Foresight Blog

Skip Trace for Collections

Why Skip Tracing?

Skip trace is kicking in the right door.

Collections is a hard business. Made harder by not knowing how to contact someone that owes a debt. In this article Debt After Death: 10 Things You Need to Know it explains the basics of what to do and not do should someone depart with debt still owed.

Skip Trace Money

So for all involved in the processing of debts, you need a list of updated phones and addresses to be effective.

Foresight will skip trace 10 or ten thousand debtors in short order. Free trial. Call us first!

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How Does Your Company Ensure Account Verification?

Screen Shot 2016-03-08 at 3.51.30 PMIt’s not just bots. In fact, on more complex websites, people are creating these accounts – for many reasons!

“I wake up everyday and have dozens of bogus accounts created …”

 

Some people are looking to download your content from behind your request for an email address. Or a free trial. Other people are looking to skirt an age requirement for products that require an age verification (Google requires account holders to be 13 to hold an account). But even Google doesn’t verify identity on accounts to the point where they’re certain the applicant is 13 or older. And that’s Google!

How about a widget on your account creation page that could ask someone for their name, date of birth and last four digits of their social security number and you verify them in real time? And you don’t store any Personally Identifiable Information – so no risk!

Foresight is a leader in identity verification and transaction verification. We can help you deploy a simple-yet-robust widget to verify real people versus fake people.

Let’s face it – we have all signed up for a free trial with a fake identity to avoid sales calls. But when it comes to membership on your site, or selling online where age or identity is essential – you have to get serious about verification!

Want to know more? Visit us now!

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Transaction Verification Makes Customers Angry

Transaction Verification Makes Customers Angry

When you go to checkout online – have you ever been asked to verify your identity? Prove you are who you say you are? Or had a call center at Bank of America or Verizon ask you for a piece of information only you should know?

Most people would answer yes. Most people would also answer it made them a little impatient because it took an extra few seconds for the agent to verify you as the custodian of the account.

Now, think of a purely online transaction – one where you are filling in your name, address and credit card information to buy a book or some other product or service. Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a field to fill in that asked you to list one of your past addresses? Or perhaps the first 5 digits of your social security number? This would almost ensure that the person placing the order is who they say they are. And why aren’t merchants doing this? Simple: it’s too easy and makes too much sense.

Many companies, including Foresight Information, already deliver identity-based verification services that take only hours to integrate into an existing online purchase process. Literally hours.

HOW DO WE DO IT?

We deliver an API – or direct gateway – to a database that contains information already known to be associated with a particular individual. So, when Joe Schmo enters his credit card for that new slinky for his 4-year old, he is asked for a past address, or the first five digits of his social security number – or his birthday. Chances are, a fraudster is not going to know some or all of that information. Transaction declined.

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SSN

Social Security Numbers Never Die

Social Security Numbers Never Die

Or at least they sometimes outlive the intended owner. It is a lot like grave robbing — when someone dies, someone in the deceased person’s life decides to open credit accounts or other financial instruments using the deceased person’s name and identity.

Why? The reasons are many – the excuses are few. Maybe the living relative (or thief) wants to run up a cell phone bill. Or perhaps a bank loan would go through faster with a different name and Social Security Number on the loan application. Perhaps a son (with bad credit) has the same name as his father (how convenient). Whatever the reason, millions of deceased persons’ identities go on living even after they have passed away.

According to ID Analytics nearly 800,000 deceased Americans’ identities are intentionally targeted for misuse on applications for credit products and cell phone services by fraudsters each year. And in approximately 1.6 million applications annually, an identity manipulator inadvertently used the SSN of a deceased person.

For me, my brother passed away in 1990. And because I work in the data industry, I look up his information occasionally to verify certain facts: like deceased records, last known address, date of birth, etc. But recently, I noticed when doing a social security number trace, his address was changing – constantly. And, interestingly enough, his ex-wife (whom I didn’t care for) seemed to be living at all the addresses his new identity was living at. Coincidence? Maybe.

Protection: the best protection is to monitor the credit of the living and deceased to make sure nothing funky is going on. The Social Security Administration has many good suggestions on how to do this regularly. I happen to use Bank of America’s Privacy Assist to monitor my own.

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What Is The Most Valuable Information In A Skip Trace?

Screen Shot 2016-01-05 at 11.10.21 AMAt the end of the day, skip tracers are trying to locate an individual. Typically, they are looking for a debtor who has been unresponsive to a company’s requests to pay up. In fact, they have “skipped” town, making it nearly impossible to serve any formal complaint.

Naturally, it would seem that the most valuable information to a skip tracer would be a current address, right?

Wrong.

Of course, any successful locate must include some location information. But this is just a starting point.

Think of it this way – where are you going to hide if you are trying to escape a creditor or the law? Is it at an address where you have hundreds of official paper trails leading to your door? Probably not.

Let’s take a look at some of the other pieces of information contained in a skip trace reportthat can help locate an individual.

Possible Relatives

It is not uncommon for people to stay with family during a time of crisis. Family is a lot easier to inconvenience. Your skip may very well be staying with a favorite uncle while they attempt to outlast any creditor who is pursuing them for an outstanding debt. The family member may not know the real reason why the individual is staying with them, so a quick call to their residence could unravel the lie and expose the skip.

