Guide to Skip Tracing

Skip tracing is a term that is fairly new to most people. The skip tracing career choice and job market is wide open currently due to the large amount of individuals who have outstanding debt with collection agencies and billing companies. Collection agencies and billing companies hire skip tracers to help them locate individuals who may at least owe a very large amount of money. Skip tracers may also work for bounty hunters, bail bonds and private investigators to help them find individuals who have outstanding felonies, warrants or you may have a large outstanding debt such as child support.

There is a wide variety of employment options for skip tracers and the career path is fairly easy. The following guide will discuss what the basics of skip tracing are, becoming a skip tracer, operating a skip tracing business, advertising that business and the financial aspects of skip tracing as well as working with collection agencies. Though most of a skip tracer’s job is freelancer there are some employment opportunities currently available making this a highly sought after trade with a wide open career outlook.

The Basics of Skip Tracing

In order to understand how to get started in the career field of skip tracing, there are a few basics that an individual should understand. These basics cover everything from becoming a skip tracer to what a skip tracer actually does. The following are just a few of the basics to give you some insight into the skip tracing field and to see how it would benefit you to consider a career option in skip tracing.

What is Skip Tracing

Skip tracing is a process that an individual or company uses to find someone that may have gone off the radar. This individual may have outstanding debts, felony charges, outstanding bail from a bail jump or a large amount of child support owed. In a few circumstances, skip tracing is used to find missing people or to find individuals who may have been listed as missing and their cases have grown cold.

How Does Skip Tracing Work

Skip tracing uses different methods of finding where a person may be located. The first and most common way skip tracing works is through a basic Internet search method. Through various sites and free search tools, many of the answers regarding a person’s location can be found. This guide will go into the ways that a skip tracer may use the Internet to track down an individual quickly and easily.

Can Skip Tracing Be a Career

Skip tracing is a career with a far reaching outlook in the coming years. This is mainly due to the fact that individuals who skip trace targets for clients have fallen victim to the issues facing modern society. Overdue bills, felonies and bail jumps are all reasons a skip tracer would be used. These are issues that are not decreasing, fading or moving out of sight anytime in the near future. With more and more companies hiring outsourced and freelance skip tracers, the career outlook is ever changing and growing rapidly each passing day. This means that if someone wants to pursue a career in skip tracing, the only thing holding them back is themselves.

Becoming a Skip Tracer

Becoming a skip tracer is not as difficult as becoming a bounty hunter or becoming a bail bondsman. There are some basic steps, education and requirements that an individual must obtain in order to become a skip tracer and open their own skip tracing business. The following are a few of those steps, educational options and guidelines.

Training

There are several training options available for individuals who want to become a skip tracer. Though skip tracing is nothing that you can learn in a traditional college or university setting, there are options available. One of the basic options is to find a skip tracing school online. These schools are offered for various levels of skip tracing and training. The basic training for a skip tracer is to learn what a skip tracer does and the software that a skip tracer uses in order to perform their job. If you find a training program that does not offer some form of software training as part of their skip tracing coursework, then continue looking. In order to be a skip tracer you will have to understand the software that's available to skip tracers and the legalities of that software.

Certifications and Internships

Unlike other career options, there are no true certifications or internships for skip tracing. skip tracing can be learned on the job through another skip tracer or can be learned from programs online as previously mentioned. If you are looking to become a certified skip tracer, then you will need to understand that there are no governing institutions for skip tracing in the United States. This means that the there are associations for skip tracers to join and become members of, none of these associations will offer an actual recognized federal certification or internship in skip tracing.

Internships in skip tracing are generally found through word-of-mouth. Skip tracers who are already in the business may offer a paid or unpaid internship for individuals who are looking for hands-on experience or on-the-job training. There are no institutions that will offer an internship as part of their program. This is a non-traditional career option and therefore the training methods, certifications and other guidelines that would govern standard career options will not be present for skip tracing.

Starting a Skip Tracing Business

This guide will go into detail about operating a skip tracing business and advertising a skip tracing business, starting a skip tracing business is the most difficult step in to becoming a skip tracer. This is very much a word-of-mouth and freelance position. You will have to market yourself, find your own work and work out your own contracts for payment. There are ups and downs to this portion of becoming a skip tracer as with any other freelance position. For more information on starting a skip tracing business please see the next section titled operating a skip tracing business.

