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Skip Tracing Advisor

Developing a Network of Closed Sources by Ron Brown, Skip Tracing Advisor

As we begin this article it is very important that the professional tracer clearly understand what constitutes a “CLOSED SOURCE”, the value of a closed source network and the obligation due to each closed source.

Definition: CLOSED SOURCE… sources of information with restricted access and information available only through mutual information sharing agreements.

To clarify the definition as it applies to the tracing industry… a source of information available to the tracer and not to the general public built on mutual trust and confidence. 

The WHY and the HOW.

THE WHY: Every tracer must have a closed source network, that is a person or place that will provide information to the tracer and to no one else. Developing and expanding their closed source network is a fundamental requirement if the tracer is to be successful. These closed sources must have an absolute and complete trust in the tracer and know for certain that the information they provide will be used in a legal manner and the tracer will never disclose the source of the information. In many cases the exchange of information may flow in both directions, there may be in some cases some other type of renumeration to the source for providing the requested information.

THE HOW: I would first suggest that tracer decide how to protect the network “in transit” and it is my opinion that the best way to preserve the closed source network contact information be through the utilization of a dedicated thumb drive. This method provides a mobile source, easy to transport, available from any computer and password protected.

The data on the thumb drive list should contain the following information on each individual source:

NAME: I would suggest the tracer NEVER put the sources real name down but rather use a code name or number, for example, 19-101 or EMPNFO -19. The significance of the 19 would be the year indicator enabling the tracer to know at a glance how current the source might be. The EMPNFO would indicate the source had employment information.

CONTACT INFORMATION: If the tracer is using a telephone number to contact the source, I suggest the number be coded. I vary between CANDYSTORE where C = 0, A = 1 N = 2 and so on until E = 9 or a crisscross variation of the phone key pad where 1 = 9 and 9 = 1, 3 = 7 and 7 = 3, 4 = 6 and 6 = 4, 2 = 8 and 8 = 2 and finally 5 = 0 and 0 = 5. By using this coded system if someone would gain access to your contact list, they would not be able to readily access your information. 

RECORD OF PAYMENT: If there is any type of payment for the information, which by the way is a business tax deduction, I suggest a record showing the date, amount, and method of payment. I caution the tracer to never pay for information in violation of any municipal, state, or federal law and never ask the source to violate any law.

How it works.

I am trying to locate the residence and employment of John Smith… I cyber track to check chattel mortgage records (usually filed with the Secretary of State) in the state where I suspect John Smith resides and locate the lien filing on his vehicle, a 2019 Ford F150 truck… the lien filing provides the Vehicle Identification Number of the vehicle (F150XXXYYYZZZ). I now move from cyber tracking mode to skip tracing mode and contact my closed source of information, the Finance and Insurance Manager at the local Ford dealership. I provide him the VIN to the vehicle and he runs it through his international database which, since the vehicle is under warranty, will indicate the last time the vehicle was serviced, where it was serviced, the address provided the dealership and the day time contact number (usually the employment number). Now I move back to the cyber tracker mode and run the daytime phone number which will provide the consumer’s employment address, I run motor vehicle records to obtain the tag number of the vehicle which I place in an LPR system and finally check out the residence address provided to the dealership by using google earth to determine the consumers life style..

By using a combination of cyber tracking and skip tracing through a closed source of information, I have current location information on my missing consumer.

I once had a tracer tell me they had no closed sources, no one they could go to get information. I asked if they had brothers or sisters… the reply was, “yes” and I sked where they were employed. The brother was a deputy sheriff and his wife worked for the city utility department, the sister worked at the local library and her husband was employed in the service department at a local truck dealership. What a closed source network was at her fingertips. 

Closed Source Network, another tool in the professional tracers’ tool bag.

Good Luck and Good Hunting.

Ron Brown is a member of the National Association of Fraud Investigators and the author of “MANHUNT: The Book.” Contact him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Beware of the Skip Guesser

mug brownIn our last issue we discussed the origin of the word “cybertracker,” some of the traits required of a cybertracker and a few of a cybertracker’s sources. In this edition we will look at the traits required of a professional skip tracer as well as the difference between a skip tracer and the type of person we commonly refer to as a skip guesser.

