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MOBILE, Ala. — As the song says, "a little help from my friends …" it has been said that a skip-tracer is only as good as his contacts, and I firmly believe that is 100 percent true.

Several years ago, I was watching a movie about the first group of FBI profilers and how they worked and caught criminals. As I watched this movie, I was curious if this would work in my world. So I set out to come up with the types of skips there were and the ways to go about working each.

I came up with "The Three Types of Skips," and over the next several years I was able to fit each and every skip I worked into one of these categories. The theory here is once you know what type of skip you are looking for, you then know what direction to take your investigation without wasting time on leads that don't fit the profile.

Humans are all creatures of habit. If you think of it for a moment, you shop at the same two grocery stores 95 percent of the time: either the one closest to your office for a quick shop on the way home, or the one closest to your home over the weekend for your weekly shopping.

You also eat at the same three to five restaurants week-in and week-out, depending on what your mood of the day is. The neat thing here is that all of your favorite haunts are within a five-mile radius from your work or home.

Well skips are people, too, and they do the same thing. Again, we are all creatures of habit, and faced with the same circumstances we will all — for the most part — do the same thing. It is "fight or flight."

Below I have given you the "Three Types of Skips" with a brief tip on how to find each. It is now up to you to fill in the blanks of what to do next with your skip. After 25 years it is still the greatest job I know.

It has been four years since I retired from the active skip-tracing role of owning a company and locating skips each day. As many of you know, I sold my company Renegade Research to MasterFiles. Now I spend my days teaching the art of skip-tracing to a whole new generation of skip-tracers/cyber-trackers and sharing my personal theories on the subject

These definitions can help you classify your skip. Once you know the type of skip you are hunting you will know what direction to take your investigation.

Out of Pocket

This skip can be hard to locate, but for the most part they are not. The individual might have had to relocate to a new area for a job, marriage, divorce, etc. The person had to use all of their available cash on hand for the relocate. Once this skip is located, they are surprised anyone was looking for them.

—Tip: With this skip, neighbors and ex-coworkers are a great source of information — as are relatives and the credit reports. Look for new utility inquiries to help pinpoint a city to begin your search.

Intentional Skip

This skip knows you are looking for them and will go to any length to hide from you. Most of the time, they are still in the same local area, and family and friends are helping them to hide. They are almost always hiding from something other than you: ex-spouse, law enforcement or child support to name but a few examples. Find the reason and you will find the skip.

—Tip: Start your search for this skip with public records, looking for arrest records, divorce, past-due child support, etc. Once you know whom and what this debtor is hiding from, information will start to flow, and you will then know what direction to take this investigation.

Fraud Account

This is by far the most challenging skip. They never had any intention of paying their debt from the start. All information on the credit application is false, and your trail is long cold. Most of the time, three or fewer payments are made on this type of loan. The most well-known fraud group is the gypsies/travelers. Feel free to contact me for more information about this group.

—Tip: With this account the credit application is the key. Review the application closely for errors. What you are looking for is the one or two true pieces of information, and then build your file around this.

Alex Price is currently national sales and training manager with MasterFiles and has been a trainer to the American Recovery Association and former advisory board member to Time Finance Adjusters and the Society of Certified Recovery Agents. He can be reached at (251) 366-6779 or alex.price@masterfiles.com.