Lost in time: How to Skip Trace 400 people in 16 days
Skip tracing, (link) as its name implies, is a skill that invariably includes a lot of looking for people who don’t want to be found. Sometimes, however, skip tracers are called upon to find people that, for one reason or another, have simply become lost in time.
These can be fascinating, rewarding, uplifting and sometimes sad assignments. Here at SWA Recovery and Investigation, we’ve just completed one.
Two weeks prior to the coronavirus emergency, a valued long-term client called to seek our help in urgently locating more than 100 ordinary people.
Not Debtors or Defendants:
They were not debtors, witnesses or runaways – cohorts that usually occupy a bit of the time of SWA’s skip tracers. Their average age was 79.5. The oldest was 104! Most of their last known addresses were between five and 15 years old, some older.
One thing tied these people together: They had all taken out funeral policies in the last 15 years.
These people had been “lost” in a corporate restructuring that was not of our client’s doing but which it had inherited. It was acutely aware that not locating them could disadvantage hundreds of families, which in turn could severely damage its own reputation.
Indeed, the affair, unresolved, had the potential to be a PR nightmare.
We were given a deadline of just 16 days to find either the natural person, their power-of-attorney or their next-of-kin.
Our skip tracing team knew it was a big ask. But they’re a committed and persistent lot. They thought it was possible.
Over the next two weeks, they worked tirelessly locating person after person. It was an exhausting business, combing through records, making phone calls, following what were often long-cold trails.
When a policyholder or key family member was located, that last telephone conversation – whether with worried relatives or older and sometimes confused Australians – demanded great tact, care and consideration.
To make things harder, the list of people kept increasing. By the eighth day it was up to 150. On the eleventh day our client sent us another 80, promising: “This is the last!” It wasn’t. The final list contained 248 names.
As the number of names swelled and the deadline neared, we augmented the team with ring-ins from our process serving and repossession units.
The final count:
In the wash-up, some 86 per cent of policyholders were located. Another seven per cent were found to be deceased. Just seven per cent were unaccounted for.
All this was completed in 15 days – one day ahead of deadline – with not one complaint about our approaches from any policyholder or family member.
We received some amazing reactions from the people we located.
A few next-of-kin initially feared we were calling to advise them that their loved one had died and were delighted to learn we were not. There was joy and relief when sometimes cash-strapped families found they would not have to cover feared funeral expenses.
There were some sad conversations, too.
Our skip tracing team:(Link)
My team will be talking about this assignment for a long time.
When we had a chance to debrief and analyse, we calculated we had located more than 400 people in that two weeks and one day – either the natural person, their power-of-attorney or next-of-kin and in most cases all of these parties.
Our client was over the moon. It had done all in its power to do the right thing. Its reputation was secure.
I want to acknowledge the effort of my incredible team – Fiona, Pat, Ashley S , Monique, Will, Shahni and Ashley G, along with the rest of the crew that keep the rest of the business humming along. We are fortunate to have such dedicated and hard-working people.
I would also like to thank our client for entrusting SWA Recovery and Investigations with this delicate task.