Can I Hide from Creditors and Debt Collection Agencies
The short answer is yes, but as to how successful you will be, will depend on a number of factors. If you owe only a small amount of money then a Debt Collection Agency (DCA) will only spend a small amount of time and resources on trying to locate you. If however, you owe a lot of money and a DCA suspects that you may have assets worth pursuing, then they will spend more time and effort in trying to locate you.
Hiding from DCA’s can be a complex and challenging task, as they have numerous resources at their disposal to track down individuals who owe debt. However, it is not impossible and can be accomplished by taking certain measures such as changing your phone number, moving to a different address without informing them, or avoiding communication with them altogether. But, it’s important to note that this only temporarily delays the inevitable, and the debt will still be there waiting for you when you resurface. The Statute of Limitations for Debt will tell you how long you have to hide for to get away with paying.
What Tools do DCA’s Use to Track Down Debtors
Scattergun Mailing List: Quite often if a debtor disappears they are very likely to change their address, but DCA’s are well aware that most people stay within a certain distance from the address that a creditor has on file. So a relatively easy tactic is to locate all the people with the same name, living within a certain distance from the address held on file. They will then write to all those people with a Confirmed Resident style letter. Just by doing this, they will eliminate a lot of people, or maybe scare the debtor into contacting the DCA. This is known as the Scattergun Mailing List to track down debtors, this is also a relatively cheap way of finding someone.
Credit Bureaus: Credit bureaus maintain records of individuals’ credit history, including their debts and payment patterns. Creditors can access this information to find the current address and contact information of debtors.
Skip Tracing: Skip tracing is a process that involves using various databases and public records to locate individuals who have gone missing or are difficult to contact.
Social Media: Creditors can use social media platforms to gather information about debtors and their current location.
Public Records:Creditors can access public records such as property records, court records, and motor vehicle records to find information about debtors and their assets.
Automatic Number Plate Recognition: Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) technology can also be used by creditors to track down debtors. ANPR uses cameras and image recognition software to read license plate numbers and match them to a database of registered vehicles.
GPS Tracking: In some cases, creditors may use GPS tracking devices to monitor the location of debtors and their vehicles. (see above)
Debt Collection Specialists: Creditors can also hire specialist debt collection agencies to track down debtors and collect payments on their behalf.
Regulations Relating to Accessing Your Data
The use of credit bureaus, public records, and data brokers is regulated by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), which oversees the protection of personal data. The use of ANPR is also regulated by the ICO and must comply with the Data Protection Act and other privacy laws.
It’s important to note that creditors and debt collection agencies must follow all applicable laws and regulations when using these tools to track down debtors. They must also respect the rights of debtors and protect their personal information, and use these tools in an ethical and responsible manner. (That is the official line, do they always follow the rules?)
DCA’s Can Use Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) to Find a Debtor
Here is a list of some of the OSINT Open Source Intelligence
- Search Engines: Google and other search engines can be used to search for information about individuals, including their name, address, phone number, and social media profiles.
- Social Media: Social media platforms such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter can be used to gather information about debtors, including their current location, employment, and personal details.
- Public Records: Websites such as property records, court records, and motor vehicle records can be used to find information about debtors and their assets.
- Online Directories: Online directories such as Whitepages and Spokeo can be used to find current contact information for individuals.
- Data Brokers: Data brokers maintain databases of individuals’ personal and financial information, which creditors can access for a fee.
- Reverse Image Search: Reverse image search tools such as Google Images can be used to identify individuals based on their photos.
- People Search Engines: People search engines such as Pipl and BeenVerified can be used to find information about individuals, including their address history, criminal records, and social media profiles.
It’s important to note that some of these tools may have limitations or provide inaccurate information, and creditors should use them responsibly and in accordance with privacy laws and regulations.
If you want to see some of the tools that are out there, a good site to take a look at is IntelTechniques. Perhaps do a quick search on yourself and this may make you realise, just how big your online footprint is.
So, if you are trying to hide from creditors, it may not be possible to completely evade their attempts to locate them. Depending on the level of debt and possibly any assets you have, will determine what resources they will use. However, they can take steps to protect their personal information, such as maintaining a low profile on social media and being mindful of the information they make publicly available. Ultimately, it is essential to seek the advice of legal or financial experts if you find yourself in a situation where you are unable to pay your debts and are concerned about being tracked down by creditors.
It does sound like a lot of very hard work and for a long time, so maybe do take some advice from the CAB.