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Locating Missing People - Be Your Own Detective

Missing Persons How To Investigate Americans move from place to place more than any other nation of people. Twenty-five percent of us (not the same 25%, of course) move every year! We move to take advantage of new employment or a business opportunity, to change our lifestyle, to continue our education, or to be closer to our families and friends.

Locating people without the benefit of training in the techniques of skip tracing, might seem on first examination, a difficult, if not impossible, chore. Where does one begin to look for someone? What methods and techniques should one employ?

Those of us who relocate for these reasons generally have nothing to hide and should be fairly easy to find. Conversely, people who move to avoid debt, legal action, criminal charges, and child support responsibilities, are more difficult to locate. Runaway spouses and children comprise a portion of the latter group.

Order a People Search. Experienced database search specialists will immediately go to work for you, to quickly return real, meaningful results. See our Sample Report

Basically, there are three ways you can find someone.

You can employ the old gumshoe methods, looking for clues by talking to people and utilizing other local sources. You might get lucky right away and find someone who actually knows where your subject is living. The experts explain the techniques they use in "Missing Persons."

You can request copies of public records that might contain a current address of the person you are looking for. You may discover identifying information, like a middle initial, to help narrow your search.

You can use information you uncover to run a database search that will accesses millions of records. This will cost you a few bucks but it is a very fast and convenient way to get the most current information.

Professional investigators use a combination of interviewing people, checking public records, and running database searches. Sometimes you may need to do one thing to get the identifying information you will need - DOB, Middle initial, SSN - to do something else.

You have one advantage when you set out to locate a person: most of us, being creatures of habit, continue to work at the same kinds of jobs and continue to gravitate to familiar surroundings. We stay in contact with family, friends, and lovers. We drive, buy and sell property, get married, have children, file for divorce. And when we move, we tell people where we're moving to. Those of us with nothing to hide leave behind a fairly easy-to-follow paper trail.

On the other hand, there will always be irresponsible individuals among us who commit crimes, skip on debts, and run away from domestic difficulties, causing poverty, abuse, and neglect. These people often make a conscious effort to avoid leaving behind a trace of their movements.

The more skilled one becomes at hiding out, the more he or she will employ techniques that make it difficult for Locate Specialists, known in the trade as "Skip Tracers," to find them. The address that may be occasionally given will invariably be someone else's address. The telephone number provided will predictably be listed in someone else's name. The "skip" probably does not carry a driver license, voter's registration card, Social Security card, credit cards, or any of the identification that everyday, law-abiding citizens tote around in wallet or purse.

In this section, you will learn proven people finder skip-tracing techniques the pros have developed and made a part of standard operating procedure over the years. You will find out about some of the newest advances in the locate business brought about by the advent of computer databases and the Internet. Detailed information for those conducting adoption searches and military-connected searches is provided, along with checklists and sample interview questions to help speed up your investigation.

Order a People Search. Experienced database search specialists will immediately go to work for you, to quickly return real, meaningful results. See our Sample Report

Please refer to Public Records for listings, addresses, and telephone numbers of local, county, state, and national public and private records depositories.

Three main sources yield the most information about an individual:

(1) People who are or have been in contact with your subject. Your advantage: most people are willing to answer questions posed in a straightforward and friendly manner.

(2) Printed or written material, which includes directories, newspaper reports, magazine articles, medical records, financial records, utility records, employment and tenant applications, and all government records. These are the records that will help you establish a "paper trail."

(3) Information Providers - database companies - who have access to both written and computer-stored records and other data.

People Finder Locate Specialists

Make use of all three sources, but to an increasing degree, they rely on Information Providers for name, phone, DMV and credit searches. These database searches may turn up hundreds, and even thousands of names, especially if the person you seek has a common one. It is always best to assemble and track down as much background and identifying information about your subject as you can before initiating any database search. Sometimes the simplest investigative techniques, like calling directory assistance or talking to your subject's co-workers, will net the quickest results.

First Steps: Your People Search

The first thing you've got to do is obtain as much information about this individual as you can. It would hardly be worth going to the state with just a name and an old address. If you can obtain a birth date and a Social Security number, of course, go with that. I know your next question is going to be 'How do I obtain that information? When you're trying to find someone, each case is different, each scenario is different. Remember, before attempting to find someone, your goal should be to obtain as much information about that person as you can."

Begin by writing down everything you know about your subject. Don't discount any piece of information, no matter how trivial it may appear, because frequently, seemingly unimportant information will provide the very clues you seek. Think "stream of consciousness." Don't try to analyze or organize right away - just write down whatever enters your mind. You can expand and flesh out later on; organize your thoughts and findings. Pay special attention to your feelings concerning these findings.

If you are separated from a family member, there are many national organizations and federal agencies that will help you locate that person for free. This site provides you with links to the most helpful sources of assistance.

Professional associations, labor unions, government licensing authorities, school records-keepers, county court records repositories, any of these entities can furnish information that could lead you directly to your subject. At the very least, these sources might provide useful clues. A questionnaire is provided.

Local Search

Your investigation will most likely begin in the local area where the subject was last known to reside.

