Using Private Investigators to Chase Debt

Using Private Investigators to Chase Debt

The incidence of debt in the U.K is very common under normal circumstances, but the Coronavirus pandemic has had a notable impact on those levels. The Guardian newspaper reported in December 2020[1] that, while higher-income households have generally managed to make savings through working at home, approximately 700,000 people have been “pushed” into poverty, and around 6 million adults have been forced to miss at least one payment on household bills.

While these are ‘legitimate’ debts, incurred through terrible, national circumstance, the situation undoubtedly gives rise to even more unscrupulous individuals and businesses, seeking to avoid having to meet their financial obligations. The impact of such avoidance clearly exacerbates financial pressures for those that are owed money, at a time when everything is already so uncertain and precarious. This being the case, it is imperative that the ways in which Private Investigators can be used to chase debt is made clear.

Debt scenarios

Debt can take many forms, and can arise from numerous types of situation, including:

  • Spousal maintenance

In the U.K, spousal maintenance is the agreement reached during divorce for the financially stronger party to support the financially weaker party as they adjust to their post-divorce financial situation. Failure to adhere to this agreement on the part of the maintenance payer can lead to the accumulation of debt, owed to the payee.

  • Child support

During the dissolution of a relationship that has resulted in dependent children, child support is often agreed. This sets out the level of financial support that will be paid to the primary carer of the child or children, by the other carer, to contribute toward the cost of caring for those dependents. Failure to meet this obligation incurs debt, owed to the primary carer.

  • Divorce settlement

During the divorce process, where a settlement sum is agreed, this payment may be delayed or attempts may be made to deliver incomplete payments. This results in debt to the recipient party being accrued.

  • Friend or family loan

When a loan is made to a friend or family member, it is often agreed verbally, in an informal manner. This can make it easy for the loan recipient to renege on that agreement, accumulating debt to the person that provided the loan. The informality and closeness of the relationship can create additional issues, including a reluctance to properly pursue the debt.

  • Rent arrears

There are many completely valid reasons that may cause a tenant to fall behind on their rent payments, but it is equally possible that there may be dishonesty at work. Rent payments are often needed to cover the cost of property maintenance, so it is vital to establish the veracity of claims made by a tenant about their financial difficulties. This is especially true during the Coronavirus pandemic, when it is easier to take advantage of Landlords wishing to help their tenants through a challenging economic period.

  • Contractor/subcontractor invoices

When work has been completed, and an invoice has been issued, it is the responsibility of the customer to pay that invoice in accordance with the terms stated. Failure to do so incurs debt. Similarly, when work is undertaken as a sub-contractor, it is done so on the understanding that the main contractor will pay the agreed fee upon receipt of an invoice. Failure to do so leads to the need for the debt to be recovered.

  • Private sale

The private sale of goods or items has become increasingly common as a result of ‘Buy-Sell-And-Swap’ groups on Facebook – taking the practice beyond the semi-regulated space of websites such as eBay. This can be more convenient but can also lead to situations where expected payments are not made. This creates a debt that can be particularly challenging to collect.

It is an understandable response to a situation in which a party owes you money, to seek official advice. The U.K government sets out a process through which such issues can be escalated[2], consisting of:

  1. Mediation – Paying for an impartial mediation service to referee your dispute.
  2. Court action – Having your case heard in a court of law, with a view to obtaining a court order for the money owed to be paid.
  3. Statutory demand – Making an official demand for payment of a debt that is less than six years old.
  4. Bankruptcy of the debtor – If the debtor fails to respond to a statutory demand within 21 days, you make an application to bankrupt your debtor.

While this information is clear and helpful, it can also seem like a daunting prospect – even with the option of seeking legal advice.

How can a Private Investigator firm help?

Chasing debt is deeply stressful, regardless of the nature of your relationship with the debtor, or the circumstances that have given rise to the debt in the first place. It is important to know that you have someone on your side, fighting your corner, and supporting you to achieve the outcome you need. This is where Private Investigation firms come in.

When a transaction reaches the point at which repeated requests for payment have been made without success, most of those cases of debt fall into one of three categories of explanation:

  1. Inability to pay – Money is owed, and the debtor does not have the means to pay.
  2. Asset fraud – Money is owed, and the debtor is lying about not having the means to pay.
  3. Disappearance – Money is owed, and the debtor cannot be located.

In each of these categories, a skilled Private Investigation firm can work to establish the truth of the situation. They can determine whether or not the debtor has the means to pay – in other words, they can either prove or disprove asset fraud – and they can track down debtors that have disappeared, establishing the truth of their location and circumstance. This information is gathered through a combination of covert and non-covert techniques.

Where asset fraud is suspected, a reputable Private Investigation firm will complete comprehensive background and fact checks on the individual or business in question. This will include establishing whether the debtor has a history of fraudulent activity, or accusations of the same. Using all legal means available, Private Investigation operatives will examine financial information, business data, and social media activity to develop an in-depth report of accurate findings. In addition, covert surveillance strategies can bolster data-driven evidence with documentary evidence of economic activity that would refute claims of financial hardship. In other words, photographic and video evidence indicating an expensive lifestyle or lucrative business dealings, backed by written and verified activity logs, can make your case much easier to pursue through legal means. This is made possible by the fact that Private Investigation reports are designed for court admissibility.

Where a debtor cannot be located, reputable Private Investigation firms can employ the same techniques used for tracing missing persons, while remaining mindful of the challenges posed by trying to find an individual who is purposefully trying to conceal their location. Finding a debtor requires as much detailed information from the person initiating the investigation as possible – including the full name, any last known addresses, and any known associates. This enables Private Investigation operatives to follow several avenues of enquiry at once.

In terms of legal and ethical data research, a Private Investigator will examine public records that include voter registration and business information, such as details of directorship and tax histories. Physical investigations can then be undertaken, including searches of locations, and conversations with the friends, family and colleagues of the debtor. All of the information gathered is collated in an accurate and legal report that can be used in a court of law during any legal proceeding intended to resolve the debt. This includes applications to bankrupt the debtor.

Choosing your Private Investigator

Engaging the services of a Private Investigation firm can mean the difference between resolving your debt problem quickly and efficiently, and never seeing your money at all. The Private Investigation industry is currently unregulated, however, which means that there are individuals representing themselves as Private Investigation companies who, were you to hire them, pose the risk of creating an even bigger financial problem for you through the perpetration of fraud. This is why it is vital to complete due diligence with regards to any Private Investigator you may consider.

The first thing to verify is the accreditations of the Private Investigation firm in question. Reputable organisations, such as OpSec Solutions, will hold accreditations and endorsements from the Association of British Investigators (ABI), The Institute of Professional Investigators, the UK Professional Investigators Network, and will be registered with the Information Commisioner’s Office. Claims of such endorsements and registrations are easily checked and provide important peace of mind to you as a client. These endorsements prove that the holder consistently operates in a legal and ethical way, upholding data protection law, and ensuring full confidentiality and discretion.

With highly skilled, trained, and experienced teams recruited from military, police, and corporate backgrounds, OpSec Solutions is ready to provide a free consultation on your debt problem today.


[1] https://www.theguardian.com/society/2020/dec/02/covid-has-exacerbated-soaring-problem-debt-levels-in-the-uk

[2] https://www.gov.uk/options-if-youre-owed-money

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