Collector - March 2018 - 25
or some people, the idea of a
"skiptracer" conjures up the image of
a beefy, tattooed character like Duane
"Dog" Chapman, star of the A&E reality show,
Dog the Bounty Hunter.
While Chapman and his crew use street
smarts, teamwork and luck to hunt bail
jumpers, 21st century skiptracers working
in the debt collection industry are a totally
different breed, tapping into their knowledge of
databases, websites and social media to locate
consumers who have dropped off the grid.
In a recent ACA International Hot Topic
seminar, "Using Open Sources and Social
Media in Skiptracing," Michèle Stuart, owner
of JAG Investigations Inc. in Queen Creek,
Ariz., spoke for nearly two hours about her
innovative approach to identifying and using
open sources on the internet and within
social media channels to help clients find
Throughout her lengthy career as an
investigator, Stuart has helped an array
of clients, including federal and state law
enforcement, military intelligence, attorneys,
corporations, small businesses, insurance
companies and private detectives, solve
problems by fitting puzzle pieces together.
"Twenty-five years ago we didn't have
the ability to utilize information sources on
the internet," said Stuart, a licensed private
investigator in Arizona. "We had hundreds
of contacts on rolodexes, Cole directories,
notebooks with pages of contacts from
other companies and scribbled-out notes on
scraps of paper."
Flash forward to 2018, and nearly every
bit of information a skiptracer needs is
located somewhere on the internet. The
trick is to understand how to use available
information without overlooking seemingly
insignificant data and knowledge.
WHERE IS THE INFORMATION?
Databases offered by LexisNexis and
TransUnion's TLOxp are among some of
the most commonly used resources by
skiptracers working for debt collectors or
other financial services organizations. For
companies like Collection Service Center
Inc. in New Kensington, Pa., electronic
databases are usually the most efficient
means of finding information, particularly
when the debt is not large, CEO Jim
Simmermon told Collector magazine.
"There's a lot of public information out
there, and sometimes it is not cost-efficient
to spend a lot of money or staff time unless
you have a high-balance account," he said.
In cases involving high-dollar accounts,
a debt collector may want to consider
Stuart's approach to mining open sources
or public information to collect "actionable