Wholesalers, employers, take heed: this one is for you, too! Car dealers, read this carefully.
Here’s a lesson to be learned: The next time you consider a business undertaking, be sure to obtain complete first name (not just initials), middle name, last name, maiden name, date and place of birth (DPOB), social security number (SSN), current address and phone number, and last known address (LKA).
A Skip By Any Other Name Is Still a Skip
Sometimes, when we take a case, we need to ask for the gender of the subject, because the client gives us something like J.R. James, or Pat Blodnick. Initials are cute, but that’s all they are, so be careful about doing business with adults who insist on using only initials. Why would you lend money or extend credit to someone who refuses to give you his proper name? Equally as amazing, a lawyer (our client) told us that her client was a new car dealer who learned — after the customer drove off with the car — that the SSN was bogus! We conduct no searches without a social security number.
Always always always – Verify the information on an application before you hire or do business with anyone*
1. Call those phone numbers. Ask for the person by name to verify residence or employment.
2. Check the address to see if (a) it exists at all, and (b) if your applicant or customer really lives there.
3. Validate the SSN. Is the owner actually the person who claims it? Or is the owner dead?
Once upon a time, way back in the last century, business people and retailers used to scoff at these suggestions. They no longer scoff: they’ve been had too many times!
Develop a Mosaic
Credit card issuers ask for the applicant’s mother’s maiden name. (Interesting that they don’t ask for my wife’s maiden name, just her mother’s.) That maiden name, together with the other basic information (DPOB, SSN, etc.) would help us put together little pieces of discrete information, a mosaic, to positively identify the individual, develop a trail to his location, and perhaps a phone number or two where we might inquire about him.
The date of birth is important, so we can match it to the responses we get from major information providers. The place of birth is important for the same reason, but for another one as well. If the target has made off with your assets worth many thousands, he may try to transfer that money to his place of birth — inside our country or outside. Likewise, if he owns real property worth a sufficient amount to satisfy your judgment against him, it may be located in his home town, and he may be in the process of liquidating that property. Now for the paper trail.
Statute of Frauds
The Statute of Frauds requires, among other things, that the sale or transfer of real property be in writing. This holds in all fifty states. For you, this means that the guy who owes you money cannot hide the sale of his real property. Further, he cannot hide the movement of proceeds from that transaction, as long as those proceeds are within the United States. Your attorney, with a judgment in debt, or an execution order, could attach those proceeds.
Our firm’s major information provider can assign a sale alert to a piece of real property; the moment that property goes on the market, we would be alerted, and in turn, advise you. Your attorney could then take appropriate steps. [Actually, a lawyer with an execution judgment could attach any real property we find in your debtor's name, as soon as we locate it -- with some exceptions.]
Now, what other useful tips can I give you?…
Cars and Stamps
We routinely ask clients to tell us about any hobbies that the debtor may have. Here is how this information can bear fruit: One debtor we located had transferred his large home into his wife’s name, a boat into her name, and so on. (FYI — he was a genuine, out-and-out SOB. He was continuing to run up debt, without paying it off.) Research revealed that he was an antique auto enthusiast. He owned six of them! When we caught up to the DMV records, he had transferred three into his wife’s name, but for some reason, he still had three in his own name. Our client, the attorney, was able to deal with that.
This process would work as well with valuable coin collections, stamps, art, and so on. By the way, all aircraft must be registered with the FAA, and boats over a certain length — 24 feet, I think – must be registered with the U.S. Coast Guard. Those are public records, and relatively easy to access.
Outside the Box
Finally, if your debtor is a business person, consider that he may be on the boards of other businesses, or he may own equity in another business. You could do a couple of things here: First, perhaps even before a skip trace, have a Personal Financial Asset search conducted. This might turn up bank accounts, stocks, account transactions, etc. Additionally, you could have a Business Report done on a business in which the person has an interest.
*The meek might inherit the earth, but until then, let’s try to keep what’s yours, yours!