Skip Tracing 101: How to Find Virtually Anyone
When people move suddenly, it can be difficult to locate them if they change telephone numbers or do not leave a forwarding address. If someone fled town intentionally to avoid creditors, process servers or law enforcement, they may try to conceal their whereabouts, making the task of finding them even more difficult. Skip tracers make it their business to find people who seem to have disappeared for one reason or another. Almost everyone leaves some kind of paper trail behind, and it is the job of the skip tracer to examine that trail in order to pinpoint a missing person’s location. After checking the usual places such as the DMV, county clerk’s office and directory assistance, many people may still not have enough information to find who they are looking for. The good news is that with a little more digging, you can find just about anyone in places you may have never thought to look at first.
The local library may not be the first place that comes to mind when you think of skip tracing, but it usually has a wealth of information that can help you a great deal in your search. Most libraries have access to criss cross directories that you can use free of charge. A criss cross directory is a cross-index directory that can be used to find a person’s contact information. This is not to be confused with the standard directory assistance that you can find in your local phone book or 411. A criss cross directory is a much more detailed list, and in addition to providing names and phone numbers, also provides information regarding how long a person has lived at a certain address, information about the neighbors and the value of the property in that particular neighborhood. These directories also allow you to do “reverse look-ups” for telephone numbers and addresses as well. The library you go to will most likely only have the criss cross directory for that particular neighborhood, so if you want to search surrounding neighborhoods, counties or states, you will need to visit more than one library.
Another unlikely source of information can be found in business or professional listings. Knowing what your subject does (or did) for a living can save you a considerable amount of time and expense during your search. Many “missing persons” cases can be resolved with a simple phone call to the person’s employer. Even if they are no longer working for the company, you can often talk to Human Resources, coworkers and supervisors to get a forwarding address or other contact information. If the person is in a line of work that requires some kind of licensing or professional certification such as teaching, commercial driving or cosmetology, you can contact the agency that initially issued the license or permit, which can lead straight to the person you are looking for. Virtually every state includes the contact information for all their licensing and permit agencies on their official website, so that is a good place to start. If the person was in the military, you may be able to get a hold of the non-confidential portions of their military records to help you locate him or her. Information for present and former military can be contacting the branch the person was in or by visiting the websites for each branch.
Sometimes skip tracers spend months, even years looking for a missing person, only to find that they are incarcerated. You can save your self a lot of time by checking court records in addition to contacting state and local jails. If you have reason to believe the person is serving time in a federal penitentiary, you can go to the Federal Bureau of Prisons webpage (http://www.bop.gov/) and enter the person name in the inmate locator section to see if they are serving time in a federal prison.
Women are sometimes harder to locate than men, because they often change their names in the event of a marriage or divorce. If she has been married more than once, the search can be extremely difficult. When looking for a woman, it is a good idea to search marriage records and divorce decrees, which are both matters of public record and can be easily accessed by visiting the county of state clerk’s office.
Many government agencies can help you in your search as well. If the person owes money to the IRS and is taken to tax court, you can often get the person’s information simply by viewing some of the court documents. If the person is on workmen’s compensation, unemployment, welfare or some other type of government assistance you can check with the state department of social services (whose information can be found on the state’s official website) to see if you can get some leads on their whereabouts. The post office may also be able to help you find more recent contact information on your subject if they have put in a change of address form.