Find Missing Persons

Blog-imageBased in San Diego, Able Investigations provides investigative services to businesses and individuals both throughout the United States and locally to San Diego, Los Angeles, Orange County, and elsewhere in Southern California. Each Primer will concern itself with an Investigative Topic which I trust will be of interest and perhaps benefit those who are involved in matters of this sort.

This Primer will concern itself with what’s involved in locating a Missing Person

Before you begin, consider why the person you are seeking is “missing.” Someone who is actively trying to avoid some type of trouble will obviously be more challenging to locate than a friend or relative with whom you have simply lost contact. The “intentionally missing” will usually attempt to cover their tracks, however it is almost impossible not to leave at least some indication of one’s whereabouts.

The suggestions below are designed to apply to a variety of situations and should not be considered the only steps that can be taken. Think creatively and put yourself in your subject’s shoes. Eventually you will uncover a vital piece of information that leads you to them.

Keep an organized file of all of the information you collect. Write an “activity log” which includes dates and notes on each person interviewed and piece of information collected. Three critical pieces of identifying information about your subject you should try to start with are:

  1. Full legal name
  2. Date of birth (DOB) or approximate age
  3. Social Security Number (SSN)

Begin with the last place the person was known to be. Proceed backward in time from that point and map out where that person was known to have gone and with whom they may have been in contact. Trace all the way back to their childhood, if possible.

Locate People

Is the person you are looking for still alive? Run their name through the Social Security Death Index If the individual is deceased, this will detail when they died, their date of birth, Social Security number and last known residence.

Next try a search of the good old Telephone Directory. It is surprising how often a search will end right here. Over 60% of phone numbers in the U.S. are still publicly listed and are very easy to search over the Internet.

Check the U.S. Postal Service for a forwarding address. This information used to be available for a small fee from any post office branch. Changes in their privacy policy mean you need to take a different approach. Address an envelope to the old address along with the words “ADDRESS CORRECTION REQUESTED” printed under the address. The envelope will be returned to you along with a label containing the new address. It will cost you exactly one first-class postage stamp.

If your subject has a criminal history, the Federal Bureau of Prisons Inmate Locator is the next place to check.

If your subject served in the U.S. military, or is on active duty, an excellent resource is GI

Request a Social Security Number Check to see if your subject has reported a new home addresses or employer on a credit application. This will provide you with the “header” information from their credit report, but it does not require the signed consent that a full credit report does.

Check previous employers’ personnel offices if possible to see if they were contacted as an employment reference. They might know where your subject is now working.

Think of all nicknames used, then try searching various Telephone Directory Under those names.

Talk to former neighbors of your subject. They will often have some idea where your subject went.

Talk to relatives of your subject. You can often find them using the trusty telephone directory too.

Check voter registration affidavits with the local County Registrar of Voters. These records usually include name, address, prior addresses, date of birth, date of registration, occupation, phone number and signature. The information is public record. Only the records of certain law enforcement personnel are kept confidential.

If your subject is a licensed or certified professional, you can check the licensing and certification boards in the states where you suspect they may live to see if their whereabouts are listed there.

Check with the last high school, college or technical school attended by your subject. Many will have information on whereabouts for reunions or career plans.

Check with the County Recorder for birth, marriage and death certificates.

  1. Birth certificates will include the full legal name, date, time and place of birth, gender, parents names, ages, occupations and places of birth. A copy of the certificate can usually be ordered for about $15.00.
  2. Marriage certificates include birth names of both parties, ages, places of birth, occupations, addresses, highest education levels, signatures, number of previous marriages, how and when previous marriages ended, parents’ names and places of birth, date and location of marriage, name and signature of officiant, addresses and signatures of witnesses. Some marriage certificates are not public record, however most are.
  3. Death certificates include the name of the deceased, date and time of death, gender, race, date of birth, age, birthplace, name and birthplace of parents, citizenship, dates of military service, social security number, marital status, name of surviving spouse, occupation, number of years in the occupation, employer, kind of industry or business, residence, name and address and relationship of the informant, place of death, causes of death, indications of autopsy, name and address and license number of physician, dates of treatment, disposition of body, date of interment, name and address of cemetery or crematory, embalmer’s license number and signature, name and license of funeral director and recording date. Use the Social Security Death Index first.

A few additional suggestions in case you get stuck:

Keep an organized file.
Write down everything you uncover as well as where and when you obtained the information.

Get any address you can find.
The most common technique is to trace a subject from his or her past address to their new one. Don’t stop with the most recent address, though – get all or the old addresses you can find. Older addresses may belong to family members or close friends that your subject may move back in with. This can also lead you to new sources whom your subject keeps in contact with.

Flag special dates.
Everyone has to pay their rent, register their car, renew their driver’s license, etc. New information can materialize in places you may have already checked. In addition, check country records every month for updates.

Re-interview prime witnesses.
Always provide potential sources of information with an easy way to contact you. This is, of course, no guarantee that they will, but at least they’ll know where to reach you. Check back with those you believe may have some contact with your subject.

Review your case file with someone else.
Sometimes explaining the situation to another person will help you make connections you didn’t see before.

Suspend the investigation for a few weeks.
Not only does this allow time for new leads to develop, but it also gives you an opportunity to relax and collect your thoughts.

Additional Investigation tips:

  • Always be evaluating your approach. Is there a better way to approach the investigation?
  • Check all former addresses. This will probably be your most important source of leads.
  • Keep checking with old friends and relatives. Your subject may contact them at any time.
  • Finally, let your unconscious mind do some of the work.