A missing person is someone who has disappeared for a period of time, usually for unknown reasons. Each year, over 100,000 people disappear, of which roughly 80% are children. A common misconception is that a person must be absent for 72 hours before being legally classed as a “missing person”.
In instances where there is evidence of violence or of an unusual absence, law enforcement agencies often stress the importance of beginning an investigation promptly. After seven years as a missing person, and lacking any contrary evidence, a missing person can be declared legally dead.
Finding Missing Persons: How New Online Searches Can Help You Locate Someone Who Has Dropped Out of Sight
Every day, in towns and cities across the country, people go missing. Sometimes they’re the victim of crime. But in most cases, they drop out of sight on purpose. Usually they’re trying to escape some problem or avoid some responsibility.
People who disappear can include those who are:
- Responsible for an accident but do not want to pay for damages or face legal action
- Avoiding alimony or child support payments
- Deeply In debt and unwilling to work out payment
- Running from Law Enforcement or the Courts
- Evading taxes or liens or other obligations
If you are looking for a missing person, you should be aware of how searches on the Internet can now help you locate them. It used to be expensive to track down a missing person. You had to hire a private detective and pay them by the hour to do a “locate.” Not any more – not now that so many public records and business databases are available through the Internet. Anyone with online access and a bit of determination can do the same kind of investigative work themselves. There are no guarantees you’ll find the person you’re searching for, just as there were never any guarantees with paid investigators. But the cost is minimal and no one will be more motivated than you to keep at it until you succeed.
What makes it so easy is a new breed of web-based investigative search services. Sometimes referred to as Internet Detective or Personal Search services, these specialized services give you the speedy, accurate access to all kinds of formerly hard-to-get information.
Note that these search services are not the same as the general search engines you may already use, like Google or Yahoo. The general search engines are not the best way to hunt for someone who’s missing. The private search services are best because they’re optimized for finding people. Rather than a search making you scroll through thousands of unrelated listings, they take you directly to the data you need.
Basic Techniques You Can Use to Locate Someone
When you begin looking for someone, the first step is to collect as much physical information as possible about the subject. If the person is part of your own family, you’ll probably already have personal information available. Pull out any old files and records. Look for clubs or organizations they belonged to. Get bank or investment account numbers. In particular look for any type of identifying records like a driver’s license, employee id, etc. A Social Security Number is the most important identifier you can have.
If the person you’re searching for is not someone you knew personally, gather information from anyone who did know them, if possible. If you aren’t able to get this information, there are ways to get it online through the search services. It just makes it easier if you have some information to start with.
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Organize what you collect and analyze it for any hints at where the person might have gone. Sometimes you’ll find a clue to where the subject is hiding right in this first batch of information. It just wasn’t apparent earlier because no one had examined the material closely enough.
What’s more common, though, is to find links to other people or organizations that can assist you in your search. That’s the professional investigator’s secret – to find a missing person, first find other people who know them and can lead you to them.
At times, finding a missing person is as easy as calling up a former associate. The associate knows and can tell you the subject’s current whereabouts.
If these basic steps don’t result in locating the missing person, the next step is to move to the Internet. Below are some of the common steps that professionals use to gather information online that helps them track down a subject. You can use these same techniques by conducting your own hunt through an investigative search service.
Techniques Professional Investigators Use Online That You Can Use Too
1. Do a profile search. Look up all people with the same initial and last name, city and state. If you don’t get promising results at first, and the name isn’t too common, expand the search to other cities and states. In particular, look in the areas where the subject had relatives, friends, business dealings or other connections. Once you get a list, try contacting them. One of them may well be who you’re searching for.
2. If you have a Social Security Number, do an SSN trace through the credit bureaus. Credit bureaus are the most likely place to find anyone’s most current address and phone number. Professional investigators say this is usually the best way to locate someone who’s trying to hide. That’s because most people don’t realize all the different types of activities they do that trigger address updates to their credit record. Everything from filling out an employment application, to renting a new apartment and getting the utilities turned on.
3. Search Voter Registration databases. This one is frequently overlooked but often effective. The reason is that those who disappear tend to build a new life based on their old one. If the voted before, they’ll likely register to vote again. The records are kept by state offices but collected and available through better specialized search services.
4. Search Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) filings. These are lien notices filed locally and maintained by each state. The Search Services collect the data so you can access it more easily. UCC’s are created to document a lien placed on property for which a loan has been made. It’s valuable in tracking a missing person because it can lead you to a business that has had dealings with the person. It’s possible you can get contact information through them.
There are a variety of other databases you can access easily through an online Investigative Search service. From post office Change of Address records to Driver’s License Information to Vehicle Registrations for the missing person’s car or truck — even records of traffic tickets. Any one of these database searches can either provide a current address for your subject or a link to someone else that can eventually lead you to them.
If you need to find someone who’s missing, you can use on of the many online search services to help you locate them. These services collect the data in one easy to use database or provide easy to use look up tools with automatic tie-ins to the public databases you need to search. That makes searching for a missing person faster, easier and more likely to end successfully.
Missing Persons Resource Websites
If you’re looking to get started with your search, there are a number of websites that can help you conduct a complete investigation. We recommend Intelius, the leading provider of People Search and Background Check reports. Intelius has an extensive selection of people search reports, background checks, criminal records, court records, real estate and financial reports. Run a Background Check now. This may be the only site you need. However, if you’re just looking for ideas on how to get started, see Tips and Techniques for Finding Missing Persons. This is a helpful article that provides tips and techniques for finding missing persons. Another great resource is Child Watch of North America, which maintains a toll-free line for information on missing children and for inquiries from parents searching for their children. Also, check out Child Search at the National missing children center and the Nation’s Missing Children Organization, Inc.
North America Missing Children Association Inc. – North America Missing Children Association. Note: The North American Missing Children Association had its charity status revoked after an investigation into the association’s financing revealed that the company was not updating its website, not answering phone calls and emails, but continued to accept donations.
National Center for Missing and Exploited Children [NCMEC.org] – Spearheads national efforts to locate and recover missing children
Military Searches – Use this website to find missing military buddies.
www.mcsc.ca – The Missing Children Society of Canada is a non-profit agency that provides investigative search services to help reunite families. The organization has an in-house group of law enforcement officers who perform searches to help reunite children with their family. They work closely with federal and municipal agencies and do hands-on work, all free of charge.
To hire a private investigator that specializes in missing person searches, please visit our Private Investigator Directory.