Author: Tina Thomas
While we are trying to figure out what the new normal is for us and our businesses, Debtors still owe their Creditors (your clients) money. How do you help your clients find the money when Debtors are defaulting? Is this the right time to be investigating a Debtor’s financial viability?
At this time, you have two choices: (1) conduct an asset investigation to find out your Debtor’s financial viability; or (2) simply wait. An investigator can start digging now to determine if a Debtor is working from home, working from an office, buying or selling items of value, or perhaps doing nothing at all. Unfortunately, there is no single source or database that identifies all information on a person or their current assets. These leads must be developed on a person by person basis. Some investigators will use a single proprietary database to do their research, then pass those results along as their complete report without further investigative efforts. Relying on one source for all information is a mistake. Databases are starting points and can provide leads in identifying preliminary information on an individual. A good investigator will research multiple databases and multiple sources, both free and paid to uncover information. Investigators must “think outside of the box” to uncover assets and disposable income.
Publicly available motor vehicle records, watercraft registrations, aircraft registrations as well as property ownership records can be accessed for small fees. Public sources like court records, corporate and SEC filings, corporation ownership, stock ownership are great sources to check for assets. Governmental agencies may not be open for walk-in requests, but most are still open and offer mail-in requests or online access to records. Do not overlook the value of conducting surveillance, researching social networking sites, as well as internet blogs during these times. People are still running errands like visiting their banks, grocery stores, and going to work, which can be valuable information to your case. Additionally, individuals not previously working have reinvented themselves with new home businesses (e.g., making masks, delivery services, running errands for those with weak immune systems, etc.). Individuals are not being as careful about staying under the radar. With everyone in quarantine, many people are publicly posting and commenting about their financial situations.
Likewise, any previously known bank accounts may suddenly be receiving a stimulus check from the government. Most taxpayers will automatically receive a payment. Those that qualify are: individuals who filed a federal income tax return for 2018 or 2019; social security retirement, disability (SSDI), survivor benefits, supplemental security income (SSI); recipients of Veterans Affairs benefits; and individuals who receive Railroad Retirement benefits. Even if an individual has not filed their taxes, they may still qualify for a stimulus check from the IRS.
Now is a good time to talk to your investigator and develop a plan. Start by discussing what collection methods you have tried in the past that were not fruitful. Question your investigator about ideas they have that are outside of the box. Your investigator is on your side and should work with you to develop a strategy. After you develop a strategy, you should have a clear understanding of what the investigator will do to complete the financial viability investigation. Happy hunting and stay safe!