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One of the tactics a private investigator uses for locating a missing person is skip tracing. Whether the search is for a person, who has committed identity theft, or an ex-spouse has not been sending child-support payments, skip tracing is an effective technique, if done correctly.

At Morse Investigation Services, we employ professional skip tracers, who have made skip tracing their profession. They are capable of turning around a skip trace within one to two days. If the client urgently needs to find someone immediately, the skip tracer can deliver same-day results.

What is Skip Tracing?

Skip tracing means that means the missing person in question has “skipped” or left their current address, providing little information with which to find them. Many law enforcement, collection, and repossession agencies, as well as private investigation agencies like Morse Investigation Service, use skip tracing to find trial witnesses, offenders who have skipped bail, or parents, who have abducted their spouses’ children, for various reasons.

Skip tracers gather whatever information they can find on the missing person. Once information is accessed, they perform an analysis, extracting relevant information and verifying it. Determining fresh and accurate contact locations is crucial in finding the person quickly. Skilled skip tracers can decode voluminous amounts of information and false data to detect the missing person’s current location, sometimes buried in dense and confusing (to the lay person) line-item reports.

Many times skip-tracing reports yield data about friends, relatives, acquaintances, and co-workers, who can provide a person’s current location. This is where Morse Investigation Services private investigators step in. We follow up on leads the skip tracing has yielded. We will telephone or call on the contacts we’ve found, sometimes posing as someone who knows or knew the person in a work context, for example.

Skip tracers have a treasure trove of rich sources of information—where public records are kept of the missing person’s personal information. Information such as credit and loan applications may be found there. Collection agencies also store abundant information in their recovery databases. Police reports and outstanding warrants are another source of information. Skip tracers also look at monthly bills: electrical, gas, water, waste disposal, landline and cell phone records, Internet, satellite, cable, government entitlement programs, and property tax records.

If no useable information turns up from these sources, some public and private record bases will cross-reference tracing information. This means information found on a third party. The third party could be an ex-roommate, for example, and will be skip traced to find mutual acquaintances that might have information on the missing person.

What Is a Skip Tracer?

Skip tracers are often licensed private detectives that offer their services for a fee to a creditor or to another person who wants to locate someone. By using public records and other documentation, the skip tracer generates new leads and eventually locates the missing individual. Not all subjects of a skip trace deliberately disappear. Attorneys handling estates hire skip tracers to find missing heirs, and adopted children may hire a skip tracer to locate a birth parent.

An individual may research legal means of information in an attempt to locate a missing person but a private investigator is more knowledgeable in surveillance techniques and may network with other investigators to locate a missing person. A bounty hunter uses skip tracing techniques and locates bail-jumpers for a fee. The activities of bounty hunters, like private investigators, are subject to state regulations.


When you’re trying to find a missing person on your own, leave no stone unturned. Visit the public library for back issues of phonebooks and use reverse phonebooks to find old street addresses. Look through public voter registration records at the courthouse. Utilize the power of the Internet for a variety of skip tracing resources. Spies Online, a resource for private investigators and citizens, offers links to free searches and maintains a database of licensed investigators for hire.


When searching for a missing person, you must obey the law. The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requires communities to make some records public, including criminal records but the Financial Modernization Act of 1999 prohibit you from calling an individual using a pretext to obtain personal information. You may not misrepresent yourself as a utility, a lender, a creditor, a medical professional or any other professional entity in order to trick the person into giving you private financial information or a Social Security number.


Skip tracing has the potential of tracking down deadbeat parents, missing witnesses, long-lost loved ones and those who skip out on their debts. With the Internet, a private individual can make use of free searches and specialized searches for a fee but the time-honored methods of dumpster-diving for discarded information and visiting a country courthouse are still valuable in locating missing individuals.