Today’s guest post is by a couple of PI’s (private investigators) who happen to also be writers. While this post was originally written for writers, I kept reading it from a readers perspective and couldn’t help comparing the tactics in some recently read books. We hope you enjoy the article “How a Sleuth Might Track a Missing Person” by Colleen Collins (The Zen Man).
Sometimes the missing person case is more complex, such as a parent who has abducted his child and fled the jurisdiction. In such scenarios, people are more deliberate in their efforts, typically travel farther and attempt to cover their tracks more thoroughly.
If you’re writing a story with a PI or sleuth, your character might be hired to locate someone. A few techniques for finding a person whose location is unknown include:
- Searching databases that contain public records. There are numerous online public records that anyone can search, such as:
- County assessors’ sites have lists of owners of real property. If the person was not the owner of the residence, you’ll find out who is. That owner/landlord might have information about the person’s current whereabouts or know someone who does.
- Privately owned cemeteries and mortuaries maintain burial permits, funeral service registers, funeral and memorial arrangements, obituaries, intermediate orders and perpetual care arrangements. For example, if the missing person recently attended a funeral, a PI can find names of friends and relatives through some of these records.
- Interviewing past and current neighbors as well as relatives, past and current landlords, co-workers and known associates.
- Searching the Internet using Google and other search engines for blogs, images, news and so forth. You’d be surprised what you can find by simply typing a telephone number into the Google browser, for example.
- Looking up bride/groom’s names if there’s been a recent wedding, or one is in the works: Wedding Channel. Often, photos and lists of guests are also posted.
- Checking Internet communities and social networking sites such as MySpace, Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin. We once located a missing person who was on the run, but she still found time to log into her MySpace account and blog away. One search engine that searches dozens of social networking sites with each lookup is Socialmention.
- Conducting surveillances at locations where the subject has been known to hang out, from bars to exercise clubs to softball games.