Skip Tracing: Building a Profile

Last week, in the first part of this series, I focused on providing you with an accurate description of “skip tracing,” as well as what types – or categories – of missing persons we generally deal with. In the second installment of this three-part series we’re discussing the importance of building a “profile” of your target, and what steps should be taken to build that profile. Your profile is like a road map that will lead you to your subject.

Building a Profile

Any nugget of information that you can gather about your subject will put you one step closer to finding their current whereabouts. Keeping all of this data organized is very important as you are collecting and compiling your clues.

Think of it like a jigsaw puzzle. At first, there’s nothing but disjointed bits of color that don’t seem to look like much of anything. Later, as those bits are added to other bits, a bigger picture begins to emerge. A skip trace profile can accomplish the same thing.

For those of us who skip trace for our daily bread, a profile worksheet is the key to keeping all this compiled information readily available in a format that makes it easier to both draw conclusions and tie bits of data together.

A simple profile worksheet can easily be created using a spreadsheet program such as Microsoft Excel – it doesn’t need to be complicated. In this profile worksheet you’ll add any and all details that you already know about your subject, as well as any new information that you obtain during the course of your skip trace. Don’t be discouraged if a lot of information is missing when you start… by the time you’re able to fill in most of the blanks you’ll most likely have found your subject.

Assemble All Known Data

You may already know more than you think you do, once you start putting all of your known information together. Sometimes this may be all you need to find the person you’re looking for – but it’s more likely that what you already know may point you to another piece of information that will eventually lead you to your subject. It’s important to list every detail you can think of, because you just can’t tell when or if that little fact will bridge to another little fact that ties it all together.

Spending a couple of minutes to make sure your facts are accurate from the very beginning will save you hours of frustration and wild goose chases down the road. You’ll want to make sure that you have the correct spelling of your subject’s name and as much other information as possible. For example: is your subject’s last name Johnson – or Johnston? Is your subject’s first name Deborah – or Debra? If you’re not entirely certain, you’ll want to keep an eye out for possible variations of both first and last names as you’re conducting your skip trace. This includes nicknames, like Tom, Tommy, Thom, TJ, etc. Also remember, if your subject is female, she may have married or divorced.

Try to remember that you’re solving a puzzle and be certain that you always fill in a blank when the information becomes available. For instance, suppose your search leads you to someone who used to know where your subject lived, but may have lost touch with that person? That person may know more about your subject than they realize, and may be able to help you fill in more of the blanks in your profile.

Known data consists of hard facts such as:

  • First, Middle and Last Name
  • Aliases and Nicknames
  • Date of Birth
  • Social Security Number
  • Email Addresses
  • Telephone Numbers (land line and/or cell)
  • High School Attended
  • College Attended
  • Known Previous Addresses
  • Military Service
  • Employment History
  • Names and Addresses of Relatives
  • Known Friends and Associates
  • Ex-spouses or Significant Others
  • Previous Professions or Occupations
  • Business Associations or Affiliations

Assemble Any Assumed Data

Information that is already known to you will be comprised of hard facts. Assumed data can be a little more elusive and subtle. Let’s lump into this category things your subject may have said (or indicated to you or someone else) about what sort of career they’d like to be in, or a particular area of the country where they wanted to live – or anything else you can think of. These are not “hard” facts, but it may give you ideas about other places to look for your subject.

This is all conjecture, of course. There’s no way to know if any of this stuff will pan out, but you should still make note of it in case you hit a brick wall and you need a new direction to go in. Also, something else could pop up as a result of your other search efforts that may tie in with something you’ve assumed about your subject.

Create a Plan of Action

By now you should have gathered as much information – both hard facts and assumed – as possible. This is your “jumping off” point. Now it’s time to get busy and build on what you’ve already accumulated to find your subject. To do this you’ll need to create a plan of action.

Your plan of action will help you add clues and information to your profile in a structured and efficient manner. A lot of it will hinge on what category your subject falls under (I discussed categories of missing persons in Part One of this series). If you’re just trying to track down an old friend or a relative you lost touch with, it should be fairly straightforward and simple. However, if your subject is among those who are intentionally hiding, like debtors or deadbeat parents, it will probably take a little more elbow grease on your part. Some of these skips will also use tactics to avoid being found.

Deciding on your plan of action and implementing that plan are one of the things the next installment of this series will go over in more detail – so you’ll definitely want to tune in, because that’s when it starts to get interesting (at least for me, personally).

As always please don’t hesitate to ask or post any questions. You can either post them as a reply to this blog or Contact Me.

Warm Regards,


Christina Smiley
Sierra Judgment Recovery
Professional Judgment Recovery Training

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