There are things that are lost, and there are things that are intentionally misplaced. For a skip tracer, the job is to know which things are lost on purpose and how to reclaim them. A combination of bounty hunter, collections agent, and private investigator, a skip tracer locates things and people that don’t want to be found.
For example, a person who has a bail debt or child support obligation may choose to “skip” town rather than pay what they owe. In this case, a skip tracer is hired to find where the person has gone. Through in-person and digital investigation, the skip tracer can find out where the person has gone, where they live, and how to bring that person to justice.
Skip Tracing Up-Close and In Person
If you’ve ever seen “Dog and Beth On the Hunt,” you have an idea of the in-person element of skip tracing. This may involve going to the person’s new work, visiting at their house, or attempting to trick them into coming into an area where law enforcement is ready for them.
In a recent skip tracing coup, skip tracers called individuals with outstanding warrants to tell them about a sweepstakes they had won. A local community center had been decorated with a Hawaiian theme, and local police officers were dressed as travel agents. When the perpetrators came in to receive their free Hawaiian cruise, they got much more than they bargained for.
Skip Tracers in the 21st Century
As information has become more accessible by almost anyone, skip tracers and other private investigators can use a perpetrators own digital footprint to track them down. Credit card purchases, online social media updates, and other digital information is often used to find elusive offenders
Of course, not everyone is naïve enough to share their personal data online. One of the world’s best skip tracers, Michelle Gomez, explains that it takes more than good Googling to find these kinds of perpetrators.
“Profiling a subject is a lot like constructing a motherboard,” Gomez says. “You have to see connections that are invisible to other people by filling the spaces between with information.”
These high-level hiders often keep their online life secret, preferring to buy with cash and using social media only for planting misinformation. Still, careful study and online resourcing turns up the smallest details that aid in eventually finding these subjects. “They get tired and slip,” Gomez says. “Everybody needs human contact, and that’s usually what brings them to ground.”
Skip Tracers vs. Investigators: What’s the Difference?
Skip tracers and investigators are very similar, although their goals are slightly different. Both skip tracers and investigators must follow federal and state laws when it comes to privacy guidelines, trespassing laws, and evidence-gathering standards. Both professionals spend a large amount of time tracking and gathering evidence about individuals as well.
Investigators, however have a wider variety of goals than skip tracers. While skip tracers only focus on finding people or items that are purposefully missing, investigators often work on cases where the person is missing through no fault of their own. Private investigators also investigate a wider variety of crimes, including skip tracing. So, while a private investigator can usually do the duties of a skip tracer, a skip tracer can’t necessarily fulfill all the duties of a private investigator.
If you need to find a person that doesn’t want to be found, a skip tracer is the perfect place to look. Fortunately, many professional private investigators like Thomas Lauth have the skills required to find the unfindable.