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Social media complicates consumer bankruptcy cases

Most Washington residents are aware that the picture perfect image that many people display on Facebook is far from reality. Lots of social media users create a carefully curated glimpse into their lives, intended to give a distinct impression. In some cases, that impression is intended to convey wealth, even after an individual has filed for consumer bankruptcy. That can create problems for the professionals who manage bankruptcy cases.

When an individual files for bankruptcy, a trustee is appointed to manage that case. In certain cases, the trustee will hire an attorney or an investigator to determine if the debtor has given a full and accurate representation of his or her financial circumstances. When those professionals take a look at social media accounts, they can come away with the idea that the debtor is living large. Photos of people posing with expensive cars, out on the town or on fancy vacations can make it seem as though they have no apparent financial woes.

What these investigators often find, however, is that the images shared on Facebook and other social media sites are not representative of the person's actual circumstances. Take, for instance, the high-profile case of rapper 50 Cent, who got into trouble with the bankruptcy court for posing with stacks of cash, then sharing the photos on social media. A deeper look at the matter forced the rapper to admit that the photo was staged, and the cash was not even real money.

For those in Washington who are considering filing for consumer bankruptcy, this information could prove helpful. In order to avoid having to explain questionable images, it might be best to avoid giving the impression that there are no financial troubles at play. When these matters are investigated, the entire bankruptcy process can be delayed, which only means a longer wait before the individual can get on with the business of rebuilding financial security.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, "Everybody Lies on Social Media -- Just Ask Bankruptcy Asset Hunters", Katy Stech, Dec. 26, 2016

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