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A Step-by-Step Guide to Skip Tracing

A Step-by-Step Guide to Skip Tracing

Let's be honest: Who doesn't love a great mystery story?

Take, for example, one of the most popular TV shows of the late 1980s: Unsolved Mysteries. It was so popular, in fact, that Netflix launched a (wildly successful) reboot in 2020.

Of course, a TV show about an unsolved mystery is one thing. When the mystery involves someone you're trying to find in real life — but can't locate — that's another.

This is where skip tracing comes in. You may have heard of it before, but what is skip tracing exactly? And what's the importance of skip tracing to locate hard-to-find people?

We'll answer these questions and more, so keep reading.

What Is Skip Tracing?

When someone "skips town," they seem to vanish without a trace. They may disappear without leaving a forwarding address, phone number, or any other contact information. Sometimes these actions are innocent, but often people skip out to avoid responsibilities, such as paying debts.

Meanwhile, tracing refers to the steps you take to track down and find this individual. Hence, the term "skip tracing" was born.

Who might use the services of a skip tracer? Here are some common examples:

  • Bounty hunters
  • Private investigators & detectives
  • Journalists & reporters
  • Real estate agents
  • Genealogists
  • Lawyers & attorneys
  • Collection agencies
  • Repossession companies
  • Missing children organizations
  • Tenant or employment background verification services
  • Insurance fraud investigators
  • Alumni organizing class reunions

As you can see, the importance of skip tracing extends beyond debt collection. Skip tracing in real estate, for example, is common to locate the owner of abandoned property. Other professionals use skip tracing to locate former colleagues or conduct research.

Important note: Many people think that skip tracing and bounty hunting are the same things, but this is not correct.

Bounty hunters or bail bondsmen may use skip tracing techniques to track someone down, but this is only one part of their job. Unlike a skip tracer, a bounty hunter is also authorized to make an arrest or take other legal action when they find the person.  

Skip Tracing Steps

Now that we've defined skip tracing, let's talk about the process. Whether you DIY or partner with a skip tracing service, here are the steps you can expect to follow.

1. Build & Verify Their Profile

Not everyone who's hard to reach is purposely hiding from their debts or obligations. It's possible that you don't have the correct or current contact information for them.

Start by analyzing the personal information you do have. This might include:

  • Full name, nicknames, or alias
  • Last known physical address
  • Phone number (landline or cellular)
  • Email address
  • Social security number
  • Social media profiles

To get started, you can use a tool like Super Phone to give you complete control of the search and verification process. This allows you to quickly find phone numbers and addresses for an individual or business.

If you have a verified address but little else to go on, you could try a reverse lookup address tool to find more information.

2. Expand Your Search

What if your initial skip tracing efforts yield few results? It's time to gather some historical and associative information on the person. 

For example, you might research:

  • Past physical address(es)
  • Previous employers
  • High schools, colleges, and universities attended
  • Past or present military service
  • Names and contact information of family members
  • Ex-spouses or significant others
  • Former neighbors or business associates
  • Professional organizations or affiliations

To locate neighbors and other known associates, you can order a Trace Detail Report. This provides details of people you may legally contact in pursuit of the individual.

Bonus tip: It's a morbid thought, but sometimes you can't track down someone because they're deceased. Be sure the person you're trying to contact is still alive by cross-referencing their name with death records. A tool like Enhanced People Search can help with this endeavor.

3. Dig Through Public Records

Hopefully, by now you've found your "missing" person. If not, you may need to hire the services of a professional skip tracer to comb through public records.

In their research, they might look into:

  • Credit card applications and credit reports
  • Background checks and criminal records
  • Courthouse records and appearances
  • Job applications
  • Driver's license and vehicle registration records
  • Air travel history
  • Public tax records
  • Utility bills
  • Loan applications
  • Department store loyalty programs
  • Search engines and social networks
  • School alumni or reunion websites
  • Previous landlords or roommates

Of course, you're able to do some of this research yourself. However, it's time-consuming and frustrating at best. And it can also be costly to order reports from different databases.

For these reasons, many in your shoes leave the bulk of the research with a professional skip tracer. This is especially helpful for the last of the skip tracing steps.

4. Contact Family, Friends, and Associates

Sometimes, friends or family members are willing to help you track down the person you're looking for. In other instances, you may receive no help at all. It goes without saying that you should never try to force information out of anyone against their will.

If you can't find answers from the individual's inner circle, you can expand your inquiries to former landlords, co-workers, or neighbors. Someone may remember a small detail — perhaps something mentioned in passing — that will point you in the right direction.

Above all, try to be patient. The skip tracing process can take a lot of time and effort, even with the help of a professional. Keep digging and you're sure to find the contact information you need.

The Best Skip Tracing Tools & Services

In some ways, the digital era has made it easier to stay connected. In other ways, it's made it easier for people to disappear.

Whether you're trying to find someone to collect a debt, purchase a property, or any other reason, skip tracing is your best bet. With the right tools at your disposal (and the best skip tracing tips), you'll soon be on your way to tracking down that "missing" person.

And don't worry — you don't have to go it alone. Here at Microbilt, we're dedicated to helping people like you resolve their credit, collection, and verification issues.

Click here to view our full list of collection and recovery tools or to request a customized solution for your needs.