Like the 2016 film Skiptrace starring Jackie Chan and Johnny Knoxville depicts, skiptrace is the process of finding someone unfindable through thorough investigation. In detective Bennie Chan’s case, he must locate the elusive criminal responsible for the death of his best friend. His number one suspect is so powerful that he is essentially untouchable.
Now, hopefully you don’t need to track down any murderers or criminal kingpins. But people “skip” town for a number of reasons. Maybe they owe someone money, are escaping a warrant, or jumped a bond. Typically, subjects of a skiptrace are hiding intentionally. This can make it difficult to find them.
Location information is often able to be determined from databases of recorded phone numbers, addresses, associates, etc. But if someone is intentionally hiding, he or she won’t register this information in order to prevent being found. Some skiptrace searches can be successfully done online. But if your subject is really elusive, you might need to elicit the help of a professional.
What is Skiptrace?
Skiptrace refers to the process of looking for someone who is difficult to find. Some skiptraces require more thorough investigation than others. It just depends on how difficult the subject is to locate. A skiptrace can be conducted by anyone who needs to locate someone whose contact information is not immediately known.
Skiptrace tactics are often conducted by
- skip tracers
- process servers
- debt collectors
- bail bondsmen or bail agency enforcers (also known as bounty hunters)
- witness location specialists
- repossession agents
- private investigators
- police detectives
This list of professions should give you a better idea of why a skiptrace might need to be done. Typically, people who owe money, jump bail, have warrants for their arrests, are witnesses to crimes, are suspects of crimes, etc. try to hide from the law and others who might be after them.
So what information does a skiptrace generate?
The information you can find to help you locate someone, depending on your search, includes aliases, known addresses (last and previous) and dates of residence, date of birth, social security number (SSN), phone number(s), and death record. You can also dig up the names of relatives, associates, and neighbors as well as their addresses and phone numbers. And in some cases you can get a list of current and former employers.
A lot of this information can be garnered via online search from credit bureau repositories, DMV records, utility records, and public records. A specialized search will access restricted sources and databases not available to the general public.
Considering the amount of personal and private information that can be discovered through a skiptrace, you might question how such a search could possibly be legal.
Is Skiptrace Legal?
First of all, there are many different levels and degrees of skiptrace. If you want to conduct an online people search to try to gather as much information on a person as you can from public records, that information is accessible to everyone.
Now, the harder your subject is to find, the more sensitive the information that is required, and the more secure the database you need to access, the more likely you will need to provide a legal reason for your search request. These reasons are referred to as “permissible purpose”.
The DPPA was passed to protect the privacy of personal information collected by the State Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). Therefore, State DMV officers, employees, contractors, etc. cannot release or use any personal information about an individual that is obtained by the department in connection with a motor vehicle record.
The Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act protects customers’ personally identifiable financial information. This act applies to financial institutions and their responsibility to protect their customers and safeguard their sensitive data.
Because these acts are intended to protect individuals’ privacy and safety, a permissible purpose must be determined before someone can access certain information.
For example, instances regarding motor vehicle or driver safety or theft, informing an owner of a towed or impounded vehicle, or an employer or insurer obtaining or verifying information from someone’s commercial driver’s license would be considered legal and permissible purposes to request access to DMV records.
And financial records could be requested to protect against or prevent actual or potential fraud, unauthorized transactions, claims, or other liability.
So when ordering a professional skiptrace, a permissible purpose must be indicated and approved before the information can be accessed. Due to the sensitive nature, not just anyone can get their hands on it.
Online People Searches
There are searches you can conduct, both free and paid depending on the level of your search, that do not require permissible purpose. Again, any data registered as public record can be accessed by anyone for any reason.
There are a number of tricks and tools you can use to find someone. You might try to look up your subject on Google, on social media platforms, or through tracking systems linked to his or her mobile device.
Information such as name, address, phone number, email address is considered public and can be discovered through a people search service. Enter any information you do have and the report will fill in the gaps.
You can conduct background and criminal records checks online, too. Provide the subject’s name and you can vet any new people you might consider bringing into your life or any new hires to your business.
So there are very simple, very affordable ways to conduct your own skiptrace. But in more serious circumstances, you might need to bring out the big guns….
To conduct a professional skiptrace, you need to apply for restricted access. Like we mentioned before, sensitive data cannot be released to just anyone. So you have to verify that you are in a position to request certain information.
Restricted data is special, private data that is regulated by either federal or state guidelines. You need a permissible purpose to access it.
To apply for access to restricted skiptrace data, you will need to create a free Searchbug business account. Then, complete an online application, remit the one-time application fee, collect supporting documentation, and send it all in!
Once you’re approved, or verified that you legitimately can access restricted data for legal purposes, you will be able to use a number of services.
Professional Skiptrace Results
The skiptrace search finds current and previous phone numbers, addresses, date of birth, SSN, relatives, neighbors, and associates of your subject. Reverse SSN lookup provides full names associated with the SSN, date of birth, previous addresses, and phone numbers of the subject.
The place of employment (POE) search allows you to locate your subject’s employer for debt recovery or collection and to verify resume employment history. You can find vehicle registration and ownership details in DMV databases by VIN or license plate number using the DMV records search.
The Rapsheet® criminal records search allows you to search Rapsheet®, the most comprehensive online national criminal database available. And you can screen your prospective tenants or other applicants for previous evictions in all 50 states with the evictions search.
These are all considered professional skiptrace services because you must verify that you have a professional, legal reason to access restricted databases not available to the general public. However, if you need other information not listed here or your subject is proving to be even more difficult to find, you can hire an investigator to verify information in person.
You can hire a prescreened, licensed, bonded, and insured private investigator to help with your search. Doing so guarantees that your results are current, accurate, and verified by an actual person. That’s the difference between online searches and professional people searches.
If you need to find someone who jumped a bond, is a delinquent debtor, is missing, or is trying to hide, you might need more in-depth, professional research.
There are four different assisted skiptrace options: basic assisted people search; financial due diligence report; verified current address and phone search; and verified current address, phone, and employment search. Previous address and utilities searches are also available.
In addition to skiptrace searches, private investigators can conduct bank account searches, employment searches, background checks, phone inquiries, SSN searches, and vehicle owner and drivers license searches. The main benefit to ordering an investigator-assisted search is that the information you get back has been verified by a person. So you don’t have to rely on a database that might have outdated information.
How to Find a Person Who Doesn’t Want to Be Found
It is very hard to hide completely off the grid these days. We rely on the Internet so much for our day to day activities that there’s almost certainly a trail of some sort to anyone you need to locate. Anyone who has a phone number, address, neighbor, or relative has all of that information documented somewhere. It’s just a matter of finding it.
The Internet is a good place to start the search for any person. You can access public databases, news articles, social media profiles, etc. that can help you locate your subject. However, people trying intentionally to hide might have covered some of their tracks.
In these cases, there are still ways to access information that can lead you to your subject. Apply for a Searchbug professional business account and get access to restricted data that isn’t available to the public. Or, hire an investigator to locate your subject personally.
If you need to find a person who doesn’t want to be found, try a professional skiptrace today!