The Zombie Skip-Tracer

by Alex Price | MasterFiles

Zombie: A person whose behavior or responses are wooden, automated, lacking will or creativity…

The definition of a Zombie Skip-Tracer is the person in your office who logs on to their favorite data source and clicks just to click, robotically starting with the Holy Grail search of the SSN. It seems logical: start with the magical piece of information—a Social Security Number. So that should unlock all of the information needed, right? Wrong: This practice is draining your bank account and causing you to waste valuable time and resources in the office and out in the field.

Let’s first take a look at data in general. Most of us use it, but don’t understand where it comes from, how often it’s updated, or how it’s stored. Is it compiled or real-time? Each of the data providers in the marketplace have something unique about their system that they do better than anyone else. Your job is to find out what that singular specialty is, and use the provider for that task. This makes you cost-effective. Have at least two providers on hand, using them both for different purposes. Bounce the searches off each provider to perform a “Super Search”. Now you are being more productive with your use of the resulting enhanced information.

With an SSN Search, you are accessing the credit header portion of the credit bureau. This can include current and past addresses, but they are only updated every 30 days, because that is as often as anyone can buy this type of data. The Zombie Skip-Tracer runs this search and only looks for any new addresses not currently in the file, and moves on. He is missing a vital subset of information: historical addresses. Just because your subject no longer resides at these locations, it does not mean the people living there do not have valuable information for you. At each of these locations, you have the opportunity to glean information from past and present landlords. Also, neighbors to the address may have information about your subject; maybe not an exact location, but information on why they moved, the type of person they were, etc. From these renewed resources you can form a more fully-developed picture of the skip to enable you to move forward with the best plan of action.

To get out of that Zombie mode we must start taking ourselves out of our comfort zone, and start using different searches for appropriate reasons. Now let’s discuss the difference between real-time and compiled data. The difference can be significant, and yet I am not contending that one is better than the other. They each have an appropriate purpose. Compiled data means the provider goes out and buys the data once every 30 days, 60 days or 90 days—whatever the data set calls for. If you do a search on that system today, then you have no business repeating the same search on that system for a minimum of 30 days, since that is the next time the information will be updated. Real-Time data is updated hourly, multiple times a day, every 24 hours. It helps you verify where the subject is or is not as of TODAY.

Take a simple phone number, or the number on the application: Where did it go at the time of the loan? Who did it go to? When was the last time you spoke to the subject at that number? You should be asking yourself these questions at varying points in the process. If you have a disconnected phone, but you know someone spoke to the subject at that number three months ago, then find out where the number went and to whom. Find out who else was associated with the address. This can lead you to boyfriends, girlfriends, an ex, or current roommates. Where are they now?—These people are part of your subject’s inner circle.

It is rare to find an exact location on a skip right off the bat. First we must locate those people who associate with him—the ones we all keep close: both personal and professional. Then use them to glean information to help solve the puzzle. Discovering alternate sources of information like property records, bankruptcy, phones, neighbors, relatives, newspapers, social networking sites (all of which fall outside the standard information contained on a credit application or assignment) can only serve to expand your chance of locating your skip.

To be an effective Skip-Tracer today we must meld the old tried and true techniques of old along with today’s technology use information to enhance your abilities and effectives not as an absolute just as you would any tool.

This is a brief study of how you can make your data work for you and break the spell of the Zombie within. I invite you to go to , and check out the “Overcoming Skip-Tracing Obstacles” class for more details on this subject and others. A new class schedule will be posted soon. You can also go to for more skip-tracing training.

Follow me down the path to better skip-tracing!

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