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10 x July 2012 x T & R Footnotes THE REAL REPO FOOT NO T E S SP O T L I G H T It’s tough work but not like you see on reality TV BY ALLAN T. DUFFIN Shouting. Fighting. Arguments. Certain television reality pro-grams portray the repossession industry — and the professionals who do the job — in direct, face-to-face conflict with debtors whose vehicles are being retrieved by the lender for lack of payment. To ratchet up the drama, TV reality shows sometimes create a world that has little to do with real life. In doing so, viewers get a skewed picture of how recovery agents actually operate. Here’s the real reality… Debtors, he continued, often hide their vehicles, lock them in garages, drive someone else’s vehicle while hiding their own, and take other measures to bamboozle the recovery agent. But the most important procedural point, said Elwood, is that the recov-ery agent cannot breach the peace. “In the [television] show, there are physi-cal confrontations when the debtor objects to their car being taken,” said Elwood. “Sure, this happens from time to time; however, we are required by law not to breach the peace and to re-treat before this happens. Only when retreating can we use force to defend ourselves. We cannot take the vehicle by force.” Ideally, said Elwood, “no confron-tation occurs and the vehicle is taken by stealth. That is the key.” The ALPR System Recovery agents utilize much of the same equipment that towers do. As everyone knows, the repossession company’s inventory typically in-cludes tow trucks (including rollbacks), dollies, and wheel lifts, including “sneakers.” A popular special technology used in the repossession industry, however, is the Automatic License Plate Recogni-tion (ALPR) system. ALPR, said Stone, uses mounted cameras to capture license plates. Then the technology scans for repossession hits. “This al-lows vehicles to be searched-for nationwide while the individual agents may be searching for a vehicle in a limited area,” Stone added. Many companies that have ALPR, said Stone, are now using laptops in the field. “As more and more compli-ance demands are being required of the professional recovery agents, the need to go paperless is becoming more and more of an issue,” he added. Like Night & Day “The differences are night and day,” said Patrick Stone, a member of the American Recovery Association (www. repo.org) and own-er of Select Asset Recovery Group in Phoenix, AZ. “The Patrick Stone laws and rules are violated within the first 10 minutes of every one of these shows. In reality, the job is not as exciting as they make it out to be.” Stone also noted that the disclaim-er “Made for TV audience” is shown at the beginning of these shows, “but unfortunately most viewers do not pay attention to the disclaimer, and the perception of how repossessions are conducted is far from the truth.” Like the towing and recovery indus-try, the repossession industry is made up of many small, family-owned businesses, added Stone. “There is always an exception to every rule in any industry, but like most, the re-covery professionals have a job to do and just want to do it in a simple, unburdened way.” “The recovery agent cannot breach the peace” While repossessors don’t need to have a special recovery vehicle in or-der to use the ALPR system, Stone noted that “the need for the wheel-lift tow trucks required for damage-free recovery is a must.” This ensures that recovery agents preserve the value of the collateral they are securing for lien holders. That’s why more and more recovery agents are using the self-loading wheel lift operated from inside the truck cab. “The equipment is versatile enough to pretty much get into any position — many times when cars are blocked in as well.” In addition, said Stone, “having secured storage facilities are also Not By Force The job requires careful attention to strict procedure, said Anthony Elwood, director of the Collateral Recovery Division at Allied Recovery Service, LLC, in Bolivar, MO. First, said Elwood, before physically taking the vehicle, the recovery agent must locate the debtor. “In most instances debtors know this is coming because they have received ‘right to cure’ letters from the lender,” explained Elwood.

