Social Media Oversharing Makes It Easier to Collect, Seize Assets

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By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. on April 22, 2016 12:02 PM

Thanks to social media, we live in a world of almost constant oversharing: teenagers share their insecurities on Facebook, adults Instagram their every meal, the Kardashians -- well, never mind, the Kardashians are an extreme case.

And this is great news for lawyers, who have increasingly turned to social media for evidence in litigation and are now using it to collect judgments or seize assets.

Rich Kids of Instagram

If you're not familiar with the Rich Kids of Instagram Tumblr, check it out. The website simply collects some of the most glaring examples of young people conspicuously celebrating their parents' wealth on social media. There are yachts, sports cars, and jet set trips around the world.

And, while those kids rarely have million dollar judgments against them, their parents occasionally do. In a recent interview with the Guardian, Andrew Beckette, of the cybersecurity firm Kroll, explained how he helped collect a $30 million dollar judgment from a millionaire who claimed he was broke:

We monitored social media, particularly for his children, who were in their 20s, and found a lot of posts from the same geo-tagged sites. Cross-referencing that with land registry and other similar bodies overseas, we found half a dozen properties that were registered in the name of this person.

We were able to go to the court with a list of assets that we conservatively estimated at $60M, which the court then seized until he settled the amount that had been ordered.

Of Course, It's Not Just Dumb Kids

Rich kids aren't the only ones having their social media used against them in a court of law. The rapper 50 Cent declared bankruptcy last year then, this March, Instagrammed a photo of himself surrounded by stacks of cash that spelled out "BROKE." It was enough to get him hauled back into bankruptcy court for asset review. (He claimed the money was fake.)

Social media is valuable for more than just proving assets, of course. At a recent presentation on "The Anatomy of a Tweet," by the Association of Certified E-Discovery Specialists, covered by Legaltech News, experts attested to the value of social media. Julie Brown, litigation technology manager at Vorys, Sater, Seymour and Pease, described the way her firm made use of social media:

Oftentimes, we can figure out where people were when they send a tweet. If we get that Twitter page, we can almost create a map of the history of the date and times where a person was. ... I don't think people always realize all this data is out there.

So, litigators, it might be time to set up your Instagram and Twitter accounts, if you haven't already. Just be careful what you share -- and pay very close attention to what others do.

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