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How to track down someone who owes you money

It’s common for people who owe money to disappear, or relocate, in the hope that the debt won’t be pursued. This is even more common as time elapses and people continue to live their lives. If this has happened to you, keep reading and follow our practical tips so your debtors don’t get away with not paying you!

Be Your Own Private Investigator

There are a number of searches you can conduct and investigations you can do on your own. This can include:

  1. Calling the phone number you have on file or emailing the email address on your file. This will indicate whether they are still used or even connected;
  2. Searching social media platforms. This has become one of the most helpful tools, as people are sharing more about their lives online. Social media will often uncover a general location or place of employment;
  3. Performing searches of registered property databases to discover if they own any property;
  4. Where the debtor is a company, you can conduct an ASIC search which will show the company’s registered address.

Leveraging a Relationship

If you have enough information, you may be able to leverage a relationship close to the debtor to pressure them to make payment. Often this tactic is used against partners or parents. They may also be able to provide you with the debtor’s contact details or pass on a message for the debtor to call you and convey the seriousness of the matter.

Get an Expert

If your searches come up empty, you can engage an expert to prepare a skip trace report. This is completed by a registered investigator and/or process server. They will be able to search more registries and return more comprehensive results. Typically, a skip trace report will include:

  1. The searches you have already tried;
  2. A directorship search;
  3. A search of directories;
  4. A search of the electoral roll;
  5. An Australian Business Name search;
  6. A search of recent court records and searches of records for deceased, bankrupt, prison or aged care facilities; and
  7. A search of any close contacts, such as their partner, to try and locate the debtor through them.

Often a skip trace report will identify a residential address, telephone number and/or active email address.

Why is Locating a Debtor Important?

Locating someone who owes you money is important when you issue legal proceedings to recover the debt.  If you make a claim in Court, you will need to show the Court that you served the claim on them personally.

If you cannot serve the debtor, you will need to take an additional step of asking the Court for an order of substituted service. This may allow you to serve the debtor via email or their agent. To get this order, you will need to show you have taken reasonable steps to serve the debtor and the alternative method you propose is likely to bring the Court proceeding to their attention.

Proactive Steps

The best way to avoid any need to follow these steps is to ensure that you have the debtor’s details to begin with. A good way of being sure you have those is to have well prepared contractual documents that require your customer to provide their details up front. There should also be an obligation for them to update you if their contact details change. You should keep customer details on a secure database.

For more information on how to obtain early payment from your customers, see our article “How to Speed Up Payment” here https://tauruslawyers.com.au/how-to-speed-up-payment/.

If you need help recovering a debt, please get in touch with an experience debt recovery team  member of Taurus Legal Management on (03) 9481 2000 or info@tauruslawyers.com.au.


Posted by Taurus Legal Management