Be very careful what you say on Facebook, MySpace, or any other social network site -- especially if you owe money to the government.
That's the lesson being offered by the Wall Street Journal this week, whch reports on numerous cases where tax collectors have used information that people have posted about themselves on social networking sites in order to track them down and collect on tax debts.
Just about any kind of update can be used against you, it seems. One deejay posted on his MySpace page that he'd be working at an upcoming party. Agents decided to crash it to collect their cash. Another man announced he was moving back to his home town and published the name of his new boss. Finding him to collect on an old tax bill was a matter of ease.
All it really takes for the IRS to find most people on Facebook and the like is a few minutes of time, since searching for a user's name is painfully easy and results are usually good. And if Facebook and MySpace turn up empty, there's always Google. A quick search using only the most basic of information about a person will usually turn up a gold mine of information about them, often including employment web sites where their name may be listed as a member of the staff -- all the easier to hit them with a new tax bill.
At least one official says there are rules about how far the tax man can go to find you: In Nebraska, "agents are not allowed to 'friend' someone using false information," for example. But anything posted publicly -- which is the default for anything posted on MySpace -- can be used against you in the quest to collect on your tax bill.