What if you send a bill to your debtor and it comes back as non-deliverable, or if you try to contact them on the phone number listed in your records and find that it no longer works? Suddenly your past due amount appears to be noncollectable. The biggest mistake most creditors make is to keep that account aside for weeks thinking what to do about it, even though your repeat attempts to contact the debtor have consistently failed. Waiting on this account any longer means you are letting the account to age further, lowering the chances to recover money from this account even more.
“Skip” Debtor Status: In collections industry a debtor whose contact information has changed or the information provided by creditor is no longer valid is said to be in “Skip” status.
What do collection agencies do if the debtor is unreachable? ( i.e. in Skip status).
For collection agencies, “Skip” status is a fairly common situation. An experienced collection agency has many tools and tricks to find the debtors most current information. In short, Skip-tracing is the process of tracking down individuals.
This may include
1) Information on the debtor’s latest credit application.
3) Phone books
4) Post office/USPS
5) Utility companies
7) Voter registration records
8) Credit bureaus.
Collection agencies generally do not acquire this information themselves, but pay organizations called Skip Tracers who collect this data from the above sources and sell it. Collection agencies generally buy a bulk subscription from these Skip Tracers so their cost of locating a debtor is a fraction of what it would cost to locate a single debtor.
Let’s look at the most common reasons why debtor’s are unreachable:
1. Unreachable landline number: These days a lot of people are ditching their landline for cell phone. In such cases, the debtor normally has the intention to pay, but he did not realize that the creditor needs to be informed about his phone number change. Leaving you to do all the detective work.
2. Debtor has relocated: This could be because of job change, divorce, retirement, health issues or other genuine relocation reasons. The debtor is surprised when contacted on his new address or phone number, but his intention is not to go in hiding or not to pay.
3. Intentionally hiding: This could be because debtor is in some legal trouble, or hiding from police or even from his family members. May be the debtor has to pay money to many other parties like you and decided to go in hiding. Regardless of the reason, such debtors are hardest to locate and it’s even harder to collect any money from them. They might have even given you wrong information about themselves while buying your product or services. In worst circumstances, it might be a case of identity theft too. These kind of cases need to be handled very carefully.
Letting a collection agency handle Skip Tracing and Collections is a cost effective solution:
There are many Skip tracing techniques. But usually creditors (or companies) have to shell out money to purchase access to this information, therefore its better hire a collection agency that already has access as part of their services. Do factor in the amount of time and energy you or your staff will put into these kinds of efforts. Is your staff even trained for such a detective work? Plus add the cost of those man-hours of your employees that they spend on this task (their salary, office space, insurance etc.), therefore assigning this account to a collection agency almost always turns out to be much cheaper and an efficient option.
Skip-tracing has always been an important part of the debt collection process. Collection agencies are able to quickly get access to public and proprietary data from thousands of proven sources by using paid skip tracing services. Although there is no guarantee that a collection agency, even with all its resources and tricks will certainly be able to locate the debtor, but the chances are far better than what your untrained staff would do.
Other interesting information
Sometimes, Skip tracing process reveals additional information like – The debtor has declared bankruptcy, has deceased, in an active military duty ( if so, different rules apply) or if the person is known to file lawsuits against the debt collectors or creditors. Any of these reasons will likely discourage even a collection agency to perform any debt recovery efforts.
It is possible that debtor was not found during the first round of Skip Tracing, but with advancements in technology, it is now possible for Skip Tracers to report once there is a hit on a later date. This automatic process is called “triggering”.
A popular skip tracing service is “Accurint for Collections” by LexisNexis. Skip tracing services provided by major credit bureaus are also extremely popular.