Resources for Bail Enforcement Agents
An Article By L. Scott Harrell from
- 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
- 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
- 5. Spouseís
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
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
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:
for SSN numbers and headers- I have found that they have the most
up to date DB, batched at the beginning of every month.
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,
If you have any additional questions, please do not hesitate to contact
L. Scott Harrell
- CompassPoint Investigations
- "In Relentless Pursuit for Your
- The "Apprehending Bail Fugitives"
series is copyrighted, 2002-2004, by L. Scott Harrell. All rights
Used with permission by NAIS from L. Scott Harrell