It is not uncommon for a skiptrace professional to hit a dead end when trying to locate a customer. But, even after social media sites have been reviewed and information from vendors, online phonebooks, and internal documents has been exhausted, there is still hope: Calling same last names (SLN).
Same last names are people who share the same last name with the customer you are trying to locate. Years ago contacting SLNs was a common step in the skiptrace process.
Today, however, contacting SLNs is becoming a lost art partly due to the decrease in landline phones which is causing the phonebook to slowly start to shrink. Calling SLNs also requires more skill and tenacity than simply conducting online searches, however, before you give up and call it quits, you might consider these tips.
Be careful in big cities. Names such as Johnson, Smith, Jones, and Thompson are very common and you’ll want to use good judgment when trying to call one of these SLNs. The more uncommon the name, the better luck you will have.
While it is possible to be successful when trying to locate a Smith, the odds are stacked against you. This is especially true if you are skiptracing in a large metropolitan area. For example, there are more than 300 listings for Smiths in Chicago, Illinois, however, there isonly one Smith listed in Minburn, Iowa.
Ask good questions. You only get one chance to make a first impression, so be sure to use this call wisely. Let the person know that you have lost contact with the consumer and that you need to speak with the customer as soon as possible. Be sure to ask for phone number and employer, as those are two critical pieces of information. If the SLN does not have either of those items, ask the SLN if he or she knows who would know.
It is possible that the SLN is a distant relative who may not have contact with the consumer. For instance, the SLN might be the consumer’s distant uncle, and while the SLN might not stay in direct contact with the consumer, he or she may keep in regular contact with the consumer’s parents.
Check prior cities when appropriate. If the file contains information that indicates the consumer has resided in a city other than the one he or she is currently living in, you might consider searching SLNs in that town.
Listen for clues. The SLN might not have contact information to share with you, but the SLN may volunteer valuable information that can help you determine the collectability of the account. If the SLN is grandpa, and grandpa proceeds to tell you that the consumer has been in and out of prison and has been looking for a job, that might be a sign to limit the amount of time and energy you invest in trying to locate the consumer.
Don’t tell tall tales. It can be tempting to tell a white lie to get information, but doing so is a violation of the FDCPA. Don’t sell yourself as a long lost friend or college buddy who is looking to reconnect. Be honest and forthright and represent the industry well.
The article above was provided courtesy of collector mentor, a bimonthly, quick-read publication dedicated entirely to delivering articles and practical advice on collection techniques, skiptracing tips, industry news and events, industry compliance and regulatory updates, and soft business skills. For more information on subscriptions, please visit the insideARM.com Bookstore.