What is Skip Tracing?
Skip tracing is the art of locating people who have “Skipped” or moved. The term comes from the saying “To Skip Town”. As a result, the person being searched for is referred to as the Skip and the person looking for them is known as the Tracer, or Skip Tracer.
A Skip Tracer will commonly take on cases related to Debt Collection, Bounty Hunting, Repossessions and a number of other cases.
What is the difference between a Skip Tracer and Private Investigator?
A private investigator will investigate to find facts or evidence in relation to a case. A skip tracer will investigate to find people. Both will conduct surveillance and utilise technology to obtain information, it is just the objectives that are different.
Generally a skip tracer will also be a private investigator as there is an overlap between the industries and the licensing requirements in some countries. Some private investigators that are skip tracers, tend to take on more missing person cases than other investigations.
How to locate someone?
A skip tracer will use a number of techniques to locate a person, depending on the type of case. For example; If a skip tracer was searching for a debtor, they would not use the same techniques used to locate criminals. Locating debtors is more regulated and less paid, so surveillance isn’t an option for most debtor location cases. The client simply doesn’t pay enough for cover the cost of surveillance.
Criminal locations will generally utilize all the techniques, from social engineering through to surveillance. In all cases, a skip tracer will use online tools to assist in the investigation. Online tools help to make connections between people, obtain more leads and are a great intelligence gathering resource.
Social media is another great resource to a skip tracer. You would be amazed at some of the things people post, like taking a selfie while holding their drivers license.
A skip tracer will often start of with some basic information on the POI (Person Of Interest). This information could be as simple as a name and last known location, or complete details like Name, Date of Birth, last known contact details and family members.
This is known as the “Base” information. With this, a skip tracer will start to look at finding connections between the POI and “Third Parties”. A third party is someone that may know the POI or is a relative.
The process of making connections and verifying the information can be very tedious, but it is also the most important. Without verifying the new leads, a skip tracer cannot charge a client. Verifying leads generally means a skip tracer needs to make some phone calls to confirm the POI is at the location they obtained.
Contacting neighbours or the home owner is a common way to help verify leads. Generally a skip tracer will not believe the information provided to them directly from the POI themselves.