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The Art of Skip Tracing (The Basics)

Skip tracing is part science, part art. Knowing how to get started, having a clear strategy, and understanding basic techniques can help you become a better skip tracer. Below we walk through the rules to skip by, skip tracing strategy basics, and more. Keep reading to learn about the starting point, common mistakes, data manipulation basics, and the importance of verifying data.

the art of skip tracing (the basics)

Rules to skip by:

  • Use common sense
  • Have a plan of action
  • Verify information given
  • Don't forget to interpret the data (make notes and verify)

Skip tracing strategy:

  • Review information provided
  • Determine what information to use from the results
  • Verify the subject
  • Review the data
  • Determine if you have obtained new information
  • Verify the results
  • May require boots on the ground

Make sure that you know whether a street name is two words or one word, whether you've been given a nickname or shortened name, and that you know how accurate the information you've been given is.

The Starting Point

The starting point is your personal identifiers: full name, age, gender, date of birth, SSN, last known address. Collect all of the information you can, but don’t oversaturate your search with all of your data. Adding too many fields will narrow your search, and if they’ve recently changed their address or cell phone that individual won’t show up in your search.

A proximity identifier would be a family member, vehicle information, city and state of residence, court proceeding, email address, and voter registration. Proximity identifiers can be tricky (divorce, selling their car, etc.) and can also bring an overwhelming amount of potential subjects. Uncommon last names can sometimes be run against the city or zip code to hopefully return accurate results.

Common Mistakes

The biggest mistake a skip tracer can make is trusting that the information they were provided is totally accurate. Don’t make assumptions!

Some common mistakes:

  • Name misspelled or nickname provided
  • Transposed numbers
  • Wrong address provided

Verify the data provided, and make sure that any garbage that comes in gets tossed out. Use the least information possible to find the most accurate data.

Data Manipulation (Input)

The most common mistake made by new skip tracers is inputting too much information. The database will give you different results with different search criteria. By starting broad and narrowing down the information step-by-step, you have a better chance of finding new information on your subject. Input as little data as possible. It’s not about the mountain of data that we have, but identifying specific aspects and narrowing it down.

Locating the wrong information helps no one. Make sure you are verifying your results, and disclose and discard carefully. Understand that there is no shame in starting over. It takes time to hone your strategy and learn what works best.

This is a basic overview of skip tracing. If you have tips that you would like to add, please comment below.


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