Profiling The Skip-Tracer

skip_profileGuest Editorial

Greetings from the GREAT state of Alabama, Roll Tide Roll!

Many of you already know that I have spent my entire career as a skip-tracer.  My subsequent shift over the past several years from hands-on casework to a focus on training and teaching has led to my new role as a published author and Blogger.  It comes with new rewards that include a broader range of interaction with a more diverse sampling of skip-trace professionals.

In all my teachings, I have consistently placed great importance on a skip-tracer’s understanding of human nature, and how it applies to the subject’s daily activities.  Using this knowledge to profile the skip allows the subject to be placed in one of the “Three Types of Skips” categories, which is a profiling-process that I have advocated for years. The theory is that by better understanding the type of skip you are pursuing, you will better know which direction to take your investigation without wasting time and resources.  Much like a great fisherman knows what bait to use for the catch of the day.

My travels have brought me into contact with an intriguing array of skip-tracers from varying walks of life, and from a variety of industries.  Each has a different definition of success—meaning that each has a different goal once the subject is located.   Yet at the end of the day each of us performs the same worthwhile task, and that is hunting people who do not want to be found.

What has been a revelation to me is that just as we have “Three Types of Skips”, we also have “Three Types of Skip-Tracers!  The three profiles that I have created below define graduated levels of workmanship, and the correlating increase in quality and success.  Examples 1 and 2 illustrate different characters, yet they both pose varying degrees of liability to both themselves and their clients.  You may recognize yourself or your industry peers among these character profiles.  Learn from them to better manage your own path to greater success.

angry_man1. The Intimidator:

These tracers use a shotgun approach: calling everyone listed on a credit application, and anyone else that they have been able to link to the subject.  They pre-emptively apply the full extent of pressure that that their knowledge of the creditor’s contract and other laws and regulations provides in order to amp-up the level of fear and pressure on anyone who knows the subject.  The initial display of noise and influence can be impressive and effective in the short term, but only if there is a great volume to work with.  This approach is called skimming the cream.  When the supply of contacts has been exhausted, the tracer is left with nowhere else to turn.  Meanwhile the thunderous yet short-lived approach has alerted the subject, providing him with enough warning and information to go deeper into hiding.  A further drawback to this approach is the greater chance of liability to the employer that is often associated with the increased risk of third-party disclosure.

sean_cnnry2. The Secret Agent 

These tracers have invested a great deal of time and money into every gadget and piece of technology available to help them gain an edge.  The assortment of gear may include voice changers, pocket cams, trap lines and access to every database in existence. They have a great ability to sweet-talk anyone and have a pretext for any situation. These tracers normally put more time and effort into their gadgets then is truly needed to complete the task at hand. It is only this writer’s opinion, but at times they focus too much attention on their tech savvy, and not enough on the human they are seeking. In today’s litigious society there is little room for any pretexting in our practices, so they walk a fine line with violating many of the laws on the books today at both the state and federal level.


cy_br_glob_e3. The Cybertracker:

Now this tracer occupies the very top branch of the evolution tree of the skip-tracer. He has obtained that hard-to-come-by old-school knowledge from years of experience in the field.  He has a better grasp of the nuances: knowing when to ask, and what type of question to ask, and whom to ask.  More importantly he knows when to talk and when to just sit back and listen. He is adept in the science of human nature, mastering the knowledge of the inherent traits of all human beings to more easily locate his elusive prey.

The Cybertracker understands today’s technology and possesses an ability to handle greater volumes through batch-processing.  The water fall approach to skip tracing causes the more challenging accounts to land on the more experienced skip-tracer’s hands.  He welcomes the opportunity to take a more hand-to-hand-combat approach to the task, discerning what piece to the puzzle is missing and where it can be found. He knows the difference between real-time and compiled data, and when to use each and why.

He has also taken the time and great expense to become licensed, bonded, insured, and certified in his field.  He has gained a working knowledge of all the state and federal regulations on skip-tracing and collections, such as the FDCPA, FCRA, GLB, Sunshine Act and so many others.

Cybertrackers pose little to no threat to their clients from a liability standpoint, as they have elevated this process we call skip-tracing beyond ignorance and inexperience, removing the risks commonly associated with those still getting by on outdated methods and unreliable practices. They are ready to tackle what lays ahead on our path, wherever it may lead in the coming months and years.

After 28 years I am still proud to say I AM a Skip-Tracer, and I hope you are as well. It is the greatest show on Earth, and Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus has nothing on us!

Until Next Time…. Follow me on the path to better Skip-Tracing



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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6 thoughts on “Profiling The Skip-Tracer

  1. Alex, I started skip work when it was common practice to have hundreds of phone books stacked against the wall and your best friend was Polk big books and criss-cross directories. I like what you wrote. Old school plus experiences in the field plus new tools equals success. Maybe an occasional pretext…old habits! Good article.

  2. Great article, I often say a skip tracer has it in their blood and they cannot be made from reading a book or watching someone skip as so many companies out there are hiring employee’s left and right and calling them skip tracers! Excellant article!

  3. You are a true breathe of fresh air!!! With so many other hacks out there using the shotgun approach it is nice to see they haven’t all given up on mastering the black art!!!

  4. Alex…you left out one very important group of tracers…the “SKIP GUESSERS”. The group of men and women who check a phone book in a city, find their skips name and “BINGO” instant success. This group then sends the recovery specialist to an address which just happens to be a 1.5 million dollar estate to look for a 2001 Ford Ranger pick up truck which was financed by a sub-prime lender when a little background work would have indicated the resident of that address has lived there for 16 years and is a very prominent heart specialist who just happened to have the same last name as the consumer that was being hunted. More and more I am running across this hopefully dying breed of tracers. Please let us not forget the “SKIP GUESSER”.

  5. Thank you Alex for the insight on Skip Tracers! In the age of compliance as well as from a lender’s point of view, it’s cybertrackers all the way!

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