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From Skip Tracer to CEO Knows Value of Batch Tracing

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mug_dunhamThis is a story about a young man who back in 1987 took a job at a collection agency to be a skip tracer. Being a skip tracer was not the job he was applying for; he wanted to be a collector. But, he was offered the skip trace job instead. Needing a job, he took the skip trace job that paid $5.00 per hour. Little did this man know, starting out as a skip tracer would forever change his life.

Back in the late 1980s, skip tracers would call neighbors, county tax records, chambers of commerce and same last names of debtors they were trying to locate. In addition to that, skip tracers would pull CBRs and call the creditors looking to obtain new phone numbers on the debtors who were skipping. Unlike today, collection agencies hired people as dedicated skip tracers to work no phone accounts. Once a number was found, the account was assigned to a collector.

Fast forward to 2011. A lot has changed. Unlike the 1980s and 1990s, most collection agencies do not hire skip tracers for the sole purpose of skip tracing. That role is now placed on the collector to complete. The tools we use have also changed in many ways. One change is the use of credit reports. Back in the 1980s, trade line creditors would share information on debtors listed on the bureau. With privacy laws, sharing information has come to a complete stop, so the credit report offers little help other than showing credit history and debt ratio. Today’s collector/skip tracer uses tools mostly found over the Internet. There are several free sites that offer general skip uses such as name, address and reverse phone look-ups. In addition, there are sites that show property value and ownership. Simply using Google is a good tool to find debtors or their place of employment.

Okay, there are several free sites for skip trace purposes, and there are also pay sites you can use for a fairly low cost. While these pay sites have generally higher find rates, it can take some time to use all the tools to trace down a debtor. If you are using a pay site, you will be better served by having your skip done through batch processing your accounts. The more time your collectors spend calling good phone numbers, the more you will collect.

Finding the right tool is a unique process for each agency. Based on what placement level you work, it should drive your skip trace options. Working first and second placements, you should get a nice ROI in the pay sites; while, if you work third and older debt, the cost might be too high due to the low profit margin older accounts produce. This is where the free sites are good tools for collectors to use in order to keep costs down.

If you want to be creative, have your collectors pay for the pay site options. A good collector who likes many options may like the pay sites, because they offer better options to use such as social security look-ups. Pay sites also have cell phone numbers listed, which are not listed on most of the free sites. It may seem strange having collectors pay for their own skip tool; depending on the company ROI for all collectors, it may not make sense.

Not to promote one pay site over another, but it has been my experience that collectors like CBCInnovis. This site has a high rate of hits finding cell phones and relatives. Recently a few new collectors I have hired actually did contact the vendor and set up their own account to use. Others found out and have followed suit. This approach has allowed me to measure the ROI and make company decisions that keep profit margins at levels we expect.

The start of this article introduced a man to skip tracing, I was that young pup who once accepted a $5.00 per hour job. After one month, I started collecting. Now, 24 years later, I own the building where I took that job and have a successful collection agency after 15 years in operation. The point is, a little skip tracing can have huge payoffs in the long run. Remember don’t be good, be great!

Bob Dunham is president of Receivables Management Solutions in St. Paul, MN, and a member of Collection Advisor’s TECH’O8 Advisory Council. Contact him atThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..