A “skip” is technically an individual who leaves or moves without providing any forwarding information. In the law enforcement and private security services, a “skip” is further understood to be an individual who “goes off the grid” because they are attempting to avoid some type of undesired action (i.e.: collection, forfeiture of wages, debt owed, judgement, etc). The term “skip” is a condensed and subtle nod to an individual who “skips town”, as such, the investigation to locate a “skip” is called a “skip trace”.
There are numerous scenarios where a skip may be unintentionally categorized incorrectly given the term’s similarity to “missing persons” or “bail jumpers”. All three categories of cases refer to locating an individual who is not where they are supposed to be, however a skip is presumed to be absent of their own volition, to avoid an adverse legal matter that has already been decided but not involving bail money. An individual who skips bail is usually pursued by a Bail Enforcement Recovery agent and is attempting to avoid detection to sidestep a court date or to refrain from repaying a Bail Bondsman. Sometimes, people arrested for crimes are set free until their scheduled trial date. Usually, they’re required to give the court money as security for returning to court for trial: it’s called bail. If they can’t afford the bail, they can contact a bail bonds agent who agrees to pay the bail. When someone skips or jumps bail and doesn’t show up for court, the agent loses that money – unless the person is caught and brought back for trial. A missing person is generally an individual who has not been seen or heard from in a reasonable amount of time and for reasons unknown, cannot be contacted through conventional methods. “Missing Person” itself is a fairly ambiguous term, as such, many cases are initially categorized under this open-ended category until sufficient information has been gathered to allow for more accurate binning (for more information about Missing Persons investigations, please see section title with the same name).
When handling a skip trace, an investigator assumes that the individual is deliberately attempting to conceal their current location. As such, efforts to initiate contact with the skip will likely only be successful under the guise of a legal misrepresentation about the investigators identity. It is not uncommon for skips to change phone numbers, eliminate their presence online and even operate under an assumed identity. Depending on the severity of the skip’s legal matters, it is not unrealistic to assume that the individual’s family and closest friends are also in on the deceit, so they cannot usually be counted on to provide reliable or useful information when contacted unless it is extracted from them against their will (i.e.: pretext phone call).
An investigator will typically locate a skip by performing exhaustive database searches, probing the skip’s network of friends, relatives and associates (to include social media outlets), leveraging spouses (especially former spouses, particularly when they share a child), or checking hospitals, morgues and prisons.