Ever since there have been people who have owed other people money, there have been people trying to skip out on debts. The term “skip tracer” has been around since the days of horses and wagon wheels. The “skip” referred to the person who would skip town, and their pursuers were said to be “tracing” their trail.
Today, the term still applies, although the methods are considerably more high-tech. Skip tracing is the process of tracking down a person for any variety of reasons, such as debt collection, process serving, bail bond enforcement and similar services where the recipient may not necessarily want to be found.
Skip tracing uses a combination of record-searching techniques and social engineering to track down the missing person. It’s a science and an art, combing computer, people and detective skills.
Skip tracing is an amorphous term. According to the team at DetectiveDesk.com, “Skip tracing” is a technique used by professionals such as debt collectors and private investigators. A “skip tracer” is the name of a professional who only does these types of searches, often for a wide variety of clients.
If you’re an individual trying to find another individual, you’ll likely want to hire a skip tracer.
How Does Skip Tracing Work?
First, the skip tracer searches through a wide variety of databases. These databases can be public, such as worldwide telephone directories, public tax information and social media records. Other databases are available only to law enforcement or licensed private investigators. A qualified skip tracer will have access to these databases, as well as credit reports, loan application information and other financial information.
Skip tracing uses a variety of “fuzzy” search techniques. Creating a completely new identity isn’t always possible, and it’s certainly not very easy. So people on the run will often change their name as much as they can, while still having their new name tied to their old in some way. They’ll start going by their middle name, for instance. Or they’ll change their last name to their mother’s maiden name. There are countless ways someone can alter their name without creating an entirely new one.
Fuzzy searches will notice these types of connections. Information will be cross-referenced across databases, and then analyzed, reduce and verified. Sometimes the skip’s whereabouts are in the data, but hidden behind reams of useless information. Other times, the information is incomplete, but points in a direction which eventually leads to the subject.
Who Uses Skip Tracing?
Debt collectors, private investigators, bounty hunters and other similar professionals often turn to skip tracing services. While there are many skills which overlap between all those professions, a skip tracer will usually have the most thorough access to the various information databases, as well as the most complete understanding of how to effectively search through all of those records.
Regular people turn to skip tracing, too. Often these are people who have been awarded a judgement in court, or otherwise are owed money. “Deadbeat dads” are also a common, non-business-related search subject. Regardless of why one person is searching for another, they want to find them without spending a lot of money or wasting a lot of time. After all, if you’re searching for someone who is on the move, you have to act fast. If you’re searching for someone who owes you money, you don’t want to spend more on finding them than you’ll make once you do.
Skip Tracing vs. People Search
There are also many reasons why a person can’t be found which aren’t nefarious in the slightest. Sometimes people change their last names due to marital reasons. Other times people may change jobs, which results in a sudden move. People can simply drift apart over the years, too.
If you’re searching for someone in order to re-connect in a positive way, that’s not really called skip tracing. It’s generally referred to as a “people search.” The basic techniques are the same, although slightly different since the person being searched for is presumably not trying to hide.
How to Use a Skip Tracing Service
The initial skip tracing process is pretty simple, so it can be somewhat automated to where anyone can do it. Usually, you’ll subscribe to a service. Most reputable skip tracing organizations offer a free trial, usually around two weeks. Once you join a service, you’ll have access to their network of databases, all usually accessible through a simple search box.
There are various levels of services provided, depending on the specific workings of the agency. Sometimes you’ll input information yourself. Using the agency’s search tools, you’ll input all the information you know about the search subject: their first, last and middle name; last known address; previous occupations; phone number and whatever else you might know. The more information, the better the results.
Skip Tracing: Advanced Methods
Other times, you might need the skip tracing service to take a more hands-on approach. They take the information found in the search results, and use social engineering techniques in order to expand upon that information. A skip tracer will contact neighbors, relatives, friends and anyone else who might have information
How these people are contacted depends a lot on the specific situation. Sometimes, the tracer will have to be deceptive (without breaking the law). Other times, they’ll want to be direct. Successful skip tracers will have excellent communication skills and the ability to accurately read a wide variety of people.
The end result should reveal a lot of information. Aside from the subject’s current location, you might also discover their phone number, any current and former aliases, their employment history and even an address history. While obviously each situation is different, generally the more information you discover on a subject, the more information you will continue to discover.
If you’re searching for a person online, a skip tracing service is usually your first, and best, option. Skip tracing services can find people quickly by combining the power of technology with the expertise of search professionals. So don’t let people run from you – use skip tracing to today to get what you’re owed.
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