Michelle Gomez specializes in "hard-to-locate recoveries"
June 8, 2019 1:59 PM   Subscribe

The world's best bounty hunter Is 4'11", and sees her childhood of building computers and soldering motherboards as helping her current career -- “Profiling a subject is a lot like constructing a motherboard,” Michelle Gomez says. “You have to see connections that are invisible to other people by filling the spaces between with information.” (Wired) Despite its macho image, Gomez said women naturally have qualities that make them well-suited for bounty hunting. “We have intuition that a man doesn't have. You won’t find your subject with muscles and an ego,” she said. (Make Change)
posted by filthy light thief (15 comments total) 30 users marked this as a favorite
 
Previously.
posted by zamboni at 2:18 PM on June 8 [1 favorite]


[A double but it looks like the Wired link was posted over five years ago and the Make Change link is new, so I'm gonna tentatively call this okay.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 2:25 PM on June 8 [2 favorites]


Not the Master!
posted by thegirlwiththehat at 2:25 PM on June 8 [6 favorites]


Very interesting—some years back, probably around 2009/2010?—I was doing some work for a company that served the loan-servicing industry. Which is a roundabout way of saying that they made software for repo companies. (N.B. they prefer "asset recovery specialists" not "repo men", although the former results in the acronym "ARSes", which they don't appreciate at all. God save me from the humorless.)

Anyway, at the time they were predicting that skiptracers and PIs would be done, casualties of technology, within the decade. Because why bother with skiptracers if you have tow trucks with fancy cameras driving around every public parking lot in the country, hunting for any car whose plate pops on a hot list of repossessable vehicles. There's no point in tracing an individual anymore. Unless they're just hiding the car in a garage, not driving it, they'll be found.

I always thought this was sort of a naive view. It assumes that the progress of technology on the side of the repo companies won't be matched by any changes in behavior on the other side. Which, duh, is not the case. As it turns out, some carefully-placed black electrical tape on your license plate will confuse a ANPR camera, and most companies have policies requiring them to verify the VIN before towing, so if you cover the VIN on the dashboard you might slow them down.

What I suspect has changed is what a skiptracer's day must be like. I'd imagine they must spend a lot of time on social media, and a lot more time in front of computers in general, than they used to. And I'd imagine that a lot of the rest of their day looks very similar to a social-engineering pen tester, not a steely-eyed PI from a 1950s serial. Women tend to do pretty well in social engineering attacks, so Gomez's success makes some sense.

For her sake, I hope she gets to do more missing-person recoveries and fewer repossessions; the few PIs I ever met certainly seemed to prefer the former to the latter. But it's the latter that keeps the lights on.
posted by Kadin2048 at 2:59 PM on June 8 [10 favorites]


See also Reply All episodes #107 and #108, "The Skip Tracer" parts I and II.
posted by Flannery Culp at 4:06 PM on June 8 [7 favorites]


Gomez resorted to a resource she taps only rarely: the help of friends at federal agencies, friends for whom she has done favors and who in return are willing to let her check her information against government databases. “Their databases turn up what we call ‘trace details’ that you can’t get with the databases available to ordinary citizens,” Gomez says: phone numbers, addresses, company and individual names that have in some way been associated.

But she is an ordinary citizen. I'm surprised she let the reporter know about this.
posted by The corpse in the library at 4:25 PM on June 8 [8 favorites]


I imagine it's typical for the job - develop working relationships with law enforcement, as police and FBI can do some things that PIs can't, and the opposite is true, too.
posted by filthy light thief at 4:49 PM on June 8 [2 favorites]


Gomez resorted to a resource she taps only rarely: the help of friends at federal agencies, friends for whom she has done favors and who in return are willing to let her check her information against government databases. “Their databases turn up what we call ‘trace details’ that you can’t get with the databases available to ordinary citizens,” Gomez says: phone numbers, addresses, company and individual names that have in some way been associated.

But she is an ordinary citizen. I'm surprised she let the reporter know about this.


Those favors are also probably dull green rectangular pieces of paper.
posted by srboisvert at 5:56 PM on June 8


Huh, these friends at federal agencies don't have to associate their database searches with a case?
posted by batter_my_heart at 6:20 PM on June 8 [1 favorite]


"Eh, just enter any case number, nobody ever checks those."
posted by ryanrs at 8:33 PM on June 8 [3 favorites]


My entire calling in life is to make data simpler and see patterns. Maybe this is what I should do instead of solving complex puzzles and standardizing stupid companies stupid data. Sometimes I am required to track people down and it's trivial where it's stumped people. You have to pry at the edges of known data and you slowly find another thing and another thing like you're unraveling a thread. That article is truly ancient though.

If you want another good read on private investigators there's this guy who has a few articles.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 1:20 AM on June 9 [6 favorites]


Those favors are also probably dull green rectangular pieces of paper.

I do some investigations as part of my job. What works best is I find someone with information and I get friendly with them over time. When I need to know something I call up the folks I know and they help me. She is getting this from law enforcement officers and the like.

Humans want to share information as social animals.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:23 AM on June 9 [2 favorites]


As a retired PI and skip tracer I am, or was, very familiar with the methods of bounty hunters. They operate in a gray area where they violate laws and ethics without regard for the rights of the people they are trying to catch. They are modern day vigilantes and are not cute.
posted by charlesminus at 11:19 AM on June 9 [13 favorites]


I know, I know you're not talking about the actress Michelle Gomez.

But I desperately want to believe you are talking about the actress Michelle Gomez.
posted by webmutant at 7:19 PM on June 9 [4 favorites]


As a retired PI and skip tracer I am, or was, very familiar with the methods of bounty hunters. They operate in a gray area where they violate laws and ethics without regard for the rights of the people they are trying to catch. They are modern day vigilantes and are not cute.

As private citizens, the bounty hunters cannot violate the civil rights of fugitives. Only the state can do that. The bounty system long predates the constitution and most rights in general.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:03 PM on June 12


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