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Bounty-Hunting in a Digital World Is a Tough Game

21/11/2014 12:56 GMT | Updated 20/01/2015 10:59 GMT

Skip tracing is a word that wasn't too well known before the digital equations we have with the world came into being. It was limited to fugitives and criminals on the run. But today, with the technology turning into an inevitable aspect in human life, skip tracing is employed more than ever, to trace people who simply go 'missing' on their own accord, to either escape a debtor or something equivalent to that.

How does skip tracing work? For starters, this is an act that is performed 'strictly' by a professional though digital world may sometimes make it easy for a novice too. But to reach the logical end of a skiptracing mission, an expert would be the right person to do the job. Companies that deal with debt recovery, process serving, repossession agents and journalists too (sometimes) opt for skip tracing to track down a person who has gone underground.

It begins with the skip tracer collecting as much information as possible about the 'subject' who has to be traced down to his/her current inhabitation. The information that has been made available with the government agencies and family members is analyzed, reduced and then verified for its credibility.

The job of a skip tracer begins at the point where tangible information ends. So, if a person has left behind digital trace, how and where would he/she be? Ensuring the person is brought to book or is the information regarding the person's presence in a particular place, is a skip tracer's job. So is a skip tracer a private detective then? Yes and no.

Because, a skip tracer is not working on a person who exists. His or her job begins from the point where the person has gone missing since, may be, a few years before the case lands on the desk. Primarily though both a detective and a skip tracer seem to be doing the same job, the difference lies in the detail.

For instance, how do you begin your search for a person who is believed to have been dead? Or faked his suicide or death with the properly organized help of family members, and has vanished without leaving a trace?

When working on cases, a skip tracer can never be restricted to a physical appearance or one state or even a single country while hunting down the 'wanted' person. With Satellite phones, digital images, CCTV cameras all over the place, hiding forever or being on the run today is much tougher than it was before. But then, people who actually resort to such acts are really a tough cookie!

In such cases, skip tracers could very well be qualified hacks, a geek, intuitive, with a sharp nose and always on guard to trace down the person to the residence. All this and much more is needed to be employed while skip tracing a person, within a short span of time - just before he/she makes another move!

To find someone who is missing since long, with no tangible evidence available whatsoever, and mind numbing permutations and combinations of what personality the person may have assumed now, make skip tracing both thrilling as well as a risky profession. In which case, both aspects work like magnets for people who are into skip tracing. They wouldn't settle for anything less than the work they are doing. Because, it seems like one is living a Hollywood movie!

Well, all great things have humble beginnings. Skiptracing too starts with basic data. As the steps go further, the costs involved in the work may go up significantly, but hey, nothing in this world comes free!

After scouring through available information and government data, records and electronic databases, it also includes relatives who may have retained the contact with the 'wanted' person. For this, it is most necessary to be in possession of an in-house data base, or have access to the best database that can ever be, to reduce the information further and make it tangible for further progress. All this, to be done in 'less than a jiffy'. And, add to it, the trustworthiness of the source or the agency that would do the job.

There have been many instances when FBI has employed many skip tracers in one go to solve highly puzzling cases. Britain has a long list of skip tracers working on several cases at once. The results are usually positive.

With high number of immigrants settling down in countries such as Australia, New Zealand etc, skip tracing has turned more into a profession than a passion, among many young people. For example Australian-based Detective Desk is working relentlessly to bring the fugitives to book, sometimes closely with the government agencies too.

Sometimes, skip tracing may not be as delightful as it may seem - especially if one is at the receiving end. Just as internet is filled with tips on 'how to skip trace' it is also filled with gazillions of tips on 'how to escape' a skip tracer. You see, it's an even world out there!