How Do Debt Collectors Find You?
If you are looking for ways to hide from a debt collector, you may be disappointed in the end, as it is very difficult to hide from someone who has been hired to locate you, even if you have changed your phone number and moved several times. So how do debt collectors find you? Some of the answers may surprise you.
Calling Your Family and Friends
If a debt collector has any reference or old telephone numbers for you, where they can reach a friend or family member or former employer, they may call and ask for your current contact information. Under the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) a debt collector who is unable to locate you may contact a third party to inquire about your current contact information. The debt collector must give their name and state that they are confirming or correcting information about your location. However, unless specifically asked, the debt collector may not name the collection firm or agency or reveal that you owe any debt. So your family or friends may tell them where you are without even realizing they are speaking with a debt collector.
Looking at Your Social Media Profiles
Does your Facebook profile say what city and state you live in or who your current employer is? Is this information public? Debt collectors who already have a judgment against you and now want to garnish your wages only need to locate your current employer to be able to do so. And those who need to find your address in order to begin or resume collection attempts or file a lawsuit against you may just need to call your employer and ask for your contact information. If they are unable to get it this way, simply knowing what city and state you live in can help them find you by searching public records maintained by court systems, the Department of Motor Vehicles, your county tax assessor, or your state's Department of Workforce Development.
Checking Court Records
The federal court system maintains an online searchable database of all lawsuits and bankruptcies that have been filed in the last few years. This database can be easily searched by anyone with a free account and enough personal information, such as a name, birth date, and social security number, to find your address if you have a federal case in the system. You can check out the Pacer search features yourself right now.
Many states now maintain online databases that can be searched without even creating an account. If you have a recent traffic ticket, criminal charges, divorce, or any case in front of a city or county court, a debt collector might be able to locate you free of charge with a few clicks of the mouse. To see if your state offers this service and locate the website, call your local county court and ask if there is an online court case search or search for your state's court system website and look for a link.
Looking at County Property Tax Records
Many county tax assessors now maintain online databases of property and property tax information. Databases are searchable by county, state, and name and will not only give a debt collector the address of any property you own, but will provide the address where tax statements are mailed, if different from the property address, and sometimes provide a photograph of the property and a Google Maps picture and/or link to the property on Google World. If you own a home, you can be found by a good debt collection agency.
Reviewing your Voter Registration Record
If you know in what county and state a person is registered to vote, you may be able to check their voter registration status online to obtain their current address. It just depends on what online records that state maintains and how easily accessible they are. Some states require that you enter the name, driver's license or state identification number, date of birth, and last four of the social security number, while others simply require a name and birth date.
Asking the Department of Motor Vehicle
Debt collectors in some states are afforded access to the state Department of Motor Vehicle's records where they can obtain your current or most recent address, date of birth, if they do not already have it, and possibly your social security number. So if you have a driver's license or state issued identification, you might not be hard for a debt collector to find.
Pulling Your Credit Report
If you owe money to a creditor who you originally authorized to pull your credit report and provided them with the information necessary to do so, any debt collector that the creditor then hires to collect on the debt will likely have access to that information and, depending on your state of residence, may be able to pull your credit report to find your current address or employer without further authorization from you. Creditors who you may have authorized to pull your credit report include:
- Credit card companies
- Banks, mortgage companies, or other lenders who loaned you money
- Payday or cash advance companies
- Insurance companies
- Landlords or real estate rental agencies
Debt collectors may also be able to pay a small fee to have you placed on a credit bureau locate list. If you apply for credit after being placed on the list, the debt collector will be notified and will then know it is time to check your credit report for a new address and/or employer.
Checking the Records of the State Department of Workforce Development
In some states, a debt collector who has obtained a judgment against you in court may be able to ask for the court for an order requiring the state Department of Workforce Development to search its records and provide the collector with the name of your current employer, if it has such information. Once your employer can be located, a debt collector who has already obtained a judgment against you can begin the process to garnish your wages. If the collector has not yet obtained a judgment and is looking for your current contact information so it can begin or resume collection efforts or file a lawsuit against you, it may call your employer and ask for the information, ask to speak with you to get it from you, or file a lawsuit and have you served at work.
Using a Skip Tracer
A skip tracer is a professional whose job it is to find people. Skip tracers are generally private investigators who specialize in locating people who have proven difficult to find. Skip tracers use conventional methods, such as calling friends, family, and old phone numbers and checking social media sites and court records, as well as more technical means, in order to locate people for bail bondsmen, bounty hunters, attorneys, and debt collectors. Because skip tracers find people for a living, they may have more time than a creditor or debt collector to search for you on sites such as EBay or Amazon, and oftentimes have subscriptions to online skip tracing resources, such as LexisNexis' Risk Solutions or one of the three national credit reporting agency's skip tracing tools, that other's cannot afford when not skip tracing for a living.
If you are being harassed by a debt collector please contact our office for a free, no obligation consultation at 1-800-219-3577.