THE REAL REPO

Allan T. Duffin

<br /> It’s tough work but not like you see on reality TV<br /> <br /> Shouting. Fighting. Arguments.<br /> <br /> Certain television reality programs portray the repossession industry — and the professionals who do the job — in direct, face-to-face conflict with debtors whose vehicles are being retrieved by the lender for lack of payment.<br /> <br /> To ratchet up the drama, TV reality shows sometimes create a world that has little to do with real life. In doing so, viewers get a skewed picture of how recovery agents actually operate.<br /> <br /> Here’s the real reality…<br /> <br /> Like Night & Day “The differences are night and day,” said Patrick Stone, a member of the American Recovery Association (www.repo.org) and owner of Select Asset Recovery Group in Phoenix, AZ. “The laws and rules are violated within the first 10 minutes of every one of these shows. In reality, the job is not as exciting as they make it out to be.”<br /> <br /> Stone also noted that the disclaimer “Made for TV audience” is shown at the beginning of these shows, “but unfortunately most viewers do not pay attention to the disclaimer, and the perception of how repossessions are conducted is far from the truth.”<br /> <br /> Like the towing and recovery industry, the repossession industry is made up of many small, family-owned businesses, added Stone. “There is always an exception to every rule in any industry, but like most, the recovery professionals have a job to do and just want to do it in a simple, unburdened way.”<br /> <br /> Not By Force<br /> <br /> The job requires careful attention to strict procedure, said Anthony Elwood, director of the Collateral Recovery Division at Allied Recovery Service, LLC, in Bolivar, MO. First, said Elwood, before physically taking the vehicle, the recovery agent must locate the debtor. “In most instances debtors know this is coming because they have received ‘right to cure’ letters from the lender,” explained Elwood.<br /> <br /> Debtors, he continued, often hide their vehicles, lock them in garages, drive someone else’s vehicle while hiding their own, and take other measures to bamboozle the recovery agent.<br /> <br /> But the most important procedural point, said Elwood, is that the recovery agent cannot breach the peace. “In the [television] show, there are physical confrontations when the debtor objects to their car being taken,” said Elwood. “Sure, this happens from time to time; however, we are required by law not to breach the peace and to retreat before this happens. Only when retreating can we use force to defend ourselves. We cannot take the vehicle by force.”<br /> <br /> Ideally, said Elwood, “no confrontation occurs and the vehicle is taken by stealth. That is the key.”<br /> <br /> The ALPR System <br /> <br /> Recovery agents utilize much of the same equipment that towers do. As everyone knows, the repossession company’s inventory typically includes tow trucks (including rollbacks), dollies, and wheel lifts, including “sneakers.”<br /> <br /> A popular special technology used in the repossession industry, however, is the Automatic License Plate Recognition (ALPR) system. ALPR, said Stone, uses mounted cameras to capture license plates. Then the technology scans for repossession hits. “This allows vehicles to be searched-for nationwide while the individual agents may be searching for a vehicle in a limited area,” Stone added.<br /> <br /> Many companies that have ALPR, said Stone, are now using laptops in the field. “As more and more compliance demands are being required of the professional recovery agents, the need to go paperless is becoming more and more of an issue,” he added.<br /> <br /> While repossessors don’t need to have a special recovery vehicle in order to use the ALPR system, Stone noted that “the need for the wheel-lift tow trucks required for damage-free recovery is a must.” This ensures that recovery agents preserve the value of the collateral they are securing for lien holders. That’s why more and more recovery agents are using the self-loading wheel lift operated from inside the truck cab. “The equipment is versatile enough to pretty much get into any position — many times when cars are blocked in as well.”<br /> <br /> In addition, said Stone, “having secured storage facilities are also important for the added protection of the collateral.”<br /> <br /> The Lenders Recovery agents maintain relationships with lien holders (their primary customers), debtors, and law enforcement, among others. It’s important to remember, said Elwood, that repossessors are doing a job and that “it is rarely personal.”<br /> <br /> The lender provides account information that assists the repossessor in locating and securing the collateral, said Elwood. However, added Stone, technology such as e-mail “has taken away most of our direct contact with the major lenders. “This is unfortunate because communication is the most important tool we have,” he said. “We are the eyes and ears for the clients and the ability to have direct contact is a very important aspect of our job.”<br /> <br /> However, noted Stone, smaller banks and credit unions can still maintain one-on-one relationships with recovery agents. “This makes for a much more successful platform,” he said.<br /> <br /> The Police Law enforcement agencies typically don’t get involved with repossessions.<br /> <br /> “We are our own security,” said Elwood, “and we don’t rely on anyone, the police included.” Police officers who get involved “can be sued by the debtor as their presence signals a police action under the color of law to affect a civil process,” he explained.<br /> <br /> Conversely, added Elwood, the repo company can sue on the same grounds if the police aid the debtor. Bottom line: “Until the law is broken, the police cannot get involved one way or the other,” he said.<br /> <br /> The Debtor The recovery agent’s contact with the debtor is, of course, deliberately limited. Stone said that the recovery agent’s best approach is “to have no contact at all.”<br /> <br /> However, if there is contact between the repossessor and the debtor, “it is important to use tact, and never to make threats or promises that you cannot back up,” said Elwood. “Many times it is a matter of finesse and compromise and reasoning.”<br /> <br /> The repossessor’s biggest challenge is to locate the debtor’s vehicle. “The actual repossession of the vehicle is the easy part,” said Elwood. “The locating of savvy debtors who are running is the vast majority of the job.<br /> <br /> If you are not a good skip tracer, you will not make it in the business. Otherwise, you’d be driving around to all these different addresses, burning fuel and time, and not finding a thing. Fuel will kill you.”<br /> <br /> Being a successful repossessor requires an investigator’s savvy and a great amount of patience. “Repossessors do not get a single cent unless the vehicle is successfully repossessed,” said Elwood. “No matter how much time you spend trying to find a debtor, if you come up with nothing, you get zero dollars.”<br /> <br /> Added Elwood, “Some repos go very bad; some of us are killed just doing our job. This is the risk we take. In some instances, the debtor bites off more than they can chew as well. My advice to debtors has always been, ‘It’s just a car; it is not worth either of us losing our lives over, nor going to jail over.”<br /> <br /> “Consumer protection, the safety of the recovery agents in the field and the protection of the client’s brand has become a top priority within our industry,” said Stone.<br /> <br /> To see a video* of how professional repossessors work, see: www. youtube.com/watch_popup?v= RkFmNNptC68&vq=medium<br /> <br /> To see a demonstration of the Automatic License Plate Recognition (ALPR) system, see: www.youtube.com /watch?v=WA5Gy32aqdo<br /> To learn how to become a professional repossessor, see:<br /> www.mahalo.com/how-to-become- a-repo-man/ and www.repojobs. com/

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