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People Locate and Skip Trace Investigation

What is a People Locate/Skip Trace?

A skip trace is an investigative technique that traces (or finds) an individual, generally one who has skipped out on a legal or financial obligation, but it is not limited to those matters. These investigations are commonly used to track down defendants who have missed court appearances or skipped bail, locate individuals who need to be served with legal documents, or track down a person on behalf of a debtor.

Here are a few reasons you might need a people locate or skip trace...

  • You need to locate a debtor who has defaulted on payments.
  • You need to find a current address for a family member who needs to be served with family court documents (i.e. child support, divorce).
  • Your client is a defendant in a court case and has missed a hearing.
  • You need to locate an individual to inform them about assets or an inheritance.

In its simplest terms, a skip trace or people locate is an investigation with the primary objective of locating a person.

What is Involved?

After gathering pertinent information and clear goals and objectives from the client, an investigator will employ any techniques required to get an accurate location for the individual. This can involve...

  • Records Research. Accessing databases, visiting courts, libraries, and public service locations that house records, verifying with the United States Post Office, and even checking marital records can all be part of the investigation. The investigator will also verify the validity of the records.
  • Surveillance. Surveillance is often employed to understand the individual's habits, gather accurate information on where they are living and working, what locations they frequent, and what activities they are involved in.
  • Background Investigation. Dependent upon the case itself, an investigator may conduct a background investigation to better understand the individual they are looking for. This can include interviews with family members, friends, and former colleagues, looking into criminal records, etc.

Who Can Conduct a People Locate/Skip Trace?

The shortest answer is: it depends on where you live.

Each state has its own regulations and licensing requirements when it comes to looking into a person's location and attempting to find them. This is why most individuals will work with an attorney or directly with a private investigator.

Many people assume law enforcement agencies take care of locating individuals, especially in matters of the law and debt. The truth is that most agencies have more pressing matters of public safety to tend to, and those who seek resolution and answers will turn to a competent professional.

Online People Locater Websites

A word of caution: while online people locater websites appear to be an easy way to get up to date information, if you want accurate and verified information that you are authorized to share and can be used in any sort of legal matter you will need to work with a private investigator. These online sites all openly state that the information may be inaccurate and/or incomplete, that an individual can have their information removed from the website, and that the records can be unclear and confusing.

Video: Comparing Online Website Searches and Private Investigators

In fact, a private investigator recently conducted a search on to compare the data with what he was able to find in his own search. He discovered that the current address listed on the site was inaccurate and that the complete list of addresses did not include a home purchased 5 months prior to the search, the actual current address. This is not uncommon when it comes to searches on online websites.

The below product comparison further outlines the differences between using an online website versus working with a private investigator.

Bosco Legal Services: People Finder Comparison Chart

Created by Bosco Legal Services

What Do Investigators Say About Online Searches?

“We use databases that are restricted to licensed investigators, as well as other sources to locate subjects, then we take the next step and verify that the information is true and accurate. After over 30 years of service we know the importance of actually checking the information and not just relying on what's on the computer screen.

I recently had a case where an educated man hired us to locate his wife and determine where a large portion of his money had gone. The client is an educated individual and he felt the need to be proactive in the investigation. He would contact our offices every other day with names and addresses he wanted us to check out in connection with the case. When questioned, he would tell my assistant that he had found those names or addresses with his wife's things. After going further and further off track I called him and told him we needed to meet and, when we did, he finally blurted out that he had been doing his own "investigation" using some of those advertised services.

I pointed out that nearly two thirds of the names and addresses he had given us had no connection or bearing on the investigation and that we had wasted precious time and resources following up on his leads.

We agreed that he will leave the investigative work to the investigators without adding any more distractions. Within a week we had the information he needed and now he is a happily divorced man.”

- Chris Cantin, Cantin & Associates International

“I have made similar tests and found most of the data on PeopleFinder and Intellius is stale or just plain inaccurate. I have clients who have used the other systems and finally come to me for service.”

- Richard Luehring, Southwest Group

“Our good informative sources are what sets the pros from the novices. When clients say I can go online, my retort is do so and I will see you later.”

- Vincent Vanasco, Professional Inquiries

“Online searches and DIY investigation websites make me cringe. More and more people think that these are legitimate and do not realize what they are getting themselves into. Despite all the qualifications and hoops PIs must go through to access information, people still think that they can purchase an investigative report online with a credit card for just $40.”

- Kelly Cory, Keystone Investigative Services

“I also entered my own information in one of these online search sites. The results were down right sad. The shocking part was that I found out my mother was still alive, which didn't sit right with me, since we buried her two years earlier. She is probably screaming inside that casket.”

- J. D. Thomas, Forensic Consulting Services

Need a Skip Trace or People Locate?

Use the search utility on the top of this page or select from the state list to find a Skip Trace Investigator. Still can't find what your are looking for? Call us at (888) 997-4669.

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