Properties Owned By Subject

Although it may not be their primary residence, your skip may own other properties where they could have temporarily relocated. Check into summer homes, condos in the city, or income properties owned by your skip.

Common Residency

You may have forgotten about the few months you lived with your best friend after a bad breakup, but the skip trace report doesn’t. These reports keep track of individuals with whom the skip has shared a residence for any period of time. If they aren’t staying with family, or at a second home, your best bet is to check with past roommates and friends who are more likely to take in the skip.

For the skip tracer, it pays to think like a skip. Experience  is the best teacher, but for those who are newer to the profession, leveraging the fullness of a skip tracing report will accelerate this process and increase your chances of success.

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Is Facebook Putting Your Identity At Risk?

Screen Shot 2016-01-05 at 11.15.48 AMIs Facebook Putting Your Identity At Risk?

While the “good guys” have been using Facebook and other social media channels to find criminals on the run, and uncover falsified information regarding one’s identity, the “bad guys” are also hard at work, leveraging the platform to steal the identity of an unsuspecting, overly-social victim.

The question is, are you at risk while using Facebook and other social media platforms?

The answer, as you might expect, is that “it depends”. As a general rule of thumb, the more that you share online about yourself, the more that you could be at risk. And the way social networks are designed, they will only become more risky as time goes by.

Social networks like Facebook depend on knowing as much they can about you, the user. Why? Because the more information that you disclose, the better it allows advertisers to target you with marketing messages. This is how Facebook makes money. This is why you continue to see more prompts on your profile to “fill in” the gaps.

Where do you work? What’s your birthday? Who are your relatives on Facebook?

The more you answer these questions, the more your are at risk.

Scammers and identity thieves are professional puzzle-solvers. They take small, disparate pieces of information about an individual to unlock more, until they’ve reconstructed the core details of your identity.

For example, you might have listed your personal email address on your Facebook profile so that people can contact you in a different way. You’ve also listed your favorite pet’s name, where you went to high school, and of course, your Mom is a friend on Facebook, so her maiden name is listed there too.

Now, all a scammer has to do is type in your email address and click “I forgot my password”. But wait, isn’t there a secret question that needs to be answered before a password can be changed?

That’s correct, and your profile has made it very easy for anyone to answer the question.

Once your email account is compromised, it doesn’t take long until bank transaction confirmations, phone records and other common online receipts are discovered by a dubious identity thief.

You will never be completely immune from the attacks that can originate on social media, after all, you can’t control what your friends divulge about your personal life online. But here are a few tips to keep in mind as you socialize on the internet.

1. Know your privacy settings

Make sure that you know what type of information is made public, and what is only shared with friends. Check it regularly, because privacy settings change.

2. Only give the bare minimum for your profile information

Your friends already know where you went to school, and they probably don’t care about what your dog’s name is. Less is more when it comes to creating a profile that is risk-averse.

3. Think the worst, hope for the best

When you are about to post something online, think about the worst case scenario – what if anyone could read this, including an identity thief? We can all benefit from filtering a little bit of what we express online, but it can also save you from exposing sensitive information to the wrong people.

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The Anatomy Of A Risk Report

Any leader who is serious about mitigating risk in their organization knows that it’s their employees, volunteers, and close partners who are capable of causing the most damage.

Public records databases like Foresight aggregate the most important information on an individual in order to provide a 360 degree view of that subject. Simply put, we take seemingly disparate data and piece it together into a meaningful report that clearly identifies any red flags.

But what does this report contain, and why does it matter?

The information in a risk report can be broken into three main categories:

1. Identity Verification

How do you know that an individual is who they claim to be? Your entire investigation into their background could be compromised if you are looking into the wrong person. In a time where identity theft runs rampant, the information contained within the identify verification section of the report is a crucial starting point. This includes:

  • Possible aliases
  • Death records
  • Marriage status
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Education background

2. Location/Contact Information

The location and contact information section of a report reaches back to include previous addresses as well as a current address. In the case of a prospective employee, an address history can help confirm or challenge the candidate’s alleged employment history. For example, if the individual claimed to have worked for the Boston Red Sox but never lived on the east coast, this would trigger a red flag.

In addition to address history, this section of the report includes:

  • Detailed property information
  • Possible relatives
  • Current neighbors
  • Email addresses
  • Common residency

3. Criminal/Delinquent Activity

This section of the report has the most obvious application when determining the riskiness of an individual’s background. Criminal offenses can easily be missed when conducting a standard state-provided background check, since not all states share court records with one another. A database that has national scope is able to more comprehensively identify threats, especially when dealing with individuals who have moved around frequently.

The information recorded here includes:

  • Criminal/Sex offender record check
  • Civil actions
    • This may include
      • Bankruptcies
      • Judgments
      • Liens
At the end of the day, you will have to use both data and intuition to make the right hire, partnership, or to bring the right volunteer on board. Don’t overlook the importance of a good “gut check” paired with the most accurate risk report possible.
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Debt Collector’s Guide To Batch Skip Tracing

There has never been a more profitable time to be a debt collector.

