In this issue we will take a look at tracing on student loan debt. Again, as in all tracing endeavors, there must be a starting point and as I have stated many times previously, when tracing, to go forward you must first go backward. Let’s explore how the professional tracer can locate student loan consumers utilizing what the industry refers to as the “waterfall technique.”
The first thing the tracer must establish with student loan debt is liability. Who is actually responsible for the debt? Is there joint liability? This action is accomplished by going back to the origination documents of the indebtedness for basic information. In many cases the tracer will find the parents of the student are guarantors on the debt and the parents are usually much easier to locate than the student.
Three items which are of upmost importance to the tracer when working student loans are, 1) the original application, which will usually list the parents, their address and their phone numbers; 2) the original contract or copy thereof to ascertain parties with liability on the debt; and 3) the information document which will contain the last educational institution the student attended. In many cases this will also include the student’s degree which might be an indicator of what job market they entered after graduating or discontinuing their education.
Once these documents are obtained and analyzed for data extraction, I believe in taking the course of least resistance, the first level of the waterfall, efforts which require no expenditure of funds, only time and labor. In most cases that is contacting parents and relatives listed on the original application. This endeavor will often provide the tracer with information related to the consumer’s current residence, employment and contact numbers. I would call your attention to the fact that when contacting third parties at this point in the attempt to gain location information, conversations are kept to a minimum with the informants with very little in depth conversation and no usage of neuro-linguistic questioning techniques.
Cases requiring continued efforts warrant my next step which is utilizing the information I have accumulated and go online through alumni.com and/or classmates.com to peruse the online college annuals and alumni directories. These sources can contain photographs as well as information related to the student such as social or academic associations they might have belonged to as well as any sports or extra-curricular activities in which the student may have been involved. Each bit of information the tracer discovers is another piece of the puzzle that could link everything together providing current location information. I have found there is always a lot of information that can be gleaned from these online sources which allow an astute tracer to gain insight into the consumer’s persona. If my attempts to locate the consumer have proved futile I must move to the next level of the waterfall.
At this level I will go back to my data and again contact relatives and references, this time utilizing neuro-linguistic questioning techniques (as explained in previous articles) developed over many years of extracting information from informants. These advanced questioning techniques have yielded very good results and in many cases provided the information required to locate the consumer. Keep in mind that up to this point there have been no monetary expenditures, only time and effort.
If all the previous efforts have still yielded no positive results it is time to move on to the final stage of the waterfall technique. Spend some money and utilize the various “pay sites” provided by the data brokers who accumulate consumer data and store the information in their electronic repositories.
We have discussed several of these data brokers in the past such as TLO, Tracers, Inc. and CLEAR. I use a formula when selecting the data broker I use first, second and third. The decision is based on prior experience related to where I feel the consumer is residing, the consumer’s age, background and the vocation I feel the student has chosen.
As you can see, tracking the traces of the consumers who have a student loan debt is always a challenge and has the potential to be another exciting adventure for the professional tracer.
Until the next issue…good luck and good hunting!
Ron Brown is a member of the National Association of Fraud Investigators and the author of “MANHUNT: The Book.” Contact him at