The Three Types of Tracing

3_fingersGuest Editorial

Greetings from the great state of Alabama Roll Tide Roll!!

In past post we have covered “The Three Types of Tracers”, and “The Three Types of Skips”.  Now we have to complete the circle and cover the “The Three Types of Tracing”.

So you ask why all these Threes?  The number three is generally attributed with a meaning of completeness:  A beginning, middle, an end.  Birth, life, death.  Past, present, future.  Sun, Moon, Earth.  Two lines cannot connect without a third line to form the heavily symbolic triangle.  Notwithstanding the obvious allusion to the Holy Trinity in Christianity, religions of many varieties are chock full of occurrences of threes.  And when have you ever heard a Genie offer less than three wishes?  Oh yeah, one helpful bit of advice when you’re outside:  “Leaves of Three:  Let them be!” (poison ivy)

Moving past that bit of botanical advice, the astrology, religion and numerology, I want to show you how Skip-Tracing has evolved into three definitive categories.  I will explain further in a moment.

First you have to understand that the most recent recession impacted the monetary value that many lenders have placed on skip-tracing this and the fact that anyone with a computer and phone can call themselves a skip-tracer has de-valued the task all together.  Because many budgets or fees failed to accommodate the cost of skip-tracing, the practice is rapidly becoming a lost art.  The fact is that by neglecting the fundamental process of skip-tracing, the number of accounts being located has noticeably dropped in comparison to previous years.   Operations that have forsaken skip-tracing efforts have experienced an overall dip in performance and effectiveness.   It is critical that you understand how and why the landscape has changed, and develop a plan of action and a direct path no matter the account fee or the balance.

I am going to use the Auto Recovery industry as an example, but the issues and math can be applied to any industry or profession which deals with skip-tracing.  Get out your Geometry books, young Jedi!  The national average shows the distance of an assignment is 38 miles one way from a recovery agent’s office.  That is at minimum a 76-mile round trip.  Factor in the latest statistics according to AAA, showing the national average cost of diesel fuel at $ 4.06 a gallon, multiply that by the typical 4-5 addresses presented on an assignment, and you can easily see the dilemma!  We have not even factored in all the other real costs that face a business owner such as payroll, insurance, compliance, and wrecker maintance to name just a few.  My simple math clearly demonstrates that you must make skip-tracing part of your equation.

For those of you who question how to fit it into your budget, I am illustrating each of the three types of tracing below (in order from minimum to maximum levels) with a brief explanation of each, showing that there is an available option no matter the size of your operation, budget or fee structure..

  1. Micro-Tracing:

As I have always said skip-tracing starts at the point of sale or the day that the assignment is received.  In order to avoid the high cost of running address after address based on someone else’s hunch or best guess, you must have some type of validation process so that you know where you are going and why.  I suggest you start with the address and apply some simple, inexpensive searches that will help you validate the address.

1)    Phone: Is there a working phone at the address, and who’s name is it under?  Does this name match your subject’s?

2)    Neighbor: Contact a neighbor to see if your subject is known.

3)    Landlord: With a click of your mouse you can have access to past or present landlords that can be a treasure chest of current information.

These three steps should cost no more than .50¢ or less, based on the provider having a no hit/no fee foundation, and make sure they have real-time data.  You don’t what to have to purchase information only to waste valuable time and resources verifying the information you just purchased.

Combine the search results and your own experience to connect the dots of which address holds the best value or chance of the subject being there, and then you are ready to place the file in the field.



Alex Price

Master Hunter


Alex Price is a nationally-recognized expert on the Art of Skip Tracing and author of Skip Tracers National Certification Program with over 25+ years of experience in skip-tracing, collections and public speaking.  Alex began his career with Barnett Bank as a field representative collecting past-due accounts. He then moved to World Omni Finance, where over the next ten years he worked in all aspects of collections and handling the nationwide charge-off skip portfolio.


Contact Info: , Office: (972) 735-2353, Fax: (972) 735-2354                                                              


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