mug brownIn today's world of cyber tracking, the tracer has many data sources from which to choose. Tracers are being constantly bombarded with claims from various data brokers indicating they have the largest database or they are the most accurate and touting prices that are all over the place. The prices can range from $5.95 per month to $1,200 per month and “no hit… no charge” non-refundable social security searches for $150.

Let me start out by telling you that in all my many years of tracing, I have found no “golden bullet.” It just does not exist. I feel comfortable stating there is no one data site containing all the information required to locate everyone for which we search.

The professional must always track the databases they are using and make careful note of what data providers worked for certain geographical areas, what databases gave the best information when related to employment and which databases provided the best information for money spent. The data providers selected should have proprietary sources for obtaining data related to skip tracing, people searching, credit bureau header data, address searches, driver’s license search, address searches, telephone searches, reverse address search ability, reverse phone search ability, UCC fillings, civil and criminal records, secretary of state filings, bank searches, employment searches, stock and bond searches, property searches, asset searches, assessor’s office access, property deed searches, motor vehicle and DMV searches and the ability to batch process accounts when required.

As I stated earlier, there is no “golden bullet” so the process of selecting and building a bank of reliable data sources must fall on the shoulders of the tracer. As such, in this issue, I would like to provide you with some basic information and guidelines that you might use to locate and utilize valuable source streams of electronic stored data. We begin by understanding a few basic elements of searching for the searchers. All data brokers are not created equal and are not the same. Just because you pay more does not necessarily mean you get more. In many cases more data can hinder rather than help. Finally, any data from any source must be verified for authenticity.

As of 2017 there is an estimated 326,814,316 people in the United States. That is 4.34% of the total world population. It is also estimated that 82.9% of the US population is urban. The United States is comprised of approximately 3,535,111 square miles. From these numbers, we are able to see that each person has over a square mile in which they could be hiding. About 83 out of every 100 will be located in a metropolitan area. That enables the professional tracer to narrow their search and it also allows them to begin the process of categorizing the person that is being traced.

When beginning the tracing process, the first question I ask myself is a simple, “Where could they be?” I try to make this determination by looking at where they have been. I look at previous residences. Do I see urban residential dwellings, apartments, or parent’s homes? Are they addresses, streets and avenues or routes and boxes? This knowledge will assist me in choosing the databases I will use to locate the person.

I look at the person’s previous employment and ask myself: are the employment locations urban or rural, small business with no web presence or large businesses with a locatable website? Did the employment require licensing of any type, union membership or trade association membership?

I then try to determine if the person is moving alone or with a wife and a family. I learned long ago that knowledge is power in the tracing industry. The more knowledge I can obtain prior to the tracing process, the better chance I have at success.

With my information at hand I now am able to determine the databases I will use to search for my subject. I like to think I am knowledgeable enough that I am utilizing the current generation of data which is obtained from multiple sources and maintained through technology, which will allow me to gather and view scalable data obtained from multiple massive repositories at warp speed. I need for the data to be current and verifiable with actionable consumer data in an easy-to-massage and manipulate format.

I spoke with one data provider a while back who insured me their data was utilizing powerful analytics and was built around an evolving base that was constantly updating algorithms and linking technology. I spoke with another who laid claim to over 200 million consumers in their system, two-thirds of the United States population. The problem must have been I was looking for the one-third that was not in their database.

There are many mediocre data providers in our industry; there are a fair number of good data providers and there are a few great data providers. The bottom line is, always has been and always will be, the knowledge and skills of the professional tracer who has the natural ability to disseminate the data, separate what is good and bad, and solve the puzzle by putting the right pieces in the right spots.

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..