Have you ever needed to locate someone but you can’t find any recent contact info with a Google search?
Enter the world of skip tracing……
What is Skip Tracing?
Skip tracing is what you do when you need to find the whereabouts of a person whose contact information can’t easily be found or is outdated.
The term skip tracing is usually used in cases where people are being tracked because they owe a debt or skipped out on their bail. Often, these targets have worked hard to hide their whereabouts and their current contact information.
Skip tracers search through databases, sometimes do surveillance, and even contact relatives and friends of the person they’re after to locate them.
Some of the things a skip tracer might find out include:
- Accurate Contact Info or Location (residential address, email address, phone numbers)
- Recent Employment Information (name of company, address, dates)
- Motor Vehicle Records (license number, types of license(s), asset information)
- Names and addresses of relative, friends, neighbors, coworkers, etc.
- Local and Federal Tax Information (income, assets, businesses owned, etc.)
- Utility Records (electric, gas, cell phone, etc.)
- Court and Law Enforcement Records (criminal history, tickets, etc.)
- Credit reports
If you want to skip trace, you must know what the laws are in your area for telephone recording, surveillance, and the various privacy rights laws.
Skip Tracing Careers
If you want to earn money as a skip tracer, here are some things to note.
In general, you don’t need a license or any special training to be a skip tracer.
However, it does depend on the company hiring you to work as a skip tracer.
Education and Experience Requirements
Some skip tracers are private investigators (and private investigators need a license). Some want to see some kind of training or work experience in the fields of police science, investigation, law, security management, computer forensics or some kind of similar field.
You can usually get the required experience by working for a collection agency or working under a bail bondsman, private investigator, or bounty hunter for a year or two.
If you’re not looking to get hired as a skip tracer, you can train yourself (remember that you must learn the local and federal privacy and surveillance laws!).
Just go solo – go online, and advertise your services as a one-man skip tracer company. Of course, you’ll still have to register your business name in your state and get a vendors license to collect the appropriate taxes.
The amount of money that skip tracers earn varies because they work in different areas doing different things.
There are bounty hunters, there are skip tracers who work for debt collection companies, there are skip tracers working for private detectives, etc.
The OOH by the Bureau of Labor Statistics classifies skip tracers as Bill Collectors, and it lists their median annual salary as $35,350 (or $17/hour).
Private detectives and investigators, on the other hand, have an average annual salary of $48,190 ($23.17/hour).
How to Skip Trace
Skip Tracing can be a long, arduous process if someone is actively trying to hide their whereabouts and assets, but persistence will pay off eventually!
You want to start with what’s readily available, but realize that most sources of information that will give you what you want are going to cost money.
Start with free searches, of course.
Do an internet search for the person’s name, email addresses, any usernames you know they’ve used in the past, and basically any information on them that you currently have (except a social security number – that’ll get you nowhere!).
- Free information can be found on sites like:
- You can opt to get paid reports (or pay for a membership) at one of the many background-report sites. Some of those include:
But once you’ve exhausted all the easily-obtained information and reports, it’s time to get busy and delve into all the unknown, untapped sources and databases.
- I went through this once, and I recommend the book “How to Get Anything on Anybody Book 3”.
- The book is dated now – it was written in 2003, and the author died in 2009, but it still gives a lot of useful information of how to locate anything you want on anybody.
Sometimes, he mentions something, and then you have to go to Google and research that some more to find the up-to-date resource URL or find an alternative to it. But it’s still quite useful.
- Do a court record search online or at the courthouse using all variations of the person’s name or address. Traffic tickets can provide a lot of useful information.
To do it in person, go to the courthouse, check the record index, pull the ticket, collect all of the information from it. Most people get tickets within a forty-mile radius of where they live, but of course, there’s always exceptions.
Online, search for the county sheriff’s website or the county or city police department online search portals, and do criminal searches there.
- The key factor in a skip trace investigation is just to collect all the information on the target that you possibly can, because each piece you don’t have might be a lead to other sources or be used as the missing piece of the puzzle to locate him or her.
For example, depositions in divorce records can produce all kinds of info you don’t have. Civil records will produce attorneys and a useful “enemy’s list”. Marriage records produce the name of a church or preacher. And so on and so forth.
- If you know of key relatives or close friends, drop by on a holiday, like Christmas or Thanksgiving. Chances are they’ll show up there on those days, or at least make some sort of contact.
- If you know what his hobbies are, check out places he would likely frequent – online or offline.
If he’s into, say, acting, check local theaters or online amateur acting forums or communities in his last known area (or the area where he’s originally from, since a lot of people “on the lamb” tend to go back to somewhere near where they’re originally from).
- If he’s established in one kind of job or profession, it’s likely he now has a similar job or profession. Search around the area you think he’s probably in, and see if you can locate tips, leads, or sources there.
For example, if he used to make his living as a car salesman, check out all the car dealerships in a potential town or county.
- Invest in some useful books that outline useful techniques (in addition to the one mentioned in #3). Here are a couple to get you started on your skip tracing adventure: