When considering a career in legal investigation, one must possess a certain skill set in order to succeed in the field. Enrolling in a private investigation course, whether online or at a university will help improve one’s investigative skills, gain knowledge on different techniques, relevant laws, and courtroom procedures, and satisfy requirements for state licensing. A career in legal investigation covers many areas, including skip tracing.
What is Skip Tracing?
Skip tracing is a process characterized by searching for a person who cannot be located at their place of residence. Skip trace investigations are done to track down the missing person’s whereabouts and recover them immediately. The “skip” or person of interest (POI) can be a debtor who had defaulted, a wanted suspect, or a family member who has disappeared. Other examples of skip trace subjects are the following:
- Witnesses to a crime
- Heirs to estates
- People who have skipped bail
- Clients unable to pay a business for services rendered
In simpler terms, skip trace investigations involve searching for anyone who doesn’t want to be found because they refuse to answer to a legal obligation. Skip trace investigators are often hired in investigative firms, law enforcement, or debt collection agencies. Some skip tracers work independently as private investigators, bounty hunters, or bail bonds agents.
How Do Legal Investigators Conduct a Skip Trace?
Skip tracing requires thorough research and may also involve a lot of legwork especially if the POI has done well in avoiding the authorities. In conducting a skip trace, a legal investigator will start by gathering basic information, like names, addresses, and contact information to identify the POI’s current location. If such information are insufficient to locate the POI, a legal investigator may access other sources of information. Below are some these sources.
- Investigator Database: Skip tracing tools are available to legal investigators for them to find relevant information about the POI, including secondary addresses, telephone numbers, vehicle movements, and assets.
- Public Records: Some of the most common public records include marriage and divorce records, lien information, voters registration and other records available in government agencies. In some states, information such as unemployment claims, licenses and certifications, tax information, bankruptcy records, credit reports, and census records are available to the public.
- Court Records: Court records like current criminal or civil case involvement are also considered public records. Legal investigators may also conduct criminal background checks to determine if the POI has open warrants, arrests, convictions, or inmate records.
- Open Source Intelligence: Legal investigators also conduct deep web research to examine the POI’s online presence. These include scouring job applications, gift registries, social media and other online activities.
- Corporate and Neighborhood Connections: Interviews with coworkers, clients, landlords, and neighbors are also done to obtain any information that may help in finding the POI.
- Surveillance: Legal investigators may also scan neighborhoods and places that they suspect the POI may live in or visit.
Legal investigators are most suitable for conducting skip trace investigations because they have the skills, experience, and network needed to locate missing people in a faster and more efficient manner.