep your LinkedIn page fully updated? It may make you an easier target for debt collectors.

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However, the population of debtors to pursue is growing: Roughly one in seven Americans—slightly more than 14 percent—is being pursued by a debt collector, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. That's up substantially from mid 2003, when the figure was around 9 percent. The amount available to collect is up, too, from around $900 per debtor then to over $1,500 now.

While a certain, small percentage of debtors habitually run up bills and neglect to pay them, says Bartmann. the recent economic downturn brought a new population onto the debtor rolls: people not used to being pursued. While some may be facing financial hardship and be unable to pay, there are many others who want to get their debts discharged quickly.

He feels that this new population has, in some ways, made collections easier.

"Are customers more apt to pay now than in previous economic cycles? That answer is yes," Bartmann says.

Still, he advises caution to anyone making too much of their lives public online. His word of advice to debtors: "Be careful what you put out there."

That, he says, or just pay your bills as best you can. Neglecting to pay altogether can make prices higher and credit tougher to get for everyone.

Beloff agrees: "The thing is, is that for anybody who pays their bills, they should hate people who don't."

Danielle Kurtzleben is a business and economics reporter for U.S. News & World Report. Connect with her on Twitter at @titonka or via E-mail at dkurtzleben@usnews.com.