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Tracking Members after Mail is Returned

Question: Our credit union is getting a substantial amount of returned mail from membership stating that the member is no longer at the last known mailing address. We're aware we might be able to do a credit check to locate members, (it's already in our agreement), but that process is not cost feasible. Do you have any suggestions?

Answer: We have several suggestions - and some questions. At our bank we filed return mail in a special area. After the third statement was returned, we stopped sending statements after notifying by "Registered mail, Return Receipt Requested" to the customer notifying them of the fact that as of the date of this letter we were stopping the mailed statements. The returned, undeliverable unopened registered letter was filed with the three statements. Eventually either charges closed the account, or the funds left in them were escheated to the state. We also had a procedure for change of address verification before we'd change the address on the account.

But that is the way to handle truly undeliverable statements. You might do better to try to get to the bottom of why so many are being returned. Does the credit union serve a particularly mobile population - students, workers who get trained then transferred, etc.?

Why is it that when the person changes addresses the "Address Correction Requested" feature with the Postal Service isn't working? That is a paid-for feature and it doesn't sound like the credit union is getting its money's worth, unless these people are simply moving and leaving no forwarding address with anyone.

You might consider adding a line to your statement stuffers to remind members of the obligation to keep their contact information current. It could even double as a marketing message. For example: Moving? How can we help? Need a mortgage loan? Financing to buy new furniture? Contact us! Don't forget to complete a Change of Address form with us before your move! The credit union should also look at its Web site. For virtually no cost, you can easily add a message to the Web site about address changes.

If you don't want to pay for a new credit report, how about making a simple phone call? Often, when someone moves, they will pay a small fee to have a recorded message tell callers to the old number what their new number is. Then, a call to the new number will provide a way to get the new address. Sometimes simply putting the telephone number up on the Google search will give you the name and address.

Another option is to look at the account opening documents. It's likely that at the time of account opening the member was asked to list the name and phone number of the nearest relative not living with them and there is probably verbiage that gives you permission to contact that individual to get whereabouts information.

Look at images of recently written share drafts. If they ordered new check stock through some other vendor, they may have their new address on the items. Even if they didn't order new check stock, they might have crossed out their old address and put the new one in by hand on one of the items.
The more people you lose contact with, the harder your job is because you have to invoke internal controls on dormant accounts and, eventually, you will have to report the balances as presumed unclaimed property to the state. Also, new regulations regarding the safekeeping of customer information means you'll have to store those returned statements in a secure location. That's storage space that could be used for something more useful. The more proactive you can be about keeping in touch with members, the better for your bottom line.

Copyright © 2005 Bankers' Hotline. Originally appeared in Bankers' Hotline, Vol. 15, No. 10, 10/05

First published on 10/01/2005

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