The world of debt collections is hardly a glamourous one. Many years ago I recall being on a visit to a secret location just outside of San Diego. It was part of Security Pacific Bank (now Bank Of America). It was the heart of the recovery (repo) arm of Security Pacific Auto Finance. My guide was Dave, I liked Dave. We had many adventures together. I never quite understood what Dave did, when pressed he would claim he was a ‘facilitator’. Yes he was! I was the computer geek, and Dave was Dave. We went out of town several times, only the very best hotels would work.
The call center was somewhat seedy, and I thought the large whiteboard showing this weeks top scorers a little over the top, a little over the top, but everyone seemed to be happy, so I was. These days Dave is the CEO of a large Auto Finance company.
Over some cold beers, I asked him to tell me a little about the whole process of debt collection. It was a curious conversation, and multi faceted. At the simple level it consisted of a predictive dialing system, a bunch of phone people and a script. At the more complicated level is the person who has simply disappeared and left his debts behind. For this kind of situation you need a good Skip Tracer.
Dave explained that Skip Tracing was a combination of art and science. Science using technology, online databases and art, social engineering of a persons friends and relatives to track down the debtors whereabouts.
As the evening wore on I broached the subject of ethics. Dave thought about for a while smiled.
“It depends on how you define the word ‘Ethics’, there are rules and legal parameters that should be followed, but the bigger the prize, the less the rules are followed. It is one thing chasing after a deadbeat that is behind on his payments for a $200 Toaster Oven and a guy who has disappeared with a $50,000 Mercedes”
My conversation with Dave happened 20 years ago, technology has improved a great deal. Today it is harder to disappear without trace. The databases are bigger and more comprehensive and virtually everyone has a ‘digital’ footprint. As to the ethics side of things, well some Skip Tracers have little regard for the word.
My good friends, bail bondsman William Cobra Staubs and Matthew Todd sent this clip from 20/20 it is well worth watching.
The interview introduces him as John Anderson, but also explains that it is not his real name. The host goes onto explain that they will not reveal who John works for.
Cobra also provided a name, John Edens. Just for grins I googled him. No fancy databases, but guess what, I found his picture, his address, the company he owns, and even his social security number. All of this was done with no passwords, no phone calls, just 15 minutes of Google searches. Odd really, you would think that someone like Mr. Edens would like to minimize his online presence. I rather like his Linkedin Profile.
Odder still is the $33,000 civil judgment against him and his flat refusal to pay it. This is the kettle calling the pot black!
Of course this is not the first time that John Edens has found himself on the wrong side of the law. But I think I will keep the 1-800 sports tip line, the Meth 6 Motel, the conning of cell phone providers, and pretending to be a Federal agent for future articles.