How to find a former occupant of one's home?
July 16, 2013 11:40 AM   Subscribe

I keep getting a bank notice for a former occupant of my home who has a relatively common name. This person needs to know about the bank notice. Is there a way for me to find her?

I've owned my house for 6.5 years now. I am still getting the odd piece of mail for former occupants. I keep getting one in particular for someone, let's call her Eve Morgan (that's not her name but it's roughly as common as her real name), from the Bank of Nova Scotia Jamaica. I've sent a bunch of these letters back to the sender but finally I just opened the one I got last week.

It said that Eve has a bank account with over $70,000 in it that has been inactive for 96 months (8 years) and that if they don't hear from her in 136 days from the date of this letter, they are going to take a $1000 service charge out of her account. (Why do banks get to pull this kind of shit?!) Another thing is that although I just got this letter last week, the letter is dated March 11, 2013, so the 136 day grace period is almost up with just nine days to go.

I'm not entirely sure this letter isn't some kind of scam, but it looks legit to me. It's on Scotiabank letterhead paper and I've checked and there is a Scotiabank in specified town in Jamaica. So, assuming it's real and because it involves quite a lot of money, I'd like to do the decent thing and find Eve or her heirs so they can claim the account and not let Scotiabank help themselves to $1000 every year as they are probably doing.

So, my question is, is there any way I can track down someone with a common name who used to live in my house? Eve was not the former owner, and prior to the former owner's purchase of this house, it was chopped up into three horrible apartments and, from what I gather, let to a lot of different people without much money.
posted by orange swan to Grab Bag (26 answers total)
This is not your concern and you should not have opened the letter.
posted by 256 at 11:43 AM on July 16, 2013 [6 favorites]

This is not your concern and you should not have opened the letter.

Came here to post this almost exactly.
posted by Sternmeyer at 11:45 AM on July 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

Look, if you are not interested in helping by answering the question I actually asked, don't answer the question.
posted by orange swan at 11:47 AM on July 16, 2013 [9 favorites]

Where are you located? More pertinently, why is this your cross to bear?
posted by dfriedman at 11:48 AM on July 16, 2013

Why not contact the bank and tell them she no longer lives at your address?
posted by showbiz_liz at 11:49 AM on July 16, 2013 [5 favorites]

Agreeing with showbiz_liz - your best option is to contact the bank directly.
posted by something something at 11:51 AM on July 16, 2013

You may want to reconsider the rejection of "don't aggravate your felony" as a useful answer.
posted by 256 at 11:51 AM on July 16, 2013 [23 favorites]

I would suggest doing nothing. Opening mail that does not belong to you is a felony.
posted by oceanjesse at 11:52 AM on July 16, 2013 [4 favorites]

When I moved into my current apartment, I got a ton of mail for the previous tenant who's name was [myfirstname] [shortlastname]. (I have a short last name, too.) I set everything aside and notified my landlord, who said the tenant didn't leave a forwarding address. He tried to reach out to her but no dice. I returned a bunch of envelopes to sender but they still kept coming.

One day, an envelope came with the address handwritten on the outside, and I saw what looked like my name and opened it. Turns out it was hers, not mine. Turns out she's massively in debt and has tens of thousands in unpaid loans outstanding, and my guess is that the huge stack of unopened mail was all collections notices.

I called the phone number listed on the one I did open, explained that the person they were looking for no longer lived there, that the landlord didn't have any forwarding information. I've only received maybe 2 or 3 pieces of mail for the previous tenant since then (used to be about every other day), and it's been a good 6 months.

So, short answer: you shouldn't have opened it, but you did, so what now. Your two options are basically 1) call the bank and explain to them that this is not you and they have the wrong address, or 2) ignore it. Either way, there's really not much you can do, and even then, there's nothing you're morally obligated to do. (Except to not open any more of the mail.)
posted by phunniemee at 11:53 AM on July 16, 2013

I live in Toronto.

I have sent a number of these letters back unopened. Banks are only responsible for sending such notices to the last known address for their customer, so the matter won't get resolved if I contact them directly.

I know that if I were this woman or her heir that I would appreciate someone trying to notify me about this matter.
posted by orange swan at 11:53 AM on July 16, 2013 [5 favorites]

Yep -- make this the bank's problem. Sucks for the past owner, but duty really is on her to keep her bank apprised of her whereabouts.
posted by AwkwardPause at 11:55 AM on July 16, 2013

The good news is that if the account is in Jamaican dollars, it's worth C$718.68 and the inactivity fee is C$10.26 per month.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 11:55 AM on July 16, 2013 [8 favorites]

[Folks, the "not your business" angle's pretty clearly stated and acknowledged at this point. It's fine to just walk away from a thread if you don't feel like you're on the same wavelength as the asker.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:55 AM on July 16, 2013 [2 favorites]

