Skip Tracing Crash Course
For many people, the term “skip tracer” may bring to mind images of a heartless bill collector, hunting down people who have fallen behind on their debts, forcing them to pay up. In reality, however, the job of the skip tracer is much more broad and complex. Whether they are tracking down deadbeat dads, locating lost loved ones or finding witnesses for criminal or civil trials, it is the duty of the skip tracer to find missing people.
You may be thinking why skip tracing is necessary, since there are plenty of law enforcement officials, bail bondsmen and private investigators who also look for and locate the missing for a living. While the latter is definitely more than qualified to locate fugitives, bail jumpers and others who have fled town to avoid the criminal justice system, the skip tracer specializes in locating people who may have less severe reasons for leaving. A missing person who simply left because he wanted to skip out on a few unpaid bills or an old friend that you have lost touch with is probably not going to go through all the trouble to go in hiding or change his identity, and is probably much more likely to leave a paper trail. This is where skip tracers come in; they are able to follow that trail, combing through various records, leads and directories until they find their man.
With the advent of the Internet and other advanced forms of information technology, you can now do a lot of skip tracing work for yourself, saving a great deal of money in the process. As stated earlier, most missing people can easily be found via the paper trail that they leave behind. You can easily pick up that trail-if you know where to look.
The first step in your search will be to determine whether the missing person’s disappearance is intentional or unintentional. In the case of lost loved ones, estranged family members or friends who you simply lost touch with, most likely the “skip” was unintentional, and they can be found fairly easily. If the person deliberately left town in order to avoid a lawsuit, past due bills or other trouble they might be in, then the skip is considered intentional and it can be a little more difficult to find them. In the case of intentional skips, you will have to do a lot more research and investigation on their whereabouts.
Regardless is the skip was intentional or unintentional, there are some key pieces of information that will help you a great deal in your search:
• Name (This includes nicknames, maiden names and aliases)
• Any and/or all addresses the person has resided in
• Last known phone numbers (including work, cell and pager numbers)
• Social Security Number and/or Driver’s License number
• Last known place of employment
• Last school/college/university attended
• Names of friends, family or spouses
Once you have gathered all of the “vital statistics” on the person you are looking for, now it is time to actually start the process of following the leads and hoping tracking down the subject of your search.
Many “missing persons” cases can be resolved by sampling looking through the phone book, so make sure that is the first thing you do when conducting your search. If you have an idea of what area the person is living in, you can check the local phone book or online phone directory to find any listings for similar names in that area. If the person you are looking for has a very common name, you will probably end up with a lot of listings, so it is always a good idea to have as much information as possible on the person in order to “filter” the search. If you have an idea of the street, or neighborhood the person may be living in, you can narrow down the search, saving you a great deal of time. You can also use 411 and other directory assistance numbers in order to get a person’s contact information. After you have received your listings, you will actually have to begin the process of calling all the numbers until you find the person that you are looking for. This may sound like an overly simplistic method, but it works! You will be surprised how many people have been found from using this low-tech strategy. And even when you don’t find the person, you can usually end up finding a relative who also be of a great deal of assistance in your search.
Public records are another vital resource, which can provide you with a great deal of information. All states now have online databases which allow you to do searches of people. Most of these services are free, and you get results instantly. Common types of information made available through public records are criminal and civil court proceedings, bankruptcies, real estate transactions, tax liens and criminal convictions. You can also check with the DMV in the state you believe the person is living in to see if there is a driving record available for the person in question. All of these records contain crucial pieces of key information that can help you a great deal in your search.
If you have reason to believe that your subject owns real estate, you have a myriad of options available to you in terms of finding some possible addresses. You can check with the county clerk for the area that you suspect the person to be living in or you can use a service that allows you to check local and state databases in order to research mortgage and real estate records. You can usually find out the name of the owner, the location of the property, and how much the property sold for.
If you have the individual’s social security number, you can also check with the Social Security Administration to find out what state the SSN was issued in, the date it was issued, and whether or not the person with that number is still alive.