Make no mistake – finding where someone works is not easy. Especially if you don’t live in the same area/city. Basically, you have just two choices: find the information yourself – or hire someone to perform the search for you. Here at Skip Trace Pros, we no longer perform Employment Locates, and will always recommend that you try and do it yourself first. More on that later.
So, how do you find someone’s employment? The best, most accurate way is to follow your debtor to work. If you have a court-ordered judgment, there is nothing illegal about this. All you need to get started is the debtor’s home address. Obey local laws, and please consult with a competent attorney before initiating the process.
I’m going to assume that you’re looking for someone’s employment because you wish to garnish their wages. This article is not for “headhunters” or property management companies trying to verify someone’s employment. This article is also not for spammers, scammers, and stalkers. If you’re one of those – please move on.
Why Some Skip Tracers May Not Perform Employment Locates
Many private investigators and skip tracers will not locate someone’s employment for you. Why? The short answer is that they’re way too expensive and unreliable. There is no magical database anymore that has this type of information. Sure, the Social Security Administration probably has it, but it’s unlikely that they’ll give you any information.
Secondly, although private investigators and skip tracers may have a local office, they are most likely conducting investigations across the country. It’s not likely they’ll follow someone to work. They would have to hire out the process and it gets very expensive. It’s impossible for them to physically follow someone. Not gonna happen.
And thirdly, conducting these types of searches falls into a bit of legal gray area. There is the GLB (Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act), and all that legal business. I’m not going to go into the finer points of the GLB and pre-texting and all that in this article, but beware that there are laws regarding pretexting for financial information.
Pretexting can be very effective, and if you’d like to learn more you can read an article here that I recently wrote about the art of pretexting. Interesting stuff. Either way, some people believe that trying to find someone’s employment through pretexting falls under the category of trying to find financial information – and they want nothing to do with it.
Do it Yourself
Finding someone’s employment can be accomplished by yourself. It’s much easier, and certainly a lot less expensive. This usually works best when you live in the same city/area where your debtor lives. As far as I know, there is no law against you trying to follow them to work. Of course, you need to find out where they live first, but once you do that it’s relatively easy for you or a friend to sit around the corner of their residence and follow them to their place of employment.
Before you even start, make sure to obtain some basic information about your Subject. Obviously, their full legal name and address. Probable phones, too. Hopefully, you also have their full Social Security Number and Date of Birth. Very helpful. Read this post that I wrote on Legal Bank Locates. There’s a lot of information in there that also applies to Employment Locates.
If you have a Judgment against them, and I’m assuming that you do, then this gives you the legal right (permissible purpose), to obtain a credit report. Simply write to the “Big 3” Credit Reporting Agencies. Send a certified copy of your Judgment and you should be good to go. The laws change rapidly regarding credit reports, so make sure you read up on this. You might be able to ascertain their current employment from the subjects credit report, but we’ve found that it’s usually old information.
There are some websites out there like “The Work Number. ” They can be useful, but it seems like their information can only be obtained by those with permissible purpose also. We’re not sure about that, but since we don’t perform these types of searches we really haven’t looked into it. They usually only deal with people that have a legal or business reason to obtain the information. It’s pretty simple though. Supply them with your Debtors information and they’ll check their records. It will cost you, of course.
You can certainly try “The Work Number” first, but it’s costly. And, they simply do not have everyone’s employment listed. This may be a viable option for “professionals,” but it doesn’t work all that well for people in non-professional industries.
Hiring Someone to do It
We don’t recommend doing it this way, and I’ll explain why. There are people out there that you can hire to find someone’s current employment, but we have found that the information they provide is, many times, out of date. And, you need to ensure that they’re following the law in trying to get this information.
So, here we go again about that nasty word “pretexting.” Many “investigators” use pretexting to obtain someone’s employment. In other words, they call neighbors, former employers, or the subject himself to try and get someone to give up that person’s job information. Not good, and probably illegal. Unethical, to say the least.
Again, we may be dealing with the GLB here, and the legal consequences can be dire. Make sure to ask whomever you hire to find someone’s employment if they are using pretexting methods to obtain their information.
When trying to determine someone’s place of employment, and you decide to use some sort of “Employment Verification Service” to do it for you – beware. Keep in mind that you’ll have to supply them with information on your Debtor which may or may not be a violation of the GLB or the FDCPA, etc. Not good. That’s pretty much why we don’t do it. We also don’t wish to be involved in any sort of pre-texting.
And then there’s the “Information Brokers.” These guys advertise all over the internet about how they “Find a Person’s Employment.” I’m not going to go into what their process is for conducting their searches here. I’ll leave that for another day. Let’s just say that most of them involve a lot of not-so-gray area techniques. They’ll probably charge you up front anywhere from $50.00 – $500.00.
It’s been my experience that the returned information is out of date and inaccurate. Back in the day when we used information brokers to find someone’s employment we found that the information was rarely accurate. We would pay for the service (around $150.00 at that time), receive the information, and then find that it was either old information – or fake. Yes, fake.
Here’s what they would do: Supply you with the debtor’s employment. You initiate the wage garnishment process and serve the employer. Employer says they do not work there. Upon further investigation, you find that your subject NEVER worked there. What do you do?
Well, you’ve been given fake/false information. The ‘information broker” will simply say that your subject was working there when they performed the search. Not good, as they’re lying to you, and you’re out $150.00 or more.
Then, you have to start the process all over again. I’m not saying that ALL information from these investigators is false – just a good number. Buyer beware.
Finding someone’s current employment is not easy. You do have other options, so do some research and find out how to best find your debtor’s assets. Dr. Peter Gilboy wrote a great Citizen’s Guide to Collecting Your Own Judgment. Stay within the law – and finally collect the money owed.
OK, so finding someone’s employment is not the way to go. What should I do to satisfy my judgment? Bank account locates are always a good option. You could also do a debtor’s exam where the subject is served and has to show up at court to reveal their employment, bank accounts, and other assets. Make sure you slap an abstract down on any current or future property that they may own.
Can I garnish my debtor’s spouse’s wages? In many cases – yes. State laws vary, but you are presented with a lot of options if you’re in a community property state. Check with a qualified attorney. You’ll have to file some additional paperwork, but it may be worth your while.