Should you hire a Private Investigator or a Skip Tracer? That is a question that you should consider whenever you want to find your debtor and their assets to help you recover a judgment – or prepare your judgment for consideration by a judgment buyer. (Without debtor information, nobody will buy your judgment.)
In some situations, a skip tracer can get some of the information you want for much less than what a PI would have to charge you. It all depends on what you need the information for.
If you need to research a bank account number, a cheating spouse, a bail jumper, or anyone else for any personal reasons, you will need to hire a PI.
If you are a judgment enforcer, a repossession company, or a collection agency, and need to locate someone, their assets, or their income stream, for the purpose of collecting a debt, you may not need a licensed PI. You can save some money and hire a skip tracer.
Skip tracing is legal when it does not involve performing video surveilliance or spying on the debtor, or using any false pretenses to find specific banking information.
It is perfectly legal to find out information for your own legitimate purposes. As an example, a repossession company is allowed to spy on a debtor for the purpose of repossessing their vehicle, without being a licensed PI. However, if you need someone to actually spy on a person or a company for you, you need a PI.
If you are a legitimate judgment enforcer, a repossession company, or a collection agency, you can safely hire a skip tracer to find a debtor or their asset stream, with the exception of their specific banking information.
Skip tracers are able to locate a debtor using various methods including the internet, computer software, talking to relatives/friends of the debtor, etc. Of course much of their information is obtained by careful and limited lying. Lying for skiptracing purposes is called pretexting.
A large amount of skip tracing is done using deceptive pretexts. This means skip tracers cannot obtain a bank account number. If done properly, pretexting is legal. Of course you cannot pretend you are a law enforcement officer. If you want to use pretexts to do your own skip tracing, research the laws that may apply.
PIs can also do basic skiptracing work, but it is more expensive than hiring a skip tracer. Sometimes you will need a PI, but sometimes you can save money with a skip tracer.
Most skip tracers do not work for original judgment creditors. They only work for judgment enforcers, collection agencies, and repossession companies. Most charge fees up front, and one must pay even if the skip tracer produces no useful information.
There is at least one company that charges judgment enforcers on a contingency basis. They only charge if the judgment enforcer is able to recover a profitable payment from the debtor.
Contingency often skip tracers work with a judgment enforcer, gathering research on the debtor or their assets until the judgment enforcer is able to seize assets.