"Your investigation has got to start with only what you have in front of you. If all you have is an address and the name of a person, that's where you start. You could go to the address, of course, even though you know the people you're looking for are no longer living there. Maybe you've written to the address and the letter has come back marked 'forwarded mail expired.' So the thing to do is go to that address in person, knock on the door, introduce yourself, talk to people in the house. Very often they'll have some information. It depends on the time frame." - Mike Askew, Private Investigator

Check city and cris-cross directories at the library or request a surname search from an Information Provider for that area. You may come up with the address and/or phone number of a relative with the same last name. Following is a link to an online reverse directory. Keep in mind that nothing is as complete as the bound cris-cross directory at your local library.

If you get a match-up and obtain an address - even if the subject has moved from that address - check the city or cris-cross directories for the addresses and telephone numbers of nearby neighbors. Or request this information from an Information Provider. The subject's occupation, spouse's name, and even the name of the subject's employer may turn up.

Research property records at the county courthouse to find out who bought the house or the name of the landlord. If the subject rented the house, you may, by employing your best diplomatic skills, be able to obtain a copy of the lease application or agreement.

Ask at the post office to see if the subject filled out a change of address form, or ask an Information Provider to run a National New Address Identifier, based on last name and previous address.

Interview neighbors. Sometimes a statement like, "I don't know where they moved to, but a friend of ours said they thought it was Boston," will be all you need to proceed with your search.

Look into marriage records at the county courthouse where the subject last resided, or in the county where either the wife or the husband resided. You may happen upon both sets of parents.

People to Interview

These are people you can interview from leads provided from past employers, neighbors, family or friends:

  • Car dealer
  • Mechanic
  • Accountant
  • Attorneys
  • Stockbroker
  • Hairdresser
  • Insurance agent
  • Religious affiliations
  • Gardener/lawn care
  • Veterinarian
  • Hobbies & Interests
  • Financial institutions
  • Real estate brokers
  • Medical providers
  • Child or parental care
  • Fitness club
  • Travel agent
  • Teachers
  • Children
  • Maids
Family Members Interview

You can find the names of family members in city or cris-cross directories and phone books. Marriage records list parent's names and addresses. Local newspaper morgues have clippings of marriages and obituaries. All include names of family members and spouses. Family members may not provide information without the use of a pretext.

Check out

  • Spouse
  • Former spouses
  • Mother
  • Father
  • Sisters
  • Brothers
  • Aunts
  • Uncles
  • Children
  • Grandparents
  • In-laws
  • Others

Interview Questions

You need to find out: 'Do they have relatives? Do you know where they may be? Have they been in contact?' You want to ask those types of questions

  • Do you know subject?
  • How long have you known the subject?
  • How well did you know the subject?
  • What kind of work does subject do?
  • Where did subject work?
  • Married? Spouses name?
  • Any children?
  • Did subject hang out with anyone in the neighborhood?
  • Do you know where subject was born and came from?
  • Do you know where subject's family lives?
  • Do you know what kind of car subject drives?
  • Do you know where subject went to school?
  • Any children away at school?
  • Do you know if subject belonged to any organizations?
  • Did subject ever talk about serving in the military?
  • Do you know if subject had any help around the house?
  • Do you know where subject got married?
  • Divorced? Where? When?
  • Is subject religious?
  • Attends what church?
  • Any interests or hobbies you know of?
  • Does subject have special medical problems or needs?
  • Does subject own other property, boats, motor homes, airplanes?
  • Any problems with drugs or alcohol?
  • Problems with marital relationship?
  • Problems with finances?
  • Do you know where subject went?
Neighborhood Residents & Landlords

Check: Neighbor., US Postal Service, Landlords, Local hangouts, Friends, Local businesses

Talk to the neighbors. In each neighborhood there's always that one lonely neighbor who looks out his or her window 18 hours a day. That person can tell you how many people come and go to a house, what kind of cars they drive, where they got their cars, what they had for lunch, and probably what they ate for dinner. You just have to find the right source.

Names, addresses, and phone numbers of neighbors can be located through cris-cross and city directories, or by database atlas search. Landlords might be identified through county property records.

Tip: Trash and garbage placed at curbside for pickup is no longer personal private property. Your subject's relative's garbage may yield phone and other records and receipts that may help you in your locate investigation.

Missing Person's Questionnaire

Missing Persons Form This very comprehensive form may help remind you of information you may have forgotten or didn't even know you had. This is a very good place to begin your investigation.


Order a People Search. Experienced database search specialists will immediately go to work for you, to quickly return real, meaningful results. See our Sample Report

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Private Investigator Training Course - Secrets of Top Private Eyes

The field of private investigation is widely diversified and requires a variety of skills to fill a growing list of specialties. Training and skills you may already have, like photography, electronics - and especially a knowledge of computers - can be very valuable assets for the investigate business. Learn how to get started, where to go for help, and what each state requires.
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"Secrets of Top Private Eyes" is an on-line teaching course with ten plus hours of informational videos, hundreds of pages with link to thousands of investigative sources. The course has been in extensive nationwide use since 1993 as an indoctrination training course for new investigators.  More Information>
 

 
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