Skip Tracing Methods and Tips for Clients (Article 1 of 3)

Skip Tracing Methods and Tips for Clients (Article 1 of 3)

By on July 4th, 2022 • 6 min read

The term Skip Tracing is not a universally used term to describe the profession of locating persons of interest. Other terms used across various industries include Location Enquiries, People Tracing, or as we call it at Sharmans, People (Skip) Tracing.

The word “Skip” is a traditional term used within the debt collection industry to identify a person who has moved or “skipped” from an address. The person then becomes known as a “Skip”, and tracing that person is referred to as “Skip Tracing”.

Since we provide tracing services to clients from various industries, we chose to call our service “People (Skip) Tracing” to create a universally identifiable name. In this article however, we will refer to People (Skip) Tracing as “skip tracing” or “tracing”.

Locating a person that is avoiding legal or debt matters can be a challenging task with various obstacles to overcome. Success is often a direct result of a tracer’s ability to access, refine and interpret the right information, and to apply effective investigation techniques to confirm a location.
In this article we will take look at these three key skills in more detail. We will also provide tips on how clients can improve success rates with the way in which they engaged with, and instruct their skip tracer.

Access to Information
Skip tracers have a vast trove of information they can access to a conduct a trace. Some of this information is publicly available and free to use, other data is obtained via pay-per-search resources, and other data is found through subscription based professional use only resources, limited to Skip Tracers and Private Investigators. The best skip tracers will maintain a large pool of resources that include ongoing subscription-based resources and pay-per-search resources, to accompany free publicly available information sources. Maintaining and continually updating a large pool of information resources is critical to providing consistent and successful outcomes.

Client Tip 1: We suggest that prior to sending instructions to a skip tracer, clients request details of what information they will access and what searches they will perform for the fee paid. It is also important for clients to understand how search results will be reported, whether the report will be a comprehensive multi-page report naming information sources or types, or a brief summary of results.

Refining and Interpreting Information
When a skip tracer conducts searches using a person’s name, address, date of birth or possible location, those searches can return many pages of data. The is especially the case for common names and broad location searches such as “New South Wales”, rather than a more specific location or suburb. Refining search results is one of the most important skills a skip tracer can possess. It can determine the outcome of a trace, as a tracer can either refine the correct data or leave critical data out of their search pool. This is where having the most detailed information about a person from the outset can assist the outcome of a trace. Although it’s very possible to locate a “John Brown” in New South Wales, it’s much more effective to be tracing a “John D Brown” in “the eastern suburbs of Sydney”.

Client Tip 2: Provide as much background information you can about a person when instructing a trace, even if you think the information is too old or irrelevant. For example, an address from 15 years ago or the name of a person’s partner from 10 years ago is information a skip tracer can use but is often discarded as too old or irrelevant. Information such as a person’s keen interests or hobbies is other information that can assist.

A skip tracer’s ability to interpret data is also particularly important. Often searches return a large amount of raw data, some of which has been gathered and pooled via machine learning instruments or data scraping tools, which can result in misspelled names, incorrect addresses and most critically, incorrect source dates. Knowing your information sources is the key to correctly interpreting its data. Knowing where that information comes from and having the ability to cross check that information with other sources will ensure the integrity of that information before further investigations commence.

Apply Investigation Techniques
Correctly refining and interpreting information creates a solid foundation from which a successful trace is achieved. How successful a trace will be comes down to what investigation methods a skip tracer uses and how effectively those methods are executed. The techniques used by skip tracers will vary from matter to matter. Most commonly, techniques such as discreet contact with a friend, relative or subject directly via telephone or electronic communication can be enough to verify an address. Other times, the tracer may use cross checking methods whereby multiple search results are cross checked and matched, providing a possible address at the very least. Cross checking requires at least two or more information sources to return the same result and to be current. Single data sources, even if current, require at least one or more verification processes to occur before that address can be confirmed as a locate. If the tracer has access to a team of field agents, physical investigations at or near a location can be used to verify an address.

Client Tip 3: Australia’s skip tracing industry is very professional and ethical, with most firms employing stringent governance and compliance practices to ensure they operate within legal boundaries. We do however recommend that clients ensure their skip tracer is compliant and effectively managing their legal obligations and ensuring that information is being kept secure and confidential. This can be done by requesting any policies or procedures they have in place to manage privacy, information security and corporate governance.

Thank you for reading part one of a three-part skip tracing series. The information in this article represents the experience and opinions of Sharmans and its Skip Tracing Team. Other skip tracers will have differing opinions and utilise different methods and approaches to what we have described. We strongly recommend contacting your skip tracer if you wish to know more about their information resources and search methods.

Neil Sharman
Managing Director
Senior Investigator and Field Agent
Head of Quality, Risk and Compliance

Company Information:

Sharmans employ three full time Skip Trace Specialists, all of whom are tertiary educated, holding bachelor’s degrees in Justice and/or Law. All three are licenced private investigators, making our team the most educated skip tracing team in Australia.

Our skip trace team have over 50 years combined skip tracing experience.

Our Managing Director Neil Sharman has over 20 years’ experience providing skip tracing, process serving, background screening and investigation services.

Learn about Sharmans Investigations and Process Serving