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A guide to debt tracing in the UK

Getting a reluctant debtor to pay what they owe can be difficult at times but when they abscond, the process can be made almost impossible.

Whether you’re a business or an individual, getting back the money that you’re owed is only fair, but to do this you need to first be able to track down the person that’s done a runner.

There may be an entirely innocent reason for their disappearance, or they may have deliberately moved away to try and avoid all of their debts. Whatever the reason, you need a debt tracing service to help you stand any chance of getting repaid.

Here’s a closer look at debt tracing services and how they work in practice.

How does debt tracing work?

Companies who offer debt tracing services typically have a team of agents who are specially trained on how to track down an errant individual.

The methods they use could be a combination of desk-based inquiries as well as work in the field.

Finding the individual who owes you money means that you have the very best chance possible of reclaiming what you’re owed. Once you know their whereabouts you can commence legal proceedings if necessary.

Access to data

A debt tracing agency will have access to a far greater swathe of information than the average man on the street and can perform perfectly legal checks to see if they can track them down.

Some of the databases that you might find in use include BT (including details for ex-directory users), Experian, Directory Inquiries (with in excess of 50,000 updates performed every day), the Land Registry plus Birth, Marriages and Deaths in England and Wales.

For any inquiries which are being channeled through legal sources, further checks can sometimes be carried out too.


Although you’re entitled to try and trace an individual who’s gone away, it’s important to always use a company which is reputable and honest.

There are strict rules in place in the UK about what types of investigations are permitted and what breaks the law.

One of the key pieces of legislation which must be taken into account at all times is the Data Protection Act. There’s also a Code of Practice set out by the Credit Services Association, which stipulates how debt may be traced. For example, using neighbors to pass on messages is strictly forbidden.

While remaining in absolute compliance with all relevant laws and legislation, it’s still possible to build up a healthy level of knowledge about the individual.

The advantages

It is possible to carry out some limited inquiries yourself, but once you’ve exhausted all your available sources, you could get results using a debt tracing company.

They have experience in tracking down errant individuals and know the different tricks that can be pulled in order to try and remain hidden.

Using sophisticated software, they can trawl through a myriad of online resources to try and look for any trace that would give their presence away. In addition to this, field operatives can carry out inquiries to try and establish whether there’s any clue to where they may have gone.

This combination of research and active inquiry is typically extremely effective.

The expertise of the tracing team together with the resources at their disposal means that the success rate for tracing individuals is very high, allowing you to be able to continue your quest to get your money repaid.


Debt tracing can be a very efficient way of tracking down individuals who have vanished, leaving you with a debt which is unpaid. Once you have their whereabouts you can continue to try and get your money back or you can commence legal action to get what’s rightfully yours.