One of the most difficult aspects of providing service of process is finding people. Proper service requires giving legal documents to the right person at the right address. Sometimes, the person being looked for isn’t where they’re expected to be, or perhaps aims to elude. The tactics utilized by authorized companies and licensed investigators to locate such a person is commonly referred to as skip tracing.
In this interview, we speak with ABC Legal’s Director of Investigations Amanda Owen to learn more about skip tracing and investigations, both services offered to qualified customers. She introduces us to her work and the investigations team, a group of 11 licensed private investigators who work digitally performing skip tracing and location services.
What are the benefits of a digital approach to skip tracing?
Amanda: The way skip tracing is done today doesn’t have the same level of flair that people traditionally associate with private investigation. We don’t pound the pavement. Instead, we utilize digital systems and databases for searches. The benefits of digital searches lie in their speed and cost-savings. Our customized system, 24L, can perform initial searches in a matter of seconds. With that as the base, we can do a fairly sophisticated search in a few minutes or hours. It’s a process that could take someone without tech weeks.
What’s the difference between investigation and skip tracing?
Amanda: We have a few levels in our investigation offerings. At the surface, there’s auto-trace. Our specialized API system provides rapid results and a service probability - a gauge of the validity of an address. That takes care of skip tracing in many cases by compiling and consolidating data from multiple sources.
Sometimes investigations are more high-touch. These are cases where, for example, documents need to be served in a household where multiple people share the name on the paperwork or when there are competing or only low-confidence addresses available.
We have Deep-Skip, a key offering for Collections cases. We have a queue that forms once service of process hits non-service status. Those cases go through our API and are handled on an individual level by a Private Investigator who analyzes the data to make recommendations to process servers. Since this process is highly-automated, we can turn those cases around quickly and efficiently.
For more difficult cases, there’s a more human-centric process we can dive into - perform locate investigations. Those cases still benefit from our technology, but often require a more nuanced research. In those instances, an investigator goes through alternative databases, social media and search engines to determine location information.
Additionally, we provide support for motions with alternate service in select states; providing complete, start-to-finish service on the most difficult to find defendants (or sneakiest avoiders). Our team will prepare the necessary paperwork so ABC Legal Services can obtain alternative service packets filed at court, streamlining what would be a tedious task for our customers.
Amanda Owen, ABC Legal's Director of Investigations
How do you find people who don’t want to be found?
Amanda: Our team will run known information about the defendant in question (their name, aliases, addresses, date of birth and other identifiers) through our specialized API system, which pulls data from legal and private investigation resources as well as credit and government databases. The system consolidates and evaluates the data and source quality to create a service probability percentage for a known address. It gives us the likelihood that an address is good (and current) for a person based on qualified indicators. We then move our process servers in the right direction to locate the defendant. Process servers will then do their best to perform service and confirm addresses.
What unique services does ABC Legal Services offer in the realm of investigations?
Amanda: We encourage our process servers to provide as much identifying information as possible when they attempt to serve a document. They note details such as addresses on packages and cars on-site, will attempt to speak with neighbors or call a defendant (where permissible) to attempt to confirm residency. Those observations, paired with time-stamped records of service attempts and our data provide evidence that can prove that “every effort” went into service attempts.
In some states, this can be leveraged to allow for alternative forms of service such as posting or mailing documents. In states where it’s a viable option, we can provide declarations, affidavits, or exhibits to support claims for alternative service. I like to think clients utilizing this support appreciate our availability to coordinate and validate service. They don’t have to worry about filing more paperwork to get a case pushed through.
Additionally, I like the potential in our perform locate investigations. Since a good portion of the preliminary investigation is done quickly by our tech, we can spend more time analyzing and tackling things at an individual level. We provide this service at greater speeds, and at a far better price than traditional (and some digital) investigative services.
Finding The Hard to Find
The ABC Legal Services’ investigations team offers a variety of solutions, ensuring legal papers are served by increased confirmation of identification and location accuracy--all highly confidential and only offered to qualified customers to ensure safety, compliance and accuracy for all involved parties.
A nuanced combination of technology and human touch allows our team to provide results--quickly and efficiently. The ABC Legal team is constantly on the lookout for ways to improve search methodologies, technologies and compliance with legal standards. Learn more about all of our location and investigation services at abclegal.com.
About ABC Legal Services
ABC Legal is the nation’s leading service of process and court filing company and is the official process server to the U.S. Department of Justice. Docketly is a subsidiary of ABC Legal, providing appearance counsel on a digital, custom-built platform that smoothly integrates with our applications and services. ABC Legal’s applications are cloud-based and compatible for use on desktop, browser, and smartphones. Our solutions and digital approach ensure process server partners, law firm customers, and their clients save valuable time and resources when serving legal notices safely and with maximum compliance, control, and transparency. ABC Legal is based in Seattle, WA, with more than 2,000 process servers throughout the U.S., as well as internationally in more than 75 countries. To learn more about ABC Legal, our solutions, and subsidiary company Docketly, visit www.abclegal.com.