Hi, my name is Adam Stewart, Debt Collection Expert and owner of ADC Legal Litigation Lawyers.
My very first role in debt collection was at a large collection agency, back in about 2002. We were asked to collect as much as we possibly could. However, there was no actual skip trace training and limited access to the Internet. In fact I didn’t even know what skip tracing was back then. So I just did the best I could at the time.
My next role was in insurance claims and since I now had a taste for collections, I started doing all the insurance claims recoveries for my team.
This is where my passion for skip tracing and debt collection began. I found, with full access to the internet and a telephone, that I was actually pretty good at finding missing people. It was like a jigsaw and you just had to put the pieces together and come up with the full picture. I did an investigator’s course and learned more about skip-tracing. I found out a lot of information was freely available, even though I did use some paid databases, such as the good old Marketing Pro (reverse phone directory).
Skip (pun intended) forward 13 years and I reckon there is more free information now than ever before on the Internet. Despite the stringent privacy laws and crackdowns on databases over the last 10 years, I reckon there is more freely available information now than back in 2002, since most individuals, businesses, companies and some government departments now store their data online and some of it is pretty easy to access.
So for what it’s worth, here are our eight free skip tracing tools that we use for debt collection. You may know most of them, but these tips would have been valuable to me when I was starting out in debt collection, so I am happy to pass them onto any newbies that are just starting out in investigations or debt collection.
There may be some compliance issues associated with some of these offshore or dot com websites that are available and providing information. I have listed them, too, but please use at your own discretion. I am not recommending these sites, simply providing the information to you on what is available, so please make up your own mind if you will use these sites.
1. Search Engines
Search engines, such as Google, Yahoo! or Bing should be one of the first tools you use to find a person, as their results can be filtered by date to reveal only the latest information posted online.
Some hints to keep in mind:
- Don’t just type in the debtor’s name.
- Try also typing in their mobile number, with and without the spaces.
- Try typing in their registration, if you have it.
- Don’t forget the old standard- you can add inverted commas to force Google to search for an exact phrase. You can also make Google search for ALL the words – without using inverted commas. If you use the term ‘allintext’, Google will ONLY return results with all your search terms, but without forcing Google to find them in order, as happens when you use inverted commas. For instance, Google ‘allintext: Debt Recoveries Australia awesome debt collector’ and your results will only show pages with all of these words in them (apart from the ads of course!)
- If you want to search only a certain type of file such as pdf- type filetype:pdf before your search term. Additionally, searching within a specific site, type in site: “domain” then the search term you are looking for. E.g. site:debtrecoveries.com.au adam stewart
2. Social Media- Facebook, Google Plus, Linkedin and various others
Depending on the person you’re looking for, and how often they jump on social media, along with their privacy settings and their keenness to share private information, you may be able to use their Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus pages to find crucial information about them, such as their phone number, home address, school addresses, place of work, date of birth and more.
This isn’t the case with everyone though as many people fail to fill in those fields in their profiles, or simply hide that information from the general public. You may need to “befriend” the person online before you see their information too.
A great tip when you are searching, particularly Facebook, is to do a search on a mobile number, if you have it. Often people will attach their mobile number to their social media profile, without marking it private, allowing the social media search engine to match it up with their name and profile. Same principal for email addresses and business names.
Aside from private information you may learn, you can often get clues of their whereabouts by using the information they provide in their public posts. Have a read through and look at the images they post, maybe you’ll be able to recognize something and go from there. Check who they are friends with and what area these friends are in.
3. White and Yellow Pages
WhitePages can show you a given person’s phone number if you know their full name and suburb. The information is generated through Telstra Sensis, which makes it more up-to-date than other platforms, but given that it is only a telephone number that you’ll be finding, you’ll need to couple that information with other online services, such as Reverse Australia. You can also check for same names in the same suburb as your debtor, looking for relatives who may know the debtor.
On the other hand, Yellow Pages is good to search for addresses and contact numbers if you know where your missing person works? Even if you have a vague idea of the company they work for- Yellow Pages will give you the contact details and website of each business or company.
4. Reverse Search Sites
These are those overseas providers I was referring to earlier, so please note we are not recommending these sites, simply making you aware of their existence. You can decide to use them or not. Basically, you may be able to uncover a name and an address using a phone number. Reverse Australia is one – the company even holds unlisted or “silent numbers” but to obtain addresses, the site requires users to log in with their Facebook accounts.
After you’ve entered the person’s phone number, you’ll be granted their full name, their address, the communications company that owns the number and you’ll be able to see comments from other people about that particular person (if there are any). So, if you know someone’s mobile phone or landline number, you’ll be able to reveal their address and their name. Some of the data is pretty old, but it may give you some clues.
Australia Lookup, a similar company, provides a likened service if the information you find on Reverse Australia is incorrect, incomplete or missing.
Another is Matespotter. This site tends to amalgamate a few different sites, performing a search on all these sites and throwing all the information up on one screen. You will get basic information like what you’ll get on Google, Facebook and LinkedIn to business-related information like Ryerson Index, NSW Licensing Service, VIC Business Licensing, ABN Check and it’s free.
Another is PIPL. Although Pipl is an American company, the information it holds is international. This online platform is used to help identify a given person’s social media accounts across the internet, using just their name, location, email address, username or phone number (note that they require a location, not an address). However, due to the fact that it’s an American site, Aussie users might not be able to enter phone numbers. But as far as we know locations, names, emails and usernames work fine.
Another is Aussiefinder. This is a custom search engine which searches 5 popular social media sites at once, to find a profile anywhere across Australia. The search results from all 5 social media sites can be viewed all together or refined by selecting a tab for each social media site at the head of the table listing the search results.
5. ABN Lookup
The Australian government has made these tools available using the ABN Lookup web services and include an ABN lookup and a Name lookup.
The ABN tool allows you to do multiple searches using either an ABN or ACN. Note: An ACN is available on ABN Lookup only if it is associated with an ABN. The Name Lookup tool allows you to do multiple searches using names. This is useful where you have a name but don’t know the ABN.
6. Email Checkers
You can check if an email address is valid. These are of course free sites although you may just need to log in.
7. Who-is Melbourne
You can check and find the owner of domain names and their technical staff.
This is a free site and you do not need to login, just enter the domain name e.g “debtrecoveries” and select the extension “.com.au”
8. AEC Electoral Role online confirmation
This is a free service but it is not a search engine, it is a confirmation service only, so it will confirm if the details we have are correct, but not do a search. You will need the person’s full given name, including the middle name, street and locality. It’s handy simply to confirm if a person is residing where they say they are residing.
How about you? Have you used any of these free tracing tools to find debtors? Got any more to add to the list?
ADC Legal Litigation Lawyers is a legal practice specialising in commercial advice and litigation, debt recovery and insurance claims recovery disputes. For more information, email us at email@example.com or call 1300 799 820. You may also Skype us at adclegal.
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