Skip tracing is the process of tracking down individuals by looking up public records information about them. In the private investigation industry, it is often a service provided by P.I.s, but more frequently, one used by them to track down a subject and make contact.
This technique has become more popular among the public in recent years because of its usefulness to real estate investors looking to acquire distressed off-market properties. Still, it has been known to those who go looking for debtors, missing family members, or defendants who skip bail for decades.
How To Find People Using Skip Tracing
Skip tracing is as much art as proven methodology, so even following clear instructions might not always get you what you are looking for if you don’t have experience and training. After all, it’s not just a matter of using the public records data to get a piece of contact information and then reaching out. Often hard-to-find people are that way on purpose, especially if they are in financial trouble.
Many real estate skip tracing queries revolve around properties that are in pre-foreclosure or those that are saddled with tax liens, so while the owners might be motivated to become sellers, they are not necessarily making it easy to make contact. As the experts at Auto Re-marketing point out, before looking for the patterns in the skip trace information though, you need to know how to gather it.
- Start with the most accessible resources like internet search engines, social media platforms, and open yellow and white page directories to see if you turn up accounts or contact information
- From there, move into public records that are up to date and sometimes digitally accessible like civil and criminal court information or obituaries and other local media mentions
- Close in on sources that require more footwork like county deed registries, tax lien lists, and county pre-foreclosure lists for areas the person may have lived or use a national search service to look across the U.S.
- Work the results you find to see if any are active addresses or phone numbers and be ready to go into your outreach script right away if you get results
- Should your skip trace results become deep trace results because they do not pan out after you work them, consider outsourcing to a private investigator to continue digging with tools beyond the skip trace
The search for contact information is the most labor-intensive part of the trace, so it is almost always left to professionals. Manual skip tracing is too time-consuming when compared to searching through services with access to national tier-1 skip tracing data that can compile a report for you in anywhere from a couple of hours to a couple of days.
Free Vs. Paid Skip Tracing
Free skip tracing resources may be able to give you a starting point, but they also tend to access older records than those available through paid services. They also provide more bare-bones information than you typically get from a fully detailed skip trace report.
The other important thing to consider is what you can trace. Free tools often let you search for individuals by name, birth date, and sometimes by a few different criteria. They do not necessarily provide industry-specific tools like map search or property lookup that you’ll find in real estate skip tracing toolkits.
According to CNBC, the third quarter of 2021 saw a 32% increase in foreclosure activity over the previous quarter, putting it at 60% above 2020’s numbers. This is primarily due to the expiration of the COVID foreclosure moratorium and other relief efforts. It is leading to many motivated sellers in the nation’s pre-foreclosure markets. Skip tracing tools that incorporate property lookup information to flag buildings in pre-foreclosure or those on IRS tax lien lists are essential for property hunting.
Best Free Skip Tracing Tools
There are a lot of sites that promise to help you find missing people for free, but most of them do not provide complete trace data for free. Instead, they offer free white or yellow page lookup services with some trace results, with an upgraded service for full reporting. Some exceptions offer accurate tracing, though, and there are sites you can use to trace manually without paying. Here are some of the best.
- Duckduckgo.com is an anonymous deep web search engine that is known to deliver results deprioritized by Google and Bing
- The Internet Archive lets you search snapshots of web pages going back to the beginning of the internet and up to today so you can compare results and track dead leads, and it can help find account name changes sometimes
- FastPeopleSearch.com provides quick tracing lookup for free with short contact information results almost instantly based on the data available to the site
It’s worth comparing the free and paid tools by searching yourself because you can tell a lot about the accuracy of the trace by whether it can accurately find you.
Best Paid Skip Tracing Tools
The best-paid tools you can use for tracing individuals are the ones that subscribe to tier-1 data resources. Those resources are the same from one provider to the next because they are public records, but the additional features and resources of the service go a long way toward setting the best apart from the rest.
BatchSkipTracing offers you access to tier-1 data with no monthly fees, full results on searches for owners of distressed properties in detailed reports, and a price that makes it easy to pull results when you need them. You only pay for what you request, and individual results are just $0.20. That makes it accessible for both high and low-volume customers.
When it comes to your skip tracing resources, you get what you pay for. That means free tools will give you access to the information they can pull without adding unsustainable costs to the service. By contrast, paid tier-1 skip tracing tools provide you with the most accurate and up-to-date information possible.