Magazine article Business Credit

The Professional Tracer

Magazine article Business Credit

The Professional Tracer

Article excerpt

The face of skip tracing is changing. The once-accepted standard tools and techniques of skip tracing are changing. If today's professional tracers don't change with the times, they will find themselves mired and trapped in the tar pits just as the dinosaurs found themselves eons ago.

Our ability to trace each other has always paralleled our ability to communicate and never before has our ability to communicate been as advanced as it is today with cell phones, computers, blackberries, fax machines and the Internet.

Privacy has become a major issue. Headlines tout how the government monitors our phone records and we can look forward to increased limitations on identifiers that have been traditionally used to track people, such as date of birth, Social Security number, drivers license number, etc.

So the question becomes, "In this age of cyberspace and transient lifestyles, just how are we going to track the runners?"

The art and science of skip tracing has seen major changes in the last ten years and the tools and techniques utilized by the professional tracer have also changed based on technology and data sources. We witnessed an explosive use of credit beginning in 1945 by returning service people following World War II and with it an increase in the number of consumers who did not honor their obligations and "skipped out." The people tasked with locating those who had "skipped out" on their obligations were taught to follow the "paper trail."

In that era, consumers left traces of movement that could be tracked through paper sources, credit applications, credit bureau reports and postal change of addresses and the professional tracer had to develop many closed sources of information coupled with a keen sense of intuition, a good voice and persuasive abilities to locate them. It was during this period that the credit and collection industry began to recognize the special skills and communication abilities required to track and locate these people. Hence, a new job title was born: skip tracer.

Now fast forward to 2014 and we see an entirely different environment in which the professional tracer must operate. No longer are the trails left on paper but rather stored electronically in data banks. No longer can the professional tracer count on their closed sources of information for help as much consumer "non-public personal information" is protected by a massive array of intertwining consumer protection laws. Legal acronyms in the credit industry such as FDCPA, FCRA, FACTA, TCPA, HIPPA, TRPPA and GLBA are commonplace and must be followed explicitly in the tracing process. Non-compliance by a tracer can result in huge fines and even incarceration.

A new job title has been created for this new breed of tracer: cybertracker. The cybertracker must possess a new skill set that includes computer knowledge in order to take advantage of and not be overwhelmed by the numerous sources of information available to follow the missing consumer's electronic trail.

In addition to creating the need for a new breed of tracker, the current electronic environment has spawned a new and rapidly expanding industry of information brokers. This industry had its birth in the late 1980s when small companies were formed to gather electronic data, build accessible gateways and remarker the data to tracers. As the numerous small companies grew and prospered, they merged their resources and formed larger companies or were bought out by larger data brokers. …

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