“Skip tracing” is a term that refers to the process of finding a person whose whereabouts are unknown. This term is based upon the word “skip,” which is often used to describe a subject who is believed to be “skipping out” on his or her duties and obligations such as a debt or court appearance. Private sector investigations occur on behalf of a wide variety of client-types:
- Family members looking for long-lost relatives.
- Friends looking for persons with whom they lost touch many years ago.
- Attorneys looking for missing heirs in probate cases.
- Creditors looking for those who owe them money.
- A bail bondsman looking for a client who has failed to appear in court.
- An insurance company looking for a missing witness to an insured loss.
- A parent looking for their child who has run away or was abducted.
- Private Investigators looking for a scam artist or identity thief.
The list goes on and on really.
Perhaps the most important consideration to take into account when beginning a skip trace assignment is to determine what type of missing person you have. You must be able to answer the question, “Why is the subject missing?” in order to develop a reasonable plan of action and begin the investigation.
People are missing for a great number of reasons, but these reasons typically fall into one of two categories, intentionally missing or unintentionally missing, which I then like to break down in to the following subcategories:
People who are missing intentionally typically know that they are being looked for, or will be looked for, and are taking proactive measures not to be found.
- The Fugitive
- The Abductor
- The Runner
- The Professional Skip
- The Recluse
- The Assisted
Unintentional missing person assignments typically involve people who would not consider themselves missing and are often surprised that they are being looked for.
- The Lost
- The Typo
- The Adoptee’s Search
- John or Jane Doe
Understanding why they are missing, or their motivations for hiding, enables the skip tracer to put a plan of action in place to find the skip and best use those tools and techniques which are appropriate to the investigation. Imagination and resourcefulness combined with unfailing perseverance are essential character traits if a skip tracer is going to be successful; understanding the tools available and how best to implement them, doesn’t hurt either.
This article is a small excerpt from The Art of Skip Tracing and Missing Persons Investigations, an online skip tracing course for private investigators.