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How Do Debt Collectors Find You in the UK? 2022 Guide

How Do Debt Collectors Find You

If you’ve been in debt for a while, you may have had to deal with debt collectors.

This could’ve been through a letter, a phone call or even a home visit. You may be wondering how a debt collector was able to find your contact information

In today’s digital age, everything is connected via the internet and as it turns out, there are a number of different ways through which a debt collection agency can find you. 

Today, I’ll be looking at what techniques debt collection agencies typically employ in order to locate you. 

How Do Debt Collectors Find You UK?

Debt collectors need to make contact with you to request payment for the debt they have bought from a creditor, or for the debt they are chasing on behalf of someone else (for a commission).

They can often do this by looking at the debt you have. For example, if you have an unpaid electric bill which has escalated into debt, they can simply look at the address where the electric bill is registered.

But you may have moved from this address since the debt collection agency started tracking you down. If they can’t find you at that address, they may start using public databases to see where you moved to.

They could even try to access your credit report to give an indication of your location, but sometimes they don’t this as it can be costly if they have to keep doing it for lots of untraceable debtors.


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Do Debt Collectors Struggle to Find Debtors?

Yes, it is not easy trying to locate one person in a population of over 65 million. People change address frequently and even change their name. Therefore, debt collection agencies have a difficult job trying to find people. Some people with debt do not have a lot of financial commitments. They may not have records to trace if they don’t pay household bills or are couch surfing.

What Are the Consequences?

The consequence is that debt collection agencies use a technique known as the scatter-gun approach. This is where they send a debt letter requesting payment from the person they are looking for at all possible addresses where they may be. This is a cheap way of trying to locate the right person, hoping they will reply via letter or phone and maybe even make a payment.

The other consequence is that lots of innocent people who do not owe the debt also get contacted. These letters can be threatening and cause a lot of anxiety and stress to people who are not responsible for the debt.

Beating Debt Collectors

There are several ways to deal with debt collectors and improve your finances.

Choosing the right way to tackle your debt could save you time and money, but the wrong one could cause even more harm.

It’s always best to find out about all your options from a professional before you take action.

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What Are Some Ways A Debt Collection Agency can Find Me? 

Before we get started, I must state that running away from your debts is never a good idea.

I’m putting together this post in order to inform you about the techniques through which debts collection agents can find you but I do not condone using this information to hide from them.

Not only does hiding from your creditors give them cause to sue you in the high court, but it also won’t make your debt go away.

If anything, your creditors will keep adding interest onto the debt and it will keep increasing. You’ll be in an even worse situation than what you started with. 

That being said, here are some ways through which a debts collector can find you: 

Your Creditor 

In most common cases, your creditor is the one who has hired the debt collection agency in the first place to collect what you owe to them. 

If that is the case, the agency will definitely get most of its information about you from your creditor. This will most likely include different types of contact information as well as financial information regarding your debt. 

Your Credit Report 

Your credit report is not something that anyone can view. It’s not something that’s available to the general public and it won’t show up as a result of a search engine search.

However, certain organizations and agencies are definitely allowed to look up your credit report in order to collect information about you. 

As it turns out, debt collection agencies fall under one of the organizations that are allowed to look up your information via your credit report.

This is a very useful resource for them because not only will they get your contact information such as your phone number but they will also get a lot of financial information about you that would be relevant to their goals.

Your credit report contains information about all debts you’ve had in the past six years as well as your performance in regards to paying those debts back. 

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Data Brokers 

Data brokers are people that collect information about people to later sell it to agencies. If you’ve ever filled a survey online or checked a license agreement on a piece of software, etc. then there’s a chance you may have agreed to have your data collected such as your contact information. This information would later be sold to interested parties such as a debt collection agency. 

Government Agencies 

While most of your personal information is protected under privacy laws, there can certainly be occasions where a collection agency may be able to find you by inquiring about your information from a government agency. 

how do debt collectors find you uk

Skip Tracers 

Skip tracers are professionals who are hired by organizations in order to trace people that they have been unable to locate. 

Skip tracers are typically hired in order to locate individuals whose contact information on public records is not accurate anymore. These people employ a number of different techniques in order to locate you. 

For example, if your debt was related to your car, then a simple inquiry with the DVLA would be enough to get your contact information. They’d just have to look up your registered address in correlation to the index number of your car. 

An inquiry like this typically costs £20. If you’re still the owner of the car and residing at the same address that you registered with, the skip tracer would locate you immediately.

If you’ve sold the car to someone else, the skip tracer might contact them and inquire about the whereabouts of the person who sold them the car, i.e., you. 

