As Featured on Taking Care of Business on www.wcwp.org 88.1 FM and www.TCBRadio.com out of Brookville, Long Island, NY with Richard A Solomon
"If you are not sure of what to do, or where to turn, or would simply like to learn new or more advanced methods of skip tracing, you will acquire the knowledge of what actions to take and a responsible direction for your efforts with innovative lessons and priceless tips."
-Stuart R. Blatt Attorney at Law and DBA Debt Buyers Association Past President
"I know the private Investigator business and this is an amazingly valuable resource for seasoned investigators, any person considering a career as a private investigator and those who seek advice on how to do it themselves."
-Jimmie Mesis - Publisher PI Magazine
Every chapter of this book mentions skip tracing secrets that have been put to a practical test by thousands of skip tracers nationwide. Discover the tricks of the trade, from an expert who knows things and is not afraid to share them. Get a sneak peak at skip tracing's finer points and discover the skip tracer's magic tricks. Pick up secrets for your bag of tricks. Learn to skip trace like a pro by using techniques like: suggestion and autosuggestion; tradecraft and trickcraft; misdirection & logical thinking; roping and deductive reasoning; the invisible web and operation card shop. For every action there's an equal and opposite reaction and in a world of duality, where's there's pleasure, there's pain. Creativity is not always organized, so you'll learn to work smart and not hard. Your only limits are your acting abilities. Keep might and right on your side because innovation is driving success. If you are ready to put these secrets to use, you will recognize them. I wish I could tell you how you will know if you are ready, but that would deprive you of much of the benefit you will receive when you make the discovery on your own. Bank on it!
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Read an Excerpt
Skip Tracing Basics & BeyondA Complete Step-by-Step Guide for Locating Hidden Assets Second Edition
By Susan Nash
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2012 Susan Nash
All right reserved.
Chapter OneSkip Tracing 101
Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life. —Confucius
Let's start with the basics and work from there. We'll define the nature of skip tracing and what it takes to be a successful skip tracer. Then we'll take a look at the various types of skips, and at the art of tracking skips down. In the collection and investigative industries, any debtor whose current address and place of employment is unknown is referred to as a skip. The term skip is applied to a debtor who cannot be readily located by usual, routine methods. A skip is someone who you have no way of reaching, either by phone or by mail. The term comes from the idiomatic expression "to skip town," meaning to depart, perhaps in a rush, and leave no clues behind for anyone to trace the skip to a place. Skip tracing is the art of obtaining information about someone who doesn't want to be found.
Successful Skip Tracers Share Common Traits
Skip tracing is an art and not a science. There is no black or white. There is no magic formula or set of procedures. One important characteristic is to be quick-thinking and ready for anything, because after we place a call, we never know who will pick up on the other side. Unlock the creative powers of your mind. Use your intuition and insight. Remember to use common sense and to be original.
Skip tracing as an art can be compared with mind-set and sport. Do you have what it takes to be a successful skip tracer? Do you have the right personality for the skip tracing profession? It requires strength and perseverance. Some characteristics and traits of a successful skip tracer include intelligence, common sense, patience, friendly personality, persistence, detail orientation, assertiveness, persuasion, creativity, competitiveness, and goal orientation.
While there is no degree given to a skip tracer, many states do have educational requirements and those vary from state to state. Some states require a private investigator's license, and some states require that you go to school and then pass a state exam. Some states like New York do not require that you attend school, but in order to be a private investigator, the state requires that you work as an apprentice under someone else's license for a period of at least three years before you can go out and practice on your own. Many colleges around the country teach skip tracing classes as part of a criminal college curriculum and degree. But there is no degree that is given for the sole purpose of skip tracing. Many states also have a continuing education requirement for private investigators, but that also varies from state to state. There are no federal guidelines as of yet because these are regulated at the state level.
People often get set in their ways, and this book is meant to help you expand your mind. Think about a horse running on a racetrack. One piece of equipment the horse has to help him is his blinders. They are designed to make the horse look straight ahead and not be distracted by anything outside of the course and his line of vision. Now if we take his blinders off, we have expanded his line of vision because he can look all around. Take off your blinders and look at the bigger picture. This concept is called expanding your parameters.
