Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Skip Tracing: 4 Things Every Paralegal Should Understand

Thanks to  Guest Contributor Christa Blair  for this information regarding skip tracing. Christa is a staff writer for Be-A-Private-Investigator.Net. She writes mostly about skip tracing and skip tracing techniques.
Are you a paralegal who is faced with a situation where someone you need to locate is simply nowhere to be found? I'm sure you have had to deal with a case or two in your career where you needed to have a "skip" (someone missing) located in order to proceed with litigation. In these instances, skip tracing is necessary to track down such people and it is important that you understand the basic principles of this type of procedure.

Once you know that you are most likely dealing with a skip case, it is important to first determine why the person is missing.
There are two types of skips; intentional and unintentional.

  • Unintentional skips refer to cases where a person is hard to locate simply because of some missing or incorrect information that they are unaware of. 
  • Intentional skips, on the other hand are people who for more obvious reasons such as prosecution or financial debt have purposefully made their whereabouts unknown.  
  What Information is Needed?  The next critical and most extensive step in the skip trace is to collect any leads and information that may be able to help in building a picture as to where the skip may have gone. 

For starters gather all your “identifiers”; full name and any previous names, date of birth, information on spouse if applicable, last known address, last known phone number, motor vehicle records, any prior arrest records and such.

Sometimes you are lucky and it ends up being easier than you think it’s going to be, so start with the most obvious sources first: 411 directory assistance, reverse number lookups, phonebook listings.  If these leads end up as dead ends, there are other measures that can be taken such as running the person’s social security/insurance number to pull a credit file on them, requesting change of address information, searching online databases and contacting relatives and others associated with them.

In some instances more involved methods such as surveillance are used but much can be done on a computer and there are also some helpful software programs designed for this purpose.

How Is This Done?  It is important for you to remember that skip tracing is not a procedure that can be performed carelessly.  There are certain laws that dictate how it can be carried out.

Skip tracers must abide by federal and local regulations as well as privacy and trespass laws when it comes to collecting information.  If they collect it illegally it will inadmissible in court as evidence. In general these rules determine how information can be collected, how much of it can be disclosed and to whom.

Who Does Skip Tracing? 
Although anyone can attempt a skip trace on a basic level, such as searching public records and online databases there are some techniques that only professionals have access to. 

There are companies, usually private investigation firms that will perform skip traces for a fee.  These businesses are normally licensed and hold an account with at least one major credit bureau which gives them access to normally confidential files. You may want to hire a professional skip trace service if the skip seems particularly challenging to find.

Guest Contributor Christa Blair is a staff writer for Be-A-Private-Investigator.Net. She writes mostly about skip tracing and skip tracing techniques.

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