Laws on Becoming a Skip Tracer

By Ralph Heibutzki

If you want to become a skip tracer, you will face some difficult challenges. No federal standard exists for becoming an accounts collector, the most basic skip tracing job, but specialized fields like bail bond enforcement, private investigation or repossession work often require licensing, bonding, and the ability to pass a criminal background check.

History

The essence of skip tracing is to track down persons who may not want to be found. Frenchman Fran├žois Vidocq founded the first-known private detective agency in France in 1833, according to the investigative site Eye.com. This predated Allen Pinkerton's agency by two decades. When business and personal credit boomed during the 1960s, the modern skip tracing industry grew with it, as creditors began looking for better ways to protect their investments.

Requirements

To become a private investigator you must satisfy licensing requirements that vary greatly from state to state. Any work that requires background checks, gathering information for court proceedings, permits to carry concealed weapons, or surveillance will trigger those requirements, according to Eye.com. Some states include bail bond enforcement, genealogical research and personal protection as work that requires licensing.

Bail Bonds Agents

The job of a bail bond agent is to find individuals who miss court hearings. Several states, such as Arkansas, Florida and Texas, do not permit bail bond enforcement agents, according to pbus.com, a website for Professional Bail Agents of the United States. Other states, like Indiana and Connecticut, allow only agents who hold licenses to operate from their jurisdictions to operate. Bail bond agents must adhere to the terms of the Uniform Extradition Act, which governs the return of bail jumpers to their home states. An agent's failure to follow these regulations can lead to possible jail time, or even kidnapping charges.

Repossession Agents

It can be profitable work to help banks and other lien holders recover their collateral. According to a June 2008 report in the Palm Beach Post, fees paid to recover vehicles can be $300 to $400 per car. The repossession industry is largely unregulated, though Florida has some of the nation's toughest standards. Agents must attend a 40-hour class, be sponsored by someone already in the business, and renew their license every two years, the newspaper reported. A commercial driver's license is needed to operate the tow trucks used for repossession work, as well as bonding and liability insurance. To avoid theft charges, local police must also be notified prior to a repossessio.

Considerations

Aspiring skip tracers need to balance the risks against the potential returns. As noted at pbus.com, bail bond enforcement is not a lucrative business because most public agencies prefer to handle that work. Sometimes the skip tracer will get paid only for every debt collected, which is how bill collectors earn their money. Repossession work pays better, but the potential for violent confrontations makes it more dangerous.

About the Author

Ralph Heibutzki's articles have appeared in the "All Music Guide," "Goldmine," "Guitar Player" and "Vintage Guitar." He is also the author of "Unfinished Business: The Life & Times Of Danny Gatton," and holds a journalism degree from Michigan State University.

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