Expanding Your Parameters Allows You to See the Big Picture
Avoiding tunnel vision is essential in successful skip tracing. Tunnel vision is a condition in which a person lacks any peripheral vision. It is caused by, among other things, information being presented in small fragments not related to their context. This results in a constricted, circular, tunnel-like field of vision, similar to looking through a peephole. Sometimes when we are skip tracing, instead of opening our eyes and minds, we get stuck in a certain perspective and cannot react fast enough. Sometimes we might get stuck and not see clearly. This might cause us to see things in a warped or twisted way, and we want to make sure we always focus on the bigger picture. Try to see things as if you were an outsider looking in. I sometimes like to think of myself as a bird flying around above the territory where my skip should be, and then I try to look from above and see a different view. Almost as if the bird were hunting a victim for food. It is mind over matter.
While many refer to skip tracing as an art, a mind-set, and a sport, you must not lose sight of your ultimate goal, which is to find that someone who doesn't want to be found. You will make your living ferreting out sneaks and creeps who would rather not be found. One approach that is often used is to step into the shoes of that skip and think like that person would think. The skip will most likely try to mislead you. Try to stay one or two steps ahead of them; many of them are masters of deception.
Skip tracing is the ability to think through and analyze the circumstances of each situation individually in order to reach our goals. Good organizational skills play a fundamental part in maximizing our time and resources in order to improve our performance. Time management and deadlines are factors that will affect our effectiveness, so having a strategy will prove most efficient. Tactics are the specific actions, sequences of actions, and schedules you use to fulfill your strategy. If you have more than one strategy, you will have different tactics for each. Plan for attaining a particular goal by having detailed maneuvers to achieve your objectives set by strategy—just like a game of chess.
Your actions must seem natural and executed with ease. All the hard work and practice that goes into them, including the clever tricks, must be hidden. When you act, act effortlessly, as if you do much more. Avoid the temptation of revealing how hard you work—it only raises questions. Keep your tricks sealed in your bag of tricks and tap into the fantasies that people flock to. Keep all your statistical forecasts and probability ratios stored away so that when you need to use a trick, you can just look inside your bag and see which one will be most appropriate to get what you need. Mathematical and psychological profiling will also come in handy when you need to create some magic. We will discuss some more of these techniques later. Skip tracing is slow and gradual. It requires hard work, a bit of luck, some self-sacrifice—and a lot of patience. Never be in a hurry. Become a detective of the right moment and sniff out the spirit of the time and the trends that will carry you to reach realization.
Skips Come in All Shapes and Sizes
Profiling and categorizing the various types of skips will have a profound effect on your results. My rational is that once you know what type of skip you are looking for, you will immediately know what direction to take your research without wasting time on leads that don't fit your skip. I have had the opportunity to teach and work with people from every profession. Profiling and categorizing are some of the most valuable tricks the skip tracer uses to save time and plan effectively. Categorizing is one of the most important processes to consider when setting up the steps you will take to locate your skip.
There are three major skip categories: unintentional, convenient, and intentional. In addition, there are various subcategories of intentional skips that we will discuss in detail.
Unintentional Skip: This person might not know he's missing. These types are most commonly found in missing heirs cases, unclaimed property, and missing witnesses. People in this category will usually be rewarded when found, instead of punished. These are usually the easiest skips to locate.
Convenient Skip: This type of skip most likely knows he is missing and has conveniently failed to notify the client that he has moved. People in this group do not go to great lengths to cover their current location. Usually they are easy to locate.
Intentional Skip: This person probably left his last known address because he is attempting to hide from your client. He disappeared for the exact reason you are attempting to find him. This category can be broken out further into three subcategories:
Soft-core intentional skip: This person is usually younger, and he is not that well informed on how to hide and can usually be found with little effort. A simple name search on Google could get you his address and phone number. We'll go into great length on using the Internet later. This might be a beginner or novice skip.
