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Tax collectors use social websites to get back taxes

Tax collectors use social websites to get back taxes



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SALT LAKE CITY -- The Wall Street Journal says tax collectors in other states are using social media sites like Facebook and MySpace to find people who owe them money. How are they doing this?

Is the government issuing warrants to extract information from Facebook users, or does it have a secret back door to every profile? Socialtoo.com CEO Jesse Stay doesn't think so.

"You just can't hide from a tax collector if you're in a public role. There's just no way of doing that," he said.

Stay says he thinks people are just giving out too much information online. People announce where they're going to be, what event they will attend and where they're moving to. This makes it very easy for a tax collector to find who they're looking for.

Stay says there is a fine line people need to walk while on social websites. Yes, people do need to divulge some personal information if they want to promote themselves or an event they're planning, but Stay says the basic principles of social networking apply.

"If you're worried about your boss seeing your updates, if you're worried about your mom seeing you then you've got to be careful about that stuff," he said.

The Wall Street Journal says people in Minnesota and Nebraska were found simply because of what they posted online.

Even if you don't have online friends that are tax collectors, Stay says some of your information may still be accessed. He says there are times when someone can see what's on another person's Facebook profile even if a friend request hasn't been accepted yet.

"I have seen cases where all it takes is to request a ‘follow' and a ‘friendship' and they're seeing your updates," Stay said.

He says he's not sure if this is an unknown feature of Facebook, or if it's an accidental glitch.

E-mail: pnelson@ksl.com

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Paul Nelson

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