Skip tracing techniques

Skip Tracing Overview

Skip tracing is the art of locating a debtor who does not want to be found. Skip tracing is needed in order to collect on overdue accounts receivable. In this article, we discuss several skip tracing techniques for locating people who are trying to cover their tracks, so that they can avoid paying overdue bills.

Skip Tracing Techniques

There are many sources of information that a skip tracer can use. The following list includes the more traditional sources of information:

  • Acquaintances. Any one of the friends, relatives, business associates, or neighbors may know the exact whereabouts of an individual. Though it can be difficult to extract information from this group, it can also lead you directly to the target without engaging in any additional skip tracing activities.

  • Caller ID. Send a mailing to all addresses at which the individual may live, stating that you need to contact the person, and leaving a phone number. If the person ever calls the number out of curiosity, your caller ID can capture the phone number, which can then be input into as a reverse phone search to reveal the current address of the person.

  • Corporate filings. The secretary of state may have corporate filings that reveal the locations of company officers.

  • Criminal search. A criminal search may reveal that the individual is incarcerated or on parole.

  • Directory assistance. Even if a phone line has been disconnected, contact directory assistance and ask for any phone numbers for other listings in the area that have the same last name.

  • Fraternal organizations. If the person is a long-standing member of a fraternal organization, he or she may not be willing to sever the relationship, and so will continue to provide updated contact information to the organization.

  • Postal service change of address. Mail an empty envelope to the last known address of the target, with the following stamp on the outside: Do Not Forward – Address Correction Requested. The postal service will eventually return the envelope with a label on the outside that lists the forwarding address of the target. Of course, this approach only works if the individual supplied the postal service with a forwarding address.

  • Professional licenses. If the person is certified by a state organization, the certifying agency should have contact information, assuming that the person has an interest in continuing to use his or her certification.

  • Reverse telephone directories. Enter a phone number in these directories and they return the address to which the phone number is linked. These directories do not provide information for unlisted numbers. An example of a reverse directory is

  • Search engine. Enter the name of the individual in a search engine, using quotes, and see if information about the person appears. General searches of this nature tend to contain relatively older information, so if the person has just skipped town, it is less likely that you will obtain useful information.

  • Telephone listing. Both online and printed telephone directories may contain phone and address information, though this information is more likely to be available just for landlines.

  • Third party trace. If the individual has lived with another person at some point in the recent past, conduct a trace on the other person. You may find that the target has moved back in with the third party.

  • Vehicle registrations. Registration information for vehicles and boats can be used to find the address of the owner, though the address information may be somewhat outdated, depending on how frequently the records are updated.

  • Voter registrations. The local city government maintains a list of registered voters, stating names, addresses, and birth dates. It may be necessary to access this information in person.

The preceding list makes it clear that there is an overwhelming amount of information available that can be used to track down a person and his or her assets. The trouble with much of this information is that it is outdated. Asset ownership records in particular are more likely to be old, since they only contain information that was correct when title to the asset was transferred; subsequent information changes may not be listed. Also, there is a considerable risk of confusion because so many names are similar. For example, you may find that a plethora of information for John Smith is for the wrong John Smith. Also, since much of this information was transcribed into databases, there is a risk that information was incorrectly entered as part of the data entry process. All of these factors make it difficult to wade through the sea of available information to find the specific information that you need.

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