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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Banks turn to Facebook and Twitter to keep track of education loan takers

Be careful of friends and followers. Some banks have started using Facebook and Twitter to try and keep track of students who have taken education loans from them, casting a wider net to keep defaults in check.

When payments are delayed, these banks use information available on social networking websites to track down customers and get in touch with them with the help of local branch staffers. In some cases, banks may even be able to send or post reminder messages to them through such websites.

State-run banks have over 2.6 million education loan accounts with outstanding credit of about Rs 60,000 crore, according to government data.

The industry estimates that 5-6 per cent of these loans have turned bad. The government is yet to set up a credit guarantee fund for education loans. Central Bank of India, the top provider of education loans to the Indian Institutes of Management last year, has switched to keeping a tab on borrowers through social networking websites, a senior official with the bank told ET.

"Earlier, we used to track them through their alumni forums. But now that most students have a presence on social networking websites, it is easier to track their footprints online," said KK Taneja, field general manager with the bank. He declined to provide more details.

Facebook, the world's largest social network, is estimated to have more than 100 million users in India. Those on social networks sometimes restrict access to personal information to friends or people they know.

Under the Indian Banks Association's model educational loan scheme, collateral is waived for all loans up to Rs 4 lakh, while those above Rs 7.5 lakh need tangible security and have to be taken jointly with the parents. However, in case of a default, banks have little recourse to recover the money, apart from filing a case. Some banks track education loan defaulters through their online friends. "So, if from the same batch there are four account holders and two of them are defaulters we can track them through their batch mates' friend list," said a senior manager with a state-run lender based in north India.

Banks also find social networking websites useful to stay in touch with education loan customers who have moved abroad. A senior manager with a private bank said most students from top institutes often go overseas within a year or two of placement. "Some of these are marquee clients for us. We stay in touch with them through all possible avenues. We also offer them other services from the bouquet of products that we have," said a senior manager with a private bank.

Source : Economic Times


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