So I agree that you should not have opened the letter, but I'll give an answer a stab anyway. Sometimes googling the name in quotes along with your city will bring up hits on spokeo, intelius, pipl, mylife, etc. Sometimes these will have hints about where the person in question might have moved to. Then you can use an online white pages directory (sometimes libraries have databases which are way better than the free open web versions) to look up that name in the area in which your first search might have indicated this person moved to. Then you'll probably be calling a bunch of people and asking "Are you the Eve Morgan who used to live at 123 Boulevard Street?"
posted by rabbitrabbit at 11:55 AM on July 16, 2013 [2 favorites]

If the name really is common, it will be very difficult, if not impossible to find her quickly and/or cheaply. If this were something you really wanted to pursue, running a background check on the name with your current address might pull up other records for the right person, hopefully with more recent information attached. But that costs money, takes time, and probably requires expertise to narrow down the records to make sure they match the right person.
posted by trivia genius at 11:56 AM on July 16, 2013

I would contact the bank's customer service line and explain that they need to use her alternate contact info or call her.

(I moved once and a bank charged me $200 for an account I had closed but they had not processed properly. They never bothered to call my cell, which was on record. Stupid banks. But they reversed the charge after I explained.)
posted by mochapickle at 12:00 PM on July 16, 2013 [2 favorites]

Agreeing with the contact the bank idea. Another thought would be an online reverse directory search. I don't know if it is available where you are, but do a people search, look for the Eve listed as having lived at your address and see if it offers any other addresses for her. Or enter your address, see if she shows up, then see if it offers alternate addresses for her. Who knows if it will work, but worth a shot. You may come across a relative that is easier to locate.
posted by MayNicholas at 12:11 PM on July 16, 2013

Hire a private detective to track her down, or use a public registry search to do the same.
posted by boo_radley at 12:16 PM on July 16, 2013

You gave it the college try. I know in the states we have an "unclaimed property" department that's run by the department of revenue in each state. It's a searchable database and you can see if you are owed money from banks, insurance companies, credit cards, etc. It even lists stock certificates.

Here is something similar in Canada. Perhaps you can send the notice to them, and they can list it for her or her heirs to find.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:17 PM on July 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

Stupid question: you've tried Facebook? When you facebook search a person you can generally see that person's location (perhaps either the town in Jamaica or your city). If you send a bunch of likely Eve Morgans that message perhaps one will be right.
posted by AmandaA at 12:28 PM on July 16, 2013

The good news is that if the account is in Jamaican dollars, it's worth C$718.68 and the inactivity fee is C$10.26 per month.

It had occurred to me that the sum might be in another currency, but it hadn't dawned on me that it would make such a difference!

You're probably right, and I'm consequently much less concerned about this. I have done some Googling (I'm a pretty good internet researcher) and looking on Facebook and that sort of thing and not come up with any real leads. This definitely isn't something I want to spend money on either. I think what I might do is ask my neighbour (who has lived two doors down since 1980) if she ever knew Eve. She probably hasn't (this house has housed a number of transients, from what I gather) and if not I'll just let the matter drop and go on sending the letters back.
posted by orange swan at 1:03 PM on July 16, 2013 [3 favorites]

You could possibly just throw a free ad in the community newspaper circular, or on kijiji or craigslist - write something along the lines of

"Searching for Eve Morgan from Jamaica regarding urgent personal correspondence - if you know Eve, please encourage her to contact me at (throwaway email address)
Many thanks for relaying the message!"

Could set that throwaway to automatically redirect to your email for a time.
That would at least get it out onto the interwebs, and then you've done a thorough job of trying to contact her. Who knows, she might google herself someday and find you.

( This way, you aren't pursuing and investing a lot of time- she will have to come to you)

( I hear you on trying to reconnect people with their mail - I always felt so bad for previous tenants when I saw important financial envelopes come into my mailbox)
posted by NorthernAutumn at 1:52 PM on July 16, 2013

It is possible they opened an account at a local branch of the Bank of Nova Scotia. You could drop it by the branch closest to your house and say it got opened accidentally in a stack of your mail and looks important. The bank may have some local resources to verify people's addresses if they are still in Canada. If the person is deceased, thy may have a record of that. In any case, the branch will not be able to tell you if she was their client, but it may have a better chance of reaching her than if you threw it in the trash and they may be able to inform the Jamaican subsidiary of anything they find.

You will have better luck if they have a receptionist at the branch and it is not too busy.
posted by Yorrick at 3:55 PM on July 16, 2013

Is there any chance that the Canadian Census might have your Eve Morgan? I mean, maybe it's possible she was living there at a time when they counted? If so, there might be other names in her household recorded with her, which might make it easier to narrow down your number of people to reach out to.
posted by bilabial at 7:54 PM on July 16, 2013

I write "no longer at this address" on the envelope and leave it for the mail carrier. It's the mail service's problem.
posted by Occula at 10:21 PM on July 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

Occula: "I write "no longer at this address" on the envelope and leave it for the mail carrier. It's the mail service's problem."

+1. I believe that this is the only appropriate response.
posted by schmod at 9:40 AM on July 17, 2013

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