In the previous article concerning skip trace training I mentioned that the actions of a professional tracer will fall under certain federal and state statutes. To insure compliance with these statutes and prevent litigation for violations it is imperative that the tracer know and follow these laws. I am often asked by tracers, “What are the tracing laws and where can I go to learn the compliance requirements and laws related to the skip tracing process?”
Due to the brevity of this article I will not attempt to answer all of these questions but rather provide the reader with the “basics” and the “where to go to get information related to the subject”.
The FDCPA “Must-Knows”
First let’s look at the major federal law related to tracing activities: Section 804 of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, 15 U.S.C.§1692b, “Acquisition of Location Information.” Being unable to delve deeply into everything that is required under this section, I will just point out that all tracers should familiarize themselves with this section of the FDCPA and follow its requirements to the letter. Major points are:
• Identify yourself and state you are confirming or correcting location information.
• Identify your employer only if you are asked.
• Do not state or imply the consumer owes any debt.
• Do not communicate with the informant more than once unless certain conditions are present.
Read and follow this statute closely and be sure to look in the ‘Definition Section” for the exact definition of “Location Information” as you are restricted to only ask for that information.
The Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act “Must-Knows”
Next let’s discuss a few of the many privacy laws which limit the information you may provide to others when you are attempting to locate a consumer.
The Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (GLBA) protects consumers’ non-public personal information (NPPI). The government-speak definition is, “any information which is not readily available through public sources” including but not limited to: date of birth, Social Security numbers, unlisted phone numbers, and all financial information.
I suggest that the tracer locate online and carefully read the section of this statute which defines NPPI and prohibits the use of disclosing the information.
The HIPAA “Must-Knows”
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) has a very simple definition: Any information in any form that is medically related. The tracer should be very careful when contacting informants and not give out any information which could be medically related. Even telling a third party the subject is on disability would be a clear violation of this statute. I would suggest the tracer refrain from providing anyone any information that could be considered “medical related.” Again, find and read the law.
The TRPPA “Must-Knows”
The Telephone Records Privacy Protection Act of 2006 (TRPPA) should be of dire concern for any tracer as it is the first act which criminalizes a tracer’s actions and can result in hefty fines and prison time.
First and foremost, it establishes a new criminal offense against anyone who knowingly and intentionally obtains or attempts to obtain the confidential phone records of a third party through any one of the bill’s several enumerated schemes or devices to defraud. Penalties for violating this prohibition include a fine or a term of imprisonment of not more than 20 years or both.
Second, the bill establishes a new set of criminal penalties for anyone who knowingly and intentionally sells or purchases the confidential phone records of a third party without proper authorization or knowing that such records were obtained through fraud. Violators of either of these two provisions are subject to a maximum term of imprisonment of up to five years.
Finally, to offer increased protection to the likely victims of such activities, this legislation includes a series of enhanced criminal penalties against any individual who engages in any one of the aforementioned crimes knowing that such information was sought in furtherance of or with the intent to commit any one of the bill’s dozen or so enumerated offenses. Individuals specifically protected under this provision include potential victims of domestic violence related offenses, jurors, criminal witnesses, confidential informants and law enforcement officers. Tracers should familiarize themselves with this law and to avoid the consequences of fines and jail time, follow it to the letter.