Address and Asset Tracing can nowadays be separated into two main areas, the way they did it in the past which involved manual databases, telephone verification and field agents; and the new era of Experian, Creditsafe and a whole host of other online information providers.
So is the old way out of date? With the advancements made in the availability of online databases over the past few years, the potential is there to solely rely on this cheaper alternative. However, Proper tracing is still a vital part of the debt recovery process, provided it is carried out in a compliant manner.
Solely using databases picks up some of the information, but there will always be people who escape the online searches. Proper Tracing helps you to uncover as much information as possible including old loan/mortgage/credit card including telephone numbers, full names and changes of address assets owned by related parties and even current employers, if you need to request an attachment of earnings at a later stage.
We are currently seeing more companies writing off uncollectible debts based on having gone through the seemingly more cost effective use of their own internal trace teams, debts which could have been recovered had they had all the information.
But why do companies settle for low trace success rates based on online database tracing, which subsequently leads to low collection rates? The usual answer is budgets, and the fear of the unknown by stepping outside into the investigation world, but ideally it is always better to get a debtor on a low level repayment of debt plan now, rather than leave a file which potentially could be statute barred quicker than you may think.
So clearly Proper Tracing has a place in the market, and if budgets are a worry, there are a few companies that will work on a no success/no fee trace basis, SIRS Europe being one of course!
Why use surveillance?
The ability to actually see something unfolding before your eyes gives compulsive evidence. Surveillance with accompanying witness statements, video footage or stills photographs, in many cases, solves an investigation immediately. To actually get to that point though can take a long time in some instances or similarly can be over and done with in a matter of a few hours. The art of surveillance is in the timing of the operation, the background planning, the number of operatives involved and clear information from the client concerning the subject(s).
Surveillance is an option in many different types of instances:
An employee off work ill may be working elsewhere
A senior executive may be planning setting up their own business and taking valuable clients with them
Your best sales person may be in the process of moving to a new employer and lining up clients to take with them
Alternatively, your worst performing sales person may just be sat at home or in their car and not making sales calls either in person or on the phone
It could be for a suspicious wife who thinks her husband may be having an affair.
Cohabitation issues may need surveillance. Maintenance payments may be cut if it is proven a former wife or husband is living with a new partner.
Surveillance is utilised in conjunction with other areas of investigative work. Eg Mystery shopper/Test purchase activity or surveillance may help set the scene for say the service of documents.
The key to all of the above is in the use of experienced operatives who are able to both plan and carry out a surveillance operation. Being alert at all times, utilising technology to the best of its ability, knowing when and where to follow a subject and when to remain stationary, are just some of the areas where using the right people make the difference to achieve an outcome.
Checking out potential employees
Some Companies/organisations still seem to work on the principal that if someone seems OK on an application form that they will be a good worker and a good member of staff. Alternatively, if “Joe” from down the local pub knows “Bob” and says that that he’ll be OK that this constitutes a job interview.
Employment Law may in some cases be more favourable to the employer, why waste time taking on someone when you don’t properly check them out in the first place. Properly structured staff vetting alleviates such issues further down the line.
Would you still be looking to take someone on if you knew that the degree they claimed they’d got from University turned out to be a grade E GCSE in Art from their local high school? What about employer references? Check the dates of leaving and then starting a new job. Any gaps? If so why. Chances are there may be a straight forward explanation. However, it may be that they were sacked for misconduct from their former employer but equally they may have gone travelling and taken three months out.
Including a relevant clause in an application form to enable references to be taken up prior to starting work with a new employer, means that you can get to know a fuller picture of a potential new member of staff. Ask for all school, college or university information as well as part time jobs previously held.
Recruiting staff who are going to stay with you for many years is what you need to be aiming for. Getting it right in the first place saves a lot of time later on, both in the getting rid of a current staff member and recruiting a new one as replacement.
Check them out first!
Utilising one investigation company to complete the whole process
On occasions we see a whole legal process play out in the relationship we have with our solicitor clients. The value to them of using one provider for a set of specific tasks not only saves time, money and effort, but ensures a seamless process. This is particularly prevalent in a Litigation or Dispute Resolution matter where there is a debt outstanding.
A successful address trace undertaken by ourselves could lead to us serving say a statutory demand. This in turn could lead to us providing a pre-sue or background profiling report. If the debt was at such a level where a more thorough review of a person’s financial situation was required, the location of their assets such as property overseas could be undertaken to establish their worth. This may result in repossession orders issued and we would be involved in co-ordinating the carrying out of this. Surveillance to assess a person’s movement in preparation for the service of a bankruptcy petition could be beneficial. This gives a client information on others who may live at an address and gives the opportunity for future planning as well as awareness.
Overall though the use of one agent to put in all the pieces of the jigsaw gives a fuller, clearer and more effective picture and gives our clients client strength in their position to achieve the most effective outcome.
Why are we all paying more than we should for Council Tax?
A recent survey published by Experian showed that an additional £28 million could have been collected from people with sufficient funds to pay their Council Tax bill. We are not talking about individuals on state benefits here, these were people with sufficient income to make the payment.
What would £28million bring to an area? Keeping elderly care a priority, making key repairs to a school, building a new school, alleviating traffic congestion, providing new road surfaces or flood defences, the list is endless.
Individual Councils sometimes make up their own rules on how to collect council tax or indeed any other debts. They tend to have write off procedures for debts that are too easy. The use of external companies to collect debts is against union regulations or the swapping of information between say housing and council tax departments is discouraged.
In times of recession like we are in now, everyone paying their way into the local purse should be more important that at any other time.
Councils seem out of touch with large volumes of their debtors but the budget allocation is all wrong when it comes to tracing a new address for them. Currently there appears to be no trace budget. How can a debtor be traced without a budget to locate them? Therefore how can money be generated from the collection in order to pay for the trace – and indeed for the Council Tax debt to be paid – when you can’t even locate the debtor. The trace is the start of the process and therefore this means that there is no hope of a collection if you can’t find the debtor!
A structured approach to achieving the maximum realistically possible collection percentage should be better encouraged. Using a no success/no fee tracing agent to identify a new address for a debtor is paramount. Accompanied to that where the agent has provided an incorrect new address there should be no charge to the Council. Similarly, the collection letters issued by a Council should be commercially sourced as should the personnel involved. Proactive telephoning at times when a person is likely to be at home is required. Doing things the way they have always been done is not an option.
Every time a debt is not collected or is written off means increased bills for you and me and less services are provided. The pot of money a Council has to spend gets lower and lower. Find the right systems and people