All Private Investigators are well aware of the power of top-notch skip tracing databases. In this day and age, if they don’t have access to accurate online data and software – they’re toast.
So what exactly are skip tracing databases? Skip Tracing Databases are a collection of public records, for the most part, pertaining to the life history of an individual. This information is compiled and collated, from many different sources, and then sold to a qualified user.
Address history, criminal records, relatives, assets (like vehicles and property), phones, email addresses, and much more are usually included in these databases. Some databases specialize in certain information, and others different types information.
Skip Tracing Databases are essential to Private Investigators, Attorneys, Private Process Servers, Bail Bondsmen, Real Estate Investors, and unfortunately, spammers and scammers. The data providers of this information supply essential information to those trying to contact or find the whereabouts of certain individuals.
How Do Skip Tracing Databases Work?
The data provider simply assembles and collates a person’s information from different sources and sells it to businesses and private individuals. These databases will offer free searches on the low end – but can be quite expensive for those that want (and are qualified), to get the ‘really good stuff.’
You get what you pay for. I know you heard this statement many times before, but, in the case of skip tracing databases – it really is true. This is why it’s important to ‘qualify’ for the better databases by being in an approved industry and passing an office inspection.
I’m not going to go into too much detail here, but, briefly, data providers have to pay for the information that they, in turn, offer to their users. They don’t just pull it out of thin air – it has to come from somewhere.
How quickly these data providers get the information is a huge factor in how much they charge YOU! For a much more detailed idea of how these databases work, I wrote a good article entitled How Do Skip Tracing Databases Work?
For example, if a data provider has access to credit headers from one of the Big 3 Credit Reporting Agencies, then they have some sort of agreement as to how fast they can get this information – as well as what type and how much information – including their costs. This determines what they pay – and will eventually determine what you pay.
How Do I Qualify to Gain Access to the Best Databases?
It’s not easy, believe me. The lower-end data providers do not require licensing of any kind. That’s good, but just know that they’re not going to have the most accurate and up-to-date information available. These databases are for John Q. Public.
If you want the ‘really good stuff,’ you must be in an approved industry where databases are essential to your business. Who makes this determination? The data providers. Period. They decide who can have access to their information – and it’s not negotiable. You either qualify or you don’t. And, they can zap your account whenever they like.
You have to remember that data providers are regulated by the Government. They have certain rules and laws they must abide by, and this extends to their customers – you. It’s all about an individual’s privacy – and ‘permissible purpose.’ I wrote about qualifying in much more detail with my post How to Qualify for Skip Tracing Databases. If you’re serious about gaining access to the very best skip tracing databases, then I suggest you read this article.
What about Skip Tracing “Software?”
There is really no such thing as ‘skip tracing software.’ Years ago, I believe you could buy some sort of ‘software’ that came on a disk. Insert into your computer and it provided links to different skip tracing and people search sites. Ugh.
What people really mean by ‘software’ is an online database that you sign up for and then use their interface to conduct your searches – usually at a cost, of course. So, step into the 21st century don’t get ripped off by any of those websites selling this type of ‘software.’
The Professional Skip Tracing Data Providers
I have compiled a list below of some of the very best skip tracing databases around these days. I’ll go into the free ones later in this post. Keep in mind that these are top-notch databases, and will cost you a good chunk of money to use.
Please keep in mind that the below databases are going to qualify you. You have to apply, and MUST be in an industry that they approve of. And, some of them have different ‘levels’ of access. For example, some will provide full social security numbers and dates of birth. Most will have a subject’s identifiers ‘truncated.’
TLO – One of my personal favorites. Currently owned by Trans Union. Expensive and requires office inspection.
DelvePoint – Very similar to TLO. Expensive and requires home inspection
Tracers – Nice database. Not as expensive as others and easier to qualify.
Accurint – similar to TLO and DelvePoint, but mostly for Collections and PI’s. Currently owned by Lexis-Nexis. Expensive, hard to qualify.
Lexis-Nexis – the “Daddy” of them all because of their wide range of services. Tough to qualify. Expensive. Mostly for Attorney’s.
Locate Plus – A small step down from the above 5 databases. Much easier to qualify.
IDI Data – Up and coming database. Easier to qualify, less expensive.
Microbilt – decent database. Hard to qualify. Expensive.
Ancestry.com – You may be wondering why I’m including this here. PI’s know! Not that expensive, easy to qualify.
Free and Inexpensive Public Skip Tracing Databases
I not going to go into any detail on these less expensive databases. Just know that when they say “free” they’re probably going to try and get you to upgrade. And, of course, they’ll want your email address so get ready to be spammed. The inexpensive databases have some decent information – but nothing compared to the top-notch listed databases above.
- Been Verified
- People Finder
- Zabba Search
- USA People Search
I’m spoiled. I do not use any of the above databases because, obviously, I’ve been a professional in the process service and investigative industry for many years and have access to the ‘really good stuff.’ I know that there are many people that do use these databases when they first start out as investigators. Take it for what it’s worth!
Additional Very Helpful Databases
Do not discount the below listed very useful databases. These should be used in addition to your skip tracing databases. Easy to qualify for, and you can find hidden gems in each and every one of them – no matter what business you’re in.
PACER – Bankruptcy records. There’s a wealth of information here. Inexpensive. Easy qualification.
FreeErisa – Great for find information on businesses. Including FEIN’s. Can get expensive.
WayBackMachine – great if you know the subjects past websites.
WhoIs – Free, and many times contains name, address, and phone of the website owner.
FoneFinder – Great for locating the city/state of a phone number. Free
Classmates.com – I’m sure you’ve heard of it. Mostly free, and a great source.
In addition, Real Estate websites, the IRS, Social Media, and other websites can be beneficial. And don’t forget a simple Google search! You will be surprised about how much information pops up when you simply type in a subject’s name.
As I have mentioned a few times – you get what you pay for. Professionals have the good databases. Those trying top pass themselves off as investigators use the free and inexpensive stuff. It might work for awhile.
The key here is to be employed in a business that requires the good databases. Data providers know who these people are – and WILL do their due diligence in weeding out the spammers and scammers. Identity theft is big business, so get qualified, obey the law – and you’ll do just fine.
Related Skip Tracing Topics
Can you give me some skip tracing techniques? Of course! I wrote a very nice, in-depth article on Skip Tracing Basics and Beyond. This will give you a very good idea of what’s involved in the “Art of Ski Tracing”
What if I’m trying to avoid debt collectors and skip tracers? Well, this is a whole new world here, my friend! The short answer is yes – of course you can. However, it takes a lot of work on your part. First off, it kind of depends upon your reasons for avoiding them in the first place.
If it involves debt, try and negotiate. Bankruptcy is also an option. If you are just trying to ‘stay off the radar’ then check out my article on 10 Creative Steps to Avoid Those Nasty Skip Tracers!