SKIP TRACING – How difficult is it to find someone?

(8 tips to locating someone)

The not so easy answer is; it depends. Skip tracing is a general term referring to process of locating (tracing) a person (the skip).

There is a wide variety of reasons for wanting to locate a person. It could be to locate a long lost relative or a biological parent, an old friend that you knew in high school, an estranged  spouse that needs to be served legal documents, an old military buddy, a runaway juvenile, or even a parental child abduction.

Depending on the type of case, I always recommend doing your own due diligence before contacting a Private Investigator. Of course if there is a crime involved, in the case of a child abduction, or any other missing person with suspicious circumstances, always notify law enforcement first.

Doing your own research can be a daunting task, but I have created a list of free/low fee public sources to start your search. Most licensed Private Investigators have access to a proprietary database that compile the most current data on individuals. The non-investigator will not have access to these databases. However, there are websites such as Spokeo or Beenverified that can be useful for obtaining basic background information on a person, their relatives, and places they have lived. However, it has been my experience that some data profiles are not always the most current, but it’s a starting point. I’ve listed (not in any specific order) what I have determined to be a good starting point to locate a person for the non-investigator. There are other resources available, but my best advice is to think “out of the box”. Happy hunting!

  1. Access Spokeo, Been verified, or any other database websites to obtain basic information on the individual (address, phone numbers, relatives)  Run relatives or other persons associated with the individual for new addresses/phone numbers. They may be living with relatives now. Hint: try . This website will sometimes amaze you as to what information it contains. 
  2. Search all social media websites using the person’s name, maiden name, or other names they may use. I would start with Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Linked, as they are the most common. Depending how their privacy settings configured, this will dictate what information you are able to access. Many individuals are very active on social media and may create posts with their location, if your lucky. If you are unable to access a person’s Facebook, you may be able to discover a “friend” of the individual that has no privacy settings in place. This might give you additional access to search for associates of your individual.
  3. If you have identified any addresses/cities/counties on your subject, access the local court records. Most state and counties have websites that allow you to search using a name, and this may reveal and civil or criminal cases your subject may have been involved in in the past or any current cases they have coming up. In addition, it will list any other parties associated with the case which you may be able to track down.
  4. Contacting prior residences may also be beneficial in identifying where a subject is now living. Asking the landlord if the subject ever listed an “emergency contact” or a forwarding address that they left to send the deposit refund could turn out to be fruitful. It’s always possible the new residents know the subject or are related to them. 
  5. Most counties have public property records that can be accessed. Some require an address or parcel number to conduct a search, but some only require a name. Running the family name could identify what property the subject’s family owns and give you a lead to follow.
  6. Professional licenses are typically filed with the state or local government. If you believe your subject has a professional license, these entities could reveal what business your subject is associated with. If your subject is self-employed be sure and check your state licensing and the BBB for the subject’s name/business.
  7. Locating persons that are incarcerated can be difficult if you’re not sure where they live. For a federal inmate this information can be obtained from their website However, in other jurisdictions access varies. Some departments have their inmate roster posted on their website, but the most accurate way to determine if someone is in custody is to call the specific jail directly.
  8. Obtaining a subjects personal information using their vehicle license plate is next to impossible due to legal restrictions unless you are law enforcement. Don’t believe the hype of some websites that say they will give you the registration information of a license plate. Law Enforcement and many private investigators have access to the “vehicle plate locator” system that can reveal where a vehicle has been and where it was last seen. If you are not familiar with this system, there are thousands of cameras in the United States that are constantly taking pictures of license plates. This information is fed into a database available to law enforcement and other types of investigator. If you have the VIN number of the subject’s vehicle you can also run a CARFAX report that can reveal locations where the vehicle was serviced and / or registered.