Nov 26, 2018 Philip Burgess
The daily lives of private investigators, while envisioned with great creativity by plenty of truly talented writers and film directors, are most often dominated by tasks unknown to those who know it entirely from its depictions in pop culture. Individuals who find fulfillment in the profession focus their efforts intensely on doing each aspect of their job with great efficacy.
"Skip tracing software is an essential tool of private investigators, debt collectors and various other professionals."
Skip tracing stands out prominently as a frequent assignment of modern private investigators and bounty hunters - a term that sounds much more ominous on paper than it usually is in practice. This task - finding people who don't want to be found for any number of reasons, not infrequently financial obligations - relies upon the ingenuity, patience and hard work of dedicated professionals. (When those requirements are considered as a combination of tasks, it's often referred to as "legwork" by those in the business) Investigators also lean heavily on a variety of specialized tools, including skip tracing software from Microbilt.
In particular, it's important for small businesses to be aware of this technology so that they can be prepared if they were to ever require such services. Here, we'll delve into the essential tenets of skip tracing, how it has evolved through the years and its most essential modern uses, as well as how skip tracing software specifically aids those who ply the trade of people-finding.
A beginner's guide to skip tracing
The practice of successful skip tracing is, at least in part, self-explanatory: a professional "tracing" the path and, ideally, determining current whereabouts of someone who's "skipped" town - left their residence of record in a sudden or otherwise unexpected fashion. The precise etymology of the term is unclear, but the essential meaning isn't - and it hasn't changed over time, having been in use for at least several decades.
In the parlance of bail-bonds officers and bounty hunters, a skip trace often indicates searching for someone who has left their residence while on bail, house arrest or bound by any other form of legal obligation to stay where they are. When involved in such situations, skip tracers exercise extreme caution and are generally required to coordinate all of their activities with all relevant law enforcement agencies. Those specializing in skip tracing known felons are often retired police or military personnel, and may be licensed to carry firearms in the event of a worst-case, life-or-death emergency. That said, most skip traces that modern investigators carry out don't involve anything remotely close to such levels of danger.
Investigators spend much of their time looking for missing people who aren't dangerous or criminal at all. They can help bring in witnesses needed for a trial, those who need to receive official documents (court summons, usually), locate a source of information for newsgathering purposes or simply find someone when friends or family haven't been able to do so. And, of course, a large share of these operations involve tracking down financial delinquents, as Trustify notes. If a debt has driven a creditor to conduct or commission a full-fledged skip trace from investigative or tracing service providers, it's safe to say that the debt in question is quite large - somewhere in the thousands. (This isn't to say you can't use skip tracing software to look for a missing debtor who owes a smaller amount, or any amount for that matter. But for a person or organization to take on the expense of a private investigator or skip tracer, the money owed likely exceeds those costs by a significant amount.)
Fundamental practices of skip tracing
Most investigations will have their own particular twists and turns, just not the kind found in private eye novels. Regardless, certain best practices are fairly consistent and applicable across various skip traces. According to North American Investigations, any mediums of communication, including social media profiles and telephone activity (mobile or otherwise), are good places to start, as are numerous indications of financial activity: Transaction records from debit cards and bank accounts, credit card applications and utility usage all fall under this umbrella.
"A skip trace can involve everything from interviews of known associates to exhaustive examination of records."
Sometimes this information alone is enough to find a missing person. But if trying to skip trace an individual without a bank account, or someone who is averse to social media, it becomes necessary to do a more rigorous search: Such an investigation can involve everything from looking up public records (taxation, applications for various forms of government licensure and so on) to visiting a person's past employers, neighbors, friends and relatives, to gain a more nuanced perspective on the individual than what any record on paper can tell.
Complexities of the process
It may also be necessary to skip trace others in the course of investigating a primary person of interest, such as any of the aforementioned family, friends, acquaintances or other known associates. This practice is known as cross-reference skip tracing, and jobs that require it are among the most complex assignments a skip tracer or other investigator must deal with. Other complications that can be encountered in the course of a skip trace may necessitate any or all of the following legwork techniques:
- Looking in unsavory corners of the internet, such as deep web sites on private Tor servers.
- Searching through the neighborhoods or establishments frequented by a person of interest.
- Staking out any known addresses - even if the subject of the investigation hasn't been seen there for some time - on the off-chance they think any interest parties have stopped looking for them. This can be most applicable in cases where the person of interest has been out of pocket for several months, which is by no means unheard of in skip tracing.
- Poring through the trash of a subject, as odd as it may sound, is hardly uncommon in all forms of private investigation, including skip traces.
- Confronting the individual in question and convincing them not to skip town again. (In extreme cases, skip tracers will need to liaise with and depend upon local law enforcement, who may be searching for the person of interest for their own reasons.)
Role of software and databases in skip tracing
All of the practices detailed above are fundamental to a skip tracing investigation. However, to truly ensure the success of these endeavors, skip tracers must often employ special software designed to meet the search needs of their queries. Skip tracing software can be customized to fit the parameters of a particular trace - be it a debt collection effort, witness search, general missing-persons inquiry or looking for a person who has skipped bail - and examine only the databases most pertinent to the matter at hand.
This is especially important given how much effective skip tracing is dependent upon sifting through vast quantities of information, isolating the data that is relevant and ignoring other findings that may come up. Unless tertiary info discovered in a skip trace is related to criminal activity, it can most likely be set aside, so that investigators don't become overwhelmed by the sheer volume of records with which they will be dealing. Although research is a key skill in this profession, even seasoned skip tracers can sometimes find themselves stymied by particularly circuitous or convoluted investigations.
Skip tracing software from Microbilt helps small-business owners and any investigators they may work with bring streamlined order to a sprawling - and, at times, disorderly - process. Microbilt's suite of recovery tools includes interfaces for easily perusing phone records, addresses, public records, employment history, family, friends and known associates, aliases and more. Users can create unique information requests that will locate the exact data needed and save time for other necessary legwork.