In the process of instructing men and women across the United States and Canada I have found there are three distinct and readily identifiable groups: cybertrackers, skip tracers and skip guessers.
In this series I would like to address the traits and recognition flags of each group and look at the advantages and disadvantages associated with each group. First let’s explore the cybertracker and look at its origin.
Several years back I was contracted to instruct an offshore service company’s select group of employees in the art and science of skip tracing. I was assured the selection process for this group included at least an associate degree in communication and that each selectee had been through an accent neutralization course. After receiving the required immunization shots and an 18-hour flight I arrived in my host country. I was picked up at the airport in a company limousine and driven to a five-star hotel where I was provided with first class accommodations. After a nice lunch and an opening conversation with the company’s executive staff I was driven to their training facility which equaled or surpassed any teaching environment I had previously encountered. I was appointed a personal assistant who would assist me during my four-week instructional tenure and was introduced to the 20 selectees that I would be working with. The group was impressive with their computer knowledge and skills and I looked forward to the next day’s beginning class.
The next day started early at 7:30 a.m. with a group breakfast and at 8:00 we settled down to a day of basic theory lessons. Lunch went great and then in the afternoon we began to use the skills that had been taught in the morning class. This session did not go well as the students seemed to forget their neutral accents and anytime they became frustrated or received any type of resistance during a call they reverted to their native accent which was, at times, hard for even me to understand. I could not follow what they were trying to ask of the pre-selected informants and their attempts proved futile in gaining pertinent information. The day ended on a low note as I felt I had just not conveyed my expectations clearly to the group.
The second day went no better than the first and it seemed that there was just no way to teach the students the intricacies of extracting information from people located in the United States. It was like trying to teach birds how to communicate with fish. I was very disappointed in myself for undertaking such a task. I toiled over the different teaching methods I had learned through the years and concluded that there was just no avenue I could venture down which would accomplish my goals with this client. I went to bed trying to think of a way to extricate myself from this precarious position. As I tossed and turned in my sleep a word kept coming into my head… cyber highway… cyber highway. I woke up around 3:00 a.m. and jotted down some notes so I would not forget what was going through my head. I had read an article on the airplane regarding how information was now stored on an information highway and that highway was referred to as the cyber highway. I wrote down a word that would become a catch phrase of an industry, “cybertracker.”
The next morning, I gave the students a written test over the material we had covered the first two days. As they worked on the test I expanded a list of benefits for cybertracking which I would use to explain to my contracting company executives why we were changing directions and the pros and cons. I knew the pros had to outweigh the cons. Before the class resumed I made a quick call to my assistant and asked her to set up a meeting with the executive staff of the company for 5:00 p.m. that evening.
When I entered the meeting room I could see the look of concern on everyone’s face and I started the discussion on a down note with the statement, “I am sorry, but I am unable to teach your staff how to telephonic skip trace people living in the United States.” I continued by explaining that the informants would be suspicious and possibly could not understand the questions they were being asked. I concluded with the statement that the people in their company I had been working with were just too polite with their, “please advise me,” statements. I could see the look of disappointment on their faces and their questioning looks at each other. I then used that great neurolinguistics word, “but,” which turned their attention back to me. “I can teach them the techniques of the science of cybertracking. With the computer skills your employees possess I think I can turn them into first-class cybertrackers.” A quizzical look came on their faces as I am sure at that time none of them had ever heard the word cybertracking or cybertrackers and had no idea what it meant. I continued by explaining that cybertrackers were “read-only” tracers and therefore we could skip a large part of having to learn all the requirements set forth in United States Federal Laws and the State Consumer Protection Laws related to contacting third parties, allowing more classroom time devoted to learning skills. When I explained how cybertrackers could work 24/7/365 from any site with a computer and an Internet connection, I saw their eyes light up and I knew a new job title had been created in the credit collection industry, “cybertracker.”
I spent the next three weeks working with this exceptionally bright and skilled group locating and beta testing data sites, mining the selected sites for data and learning the masterful art of massage and manipulation of data. As I departed this country of polite, computer-skilled people, I felt a sense of accomplishment in that I had succeeded in applying what they were best at to an area where they could utilize their knowledge and skills to be successful in their endeavors.
Today there are very few companies in the collection and asset recovery industry that do not utilize the computer skills of millennials to cybertrack and through waterfall techniques keep their tracing costs to a minimum while their efforts are amply rewarded.
There are free social sites, public domain and open data sites as well as the pay-for-data sites which have been created to provide instant data on almost every citizen in the United States. They are a silent group and because they are a “read only” group you never see or hear them. They are just there coming and going like the wind, leaving no trace of their paths. The professional cybertracker roams the cyber highway 24/7/365 like the bounty hunters of old, successfully seeking and finding location information on errant consumers.
Now you have knowledge of where the title cybertracker originated, always remember everyone is somewhere and they can run but they can’t hide.
In the next issue we will look at the traits, tools and techniques used by some of the industry’s most recognized and successful skip tracers. Until then, good luck and good hunting.