As the name implies, skip tracing is the act of finding or locating a person who has left town or left a known location. But there is one additional criteria, the person of interest, or POI, does not want to be found. Often times, skip tracers are asked to find a person for the purpose of debt collection. The POI is trying to avoid repaying a debt and is trying to hide from his or her creditors.
Skip tracing is a service that is often provided by a private investigator and is estimated to make up about 20 – 30% of the private investigators work load. The investigator will work to locate the person of interest’s contact information and even current location but must then turn the information over to his or her client and not contact the POI.
Most often, the reason for a skip trace is to locate someone who is trying to avoid his or her debt but there are a few other reasons to attempt to locate a person which can include:
- Seeking a witness for an attorney
- Finding an heir for an estate
- Serving someone with process papers for a legal proceeding
- Finding a defendant who has failed to appear in court
- Finding a person who skipped bail
- Finding a person who failed to pay a business for services rendered
The goal of a skip tracer is to find the person’s current location and address. Unlike a bounty hunter, a skip tracer cannot arrest or detain anyone. Most clients will want the following information from a skip tracer at the end of an assignment:
- Current address
- Place of employment if any
- Current phone number
- Social security number or other identification number
- Evidence supporting the investigators finding such as photos or other documentation
Most of the work done in skip tracing is research. And this can be done using a variety of tools. Some of these tools include:
- Investigator databases which provide phone numbers, addresses and vehicle movements
- Open source intelligence which include deep web research, social media data gathering and other online resources
- Public records can include property tax documents, court records and more
- Interviews with known associates, colleagues and neighbors
- Surveillance of places that the POI is known to visit or has lived in the past
- Canvassing of an area that a POI might frequent
Obviously, if the POI can be located via a web search or from online information, the skip trace will be less costly. But if the investigator is required to canvass an area or invest time in surveillance, then the price can be double or triple the cost of a basic search.