Skip tracing is the process of locating a person’s whereabouts. There are many reasons that a person will ‘disappear’. Some are totally legal, some are illegal or at least immoral and some are due to mysterious circumstance, as in a missing person. There are many reasons for locating a person including:
• Fugitive bail recovery
• Witnesses in legal proceedings
• Debtors who have defaulted
• Repossession of property
• Missing heirs to an estate
• Process service of legal and court documents
How is a Skip Trace Done?
Skip tracing is a process and usually performed in stages.
• Verify information from client. Erroneous or overlooked inclusion of important details can extend the ‘hunt’ and waste time and financial resources. Succinct complete information improves the chance of locating the missing person and/or property. It is best to know:
o Date of birth
o Last known address
o Phone number(s)
o Current and previous employers
o Know family and friends
o Interests & hobbies
o Email address
o Website or known social media sites.
• Collection of information. The investigator strives to collect as much information as is practicable. Obfuscation occurs with data-overload or inclusion of out right disinformation. It is important that information is verified, and that the same misinformed source is not propagated across the internet. Social engineering skills are employed to cull information from friends, family and former employers or fellow workers.
o Get acquainted with the formal search syntax of Google Search. There is a lot can be done. Start wide and narrow the search.
o Records searches include phone number databases, credit reports and debt collector databases. Loan apps and credit card apps also are included. Job apps, criminal background checks, utility bills, social security, disability records and public business and tax information. Some are public records other require at minimum a court order, subpoena or search warrant. The documents ensure privacy and protect the information source from possible legal action as they are complying with a court ordered info search.
o Public or subscription data bases can yield massive amounts of public information across many jurisdictions. These data bases cull public information and combine multiple sources into a report. But the accuracy is subject to inclusion of multiple persons with a similar names, stale information or actual misinformation and there is a considerable amount of verification involved.
o Information that is available varies by jurisdiction. Example: Nevada marriage records are online. California marriage records have controlled access only. Driver’s license and DMV record access varies not only by state but by jurisdiction as well.
• Analysis and verification of data. Then comes the pavement pounding trying to physically locate the subject. In the case of voluntary missing adults, the physical well-being, and health status can be ascertained, a message that covers concerned parties i.e. those looking for them and the well being of the individual can be reported to the client but not their location, a privacy issue.
What Makes Good, Accurate Skip Tracers?
Skip trace professional will be aware of Google Search features and will have subscriptions to databases either not known to the average person or not available in part because of the cost. A knowledge of state laws reference surveillance and privacy restrictions are paramount. Computer skills, experience and education mark the effective skip tracer, and the education does not necessarily dictates formal education. Industry seminars and course also contribute. Knowing and have experience in social engineering is a must, meaning the skip tracer must be personable and cultivated social interaction skills.
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