One of the biggest problems that debt collectors often face is locating debtors. When a debtor moves to another house, city, state, or country, the collection agency often has no clue how to locate him. So, how does a commercial collection agency track runaway debtors? The solution is easy: skip tracing services. What is Skip tracing? Skip tracing is the process of locating the whereabouts of a person for any number of reasons. In this case, outstanding debts.
Skip tracing services (Skip tracers) are companies whose sole mission is to locate individuals – in this case, debtors – who have relocated without giving their new contact details to the collection agencies. Skip tracers are employed to help commercial collection agencies find the addresses and contact information for debt collection purposes.
You may wonder how skip tracing services locate people; the process is actually rather straightforward. The easiest way is to use the debtor’s social security number. Social security numbers are run through various credit bureaus allowing them access to “header” files from the debtor’s credit files and/or credit reports. A header file contains just the basic information needed to locate the debtor such as name, address and in some cases, place of employment. Though this information may not seem like much, it is often times all the skip tracers need to help debt collectors find their debtors.
If the skip tracing services are unable to locate the debtor through their social security number, they can perform a national identifier search. Simply put, this is an “old school” system that uses the debtor’s last known residence as well as his/her name to find their new location.
Skip Tracing Services may use the following resources:
• Online directories, Phone books, Social Sites and search engines – Debtors may have accounts and profiles across various directory websites and Social Media sites like Facebook, Livejournal, Twitter, Instagram, and others. If not, skip tracing services can use search engines to search for news articles and posts that people on the internet who may have written entries about them or even posted pictures.
• The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) – If the debtor drives a vehicle or has a license registered, it is likely that the DMV will have recent information about the debtor’s whereabouts.
• Employers – If you know the debtor’s last place of employment, skip tracing services can approach their boss and inquire about their current employment status. Even if the debtor has moved on to a different job, the employer may still have information that can help the skip tracer locate him.
• Associations, Affiliations, Organizations, and Groups – If the debtor has a specialized occupation, like Engineering or Medicine, they must have membership in certain organizations. Skip tracing services will try to search these various groups to find the runaway debtor.
• Former contacts – Skip tracing services may visit old neighbors, friends and relatives to obtain information about the debtor’s current location.
Note: when trying to obtain information about a certain debtor, skip tracing services should never falsely represent themselves as a member of law enforcement or a detective. It is in your best interest to ensure the commercial collections agency you use for your debt recovery steers clear of any and all misrepresentation.
If you are a business owner trying to collect on past-due accounts, a reputable collection agency can often help. Turning accounts over to an agency for collection may seem like signaling defeat or throwing in the towel to some collectors. Rather than take the defeatist attitude of “I can’t collect this on my own,” take the attitude that collection is a team effort with you and your outside agency working together.
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