If you file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy or Chapter 13 bankruptcy in Oak Park, can the bankruptcy trustee ask for your Amazon Prime or PayPal passwords? According to a recent article in Bloomberg BNA, there was a recent bankruptcy case in which trustees asked for a debtor’s log-in information and passwords for a number of different accounts, including PayPal, Amazon Prime, and eBay. While this incident did not occur in the Chicago area, it is an important issue to consider given that the U.S. Department of Justice indicated that it “doesn’t support the move” of trustees seeking this kind of information.
As of now, however, there is a difference between whether something is legal and whether the Justice Department supports it. Is it legal for bankruptcy trustees to make this kind of a demand in a consumer bankruptcy case?
Bankruptcy Form Demands Log-in and Password Information for Debtors
To better understand whether debtors can be required to provide log-in and password information, it is important to understand how and why the bankruptcy trustees might want it. How did the bankruptcy trustees make this request, and for what purpose? The article indicates that the request came through a bankruptcy questionnaire form that the trustees required a debtor to fill out. The bankruptcy form “demands log-in and password information for the three online services and states that debtors will keep the accounts active and won’t change passwords for at least 10 days.”
The form does not indicate why the bankruptcy trustees want this information, and it also does not clarify who will have access to the log-in and password information contained in the form (if the debtor were to comply with the demand). The article also indicates that it is not clear whether other debtors have provided this information to bankruptcy trustees, or how many other debtors have received such a demand.
Consumer Advocates Argue Bankruptcy Trustees’ Request is Invasive and Intimidating
In general, consumer advocates have responded in opposition to the bankruptcy trustees’ demand for account information. One advocate described the practice as “invasive and intimidating.” According to Ed Boltz, the former president of the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys (NACBA), “the document request is ridiculous.” He echoed that the demand from the trustees is “very, very invasive and a bit frightening.”
It is not common practice for bankruptcy trustees to make “blanket requests” for a debtor’s user ID and password information, particularly when the trustee has not offered a reason for such a demand. The problem in the recent situation is not necessarily that a bankruptcy trustee might request this information from a specific debtor—in a given case, there may in fact be questions about assets, transfers, and account information. The real issue, the article underscores, is that bankruptcy trustees could be demanding account information “as a matter of course, for all their debtors, and without any specific basis.”
There are now “best practices guidelines” for bankruptcy trustees, developed by the Office of the U.S. Trustee and the NACBA. Those guidelines are designed to let trustees know that they should “ask for what they need,” yet they should “keep from having to ask everyone for everything, leading to over-burdensome and often inapplicable document requests.”
Seek Advice from an Oak Park Bankruptcy Attorney
If you have questions about your rights as a debtor when you file for bankruptcy, an experienced Oak Park bankruptcy lawyer can speak with you today. Contact the Emerson Law Firm to learn more about how we can help with your case.
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