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Skip Tracing Defined
Skiptracing (also skip tracing) is a colloquial term used to describe the process of locating a person's whereabouts for any number of purposes. A skiptracer is someone who performs this task, which may be the person's primary occupation. The term "skip" refers to the person being searched for, and is derived from the idiomatic expression "to skip town," meaning to depart (perhaps in a rush), leaving minimal clues behind to "trace" the "skip" to a new location.
Skiptracing is done by collecting as much information as possible about the subject. The information is then analyzed, reduced, and verified. Sometimes the subject's current whereabouts are in the data, but are obfuscated by the sheer amount of information or disinformation. More often the data will be used to identify third parties that might be able to assist the process. This is where the job becomes more than mere research since one must often employ methods of social engineering to discretely acquire information without compromising the situation. A common tactic involves calling or visiting former neighbors, employers or other known contacts to ask about the subject, sometimes under false or misleading pretenses. In most jurisdictions this deception, known as pretexting, is legal.