A number of well-attended sessions at this year’s Credit Congress dealt directly with the use of the Internet and technology to track down information on debtors and/or protect today’s credit departments from scams. And it seems like credit people don’t realize just how much is out there for them…and for free.
Ron Brown, of CSI Group/Eagle Group XX, told attendees during two sessions that anyone who thinks they have true, guarded privacy in the modern era is dead wrong. “If you give me your name and town you live in, within 3 minutes I can have you address and social security number,” Brown said. “Within 10, I can find out what you paid for the house, how many bathrooms you have. Within a couple hours I can have every account number you have…” While scary, it also means those working in credit and collections are able to obtain more information than ever before.
Brown said most people know to use things like social media stalwarts Facebook and Linked In as well as Google searches, but he listed dozens of additional sites where information is easy to attain and free for anyone with an Internet connection (These can still be found in the Handouts section of the new Credit Congress mobile app). But many are sort of like industry secrets for those “in the know.”
“The Internet is a great tool for cybertracking…you can do it 24 hours per day, seven days per week, 365 days per year if you want to, and from any location or with very little knowledge,” Brown said. There are some things to avoid, however, such as not double-checking your sources or doing things like trying to friend someone using a fake profile (that counts as attempted contact in the eyes of the law). It also is considered unethical in most quarters.
Another popular suggestion was using features like Google Earth, which allows you to get an actual street view of something like a shipping address just to make sure you’re not be scammed (RE: will be eventually unable to collect). After all, if a business’ shipping address looks like a one-story house when you were lead to believe they had an office or warehouse, you may have a problem.
- Brian Shappell, CBA, CICP, NACM staff writer