Pretexters 

Pretexters are individuals that get your information illegally under false pretences. These individuals normally work alone and collect your information for their own personal gains. 

However, there have been cases where these individuals have been hired by agents that are trying to collect debt in order to get information about the debtor.

These people normally operate by calling you and posing to be a legitimate business. They may be able to elicit basic personal information from you under this guise. 

Once they have ample information, they would contact your financial institution and pretend to be you in order to get your financial information. As you can probably imagine, this is a serious offence and of course, illegal in the UK. 

If you suspect that a debt collections agent got your information through the use of a pretexter, you have every right to sue them in court. Keep in mind, however, that for this, you’re going to need ample, concrete evidence. 

how do debt collectors find

How Likely Is It That My Creditors Will Find Me? 

In short, likely. As you’ve seen above, debt collection agencies and creditors have a huge number of tools at their disposal that they can use in order to locate where you are. The world is becoming increasingly connected and it will be hard for you to live a normal life if you’re trying to “stay off the grid”. You can try but it will lead to a severely decreased quality of life and there’s no guarantee that they won’t locate you anyway.

Here are some things to consider before you take this step: 

  • An increasing number of types of payments are now being included in your credit report. It’s quite common now for utility bills to be included.

    Agencies such as Experian are expanding their system to include rent payments as well. Thus, if you decide to move, you’ll be very easy to locate by your creditors since your utility and rent payments will show up on your credit report. 
  • It will be extremely hard for you to get any place to rent if you do not appear to have a credit report. 
  • If you change your job, employers will most definitely need to see identification in most cases. The only way for you to not show up in an online system would be if your employer were to pay you in cash.

    You can definitely request your employer to do this but it would be an extremely bad idea. There’s a chance you may end up being paid less than the minimum wage and there would be no way for you to prove it. 
  • To get any type of benefits, you would need a bank account into which these benefits would be deposited. However, it would be near impossible to open a bank account without any proof of identity or relevant documentation. 

Running away from your debts is never a good idea. It will only lead to your debts increasing as well as, possibly, court action.

If you are struggling with your debts, then I suggest that you contact an independent charity such as the StepChange Debt Charity or Payplan. They’re doing a wonderful job of providing debtors with the proper guidance they need in order to get themselves out of debt. 

They will discuss your situation with you in detail and provide you with the advice you need in order to set up a viable debt solution with your creditor. Furthermore, since they are a charity, they provide this service free of charge. 

Always remember that being unable to pay a debt is not a criminal offence. You will never be forced to pay more than you can afford as long as you cooperate and follow the correct procedure. 

There are several laws and practices in place in the UK that protect you, the debtor, during the debt collections process. As long as you are aware of these guidelines and practices, you will be able to navigate yourself out of debt. 

Can I Go Abroad to Avoid Debt Collectors?

If you go and live abroad to avoid debt collectors in the UK, you do increase your chances of remaining undetected. But again, this is not a sensible option. For one, going abroad to live is not so easy in light of Brexit, and even if you did, trying to earn a living abroad without fluency in another language may be tough. You may not have a better quality of life abroad compared to paying back your debts in the UK. Naturally, this will depend on personal circumstances and skills.

Moreover, going abroad is not bulletproof in stopping your debts from following you. Some debt collectors will sell debts to international companies. For example, if you immigrate to Australia with a debt in the UK, that debt could be sold to debt collection groups in Australia – and the nightmare continues.

What If Your Debt Already Has a CCJ?

If your debt already has a CCJ and is legally enforceable, you will have been requested by the courts to make repayments to the creditor. If you try to go hiding at this point, the creditor can then choose to take enforceable action by employing a bailiff to come to your home. But what if they don’t know where you live and you have gone hiding? Well, there is something the creditor can do.

They can make a request for you to go back to court and face a judge. The purpose of this is to get information about any assets you have before deciding whether to employ bailiffs. The process is known as an ‘Order to Obtain’ because the creditor is wanting to obtain information about your circumstances.

You will then be responsible for disclosing your information to a judge, including your whereabouts.

Conclusion 

In the end, I just have to say that finding a person in today’s day and age is not that difficult of a process. Most of the time, debt collectors are able to locate you on their own through a simple search engine search but if they are unable to do that, they have several other techniques as well. 

While this may seem troubling when you first read about it, the truth is that you don’t have to worry about being found as you have not done anything wrong.

You will never be forced to pay more than you can afford and as long as you follow the correct procedure, your debt will be paid off in no time.

References

CONC 7.3 Treatment of customers in default or arrears (including repossessions): lenders, owners and debt collectors

CONC 7.9 Contact with customers

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*Note: This is a real life example based on a customers’ savings data in October 2020.

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