Tracing agents are specialist private investigators who locate people to a current address. They utilise a variety of datasets to obtain current address data for the person they are trying to locate. In the UK most tracing agents will utilise a combination of Credit Agency data and Electoral roll data and they will supplement these two main data sources for tracing a person with other confirmation data sources such as BT data to confirm residency of a property and that the bill payer of the telephone bill is the same name match as the person they have traced and that the number is still active and live which indicates residency is still valid.
Tracing agents are instructed to trace people for a variety of reasons which can include the following circumstances
- Tracing missing debtors
- Tracing long lost family members
- Tracing beneficiaries of wills
- Tracing people who one wishes to litigate against
- Tracing missing freeholders of buildings
How tracing agents find people
Tracing agents will utilise data sets and combinations of current live data to valid a current address. For instance if a tracing agent looks at a credit agency source such as Experian or Equifax they can see a link from the old address to the current address on these Credit Agencies and this will also show recent credit applications to indicate the recency of the flagged new address. The Tracing agent will then look to confirm the indicated address by various means and this can be alternative data sources that also show the flagged address to be the current address, physical verification means which although more expensive can be a very robust means to verify an address such as a doorstep verification which can be a useful tactic to verify a traced address in debt collection cases.
Open source tracing
Open source tracing is where a tracing agent utilises the various open source media that is available such as Facebook, Google, Instagram, LinkedIn as a small example. The more experienced a tracing agent is the more adept they will be at leveraging this open source media to pick out the nuggets of key information to base an enquiry on. Sometimes these open source platforms can bear fruit where more traditional areas can be limited, as an example, if one was tracing a non credit active person who placed all of there applications and bills in their partners name as they were taking precautionary measures to be evasive from being traced such as a debtor then open source can sometimes give the key information. For example with Facebook one might be able to discover the subjects partner and then be able to trace this person to a current address for further investigation and to check if the traced subject is residing with their partner.
Credit agency tracing
Tracing agents have access to industry access tracing data sets and Credit Agency information to enable the locating of people in the UK. The UK Credit Agencies are Experian, Equifax and Transunion . The credit information available to tracing agents for the purposes of locating people is vastly superior to the Electoral Roll information open to the general public for tracing people in the UK.
A tracing agent will locate people for a variety of reasons including tracing debtors, locating beneficiaries of wills, locating absentee freeholders, finding long lost family or friends and tracking old customers. Tracing agents in the UK must be registered with the ICO (Information Commissionaires Office).
Many people tracing cases are for debt collection claims, this is because to start a debt recovery claim in the UK a current address must be provided to the courts or debt collection agency, without a current address the claim cannot progress. A tracing agent will be able to confirm if the subject lives at the supplied address currently or indeed has moved in which case they will locate and provide the correct current address.
It is estimated that 70% of cases submitted for debt recovery will require a people trace service, performed by a tracing agent, to establish the trace subjects current address.
Litigation and tracing agents
The rules relating to pre-action conduct are contained in the Practice Direction on Pre-Action Conduct and in 15 specific Pre-Action Protocols. The Pre-Action Protocols set out specific procedures for certain types of claim. However, the pre-action procedure applicable to most large commercial claims will be the general provisions of the Practice Direction on Pre-Action Conduct, which states that before commencing proceedings the court expects the parties to have exchanged sufficient information to:
- Understand each other’s position.
- Make decisions about how to proceed.
- Attempt to settle the issues without issuing proceedings.
- Consider a form of alternative dispute resolution to assist with settlement.
- Support the efficient management of those proceedings.
- Reduce the costs of resolving the dispute.
Required stages of the pre-action process:
- The intended claimant should write to the defendant setting out concise details of the claim, including the basis on which the claim is made, a summary of the facts, the remedy sought and how any monetary amount sought has been calculated ** You will need a validated current address to complete this action in a evidenced and reliable way
- The recipient of the letter should respond within a reasonable time, being 14 days in a straightforward case and no more than three months in a highly complex case. The reply should confirm whether the claim is accepted and, if it is not accepted, the reasons why, together with an explanation as to which facts and parts of the claim are disputed and whether the defendant is making a counterclaim as well as providing details of any counterclaim.
- The parties should disclose key documents which are relevant to the issues in dispute.