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Beware of the Skip Guesser

mug brownIn our last issue we discussed the origin of the word “cybertracker,” some of the traits required of a cybertracker and a few of a cybertracker’s sources. In this edition we will look at the traits required of a professional skip tracer as well as the difference between a skip tracer and the type of person we commonly refer to as a skip guesser.

Skip Guesser

A skip guesser is a person who is actually a wannabe, who would rather stop short of a full trace investigation and guess at where a person or assets may be rather than taking the time to verify the information they have obtained. This group of industry leeches host on unsuspecting clients and often utilize the sources and resources of professional tracers to make themselves appear they have done their job in locating the subject or mortgaged asset.

Example: The skip guesser’s information indicates the subject moved to Houston, Texas. They check directory assistance and obtain three possible phone numbers and addresses for the subject. Rather than attempt to verify their information, the skip guesser will send the three addresses to a professional agency in Houston providing the three addresses as possible locations for the subject and/or the mortgaged assets. The agent handling the assignment drives the three addresses and finds one is an empty lot in a mobile home park, one is a four-hundred-unit apartment complex where the agent has no apartment number and can get no information from the apartment manager due to privacy laws and the third address is a two-million-dollar home in a gated lake community. A day and many miles are wasted because the skip guesser did exactly that… he/she guessed instead of verifying. They drew conclusions based on assumptions rather than knowledge.

That last statement pretty well sums up the definition of a skip guesser, “a person who attempts to locate people or assets by drawing their conclusions based on assumptions rather than knowledge and thereby providing incomplete or misdirected information.” Now let’s take the same scenario and see how the professional skip tracer would move forward to locate the subject in question.

Skip Tracer

The first thing a good tracer understands is they go backwards to go forward. The tracer must be diligent and gather information related to the subject of the hunt which the tracer knows to be fact in order to establish patterns and habits. This is where conclusions begin to be based on knowledge instead of assumptions. A professional tracer understands that there is power in knowledge and the more knowledge that is obtained the better the likelihood of success.

A professional tracer understands the value of base Knowledge such as the subject’s full name, date of birth, social security number, marital status and previous employment. These must be the first things the tracer obtains. The tracer then displays patience and delves deeper for more supplemental information such as the previous address’ type of dwelling: apartment, mobile home, single-family house. Was the subject buying, renting or leasing? The type of work the subject did at their last job and their reason for leaving that employment. The name, location and contact information for relatives and references. Spousal information and possibly the type of vehicle the subject usually drives. Previous communication devices, landline or cell phone, and the means of communication the subject prefers, voice contact, e-mail or text. When the subject actually left the last known address and under what circumstances. All facts, all truths and all information based on actual knowledge. Now we will see how the professional tracer utilizes this knowledge in the same scenario.

Example: The professional skip tracer’s information indicates the subject has moved to Houston, Texas. Information obtained during the investigation indicates the following:

The subject is a welder and has relatives in the Houston area, is married with three school age children, buying his home at his last known address, is 38 years old and primarily communicates through voice contact via a cell phone.

With this verified information the professional tracer will take the path of least resistance in the tracing industry, “time is money,” and contact the relative in the Houston area inquiring about the subject. They discover the subject is living with his wife and children in Pasadena, Texas, a Houston suburb and working for a company building a new bridge over the inland waterway from Galveston Bay. The tracer then will check public records for recent home purchases in Harris County and locate the subject’s new residence address. The tracer will review online information related to the building of the inland waterway bridge and obtain information for the general contractor on the project and their contact information which will be used to verify the subject’s employment. Now, knowledgeable of the subject’s residence and employment, the tracer will call the subject’s old cell number under the assumption that even though the subject has moved he has not changed his cell number (a common practice). If contact cannot be made through the old cell number, the tracer may contact the subject through his employer and/or send snail mail to the located and verified address. In any case the professional tracer has done their job in securing the subject’s current residence address and employment. Success is achieved through drawing conclusions based on knowledge, not assumptions.

If you desire to be a professional in the tracing industry it is your decision…skip guesser or skip tracer.

Until next time, good luck and good hunting!


Ron Brown is a member of the National Association of Fraud Investigators and the author of “MANHUNT: The Book.” Contact him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..