Start Up Costs and Financing

There are the costs of financing for skip tracing business are minimal. If you already have the software that is the biggest expense. The software and the training will run you anywhere between $300 and $1000. You also need to have a substantially equipped computer to help you with the skip tracing process. You will need a business phone line and the basics of any home office set up. You also want to have a reliable cellular phone service with unlimited talk, text and data. This is due to the fact that some skip tracing jobs will mean you will have to leave the house in order to locate the individual or to confirm location of an individual. You will want to be able to contact your client at the drop of a hat depending on what you locate and who you locate. You may need to receive further information from the client or you may need to verify information on the go.

In regards to any federal or state taxes or fees regarding startup costs for a skip tracing business, they are negligible. You may have to pay foreign corporation or business license depending on your city and state guidelines, however any other fees would be negligible and are not federally governed.

Operating a Skip Tracing Business

Operating a skip tracing business can be a bit difficult. There are several tasks involved in operating a skip tracing business that you would need to be aware of. This is a freelance business therefore the vast majority of business and administrative issues are left up to you or to anyone you may hire. The following are a few considerations to operating a skip tracing business that you will need to take into account prior to starting your career.

Finding Your Own Clients

Finding your own client is one of the biggest hurdles that many individuals face when operating a skip tracing business. This is a complete freelancing job. Not only are you working on a contract to contract basis, you are also working on finding your own clients. Unlike other freelance position such as writing or freelance customer service and virtual assistant positions owning a skip tracing business and finding clients is a bit different. You cannot use aspects such as Craigslist or online classifieds to find your clients. You will need to track down clients through local debt collection agencies, bail bondsmen and those individuals looking for spouses who have backed out of child support. Some of the clients may have issues with payment while other clients may be able to pay you right away. You will want to choose your clients wisely and make sure the contracts are negotiated properly.

Contracts for Clients

You will need to create contracts for your clients. These contracts will vary depending on the type of client you are dealing with. You will not be able to use a standard contract for every client. The reason for this is due primarily to the fact that every client is different in skip tracing. One client may need to find an individual who has an outstanding debt. That debt that is outstanding will lead into how much you will make once you find the individual. This changes things such as fees, schedules and the timeline that you have in order to find the individual. If you are dealing with a child support jumper or a bail jumper then you may have a tighter deadline or a much wider deadline depending on the client.

If you are trying to help an individual find someone who has skipped out on child support then you may have to wait longer for payment depending on the state and how they enact the child support payment laws. There are several factors that must be considered in each one of these factors ways into the contract. If you are unsure of what type of contract offer how to write up a contract, you may need to contact a local attorney or someone who is experienced with developing contracts in order to help you ensure that you are receiving the right amount of payment and that every aspect of that contract is covered. You may also want to have a lawyer review the contract in order to ensure that it is legally binding and there are no legal issues that may arise at a later date.

Payments

Payments are another aspect of owning a skip tracing business that may be confusing to some individuals. If you are in a skip tracing business you will not see a regular payment. The only time a skip tracer sees regular payment is if they have a large amount of clients where payments are coming in on a regular basis. However, for many skip tracers the jobs are staggered out and a skip tracer must budget their payments accordingly. Payments depend greatly on the contracts and what the client is looking for. They also may depend on the type of contract. For example as previously mentioned, a child support contract may differ greatly from a contract with a bail bondsman who's looking for a bail jumper. This is why having a contract is vitally important in order to receive payment properly and promptly.

Office Locations

The office location for a skip tracer is generally in the home. Very rarely do skip tracers have a set-aside office. Most skip tracers work freelance basis from a home office or while on the go. This is a huge advantage for some individuals who are looking at the high cost of renting an office or finding an office space. A skip tracer can even work directly from their sofa with a laptop and a cell phone if they desire. The office location is completely up to the skip tracer but in general as stated is usually at home or on the go.

Handling Appointments

As part of the skip tracing business in owning and operating a skip tracing business, the skip tracer must be willing to handle appointments at the drop of a hat. They may be asked to meet a client at a certain location, meet with a bail bondsman or they may be asked even meet at an undisclosed location. It all depends on the contract and what is being requested. It also depends on the level of skip tracing that will be handled. For example, if a bail bondsman is hiring a skip tracer to find a bail jumper they may want to meet with the skip tracer at the bail bonds office they can give them a full and accurate description of the individual as well as the case so that the skip tracer can completely understand what they are dealing with.

If the skip tracer is dealing with debt collection agency or they are dealing with a private debt collector or a child support case they may find that handling appointments is a bit more difficult. They may have to handle appointments over the phone, through an online messaging service such as Skype or they may have to go meet with them during a lunch break or late afternoon break. This is at the discretion of the client and the skip tracer must be willing to work around the client rather than their own schedules.