Hard-core intentional skip: This person is an experienced skip and has learned by his past mistakes. The most important lessons in life are the most expensive ones, and he has learned to camouflage. In general, he knows what to do to cover his tracks. However, like most, sooner or later he will slip and make a mistake, and you'll find him. Persistence is the key. Do it over and over till you get it right. Nothing will do the job as well as practice. You need to practice doing it till you achieve perfection, which is to locate the skip. This might be an intermediate or expert skip.
Intentional skip fraudsters: This person has a strong motivation to hide. He's usually a criminal or scammer who has several aliases and Social Security numbers. Sometimes these show up in Social Security number traces and are the most difficult locates. They can run, but they can't hide forever. The dogs eventually hunt them down. This might be an expert or professional skip.
The Most Common Types of Skips Are Easy to Identify
Now that we've looked at the broad categories of skips, let's zero in on the most common types you're likely to encounter.
Bail Bond Skips: Most bail bondsmen nationwide will sooner or later have a skip. He either does a subject locate or has to pay the amount of the bail to the court. If they don't know how to do it themselves, they often hire a bounty hunter who will work on a contingency fee, which can be several thousand dollars.
Missing Adoptees and Birth Parents: With adoption rates soaring, parents and children often search each other out later in life, which has often been quoted as a movement in the United States. These people will often hire skip tracers or missing persons investigators to locate their parent or child. You will find cases on both sides of the coin. Parents who placed a child for adoption will be looking for them, and children who know they are adopted might search out their natural parents.
Missing Family Members and Lost Loved Ones: With divorce rates continuing to be in the highest level in recent history and new extended families being formed and people moving all over the country and world to seek better and brighter futures, people will desire to connect with old friends, classmates, and family. Some will try to track them down, and they will often hire an information professional.
Tenant Skips: Landlord–tenant court filings are at an all-time high, and with the housing bubble bursting and the credit crunch affecting Americans nationwide, landlords find themselves with renters leaving several months of unpaid rent. Sometimes these skips abandon their former residence and leave a mess, causing the landlord to expend cash to get the dwelling back in shape to be able to rent it out again. These same problems have now extended into the commercial rental market in record numbers. Landlords and their attorneys usually turn to skip tracers to locate the skip.
Rental Agents: An industry which has more than doubled in size in the last ten years is the furniture, television, and electronic media rental business. Some of these categorize themselves as leasing companies. Although these rental companies charge premium prices for the rental of their goods, a big cost for them is the problems with the skips and the growing bad-debt expense ratios that deflect from their financial statements. People move away with their assets and cease paying the rental charges. In the past few years, television cable companies have been having the same problem with their equipment. These industries are turning to skip tracers to track down these people and repossess their merchandise.
Life Insurance Claimant Skips: When people move and don't notify their insurance company, the company gets returned mail, and it needs to locate their new address. The company needs to send out monthly premium notices that are being returned by the post office. If a policyholder disappears, a claim must be paid within a specified period if the person is not located or if fraud has not been committed. Insurance companies have hundreds of these cases on a monthly basis.
Lost Stockholders: Warehouses full of paperwork are stored to mine information about stockholders in the markets. In the age of electronic media and storage, the data must be stored. Many companies have decided to store backup data in storage facilities off the premises in order to protect themselves and have additional backup copies when needed in cases of theft or loss. Some criminals are so sophisticated that they are years ahead of most others. Cyber criminals are very smart; when they set their minds on something, they get it. Financial institutions generate a huge amount of this type of tracing work and are willing to pay a fee to a tracer to locate the missing investor.
Credit Card Charge-Offs: When credit card accounts fall into the delinquent category, and credit card issuers have no hope of collecting, they will need to locate the subject so that they can reduce the debt into a judgment. The lenders have a huge volume of this type of skip tracing work now because credit card delinquencies are at an all-time high. With the price of basic necessities increasing at a double-digit rate, many consumers are turning to credit cards to pay for basic items like food and groceries, gasoline, and other e-commerce-related purchases. In the last year alone, the price of bread has grown at the rate of 33 percent due to increased costs in the commodities. Consumers are using credit cards more than ever, and the charge-off rate is at the highest rate in history as well. With the charge-off rate expected to be at 35 percent, this will continue to be one of the fastest-growing areas. Please note that these percentage estimates are subjective; different media types report different findings, and the time differences also vary. These are ballpark figures.
