DELIVERY NOTICES AND DELIVERY POSTCARDS
I developed this idea several years ago to increase my success rate with process serving. It was an incredible concept that never failed me, not one time. With the concept of the traplines and calling cards, I developed the use of delivery notices. I used them to determine non-published numbers, times when the subject would be home, verifying they were home when I was attempting service, or that they possibly moved.
The tools are: pre-printed door hangers or peel-and-stick notices (that easily peel off), and your toll-free number. The message is simply that you attempted to deliver a package, requiring a signature, and to please call the delivery dispatch center. I use a custom number that has the business acronym (i.e. US Rapid Delivery – 877-123-USRD). This is not the number I use, but you can find one by searching Kall8 for a usable acronym and number.
The premise is simple – if there is uncertainty that a subject is at the address or I need verification, a notice is left and the caller will either confirm it, indicate the subject is not a resident, or sometimes offer a new address and/or telephone number. For other situations, such as PO Boxes, I use a delivery notice postcard and the same premise. The key to effective trapline use is the message left to entice a return telephone call – greed and messages that get immediate attention work best, and I have had a success rate of better than 80% using the postcards. I also reserve these for cases that have me stuck or my investigation leads me to believe this is the best method to determine or verify an address. This is because once used, it may not work again and I have had numerous occasions requiring me to find a subject two or even three times.
Cell phones are much like non-published numbers – we know the information exists, but how do we get it. As cell phones are gradually replacing traditional landline service for our voice communication needs, these names and numbers are becoming more and more frequent in common databases. Start with entering the number into various search engines and then databases. Two of the best resources for this are www.reachdirect.com and www.telequery.net; the latter allows you to use wild card searching. Telequery.net also has a ‘Caller-ID’ function that will tell you the information as it appears on the Caller-ID but is often not in other data records. This is the same information that is presented when a number is trapped on a toll-free service. Credit headers and other resources tend to be the next steps to acquiring both cell phone and non-published data.
Using a trapline to determine related information about a cell phone user is next. First you will need to setup a few things. Your trapline and use the ‘blocking’ feature to block payphones and the cell phone number of the subscriber. I broaden this with the cell phone prefix (i.e. if my target phone is 123-555-1234, I block 123-555) – this prevents the target from using their cell phone (or any cell phone with that prefix) from calling you back on the trapline number. You will want blocked numbers to go directly to voicemail and unblocked numbers to go to a different destination phone number (I recommend MagicJack – you can answer that or let it go to a different voicemail). Next change your trapline voicemail greeting to something like ‘We are experiencing technical difficulties – please hang up and try your call again. If you continue to experience this problem please try from a different phone to assist us in isolating the problem’; using a female voice is best). This will force the caller to use a different phone, hopefully a traditional landline that is their residence phone, employer phone or possibly a neighbor.
Once you have this information all it takes is a little bit more work to develop your target’s location. But first you need to persuade the target into calling your trapline. Sometimes no message is best – just a name and number, depending on your specific situation. The above delivery notices and postcards work wonderfully. New generation communication has given other unique opportunities, as detailed below.
VOICEMAIL, TEXT MESSAGES, EMAIL, PAGERS AND WEB PAGES
All of these are simply methods of communication. If you know the cell phone number, use SlyDial to bypass calling the person and be sent directly to their voicemail. You will want to use the calling card feature of Kall8 in case they have a feature that tells them the number that left the message. This serves two purposes – it protects your identity and encourages them to call the trapline number back out of curiosity. Remember, all you want is a call back to trap the new number – nothing more is necessary (but more is helpful). You can also use the paging feature of cell phone voicemail (‘to page this person press ‘#’). Use the SlyDial method above and enter your trapline number setup to reject calls from the cell phone.
Text messaging is nothing more than using the voicemail and pager methods, except you want to remain anonymous. Yahoo mail has a unique feature to send a text message to any cell phone; it is as anonymous as your Yahoo email address. This is because they send two messages – the intended message and a special message that tells the recipient that Yahoo user ‘your Yahoo username’ is trying to send you a text message. Another somewhat anonymous web based text messaging is www.textyourbuddy.com. You will need to enter an email address and the message. Your delivered message will show the email address you entered and ‘sent from textyourbuddy.com’. It is not so bad to have an email address appear, as long as it is a generic and anonymous email address. They may be enticed to send an email to you (less than infrequent in my experience) – giving you their IP address (at least their general location) and their email address. You can then use various email tracing methods to develop additional information. Likewise, if you have an email address but nothing else, use the same message delivery theories already outlined to craft an anonymous and enticing email message for them to call your trapline. These theories can also be used for persons that have webpages and contact forms. Finally, you can setup your own webpage and contact form enticing them to contact you or call your trapline.
Identical to calling cards you purchase; however, these are pre-paid by you and mailed to the subject. These are only available from the commercial providers.
The specialized calling cards are essentially the same as the trapline. This is especially useful when all you have is the target’s mail drop address or the address of a relative. The commercial company will send a free calling card in a marketing package, hoping your subject will call someone or be called by the relative. The uses of these are as vast as your imagination. With the extensive use of cell phones and no associated long distance charges, calling card use is rapidly declining.
As with all calling cards, you will be able to see the date, time and telephone numbers called from and to; and just as with the trapline, not just once a month – but virtually any time it is used and in the same notification manners. Due to the cost, in the past I have used these only on the subjects that are sure to bite and have avoided any other trick I could think of. The costs can be $25- $75.
COMBINING THESE RESOURCES
Each of the above services have unique stand alone uses – but when combined create powerful investigative tools. The uses of these services are really up to the legal and creative imagination. Calling a cell phone with Slydial and leaving an enticing message with a toll-free number is just the same as sending an email, text message or other communication – get your number to the subject and get them to call you back. Be creative and think like your subject. What would prevent them from calling you? What messages, letters, emails or other communications have you received that enticed you to call a number? The answers to these questions are the beginning to the answers of where your skip is hiding, living and working. All of these methods have proven beneficial to me – some more so then others. This article is generally written from the most successful methods to the least. It is important to practice safe, legal, and common sense investigative strategies. DO NOT use any pretext or form of communication that may jeopardize your case, your client, or your profession. If you are not permitted to contact a subject (i.e. an opposing party represented by an attorney) you cannot use these methods.
Feel free to share your thoughts and ideas with me and your fellow investigators.
This article is an updated section from Dean Beers’ book, ‘Professional Locate Investigations;’ and is one of the most popular subjects on which he receives requests for advice.
Dean A. Beers is the owner and Senior Legal Investigator of Forensic Investigators of Colorado, LLC, based in LaPorte, Colorado. He has been a legal investigator since 1987 with extensive experience in skip tracing. He left the private sector from 2005 to 2008 to work as Deputy Coroner / Certified Medicolegal Death Investigator for the Larimer County Medical Examiner’s Office. He returned to the private sector in late 2008 and now focuses primarily on the legal investigations of Personal Injury, Negligence and Death, as well as Criminal Defense. His wife, Karen, handles agency administrative matters and is also an Associate Legal Investigator. Please visit the agency website for detailed information at www.Forensic-Investigators.com. After ‘retiring’ from the private sector, he completed his book ‘Professional Locate Investigations’.
Dean has extensive training, experience, skill sets and knowledge in Personal Injury, Negligence and Death, and all contributing causations. Related areas include motor vehicle collisions, workplace incidents, elder abuse, child abuse, slip and fall, premises liability, as well as related evidence collection and analysis. In addition, he continues to provide detailed Criminal Defense investigations, now with the benefit of POST certification and extensive familiarity with the local law enforcement community and judiciary.