Skip tracing has been around since antiquity. It wasn’t practiced in the same way that it is now, but the basic idea is the same. What is it? In relation to debt collection, skip tracing is a way of “tracing” (finding) a debtor who has “skipped” (left) town in an effort to get out of a debt that is owed. Now you know what we mean when we say it has been around for a while - people have been running away from debts since before sliced bread! Although modern tactics are novel, the practice itself is nothing new. Let's take a look at the history of skip tracing!
Did you know? The term “skip” is actually a noun.
That’s right! “Skip” is actually a synonym for “person” who “skips town.” Oftentimes, this happens in a hurry, while leaving slight (if any) clues as to their future whereabouts. A skip-tracer is a person who attempts to locate the whereabouts of the “skip.” Skip-tracing tactics have traditionally been used by debt-collectors, bounty hunters, bail or bond enforcers, detectives, investigative journalists, repossession agents, and lawyers.
The basic methodology is simple: collect information, analyze it, draw conclusions, take an action, repeat!
The process hinges on finding as much useful information about the skip as possible. Today, a good collections agency practices skip-tracing by accessing database information that enables them to find debtors who have relocated without furnishing a forwarding address. Access to these databases can be pretty expensive (especially if your business doesn’t have collections experience), so it’s one of the added benefits of working with an agency. Much of the process is electronic and highly valuable if you’ve been trying to contact a debtor and have been routinely ignored. Traditionally, and even at times today depending on the industry, electronic analysis is only part of the story. Skip-tracers may call, visit, and/or interview friends, family, and close associates such as neighbors and co-workers. It’s all part of the data-collection process.
Once the collection agency or individual has collected the necessary data, it is verified and analyzed in an attempt to draw meaningful conclusions about the subject. In collections, the goal is to find the debtor as a means to collect on an account receivable past due. As you might infer, this process can take a lot of time, and is less likely to be effective if someone doesn’t have experience in the debt collection or skip-tracing field.
While not all of these people work in the debt collection industry, their skills and expertise are definitely top-of-the-line! Read about the 4’11” dynamo who found a fugitive on the lam for 14 years, or this man who has written a book on how to be invisible. Want to learn more? Check out this blog about skip-tracing and collection agencies!