Skip Tracer Job Description
Skip tracers are like detectives solving a mystery. However, thanks to online databases, they rarely have to leave the safety of their offices. They search for fugitives (also known as “skips”) who have skipped out on certain obligations – such as an unpaid debt. They can either be independent contractors, or they can work for debt collectors, law firms, bounty hunters, or similar organizations.
Skip Tracer Duties and Responsibilities
Duties in this job can vary significantly depending on the industry of employment. However, there are a few core tasks that most skip tracers are responsible for, such as:
Track and Locate Fugitives
Skip tracers use a variety of resources, both online and offline, to try to locate targeted individuals. This can include basic internet searches using specific databases, or even interviewing friends or family who may have information.
Identify Assets and Collateral
Since collateral can be just as valuable as locating the individual, skip tracers often focus on finding bank accounts, owned property, and other valuable assets.
Skip tracers often conduct searches to find out if information about an individual is still current. They use many methods to do this, such as verifying property records on government websites or contacting employers or landlords.
Perform Data Entry
Although it’s less exciting than other parts of this profession, data entry is one of the most important tasks done by a skip tracer. Keeping all information complete and updated helps make sure that individuals can be located in the future, if necessary.
Skip tracers rarely go out and confront a targeted individual. Instead, they create detailed reports with all the necessary information, and this is given to lawyers, debt collectors, bounty hunters, or anyone else responsible for actually finding the person.
Skip Tracer Skills and Qualifications
Skip tracers spend their days solving mysteries. Attention to detail is critical for all the research they conduct, as is skill with computers,because the majority of modern searching is done online. Formal education isn’t required, but a skip tracer does need the following skills:
- Researching skills – the major task in this role is locating people and assets through quality research. A good skip tracer is methodological, creative, and resourceful when searching for information
- Legal knowledge – it’s crucial that skip tracers are familiar with state, federal, and local laws relating to researching and contacting individuals. Violations can be extremely damaging
- Phone communication – skip tracers spend a lot of time on the phone. Whether they’re seeking or sharing information, they strive to avoid misunderstandings
- Conflict management – this job sometimes involves conversations with people who feel threatened. Skip tracers are masters at de-escalating tense situations while remaining calm and professional
- Attention to detail – skip tracers perform a lot of data entry. They’re careful and accurate when inputting information,but easily notice and fix errors
- Problem-solving skills – since their primary responsibility is locating people who may or may not want to be found, skip tracers have to solve a lot of mysteries.They’re comfortable with the fact that not every work day will be the same
Tools of the Trade
Skip tracers typically use these tools in their daily work:
- Microsoft Office (especially Word and Excel)
- Online databases (maintained by government agencies or private companies)
Skip Tracer Education and Training
A high school diploma (or equivalent) is generally required to become a skip tracer, but many employers also look for a minimum of one year of experience. Most people get said experience from on-the-job training while working at a company that employs skip tracers.
Because of the sensitive nature of the role, many employers require a background check and drug test.
Skip Tracer Salary and Outlook
According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS), the median pay for skip tracers is over $35,000 per year, or about $17 per hour. Skip tracers in the top 10th percentile earn more than $55,000, while those in the bottom 10 percent make around $24,000. Many employed in full-time positions receive insurance and vacation benefits.
The need for skip tracers is predicted to decline 3 percent by 2026, according to the BLS. This will mostly be due to technology allowing fewer workers to handle more accounts. However, the industry has a high turnover rate, so there will likely continue to be a significant number of job openings.
Looking for more information to learn the ways of a skip tracer? Here are some nice resources to get started:
American Recovery Association – ARA is the largest association of recovery professionals, and it’s full of great resources for skip tracers. It has information about training sessions, conferences, and other useful tools. Also, becoming a certified member helps skip tracers stand out in the industry
Skip Trace Secrets: Dirty Little Tricks Skip Tracers Use… – despite the controversial title, this is a helpful book for getting started as a skip tracer. Author Valerie McGilvrey has worked in the industry since the 1990s, and she’s written multiple books to help others get started in the field
Skip Tracing Basics and Beyond: A Complete Step-by-Step Guide for Locating Hidden Assets – author Susan Nash is president and founder of a leading company in asset location. Her book contains many lists to help new skip tracers learn about resources and methods that will guide them to success
Bounty Hunter EDU – this organization assists the bail bonds industry by providing free resources on licensing and training related to fugitive recovery. It’s a useful tool for finding local information in a specific area, as well as for finding certification courses that can improve job prospects
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