Skip tracing is the term used to name the process of legally locating someone. It is often used by businesses for locating people who have debt, are missing, or need to be investigated. Law enforcement agencies as well as collection and investigative firms often use skip tracing services.
Because of the above, skip tracing is one of the most common jobs for private investigators, amounting to thousands of cases or approximately 20% to 30% of private investigator work in Canada.
Should You Use Skip Tracing?
Skip tracing is the process of finding a person who is hiding or moved away (referred to as person of interest) to avoid responsibilities and other issues. The most common reason for hiding usually revolves around debt.
A private investigator’s job in skip tracing is all about attempting to locate the person of interest’s whereabouts or contact details. In some instances, it may be possible to get a location in real-time and turn over that data to a third-party as long as there is legal basis to do so. Note that a professional private investigator won’t just turn over data to any client without a legal reason.
Who Can be Found via Skip Tracing?
Although the most common reason to use skip tracing services to find someone is for debt collection, it can also be used to locate the following individuals:
- Clients or customers who did not pay for services rendered
- Defendants who went missing or did not show up for court date
- Debtors who defaulted
- Witnesses for cases
- Missing heirs or relatives meant to inherit a state
- People who have ongoing legal proceedings and need to be served process papers
What Information Does a Private Investigator Find When Skip Tracing?
The private investigator will use skip tracing to find out the current location of the person of interest and other relevant data. In some instances, the private investigator can contact the said person to serve papers. Note that the private investigator cannot arrest someone unlike a bounty hunter.
The private investigator will also gather data that includes the person of interest’s social security ID and number, place of work, current address, and current contact number to be part of a report at the conclusion of the case.
How is Skip Tracing Done?
Private investigators use a myriad of legal workarounds to find someone. This can include looking at public records and publicly available information, talking to colleagues and neighbours of the POI, looking around the possible locations where the POI might be hiding, browsing through property deeds and court proceedings, and combing through specialized investigator databases. With enough time, a professional private investigator can find a person of interest given the fact that most people have social media and have tons of paper records.
Skip tracing involves a lot of patience, legwork, research, and even surveillance. It isn’t for a novice and is definitely not for someone who is not aware of the legalities surrounding skip tracing.