What Is Skip Tracing?

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Skip tracing is a method debt collectors use to track down customers who are no longer available at the numbers and addresses they provided when they were approved for credit. Sometimes going missing is unintentional, such as when someone relocates for a job, and sometimes customers are purposely avoiding their debts. Collectors have to be determined, resourceful, confident and good at problem solving in order to be successful at finding people and getting them to settle their debts.

Skip Tracing Methods

  • Collectors use all the resources at their disposal to locate a missing customer. They start with the basics by calling previous employers, landlords, references, ex-spouses and even pastors to plumb for updated information. Then it's time to scour the Internet. Public records, search engines, phone number and address directories, and inmate searches can all provide a wealth of information. Social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter can also reveal much about a customer. International skip tracing has to be justified by the amount owed. Databases created specifically for quick, automated people searches are also useful.

Negotiation

  • Once a collector finds the customer, his goal is to get the customer to commit to satisfying the debt. The methods he uses to accomplish this depend on the customer and the situation. By employing empathy, urgency and stressing the benefits of putting the debt behind them, he gets customers to see the wisdom of making payment. Then he closes the deal by offering either a lump sum payment, a payment plan or negotiating a settlement. Collectors can't be afraid of being aggressive, or of pushing for a time-specific payment.

Becoming a Collector

  • You don't need to earn a formal education to become a bill collector. Most have high school diplomas, though some employers may prefer to hire someone who's taken a few college courses in subjects like communication or accounting. Collectors train on the job for one to three months, where they learn the company's collection practices as well as the laws involved in the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. They typically work full-time and have flexible schedules, as they need to be able to call customers during the hours they're most likely to be home.

Numbers and Statistics

  • Bill collectors in 2012 averaged $32,480 a year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, or $15.61 an hour. The largest employers of collectors that year were business support services, credit intermediation services and the healthcare industry. The Bureau expects a 15-percent increase in jobs through the year 2022, which works out to approximately 58,200 new jobs. Nearly 400,000 collectors were employed in 2012.

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