Skip Guesser

A skip guesser is a person who is actually a wannabe, who would rather stop short of a full trace investigation and guess at where a person or assets may be rather than taking the time to verify the information they have obtained. This group of industry leeches host on unsuspecting clients and often utilize the sources and resources of professional tracers to make themselves appear they have done their job in locating the subject or mortgaged asset.

Example: The skip guesser’s information indicates the subject moved to Houston, Texas. They check directory assistance and obtain three possible phone numbers and addresses for the subject. Rather than attempt to verify their information, the skip guesser will send the three addresses to a professional agency in Houston providing the three addresses as possible locations for the subject and/or the mortgaged assets. The agent handling the assignment drives the three addresses and finds one is an empty lot in a mobile home park, one is a four-hundred-unit apartment complex where the agent has no apartment number and can get no information from the apartment manager due to privacy laws and the third address is a two-million-dollar home in a gated lake community. A day and many miles are wasted because the skip guesser did exactly that… he/she guessed instead of verifying. They drew conclusions based on assumptions rather than knowledge.

That last statement pretty well sums up the definition of a skip guesser, “a person who attempts to locate people or assets by drawing their conclusions based on assumptions rather than knowledge and thereby providing incomplete or misdirected information.” Now let’s take the same scenario and see how the professional skip tracer would move forward to locate the subject in question.

Skip Tracer

The first thing a good tracer understands is they go backwards to go forward. The tracer must be diligent and gather information related to the subject of the hunt which the tracer knows to be fact in order to establish patterns and habits. This is where conclusions begin to be based on knowledge instead of assumptions. A professional tracer understands that there is power in knowledge and the more knowledge that is obtained the better the likelihood of success.

A professional tracer understands the value of base Knowledge such as the subject’s full name, date of birth, social security number, marital status and previous employment. These must be the first things the tracer obtains. The tracer then displays patience and delves deeper for more supplemental information such as the previous address’ type of dwelling: apartment, mobile home, single-family house. Was the subject buying, renting or leasing? The type of work the subject did at their last job and their reason for leaving that employment. The name, location and contact information for relatives and references. Spousal information and possibly the type of vehicle the subject usually drives. Previous communication devices, landline or cell phone, and the means of communication the subject prefers, voice contact, e-mail or text. When the subject actually left the last known address and under what circumstances. All facts, all truths and all information based on actual knowledge. Now we will see how the professional tracer utilizes this knowledge in the same scenario.

Example: The professional skip tracer’s information indicates the subject has moved to Houston, Texas. Information obtained during the investigation indicates the following:

The subject is a welder and has relatives in the Houston area, is married with three school age children, buying his home at his last known address, is 38 years old and primarily communicates through voice contact via a cell phone.

With this verified information the professional tracer will take the path of least resistance in the tracing industry, “time is money,” and contact the relative in the Houston area inquiring about the subject. They discover the subject is living with his wife and children in Pasadena, Texas, a Houston suburb and working for a company building a new bridge over the inland waterway from Galveston Bay. The tracer then will check public records for recent home purchases in Harris County and locate the subject’s new residence address. The tracer will review online information related to the building of the inland waterway bridge and obtain information for the general contractor on the project and their contact information which will be used to verify the subject’s employment. Now, knowledgeable of the subject’s residence and employment, the tracer will call the subject’s old cell number under the assumption that even though the subject has moved he has not changed his cell number (a common practice). If contact cannot be made through the old cell number, the tracer may contact the subject through his employer and/or send snail mail to the located and verified address. In any case the professional tracer has done their job in securing the subject’s current residence address and employment. Success is achieved through drawing conclusions based on knowledge, not assumptions.

If you desire to be a professional in the tracing industry it is your decision…skip guesser or skip tracer.

Until next time, good luck and good hunting!


Ron Brown is a member of the National Association of Fraud Investigators and the author of “MANHUNT: The Book.” Contact him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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