First, a little history of “skip-tracing”
There are innumerable reasons as to why a person, usually referred to as a “skip”, needs to be located. They could be a witness required for an investigation, or perhaps have reneged on a recent bail bond or is a suspect in criminal activity; or as in the case of a missing mineral rights owner, is sought as a potential lessor. Regardless of the reason to locate someone it’s all called skip-tracing and the methods to locate an individual or “skip” are the same in almost every case. It’s my challenge to direct you in basic methods of skip-tracing for the purposes of obtaining a lease or arranging for a purchase of minerals.
My career had it’s most humble beginnings in the late 1970’s as a Process Server for a Private Investigation agency, then to the Tracing Department manager of the country’s largest collections agency. From there, branching out into my own business I took on assignments to locate people for private investigators and bail bondsmen. As my reputation grew, I also accepted cases on behalf of the FBI, DEA, and Interpol. For fifteen years I tracked felons and criminals and eventually turned my sights on heirship research and now work exclusively within the Oil and Gas Industry.
Brass Tacks: Later, I will list a few websites which may be helpful but most of you already know the majority of them. The greatest thing I could possibly teach you is the attitude.
There are three maxims to the art of skip-tracing:
1) If you didn’t write it down it never happened.
2) There’s always another way.
3) Find someone who knows.
These three “don’t-even-think-about-neglecting-them” rules have kept me successful as a skip-tracer for almost 30 years.
Let’s first take a look at the information we have on hand.
Most of us have access to the most common databases but it’s how we approach that information that determines whether or not we will ultimately succeed. Generally you will have the subjects name and last known address. If you have a deed, you also have the date at which the information was valid and possibly additional bits and pieces such as a notary block or other devisees names who may potentially have information pertaining to your subject. Each piece of information is, in and of itself, a potential lead and must be approached this way.
When we combine the name with the use of common databases it’s the start of our assignment but have you also thought of reviewing the last known address(LKA)? Could there be some current connection there? Possibly. LKAs are almost as effective in locating someone as running the name. Was there a landlord who may be willing to provide additional information or a former roommate? Perhaps a neighbor knows the families forwarding address. What about other people in the area with the same last name…were they related? You should approach each potential lead with the attitude that even if it’s not going to tell you where you skip is, you will at least find your next lead on the person. Identifiers, those bits of information such as full and complete legal name, date of birth, social security number … all serve to build your skips profile and should be acquired as you move from source to source.
Keep pulling on that informational thread until you tug the right lead in order to unravel your case is what works. Keeping in mind “who would know?” has always served me well. Effective skip-tracers never stop learning about new places to look for leads and only get more expedient over time.
Skip-tracing 101: it’s all about technique.
The public resources and paid databases available to landmen are not the same as I use, but the methods of approach are the same. Success is measured by your willingness to examine details and not allowing yourself to be deterred. When I’ve taught Skip-tracing for Landmen at College, the students at first are always disappointed I am not there to give them a list of top-secret databases with the current whereabouts of every person in America. They come expecting to be shown the answer when in fact that is exactly the wrong thing to take away. Learning the attitudes, attributes and mindset of a successful skip-tracer will do more to enhance ones abilities than anything. There are two types of people in this world. Those who are detail-oriented, and those only want the bottom line. To be successful you must be willing to be that detail person. If you’re read this far, congratulations. You’re on your way to having success in locating people.
As promised, some popular common databases:
- Genealogical Databases:
- Credit Header type of Databases:
- Searchbug (some free information)
- Intellius (some free information)
- Knowx (Lexis-Nexis) (paid / subscription)
- PeopleFinders (some free information)
- Telephone and other broad-search Directories:
4. Miscellaneous or National Databases: