You come home from work one day to see your answering machine blinking with a new message. You replay it only to find a garbled, incomplete message. Thinking there’s an explanation in the caller ID display, you look at the inbound number...”Unavailable” is all it reads.
A few days later, your opening your mail and come across a strange envelope. After opening and reading it, your brain races to fill the memory gap and explain the “AMOUNT PAST DUE” line.
It's an old bill from the apartment you lived in over five years ago sent to you by a collection firm. How on earth did they find you? You may be surprised by the answers.
Here’s a first hand look at how those firms do just that, courtesy of Burnstein and Burnstein, a debt collection firm in Largo, located on Walsingham Road that specialize in commercial collections, debt recovery and returned checks.
The practice is called “skip tracing” and its one comprised of many facets. Debt collectors start with information clients provide. It typically contains your last known telephone number and address and the amount you owe, of course. But this information is often out of date.
Skip tracing is simply using the information available and working it to find new leads.
In fact, the digital social-networking age has made it a lot simpler for collection agencies not only to find you, but to become apprised of your income and lifestyle. If your social network profile lists your location and occupation, just a quick search of salary averages gives them an idea of your monthly income, plus your current employer.
What’s more? Posting pictures of your new iPad, boat or recent vacation. All have estimable price tags that show you definitely have disposable income.
If your a member of a church here in Largo or a alumni of a local school in the area, debt collectors attempt to match debtors names with contributor names. Since many churches and schools have an online presence, it’s not that difficult to find a Largo resident that’s given back to the community.
Old neighbors are another source for tracking you down as are change of address forms. The United States Postal Service fulfills requests for such completed forms.
Speaking of completed forms, if you regularly paid a bill in the past with checks, that’s another piece of the puzzle. While many Largo residents change employers and move from one place to another in the city, they tend to keep their money in the same bank.
And while on the subject of money, that’s why collection agencies exist. They make money by finding people who owe money. While there are a wide range of price schedules, Largo based collection firm Burnstein and Burnstein collect 15 to 25-percent of what is recovered, according to the company’s website. For a successful $1,000 recovery, that’s $250. But its far less expensive than filing a lawsuit.
Managing Director Sid Burnstein said that his firm collects for commercial businesses and even professionals such as attorneys. “We collect for attorneys in all 50 states...even attorneys have problems getting paid”. The firm also offers arbitration services for commercial clients, which according to Burnstein, is often preferable to entering legal proceedings.
Other methods are also employed such as searching public records and obtaining Department of Motor Vehicles records. The former is open to anyone curious, while the latter is only a resource for licensed agencies.
While you may have moved from one address to another and/or changed your telephone number, these firms know how to follow the paper trails that lead straight to your mailbox.