What is Skip Tracing? #122

For the record, typically only people in the “people locating” industry use the word Skip Trace.  The word is typically used by private investigators, bounty hunters, debt collectors or anyone else that is looking for an individual. 

To be honest I have never used the word in my investigative career because no one understands what it means.  It is only natural that you probably searched, “What is skip tracing” to find out what the word means.

Skip Tracing Definition (What is Skip Tracing)

Some people say the word “skip” relates to someone skipping out of town and the word trace refers to tracing or tracking down the individual.  Only recently have I heard the word tracing in relation to tracking down information and that came from another private investigator telling me that a client was “tracing down a file”.  In other words the client wanted to track down an update on their assignment.

So if someone says they are a skip tracer it means that they locate difficult to find people.  All private investigators should have this skill and some investigators do this better than others.  And some people are easier to find than others.

What is skip tracing

How do Skip Tracers Find People?

Skip tracing can sometimes be easy and many times it can be difficult.  Sometimes we have to locate people without them knowing and sometimes we can be obvious about locating someone.  From my experience it can be much more difficult to locate people when it has to be done covertly.

With that being said skip tracing is an art form just like many things in the investigation industry.  It can take piecing together information that is not obviously linked.  It is following the web of information that is collected.  And that information can come from several sources including the following:

  • Proprietary Sources- IRB, Skipsmasher, TLO, Tracers etc..(Credit headers)
  • Public Records
  • Social Media (Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, Youtube, Snapchat, Music.ly, etc..)
  • Family Members
  • Neighbors
  • Vehicle Information
  • Pretexting
  • Property Records
  • Criminal Records
  • Court Records
  • Permits
  • Licensing (Professional, Business, any you can check)
  • Online Searching (Google, Yahoo, Bing etc..)

Each one of these sources can lead an investigator (aka skip tracer) in a direction which can lead them to either more information or the individual.

Skip tracing in the digital and internet age has made things easier and more accessible to an investigator looking to find someone.  Despite all the information that is available online, information alone does not help someone piece the puzzle of information together.  Piecing information together comes with time and experience.

What is skip tracing

How do you Become a Skip Tracer?

There are many books that can help provide a foundation for skip tracing and seminars you can participate in that will help you learns the skills to locate people.  But there is no real formal training that will (like schooling) certify you as a skip tracer.

With the a foundation of resources, some reading and some practice you can teach yourself how to find people and analyze the information from data sources. On the job training is also possible should you be willing to find a company willing to train you on the job.

I find people and information about people daily but even I continue to learn new tricks and find new resources to help find people easier.  You will never be finished learning new things when it comes to finding people as techniques, laws, sources of information and technology are always changing.

Companies that need skip tracers are the following:

  • Private Investigators
  • Bounty Hunters
  • Debt Collectors
  • Repossession Companies
  • Any Company Needing to Locate Someone

Not all skip tracing opportunities are good ones.  Some job opportunities will be paid upon locating the individual or how many individuals are located. Sometimes the pay is not worth the amount of work that is needed to locate individuals. Collection companies are known for work like this and may not be the greatest job opportunities to pursue.  If given an opportunity I would recommend determining if it the job is right for you based on the amount of money being paid.

What is the Job Outlook for a Skip Tracer?

The job outlook for the skip tracing industry is a mix between a Bill and Account Collector, a Private Investigator and a Bounty Hunter.

The 2015 job outlook for a Bill and Account Collector according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that the median pay in 2015 was $34,440 which is $16.56 an hour.   The entry-level education is high school diploma which reinforces that there is no formal education to enter this industry. There were 350,000 jobs in 2014.

The 2015 job outlook for a Private Investigator  according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that the median pay in 2015 was $45,610 or $21.93 an hour.  There were 34,900 jobs in 2014 for private investigators. It states that the typical education level is a high school diploma.

A skip tracer can only get so far from behind a desk.  Don’t assume you can completely do this job from your home or office.  Sometimes you have to physically be in a location to find out information.  If skip tracing could only be done from behind a computer than everyone would be doing it.

My last bit of advice about the skip tracing industry is that the real money to be made is in having your own business.  So learn the skill and then eventually go out on your own to enable you to make a decent living in this industry.

Books to consider reading or to have as a reference are the following:

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Private Investigating  – One of my favorites

The Investigator’s Little Black Book 3 -A reference book

How to do a Background Check This one has a couple of nuggets.

Background Check: How to Do Your Own Professional Background Check (Skip Trace Secrets) (Volume 2)– Haven’t read this yet but it has some good reviews


Thanks for reading.