Things can change quickly in a decade. Ten years ago, digital cameras weren’t that great, and people rarely posted their photos on the World Wide Web for their family and friends to see. In a matter of a few years, computer storage space increased, digital cameras proliferated, and the Internet became more accessible.
Specifically, people can post pictures and discuss their lives with those close to them in a number of social media platforms: blogs, Facebook, Twitter, and most recently Google+. Along with these developments came not just discussions of proper online etiquette but also legal implications as well. Facebook in particular is noteworthy for causing job dismissals, appearing in divorce documents, and serving as evidence in criminal proceedings. Requests have become so common that it even included a feature in its “Account Settings” menu that allows users to download a copy of all their Facebook data.
This feature will undoubtedly benefit adverse parties seeking to comb through your data.
The context of Las Vegas bankruptcy is no different. Your private information isn’t so private to the U.S. Trustee, whose duty is to uncover as much of your personal property as possible, sell it, and distribute the proceeds to your creditors.
Here are three things the Trustee will be looking for on your social media, whether you wish to share it or not.
(1) Personal Property. When you file bankruptcy, you are supposed to list all your assets. Sometimes people try to hide these from creditors and the bankruptcy trustee. Filers who then post pictures of expensive merchandise on Facebook will be caught, and they will have to either pay the Trustee for the property or surrender it for sale.
(2) Evidence of High Spending. Let’s say a petitioner takes a vacation to Phuket and charges it to his or her credit card. The Trustee may discover this via pictures on Facebook and then ask where he or she got the money from. If it’s not from income or debt and the petitioner didn’t list it, the bankruptcy court may not grant you a discharge.
(3) New income sources. Let’s say someone posts, “I just won $25,000 in the state lotto!” but doesn’t list it on his or her petition. Or, maybe the petitioner announces accepting a job offer but doesn’t list the income. This will have serious ramifications for a Chapter 13 payment plan.
U.S. Trustees are paid on a commission, so they make more money by uncovering undisclosed assets. However, it may not be cost-effective for them to troll your Twitter feed to find out about a new car someone received from a grandfather. More importantly, the lesson of social media is really that you should be completely honest on your bankruptcy petition. A competent Las Vegas bankruptcy lawyer can help you do just that.
For more questions about bankruptcy in Las Vegas, please feel free to contact an experienced Haines & Krieger Las Vegas bankruptcy attorney for a free initial consultation. Call 702-880-5554.