In 2010, businesses across the nation placed $150 billion dollars of debt into the hands of debt collection agencies.

While the American people grow in their indebtedness, the tools available to collection agencies are expanding at a rapid rate. Locating people and their contact details has become increasingly easy as this information is made readily available online.

Simply put, it’s harder for people to hide from the ambitious eye of the modern debt collector.

One of the strongest assets debt collectors have in their tool belt is a batch skip trace. It locates debtors and their most current contact information in a high volume, all at once.

How can the modern debt collector make use of this information?

1. Determine what you have for a starting point

Maybe your agency purchased the debt for pennies on the dollar and have a massive partial list of debtors – but only addresses. Or maybe your client has limited information from a customer who made an online order. In either case, you will need to take stock of what you have for contact information already.

Most database providers are able to quickly fill in the gaps when it comes to your partial list, but you will need to know if there is a pattern already in place, for example, “I have all names, dates of birth, but no phone number or address”.

2. Know what format you need for a completed list

Every agency is different. If you are tasked with choosing a batch skip trace provider, then you need to be familiar with the operations of your outfit. Do debt collectors use proprietary software to track their progress with each debtor? If so, then you may want to hook into an online databases API, to deliver the records in real time.

Do agents simply use a spreadsheet for their daily work? Then make sure you order your results in a CSV or Excel workbook format.

Batch skip tracing allows you to achieve economies of scale, but if you are using the wrong list format, it can negatively impact your business operation and frustrate your co-workers!

3. Supplement your batch with free tools

No database is 100% perfect, and even when you have complete contact information for a debtor, it might not be enough. Use the myriad of free tools available on the internet to supplement the data you order from a batch skip trace provider like Foresight.

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Should Background Checks Be Limited?

Background checks have been thrust into the public spotlight in recent months. Thousands of Americans have petitioned their representatives to enact stricter regulation when it comes to the sale of firearms. They demand that all buyers be subjected to an instant federal background check, no matter what type of weapon they intend to purchase.

On the heels of so many violent  tragedies, and specifically as we approach the anniversary of the Aurora shooting, many have stated their desire for more thorough investigation into fellow citizens who wish to pursue their Second Amendment rights. In fact, the instant background check system employed by firearms dealers has prevented the sale of over 2 million firearmssince it has been active – these are sales that would have put dangerous weapons into the hands of individuals with a criminal record.

On the other hand, background checks have come under fire by groups who claim that they unfairly discriminate against citizens who are seeking employment. Recently, one particular employment case involving Dollar General and BMW has gained momentum. Both companies are being charged by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), alleging they used background checks as a means of racial discrimination, having denied employment to two African-American candidates with criminal records.

Those who oppose these two companies see background checks as a weapon that is used to oppress and unfairly discriminate. They call for the government to step in with more regulation around the application of background checks, especially in the context of employment.

Knowledge is Power

Two very different stories in the news today – two opposing opinions. Should background checks be regulated and limited? Or should they be applied more liberally throughout a variety of industries?

Whichever side of the fence you fall on, one thing is certain: criminal record information, and the learnings derived from it are powerful. They force attention from opponents and supporters alike. The question is, will you be using it to mitigate risk for your organization or will you be fighting to suppress the application of this information?

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Public Records Data: The Entrepreneurs Best Friend

Some of the most successful entrepreneurs are the ones who are able to create value from seemingly disparate data. Google set out to make sense out of the World Wide Web, by making thousands of random websites discoverable through their search engine. With a market cap of $250 billion, they have been able to scale this simple concept to an international phenomenon.

In an age where apps are an overnight success, and web businesses accelerate their user growth in record time, public records databases are being used as a launching pad.

The art of taking something that already exists and re-presenting it in a way that adds value to an end user, is often referred to as “curation”. Entrepreneurs (usually in the technology space) work with database providers like Foresight in order to leverage multiple data sources for their software or web app. In a sense, they “curate” existing public records data for the purpose of delivering something fresh that solves a problem.

For example, this iOS app allows users to search for registered sex offenders based on their current location, or near an address that they search for specifically. Essentially, the makers of this app have leveraged the existing records from a national sex offender database, and repurposed it with new search parameters and an intuitive user interface. What was once a boring list of names, has come alive with a new application.

Another modern example of this type of curation can be seen with real estate websites. When prospective home buyers are sizing up a new neighborhood for their family, they may look for a “crime index” score. This score grades the neighborhood crime level based on the total amount of arrests, and other reported incidents over a given period of time. This data comes from a national database and is “curated’ for a specific purpose – making an informed real estate purchase.

While every data provider is different, some (like Foresight) will offer their data over a secure API. There are a number of ways to structure pricing. Some buyers may pay a flat fee for unlimited usage of data. Other’s might just pay-per-use. The beauty of building a new venture off of public records or property data, is that the flexibility in pricing can fit nearly any business model.

If you have ever considered making the jump into a new business venture, you might be able to find your start using public records data. If you already have a web-based app or software, using this type of data might be able to add value to your current users and take your business to the next level.

Have any questions about how public data might fit into your plan? Just ask us!

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