Advertising a Skip Tracing Business

Advertising a skip tracing business is fairly easy. It is the same as advertising any other business with a few minor exceptions. One of these exceptions is the locations where advertising would be made. Many skip tracers tend to advertise a skip tracing business through personal and face-to-face methods. This may mean going into a debt collection office, bail bonds office or by posting their information through women and single fathers groups online. Here are a few of the methods an individual can use to advertise a skip tracing business.

Single Parent Forums

Single-parent forms are one of the best places for a skip tracer advertiser services. This is due to the fact that many individuals who are single parents may have child support issues they are trying to resolve with the state. In some cases the state is working slowly or is not providing the information needed in order for the child support payment to be met. This is where a skip tracer can come in. A skip tracer can help single parents locate an individual who may have skipped out on their child support and be able to bring them to justice in order to pay the child support. By advertising on single-parent forums becoming active on single-parent forms a skip tracer can find a great many clients and be able to use word-of-mouth in order to find even more clients.

Face to Face Office Visits

Face-to-face office visits are another way for skip tracers to advertiser services. A skip tracer may want to go into a collection or debt collection office in order to introduce themselves and their services. They may also want to go into bail bonds offices to offer a face-to-face meeting is what they offer. Keep in mind that many offices may not use your services right away and many bail bondsmen may not use your services right away. However, keep letting them know that you are available and allow them to make a choice on their own. These face-to-face office visits can be vital in spreading the word about your business and finding new clients.

Forums

Miscellaneous forums that deal with bail bonds, bounty hunting or any type of contract worth tracing could be used are also a good way to advertise a skip tracing business. You should become familiar with these forums and become active on the forums. Simply posting your business may look like you're trying to spam the forums. Become an active voice your opinions and show that you have a working knowledge of the skip tracing profession and what needs to go into the skip trace in order for you to help a client. Your knowledge combined with your activity on the forums will greatly increase your chances of advertising a skip tracing business and finding contracts.

A Detailed Look at a Skip Tracing Project

A final aspect of this guide would like to discuss is a detailed look at the skip tracing project. For this scenario we are going to use a bail jumper. We are assuming in this scenario that you are starting from scratch with a phone call from the bail bondsman looking for a skip tracer. We will take you through each step in the process and how a skip tracing project would generally be handled. There are more details the pieces of the skip tracing process, but this will give you an idea of what to expect as a skip tracer on a bail job project.

The Phone Call and Meeting

The first step in this scenario is to meet with bail bondsman. This can be a bail bonds office or maybe asked to meet them somewhere else. During the phone call and meeting you will be given a rundown about the bail jumper and what you should know. Generally this means you will be given the same information the bail bondsman may have in file. This would be the last known address or any information that the bail jumper gave, a cosigner and some minor information. You may also be given things like if the individual has a scar or tattoo, a medical condition or some other issue that you may need to know about in order to identify them.

First Stop

Your first stopping point is the generalized information. This is the most time-consuming part of the skip trace. Your first stop is going to be to contact any cosigners and to try to locate where the individual may be. This may take some ingenuity on your part. You do not want call and simply state that you are a skip tracer looking for this particular person. You want to be a bit creative and see if you can get the individual on the found through other methods. Do not mention the debts, a criminal background history or anything like that. You may want to play yourself off as someone who served time with them at a particular correctional facility or you may want to use another method. Any method that gets them on the phone or allows you to find out a new address will help. If this is a dead-end you move to the second step.

Second Step

Your second step in the skip tracing process is to verify addresses, employment and other locations. In this process is where you may find some information that will help you along the way. E-mails that were used on applications and phone numbers that were used on applications or at given address that may not have been used on the bail application. Any information that was not used on the bail application but to be verified back to the bail jumper is information that you can use.

Using Information Properly

Once you have some information that you can use you need to know how to use it properly. You can put this information to skip tracing software, Internet searches or through other methods. An Internet search for an e-mail address may lead to a forum post the individual made. It may also lead to a public domain area where they have posted their e-mail address or contact information. This can lead you directly to the individual, a pseudonym or a falsified name of the individual is using. Any of this information will lead you to that individual.

Location and Turn In

Once you have found the location of the individual and can verify that location, you will need to contact your client and let them know that you have located them. Given the information that they need and support the contract that you have with them. If the contract states that they go alone to pick up the bail jumper then adhere to the contract. If the contract states that you need to go within to ensure that they did in fact pick up the bill jumper and receive your payment then follow the contract. Location and turning in are of the last steps in the bail jumper process. Your payment will be rendered according to the contract that you have stated.

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