I first learned to skiptrace in 1975. My toolbox included a used IBM Selectric typewriter, a phone (landline), a set of Southern California Haines Criss-Cross Directories and a microfiche reader. In 1985, I purchased my first computer, a Compaq Deskpro ($10,000 with a 10mb hard drive!). We sprung for a microfiche reader/copier in 1987, dramatically increasing our efficiency. My small skiptracing business went online to use CDB Infotek in 1986 and Prentice-Hall shortly thereafter. At that point, we were as automated as anybody in the business. Most of my customers were process servers and law firms. Along with two skiptracers and a clerk, we closed 200-300 skiptrace assignment per month for $50-$75 per hit, with no charge for a “no-hit”.
In 1990, I bought my first skiptracing database on CD-ROM, The PhoneDisc, a national phone directory searchable by name only. It cost $2000 a year with quarterly updates. The paradigm shift was beginning — we had unlimited access to a national database with names, addresses and phone numbers. This was truly a breakthrough. The fact that a large database of phone records could be stored and retrieved from a CD-ROM led me to think “Why not put corporations, UCCs or court indexes on CD-ROM?” In October, 1991, we formed Merlin Information Services and created several California public record CD-ROMs that revolutionized the way skiptracers in California searched information.
We sold our skiptracing business to our employees and moved the CD-ROM database business to Kalispell, Montana in 1994. In 1997, we published our first website, www.merlindata.com, and slowly moved from California CD-ROMs to a national online public record company. We sold Merlin in 2012 and opened Mike Dores Investigations in April of 2013. We’re now back where we started in 1981, a whole lot smarter and a little bit older