Skip tracing is a term that is used to describe the process of locating a person who can't be found at their place of residence or usual hangouts. Back in the day, debtors who defaulted on their financial obligations often left creditors holding the bag. It was relatively easy to pull up stakes and leave town to avoid collection attempts. Desperate creditors often turned to so-called “skip tracers” to track down debtors. In tracking down delinquent debtors on behalf of creditors, private investigators utilize today’s data resources along with a number of traditional tools and strategies.
More Efficient Debtor Tracing through Current Data
Private investigators actually avoid using the term “skip tracing” in favor of grouping such cases with similar assignments to locate person of interest (POIs) on behalf of a client. Back in the day, tracking down POIs often involved a number of phone calls and a fair amount of shoe leather. Getting out in the field is still important, but today, modern data resources aid the work of private investigators. The list below represents several tools organizations like the American Recovery Association make available for their members:
- Phone Numbers - Phone number databases such as the “Switchboard Nationwide Residential and Business Directory" are digitalized — with searches conducted via computers or mobile devices.
- Auto Records - The National Independent Automobile Dealers Association (NIADA) maintains an information-rich website along with portals for state chapter affiliates. Data searches can reveal valuable tradeline and related information.
- GPS Data - Smarthphones and many newer model cars have GPS data technology capabilities which can aid in locating POIs.
- Credit Bureaus - Along with consumer credit bureaus (TransUnion, Equifax, Experian), there are specialized databases, including D-U-N-S for business credit, Certigy for banking and Innovis for fraud detection.
- Social Media - People willingly post personal information, including photos and current whereabouts on social media sites (Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, etc.).
Stay a Step Ahead of Debtors with Property Data
Property data often provides valuable clues about a person’s movements and activities — clues that can ultimately yield someone’s current location and contact information. This type of data facilitates searches of information such as property reports, map searches and document searches, allowing investigators to remain a step ahead of elusive debtors.
- Property Reports - Property reports often represent an excellent starting point for searches by verifying past locations and relatives of a POI. Real estate data facilitates the process of searching property reports — transforming hours of thumbing through dusty hard copies into clicks on a computer or mobile device.
- Map Searches - Old school searches produced lists and charts. Property data searches not only produce information-rich lists, but often transfer search results automatically onto a map. In a search for a POI, maps often provide valuable clues of where to look.
- Document Searches - Documents often yield a treasure trove of information vital to tracking down a POI. With technology and property data data, documents are transformed into searchable images. Manual thumbing through stacks of papers is replaced by keyword searches that produce relevant documents in seconds or minutes rather than hours.
Tracking Down POIs and Debt Dodgers
Modern data resources will not replace the know-how of a private investigator or debt collector. Instead, data facilitates the search for a POI by reducing the tedium associated with manual searches of hard copies, mimeographs and other low-tech, traditional methods. Investigators apply their expertise and experience in determining relevant searches and utilizing the results of those searches in tracking down debtors.
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