Skip Tracing Tools and Techniques
Skip tracing is a key element of debt collections and most debt collectors will participate in this activity in their daily operations. Skip tracing is the practice of locating individuals. This practice takes place in the collection industry when the contact information on an account is no longer valid.
Since without correct contact information the account is not collectable, it is necessary to skip trace, or locate the responsible party in order to initiate the collection process and resolve the delinquency. Skip tracing is a skill that improves with practice.
Skip tracing uses the information provided with the application for credit. The information used are the borrower’s name, address, telephone number, place of employment, and any references that were provided with the application for credit. With that information, it is possible to search for new addresses, new telephone numbers, and new places of employment. Furthermore, the names, addresses, and telephone numbers of family members, friends, acquaintances, and possible neighbors, are also useful to verify the correct contact information of the responsible party. Inherent to achieving success with skip tracing is the ability to make connections in existing data, most of which is publically available and free to use. The most commonly used tools for skip tracing are phone directories. It is also possible to access reverse directory information via directory assistance. This is the practice of obtaining a name and address associated with a telephone number. There is so much information that is valuable when skip tracing. Marriage licenses, business licenses, permits, certifications, property records, genealogy records, are just a few of the many available resources one can use to track down a person who has skipped town, which is interestingly the origin of the term used in collections today.
In the past, it was possible to contact one of the borrowers other creditors, in an effort to obtain correct contact information. Collectors would have a rolodex containing contacts at many of the major creditors, usually other collectors in the industry, and sharing of contact information was an acceptable practice in debt collections. However, with the advent of the Gramm Leach Bliley act, this particular activity is no longer an acceptable practice.
With the advent of the Internet, skip tracing is much easier than it used to be. There is a huge amount of information available via online resources. Phone directories are now available online, and include the capability for reverse directory searches. Online resources include skip tracing web sites, which provide links to public record databases that may have useful information or other leads when attempting to locate an individual.
Many commercial skip tracing tools, such as Accurint, make use of the internet for access. Accurint is one of the premier commercial skip tracing tools for commercial use. With Accurint, it is possible to search for historical and current data on individuals using any manner of demographic information from addresses to social security numbers, depending on the level of access. Accurint will also provide family member information. With Accurint, it is possible to search by address, and obtain names and telephone numbers of the neighboring residences of that address, useful when attempting to verify correct information.
The major credit reporting bureaus also have online access for report ordering. Social networking sites are also becoming a resource, providing another avenue of investigation when attempting to locate contact information for an individual. Due to the Internet, cost for skip tracing has lowered due to many state, county, and city government agencies providing public access to information via the internet at no cost, whereas cost is involved to request a hard copy of the same information via mail.