Skiptracing Resources for Bail Enforcement Agents
An Article By L. Scott Harrell from http://www.bondforfeitures.com

 
The following is an abbreviated excerpt from my book and course, Apprehending Bail Fugitives, and I thought that it would be helpful to you and others- I also included a brief run-down of the databases I use and have found to be the most effective.  Please note- that while these resources can be a vital element to finding the defendant, they are only a small piece of the big picture. 
 
Databases are often only as good as the sources from which they are drawn (and how often they are batch updated)  AND the ability of the skip tracer to properly use, understand, verify, and INTERPRET the information contained in them.
 
Lastly, many databases and database providers are stronger in one region and weaker in other parts of the country.  This is especially true when they use one source for their credit header or one source blended into their "national" reports rather than using/combining from 2 or 3 credit reporting sources.
 
My recommendations are at the bottom.
 
 

The greatest advancement in skip tracing is the advent of the on-line database; information we can instantly access on the Internet.  My intention here is not to steer you towards any specific service provider, by the time you are reading this book there may be another ělatest and greatestî source on the market.  Rather I prefer to describe a couple of the various reports available from most information brokers and demonstrate how they fit into the fugitive investigation.  If you become interested in which service providers I use, send me an email and I will discuss the ins and outs of each of the companies I have used and which ones I eventually chose to use regularly.  They are certainly not all equal and price-per-search is not a good indicator of the quality of the information you will receive!

In general, there are three types of information you will need to find a reliable source for:

1.      Real-time and Historical Telephone Information
2.      Credit Headers and Consumer Credit Reports
3.      Motor Vehicle Registration and Licensing Information

Real Time Telephone Information

I hate to admit it; this is the most basic, the least expensive and oftentimes the only search I ever need.  I overlook it regularly when beginning my investigation, and I kick myself in the rear every time I miss it!

It can be as easy as calling ěInformationî (411) and asking for the number of your fugitive, his spouse/girlfriend, or children; donít forget to try variations on the names as well.  These days ěInformationî can give you an address and even ěreverseî a listed phone number (tell you the name and address by giving them the number).  However, they are limited to some extent.  If a number is non-published, thatís usually the end of the line, and I find many of them to be impatient as well.

There are several new searches that have enormous value for the skip tracer and are available on line.  The new telephone databases are real-time, meaning that if you change your listed number this morning, I can get it this afternoon; they interface directly with the telephone companyís own records.  Furthermore, most service providers are extremely inexpensive, costing as low as 10 cents per search for as many names that match your inquiry.  The real power in these new databases is that in MANY cases when a telephone number is non-published (and it seems that most fugitives have ěnon-pubî numbers) the name and address is still available.

Credit Headers and Consumer Credit Reports

A ěcredit headerî is a segment of a Consumer Credit Report that lists all non-financially related information about a consumer and typically only includes identification information.  It is called a header because it comes at the top (head) of a full credit report.  Information that it may contain includes:

1.      Name, (Including Variations and Aliases)
2.      Current and Previously Reported Addresses w/ Dates
3.      Social Security Number (As well as alias numbers)
4.      Date of Birth
5.      Spouseís Name

A Consumer Credit Report will contain the header as well as reported financial information including:

1.      Employer (Sometimes Past and Present)
2.      Public Information (Including Civil Suits and Bankruptcies)
3.      Creditors and Amount of Credit Extended (Loans, Credit Cards, etc)
4.  Credit Inquiries (Companies who have recently examined the credit file)

It is important to note that consumer credit files are compiled by three different credit reporting agencies (CRA): Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian.  Each has its own strengths and weaknesses; most notably, each CRA seems to specialize in a different region of the country.  This generally means that a consumer will have more information on file with one CRA than the others depending on where they live.  This includes credit header information as well.  I always run a report containing all three bureaus; it is often less expensive than running each report separately in case I do not find the information I was looking for on just one bureau.  A ěTriMergeî report combines all of the information from the 3 bureaus and discards duplicate or overlapping information.
 
Motor Vehicle Registration and Licensing

I said that a Social Security Number is the key to a credit report; the key to locating Motor Vehicle Registration (MVR) reports is name and date of birth.  I must forewarn you though, some states do not have public disclosure of MVR data; you will need a Law Enforcement connection or a signed release to get this information.

MVR reports are supposed to be kept current by the driver or vehicle owner. Although many states allow for up to 30 days to update this information, very few fugitives do.  I am sure that every defendant has heard the horror stories of people being arrested while they were attempting to renew their licenses.  As I mentioned before, if it is not current information, but it was factual, then it can become a lead to where they are today.  Perhaps family and friends still live in the area, or the neighbors remember hearing where the fugitive moved.

Besides a current address, I believe that the most important information you can find in MVR records is vehicle registration information and secondly, information on drivers sharing the same address during the time the defendant was living there.

Motor vehicle registration is important for several reasons.  First, in most cases, it is a huge sign screaming, ěI am the fugitiveís car.  He is not very far off!î  Secondly, vehicle registration will often yield the lien holderís name and addressÖ the person to which he is making payments and who stands to lose his car when the defendant goes to jail and canít make any more car payments.  After I get done explaining to the lien holder why he should help me, they almost always see it my way and give me updated information in return for my promise to tell them where the collateral is, in the event that the defendant does eventually default on the car loan. This is very similar to using creditors in the skip trace network.  Lastly, we can identify a time and a place that the defendant once resided in an effort to find more leads.


Recognizing that many of these DB providers have strong and weak points, I have learned to pick and choose among several specialists rather than "one size fits all" providers.  The following are the sources I use:

http://www.masterfiles.com/Reach411/  for real-time (not cached and updated "data dumps") telephone information.

http://www.IQData.com  for SSN numbers and headers- I have found that they have the most up to date DB, batched at the beginning of every month.

http://www.locateplus.com  is great for building/uncovering relationships and relatives (great for pretext work-ups).

Because MVR info is mostly state specific (and sometimes unavailable) you will need to locate a good provider for that.  Contact a local PI, most of us have that in our tool bag already.
 
Many sources for Consumer Credit Reports like to remain "below the radar" (I know mine does) but with a little effort you will be able to find an inexpensive provider.
 
One last thought- As a Bail Bondsman, do you have your clients sign a release for all of this type of information?  Though it certainly is not required, a properly worded release will allow you unfettered access to information than can be difficult to obtain (Consumer Credit Reports, MVRs, Medical Data, Bank Accounts, Etc).

If you have any additional questions, please do not hesitate to contact me directly.


Warmest Regards,

L. Scott Harrell
CompassPoint Investigations
"In Relentless Pursuit for Your Success"
www.BondForfeitures.com
www.BeABountyHunter.com
 
The "Apprehending Bail Fugitives" series is copyrighted, 2002-2004, by L. Scott Harrell.  All rights are reserved.
Used with permission by NAIS from L. Scott Harrell