Tracing agents don't do car spy chases

2013-05-29 12:50
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A Fin24 user writes:

I refer to the article Spy Cam Car Repossessions Illegal.

I am deeply saddened and somewhat offended by the contents of this article, which was clearly flung together with very little research.

I have been a tracing agent by profession for more than eight years, and not once in that time have I physically stepped out of my office and attempted to seek out a debtor.

My staff and I are strictly office-bound, and we also have zero telephonic contact with any debtor.

The article opens by referring to "bank agents", which are then incorrectly referred to as "tracing agents". 

Tracing agents are an integral part of legal due process. In order for documents to be legally served upon a debtor by the sheriff (which the article explicitly states is the only legal method for service), the sheriff must have the correct address of the debtor.

When an attorney is unable to source a valid address for a debtor, they instruct a tracing agent to establish an address.

Because tracing agents rely on factually correct information (and not wild goose chases of driving around after people), many instances result in (1) the inability to trace a debtor and (2) some addresses initially thought to be valid turn out to be incorrect when the sheriff attempts to serve documents.

Consumers have a right to privacy and tracing agents may not overstep this boundary. Similarly, I am not aware of any tracing agents that make use of any "spy" tactics.

I am, however, aware of "signing agents" and other types of "investigators" in the field who physically drive around looking for debtors, but they are not tracing agents and should not be referred to as such.

I am also aware of attorneys and debt collectors that make use of unscrupulous practices to recover debt, and our firm does not accept instructions from them.

Roets states: “We also advise other credit grantors to whom our clients may owe money that the individual is under debt review."

I would like to say that I am unfortunately aware of many instances where debt counsellors have not informed all credit grantors that an individual is under debt review, even though there are judgments clearly recorded against the debtor's name in those situations.

It is beyond the scope of my profession to debate whether this is the fault of the debt counsellor or the credit grantor, but it does happen that one of the parties fails to fulfil their obligations.

Tracing agents do not only attend to matters involving debt. Our firm, for example, handles thousands and sometimes tens of thousands of matters every month: tracing persons for provident funds where a person is unaware that they have unclaimed funds; for heirs who need to be traced for inheritance; and persons who are unaware that they have dividends owed to them from shares in companies, to name a few.

The tracing of debtors is only one type of matter that we handle. Based on the sheer volume of instructions we receive every month, it is completely inconceivable that we would travel around looking for people.

Roets' statement that begins with "In terms of legislation, a tracing agent is permitted..." is completely incorrect. There is not a single piece of legislation that refers to a "tracing agent" - in fact, there is not a single piece of legislation that even defines what a "tracing agent" is.

The legislation that Roets is referring to governs the practices of "signing agents" or an "agent" appointed by the creditor - most certainly not a tracing agent. The words "tracing agent" do not appear verbatim in any South African legislation.

Roets goes on further to state the fees billed for the repossession of a vehicle - this is a clear indication that he is not referring to tracing agents because those fees are well over 20 times what tracing agents bill for a report. Note that I say report, and not repossession.

A tracing agent cannot and does not handle repossessions.

I do not dispute the fact that there are "agents" appointed to conduct repossessions; however these "agents" (no matter what they choose to call themselves within their own industry) are most certainly not tracing agents and should not be referred to as such.

To do so is to damage the name and reputation of the tracing industry.

Perhaps the misconception stems from people in the industry calling themselves "tracing agents" when in fact they are not, even though they may employ one or two of the initial methods used by a tracing agent before they go off on their quest to find a person.

I mean no specific disrespect to these people, but they should refrain from referring to themselves as tracing agents. Perhaps "repossession agents" is the correct term that should be used - or to refer back to the beginning of the article once again, "bank agents" if they are employed by the bank themselves.

I am not attempting to discredit the nature of the article, but readers should be aware that the term "tracing agent" has been incorrectly used.

 - Fin24

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