Anyone who has ever been hounded by debt collectors has likely been at some point impressed with the breadth of information these firms have been able to obtain.
A recent report aired by ABCNews examines a host of methods that debt collectors use to track down debtors – from your credit reports to your Facebook page. Some of what they find could even harm your case if the company sues you for failure to pay your debts, which is why it’s important to understand how they do it.
It’s also advisable for those deep in debt to contact a debt relief attorney in Miami, who can help you determine the best way to minimize your liability and fight lawsuits where collectors may lack the appropriate standing (which is more common than you might think).
The ABCNews report begins with a veteran debt collector pulling up all he can about the reporter’s past. Within less than a day, the collector was able to dig up a long list of addresses, dating back to her childhood home. He found a lengthy list of relatives, their ages, their addresses, phone numbers and even the first few digits of their Social Security numbers. He found contact information for former neighbors, some of whom she’d never even met, as well as their ages and partial Social Security numbers.
All he had to start? Her name.
Had he continued his search, he could have found even more.
The bulk of this information is gleaned from information that the debtor provides to the initial creditor. For example, when you apply for a credit card, you supply a great deal of information about where you live, how you can be contacted, even your next of kin not living with you. It should be no surprise that this information is gets forwarded to debt collectors.
However, this information is often fluid. People move. Phone numbers change. Employment situations shift.
This is where debt collectors start to branch out with a technique known as “skip tracing.” It means using a variety of methods to track you down. One of those is your credit report. These reports can include charged-off accounts, name variations, your address history – all of which can be useful. Debtors can find out if a debt collector pulled their credit report by requesting it themselves. All requests for the report are visible on the report.
Another tool debt collectors frequently utilize are digital databases. Some, like WhitePages.com, are free. But then there are a host of paid services. SearchAmerica is one example. LexisNexis is another. These paid services offer access to loads of public records – from the taxes you pay on your home to whether you have a fishing license.
Finally, debt collectors scour social media. Not all of them do it. As a matter of policy, some specifically refrain due to privacy concerns. But not all are so cautious, and more than a few have been known to delve into your posts, your likes, your photographs and whatever other information you make available. There have been cases in which LinkedIn profiles have been used by collectors to identify a person’s current employer in order to initiate a wage garnishment.
Although debt collectors employ a wide range of tactics in order to track you down, they still must abide by the rules outlined in the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. However, it’s typically up to consumers to assert their rights.
Contact Jacobs Keeley for a confidential appointment to discuss your rights. Call (305) 358-7991. Also, don’t miss Miami Foreclosure Attorney Bruce Jacobs on 880AM/the Biz, every Wednesday from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. on “Debt Warriors with Bruce Jacobs,” discussing foreclosure topics that matter to YOU.
Why You Can’t Hide From Debt Collectors, March 23, 2014, By Gerri Detweiler, Credit.com
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No, Homeowners Were Not to Blame for Housing Crisis, March 22, 2014, Miami Debt Relief Lawyer Blog