Debt Buyer Skips: This is an industry that some say is reaching maturity, while others argue that it is just in the adolescent age. Because credit cards were only created in the 1950s, this is a relatively new industry in comparison with traditional debt instruments. Given the turmoil in the credit markets, these instruments are used as vehicles to generate revenue in a case where a loss will be incurred. Lenders only want to carry these on their books for so long. Although the raters' disastrous record in evaluating the soundness of the portfolios and other exotic financial instruments is well known, the financial markets love these instruments because they are so profitable. The buyers should perform a more direct examination method before purchasing them, and they sometimes use skip tracers to audit the portfolios. This is a recurring source of tracing work, because every quarter, decisions need to be made as to what to sell off. Hedge carefully.
Debtor Skips: When bank loans go bad, the lending institution will need to locate the note holder. Large banks have several different departments that have an ongoing need to locate these types of skips. The auto loan department generates a large volume of cases on a monthly basis seeking to repossess the vehicles to be able to auction them off in exchange for cash. The student loan departments, real estate loan departments, trust departments, probate departments, and returned check departments need skip tracers on a routine basis.
Judgment Debtor Skips: When businesses and individuals can't collect the money that is owed to them, they can either turn it over to the collection agency or they can go to court and get a judgment. Once the judgment has been awarded, the process of collecting is in a different ballpark and in a different league altogether. You have now expanded your resources and can garnish wages, levy on bank accounts, and lien on pensions. Locating judgment debtors is recession-proof because the worse the economy becomes, the more judgments that are awarded.
Unclaimed Property: This comes in all shapes and sizes. Some types of unclaimed properties are found in the form of stocks, bonds, bank accounts, investment accounts, insurance accounts, and deposit accounts with utility companies, phone companies, and cable companies. Skip tracers obtain lists of unclaimed property from state government agencies and then locate the missing owners for a profit. We will visit some websites later on.
Missing Heirs and Beneficiaries: When a will goes into probate court and family members contest the will, information professionals will need to trace safe deposit boxes, bank accounts, investment accounts, and other assets. These types of financial investigations are forensic in type and will often be used by the trustees of the estate. We'll get into more detail later on.
Missing Witnesses for Attorneys: Personal-injury attorneys need to locate witnesses to the incident in their caseloads. They usually outsource or hire an information broker to locate these subjects. Fees are usually charged at an hourly rate rather than a contingency fee. Other times, lawyers are confronted with a client who wants to bring legal action against another party who needs to be located for service of process.
Finding missing witnesses or heirs is a noble pursuit, and finding a deadbeat is just plain good justice! Can you see why someone would want to get into this business, especially if they're snooping to find an heir?
Providing Skip Tracing Services As an Independent Contractor for Companies and Private Investigators Can Be a Very Rewarding Career
Skip tracing and collections are two different skills, and clients should not mix them. Skip tracing is a specialty. Locating traceable items is a time-consuming and laborious process. Most business models can be painted, with broad brushstrokes, as a person with a head, hands, and feet. Skip tracers are the hands that do the work. The skip tracer and the collector are opposite personality types.
Excerpted from Skip Tracing Basics & Beyond by Susan Nash Copyright © 2012 by Susan Nash. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1 Skip Tracing 101....................1
Chapter 2 Nabbing Debtor Skips....................19
Chapter 3 Collecting the Debts....................45
Chapter 4 Staying Legal....................73
Chapter 5 Basic Intelligence Gathering....................97
Chapter 6 Gems in the Dumpster....................127
Chapter 7 Real Estate Skips....................147
Chapter 8 Internet Search Strategies....................171
Chapter 9 Links You Can Use....................203
Chapter 10 Tracking Social Security Numbers....................286
Appendix A My Services....................293
Appendix B Postjudgment Interest Rates....................297
Appendix C Fair Debt Collection Practices Act....................303
Appendix D Gramm–Leach–Bliley Act....................339