What is a skip trace?
Skip tracing is the art of locating missing people. “Skips” are what investigators call people who have often neglected some responsibility and have gone “missing”. Unpaid bills or missed child support are two of the reasons why people hide from investigators.
With the rise of the internet in the last decade, skip tracing is now something that the average citizen is able to do on their own. Simple Google searches, or searches across social networks are able to return results. However, in many cases it is more appropriate to seek the assistance of a professional such as a private investigator or debt collection agency.
Social Security Number Traces
Investigative professionals have access to information that the general public cannot view legally. Skip tracing tools give licensed professionals access to sensitive information like social security numbers, as long as there is a legitimate use for that information. Social security numbers (SSNs) are unique to each individual, so they are often the key piece of information needed to locate the person in question.
Think about it, you go to open a new checking account, what do you have to provide the bank? A social security number. If you sign up for a new credit card, you also need to provide a social. The majority of things that require validation of your identity work off of a social security number.
Every time a person uses their social security number to open a new account, there is a trail. Saavy investigators know how to put the pieces of the puzzle together and produce an address. This used to be more difficult before the days of online databases, but now, sometimes all that is needed is a fragments of information on the subject: a date of birth, partial ssn, address, phone number, etc.
Some skip tracing databases allow you to view possible connections between relatives. Why is this important? Well, often skips will try to hide assets with family members to avoid reposession. If the assets cannot be found at the skip’s address, they cannot be taken away. In many cases, if you can find a relative, you can find the skip.
When investigators have a difficult time finding someone, they may be able to find their spouse or ex-spouse. At times, that spouse (or especially an ex) may be more than willing to provide the investigator with accurate information.
There are no skip tracing tools that can ever replace good, old fashioned, investigative skills. Twenty-first century skip tracing tools and investigative database companies have decreased that time it takes to find missing people, but some skips are so “off the grid”, investigators have to rely on good instincts and deductive reasoning.
Skips who only use cash for their rent payment, groceries, gas, etc. are difficult to trace because there is no paper trail. Additionally, those who have changed their name, or have assumed someone else’s identity may be near impossible to find.