Skip tracing is the art of finding people trying to hide. Collection agencies, law enforcement agencies, bounty hunters, and private investigators use skip tracing.
One tool used by law enforcement agencies is Thomson Reuters’ CLEAR system.
Here are seven common techniques used for jump tracking and how to find someone who doesn’t want to be found:
1. Social Media
Social media is a real treasure trove of information. As long as the social media information has not been deleted or made private, CLEAR may search public records to scan the social media activities of the wanted person. It also finds friends and family of that missing person on social media.
2. Image search
Images found on social media can provide clues as to a person’s location. Using image search tools like Google Lens can help identify components in photos.
It is common for a person trying to hide to change their name to something else. The alias is referred to as “also known as” (AKA). CLEAR identifies data patterns that other aliases used by the missing person may uncover.
4. Synthetic Identities
A synthetic identity is created by using a piece of real data mixed with fake data. An example is a verified address used with the intentional spelling of a person’s name.
One technique used by those trying to hide is to call services and tell them their name is misspelled on the account. CLEAR can identify this technique. Misspelling similar names linked to the same address is one way to uncover this deception.
5. Mail Forwarding Service
A missing person can use a PO box or mail forwarding service to hide their physical address. However, it is possible to obtain this physical address information by court order.
6. Voter Registration
Registering to vote means that your name, social security number, date of birth, and post office box address become public information. If it’s part of the public record, CLEAR can find it.
7. Vehicle registration
CLEAR searches an archive of 164 million vehicle records.
The pandemic has made it harder to locate those who have disappeared because so many millions have stayed at home. All CCTV footage, which is usually present from people on the move, was minimal as everyone stayed in their homes. Based on the use of bank cards, identity tracking with geolocation declined significantly.
However, since there were so many more people in their homes, it was easier to find them there. Cell phone tracking and cell tower signal triangulation made it very easy to find these individuals in their homes if they had a cell phone that was known to law enforcement.
Other “missing persons” challenges caused by the pandemic were:
The Washington Post reported that FBI statistics showed a 29.4% increase in homicides and homicides in 2020 compared to 2019. The Post ran an opinion piece that attributed part of that surge to the lack of witnesses when everyone was quarantined.
Mentally-related missing persons
The Nation Alliance on Mental Illness advises contacting the police immediately if a person with a mental illness goes missing. After three days, her information goes on the FBI’s National Crime Information Center list of vulnerable adults.
When law enforcement locates an adult over the age of 21, they cannot hold them against their will if the person has not committed a crime and is not at risk of harming themselves or others. It is possible to find many missing adults with mental illness; However, that does not mean that they will return home. Often they become homeless instead.
NPR reported about 580,000 homeless people in America in January 2020, up 2% from 2019. Then the pandemic caused that number to increase even further. If you’re looking for a person you suspect is homeless, 25% of them are in New York City and Los Angeles. You can start there.