As someone with a need for data research, whether that is a trace, asset or fit to sue report, amongst others, you need to know the difference between a cowboy operations and a genuine expert. Luckily, we’re here to help.
What You’ll Learn in This Article
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In simplistic terms an investigator or tracing agent should provide your data report in the manner that you have asked them to. After almost two decades and dealing with dozens of trace, asset and background reports on a daily basis, we can safely say that whilst many are routine, we do get enquiries which are much more awkward and difficult to carry out.
This has no bearing on the client, and it is not their problem. It is a problem for the investigator or tracing agent. A client comes to an investigator or tracing agent in order to obtain a lawful report, regardless of the impact and difficulty for the investigator or tracing agent as this should be a smooth and uncomplicated experience for the client.
We’ve seen every kind of difficulty for obtaining lawful data and our approach always has been that whatever the difficulty and hardship it causes us as a company there should be an outstanding customer experience for the client.
Difficult reports can be managed to client’s expectations by keeping them informed and advising them of the current state of the enquiry, any difficulties and how you intend to resolve them.
We have a simple approach which has served us well for 19 years and this is what we do for clients every single day all around the country with routine, bulk, international and coordinated reports. We will:
1. ease the burden for the client
2. produce same day reports if required.
3. always manage their expectations
4. acknowledge receipt of the instructions on arrival
5. commence the enquiry immediately
6. complete and return a full report to the client within 3-5 working days.
7. send an invoice for the agreed amount with no additional unauthorised add-on expenses.
Our reports are usually completed within 2-3 working days.
GDPR is a vital step when considering the services supplied for data research or open source intelligence (OSINT), including trace, background or asset reports. This is the case whether the supplier is instructed by a commercial or legal client. In brief, a client is handing vital, sensitive information concerning personal details and information about another person(s) or business activity to a third party. You need to be sure that third party won’t do something damaging with that information.
The nature of investigators in the UK is that the initial information supplied by a client will most probably be passed from one individual investigator to another as the originally instructed investigator may not / will not have the skills or capabilities to conduct such research. So, from the time of instruction, that document may have passed through 1,2 or 3 individuals.
How are you as a client ensuring that the data you supply to an investigator or tracing agent is being secured in the correct manner and only compliant individuals have access to them? You may only contemplate the implication of GDPR compliance when something goes wrong, but given the financial and maybe more important reputational cost for non-compliance, you must consider it much sooner in the process.
Few investigators are compliant. In fact, it is believed to be less than 20% Data is passed from investigator to investigator with no regard for compliance and it is essential that your investigator has GDPR compliance to cover you, their employees and their sub-contractors.
Trace and asset reports can be urgent with little notice and no time to verify the compliance of a server, so my advice is:
1 Have approved suppliers and you hold , as a company or legal practise the GDPR and Professional Indemnity Insurance of that investigator or tracing agent
2 For an urgent requirement ask for proof of compliance, as any decent investigator will be able to send you the document proof in minutes. Let’s face it, it is a document held on an easily accessible file, and a decent, reputable firm will be capable of sending the document to new clients daily
- You need to trace a debtor or witness
- You need a financial report on an individual or businesses
- You want a background report on an individual or group
This is called data research or open source intelligence (OSINT) and is conducted by individuals or companies generally known as tracing agents.
Let’s start by looking at the current state of tracing agents and investigators in the United Kingdom. This is an unregulated industry where there is no governing body and anybody can become an investigator or tracing agent overnight with no qualifications and not even a criminal records check. You can be a tracing agent even if you have a criminal record.
Do you know how and where the information supplied to you has come from? Has it been lawfully or ethically gathered? Has the person / company you instructed made pretext telephone calls to obtain personal data from an individual about their finances or personal status?
Obviously, it isn’t the case that a large amount of people in the industry possess a criminal record, but research clearly shows that less than 25% have Professional Indemnity Insurance. And if this is true, then you can guarantee that even less will be GDPR compliant. As a minimum for GDPR compliance a tracing agents will at least have to be cyber essentials registered which will cost £2000 and then there is further cost for compliance.
In short, as an individual (whether from the legal sector or commercial sector) seeking to use a tracing agent then you face the reality that the likelihood of insurance and GDPR compliance is minimal.
There are limited numbers of individuals or companies in the country with the required level of skill and experience to conduct data research or OSINT. The nature of trace / asset reports is that it is a subcontracted model and your instruction will be passed from one tracing agent to another, sometimes many times over. What is the probability of all these agents having insurance or GDPR compliance?
Sometimes trace / asset reports do go wrong. Information will be gathered and supplied incorrectly, unlawfully, not within critical court time constraints or when the individual being investigated has become aware of the investigations.
Where does this leave you as an instructing client when a data research is not conducted correctly, causing claim and legal cost issues and the tracing agent you instructed has no Professional Indemnity Insurance or GDPR compliance in place?
You will be seeking legal redress against a sole trader that will not have your best interests at heart they will be looking at their own self-preservation. Our advice is as follows:
1 Have approved suppliers and you hold, as a company or legal practice, the GDPR and Professional Indemnity Insurance of that individual company or server
2 If the agent or company that you choose for the trace / asset reports have a nationwide capability, then ensure they hold Professional Indemnity Insurance and GDPR compliance for all of those tracing agents that they will legitimately subcontract your instruction to. That way they are at least ensuring your protection
3 For an urgent requirement, ask for proof of compliance as any decent tracing agent will be able to send you the document proof in minutes. Let’s face it, it is a document held on an easily accessible file, and a decent and reputable firm will send the document daily to new clients
When a client approached his debt recovery solicitor, he needed a swift trace report for a client who had absconded leaving a 6-month credit line of debt. The client had limited information; having made his own enquires and established that the tenant had also left his place of residence.
This is a common trace which we deal with at Expert Investigations Group. Pre-planned by the debtor to run up a substantial credit line and not be located and make good the monies owed.
Unlike most trace companies we have a team dedicated to trace and asset reports and a huge amount of experience. Using our databases, we were able to locate the debtor within our usual 3 to 5 working and supply a written report of the evidence to the solicitor.
Based on the information gathered the solicitor was able to take the legal process in order to recover the debt with Expert Investigations Group being involved with the process serving of the debtor, who finally paid the monies owed.