The three keys to successful real estate investing are location, location, and location. The three keys to successfully collecting from debtors are location, location, location – of the debtors that is. Debt collectors are constantly looking for newer and better ways to locate missing debtors, while missing debtors are constantly looking for newer and better ways of avoiding being found.
New and different data sets are being used in the debtor location process. The best skip tracing resources, however, combine broadened data coverage with more timely data currency, enhanced data accuracy, and technologically linked relational data coordination to take the ever increasing volumes of data and sift out the most likely manners and means of actually contacting a targeted debtor. What all of this actually means is that the better skip tracing companies are getting better and better at find debtors using larger and larger quantities of data about debtors.
Using these methods, skip tracing is accomplished in individual mode for one debtor at a time or in batch modes on selected groups of accounts. Quite often, consecutive searches are done in a waterfall fashion applying more informative subsequent searches only to qualifying resultant cohorts of the next preceding searches.
Thirty-five percent of delinquent debtors move annually. If a debt collector is working with a three-year-old portfolio, then more than likely most of the debtors have moved since they became delinquent. The key to collecting such a portfolio of delinquent receivables profitably is to identify and locate the debtors most likely to pay the soonest and easiest and contact them first.
To learn about skip tracing, all one needs to do is contact the major credit reporting and personal information database vendors. They will all tell you that their particular databases and proprietary technology is the best way to assess your customer accounts for collectability, prioritize collection efforts, receive identity verification information, leverage reliable tracing tools and services to locate debtors, and maximize your productivity. They will all have head to head comparisons showing that they found more debtors and helped collect money from them more effectively than the other similar companies. Compare all of these companies and their figures before signing up with any of them.
One billion credit cards are in use in the United States today. A similar number of consumer credit reports are issued annually in the United States. Four and a half billion pieces of data are entered monthly into credit records. Each of the consumer credit reporting bureaus — Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion — maintains approximately 200 million credit files, which are used by independent credit reporting agencies across the United States. In addition, other debtor information service providers complement the three national credit reporting bureaus.
Skip Tracing with websites
While the consumer reporting agencies are effective at mining their databases to come up with a most likely address and phone number, sometimes locating individual debtors requires a bit more individual work. Successful skip tracing, however, requires an inquisitiveness akin to Sherlock Holmes’ and a tenacity akin to Sylvester Stallone in Rocky XXV. To do that, there are many free websites available to get started. Getting these things requires the same thing that most of collections does; practice, practice, practice.
Begin by reviewing this short list of websites and see how each can be used to locate a purposefully lost debtor.
Google, is excellent for general searching of a person’s name or phone number. Once a significant result of a search is obtained, more refined searches can be used to narrow the search within a search.
The Ultimates, www.theultimates.com , is a very good all-purpose site that allows name, address, and phone number look-ups to be made on multiple data bases simultaneously.
Crimetime, www.crimetime.com, provides links to a social security validator, a variety of states and can search for many things such as incarcerated debtors, licensed debtors, and real estate records.
To determine if a consumer is on active duty, one can enter his or her name in the following website and get an affidavit of active duty status or a statement that the database does not contain information concerning the consumer. https://www.dmdc.osd.mil/scra/owa/home.
Another interesting site that has some particular functions is the acronym finder, appropriately named, www.acronymfinder.com
Ancestry.com sponsors a site that can be used for finding family tree information and death records about a targeted consumer. A sister company’s web address is www.rootsweb.com.
Skip Tracing Moving Debtors and/or Post Office Boxholders
Debtors often attempt to hide their locations by moving from place to place or using post office boxes to obtain their mail instead of using their own residential or business address. A skip tracer attempting to find an evasive debtor is often frustrated by the debtor’s frequent moves or use of a post office box. There is, however, a proper way in the proper circumstances to obtain a moving or boxholding debtor’s actual current name and residential and/or business address.
The proper circumstance for obtaining this information is that it is needed for service of process in actual or prospective litigation.
In order to obtain the use of a post office box or callbox, a person must complete a PS Form 1093, Application for Post Office Box or Caller Service. For privacy reasons, the name and residential or business address listed on the Form 1093 is not usually available to the public. That does not, however, mean that creditors attempting to find this information can never get it.
There are a few limited exceptions to the rule that a post office customer’s name and business or residential address will not be made available to the public. These exceptions are found at 39 Code of Federal Regulations 265.6(d)(5). The exceptions allow release of post office customer information only in one of the following four circumstances:
- To a federal, state, or local government agency upon prior written certification that the information is required for the performance of its duties
- To a person empowered by law to serve legal process in actual or prospective litigation, the attorney for a party in whose behalf such service will be made, or a party who is acting pro se in such actual or prospective litigation
- In compliance with a subpoena or court order
- To a law enforcement agency if the information is needed in the course of a criminal investigation
The exception most commonly used in relation to debtors is 39 CFR 265.6(d)(5)(iii), which allows release of a post office customer’s name and address in the limited circumstance that the name or address is needed and will be used solely for service of legal process in connection with actual or prospective litigation.
The Postal Service requires the use of a standard format when requesting information under this service of process exception. The standard format must be used in its entirety. When using the service of process exception to obtain a boxholder’s name and actual business or residential address, a requester must provide the postmaster with the following information:
- The capacity of the requester (e.g., process server, attorney, party representing self)
- The statute or regulation that empowers the requester to serve process (not required when requester is an attorney or a party acting pro se – except a corporation acting pro se, which must cite such a statute)
- The names of all known parties to the litigation
- The court in which the case has been or will be heard
- The docket or other identifying number if one has been issued
- The capacity in which this individual is to be served (e.g., defendant or witness)
In addition, the request must be signed and the signature must immediately follow a warning statement that submission of false information in the request could result in penalties and a certification that the information is true and that the address information is needed and will be used solely for service of legal process in conjunction with actual or prospective litigation. If the request lacks any of the required information or a proper signature, the postmaster will return it to the requester specifying the deficiency.
Debt collectors should use extreme caution in making a request to the postmaster for boxholder information in order to not violate the FDCPA prohibitions about false and deceptive misrepresentations. The exception to the normal privacy rule that protects the names and addresses of postal customer requires that, prior to making such a request, there must be actual or prospective litigation.
Making a request to obtain the name and address of a post office customer without first having actual or prospective litigation in mind would probably be held to be a false and deceptive misrepresentation under the FDCPA. In addition, the submission of false information to obtain and use boxholder information for any purpose other than the service of legal process in connection with actual or prospective litigation could result in criminal penalties including a fine of up to $10,000 or imprisonment of not more than 5 years, or both (see 18 USC Section 1001).
Prior to using this “service of process” exception to find a moving or boxholding debtor’s name and address, a cautious and compliant debt collector should either file a lawsuit against the debtor in a court of competent jurisdiction or at least obtain authority and document the intention to file such a lawsuit if the name and address of the boxholder can be obtained
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