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Developing a Network of Closed Sources for Skip Tracing

  • Written by Ron Brown

mug brownAs we begin this article it is very important that the professional tracer clearly understand what constitutes a “closed source,” its value and the obligation due to each closed source. By definition a closed source is a source 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.

Why Use a Closed Source?

Every tracer must have a closed source network, 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. They must know for certain 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 types of remuneration to the source for providing the requested information.

Closed Source Communication

I would first suggest that tracer decide how to protect the network “in transit.” It is my opinion the best way to preserve the closed source network contact information is 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 often use CANDYSTORE, where C = 0, A = 1 N = 2 and so on until E = 9. Alternatively, I also use 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 a Closed Source Works

Let’s say 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. Since the vehicle is under warranty, it will indicate the last time the vehicle was serviced, where it was serviced, the address provided the dealership and the daytime 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.” I asked 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 to have at her fingertips.

The closed source network, another tool in the professional tracer’s 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..