In my prior post, I promised to provide you with some “do-it-yourself” advice about how to locate an individual. There is actually a great deal that anyone with access to the internet, a telephone, and/or an automobile can do to help himself in this regard. So let’s dive right in.
Locating an Individual Online
First, you can of course go on-line to one of the various websites that claim to be able to “find anyone.” The advantage of using one of these sites is that, relatively speaking, they are fast and inexpensive. If the person you are looking for is a “solid citizen” type, someone stable and firmly “on the grid,” this may even work (assuming that you don’t pull up 2000 people with that same name). But in general with such websites, you get what you pay for (which usually translates into paying not much and getting even less). So after this “quick and easy” fix fails (or you wisely decide not even to pursue it), what’s next?
Accessing Public Records
If you know the city, or the county, or even just the state in which the person you are looking for resides, that is a huge advantage. Now you can access a variety of public records, many of which are available on-line for most cities, counties, and states. Broadly speaking these can include court documents, marriage/birth/death records, criminal records, land and tax records, liens and UCC filings, corporate and business records, professional licensing records, and the list goes on. Depending on the city, county, or state in question, you may be able to obtain these records from courts, local recorder’s and tax assessor’s, state and local law enforcement agencies, the corporation commission, the secretary of state’s office and other public agencies.
Requesting Records by Phone, Email, Fax, Mail, or in Person
If the records that you need are not accessible on-line, then next you need to pick up the phone. Many times you can connect with a kindly clerk who will help you over the phone. At the very least, records clerks will typically tell you how and where to fax, email, or mail written records requests, how much it will cost you to run a search and obtain copies, and how long it will take to get a response. Alternatively, it the records you need are local, it may be best for you to just jump in your car. That’s right, just drive right over, park your car, and walk right in. You can talk live to a records clerk and will often get exactly what you need right on the spot. Remember, you are asking for public records and these are public agencies and what that means, in essence, is that they work for you!
Locating an Individual through Social Media
Even if you don’t know generally where your target resides, not even the state, you’re not stumped yet. You still have the internet and a wealth of social media sites at your disposal. If you can find your target’s profile or account on Facebook, Twitter, Linked-In, or a host of other sites, you can often get details about where they live, work, go to school, etc. If that information doesn’t just jump out at you, be sure to read the public posts and closely examine photographs for clues. Also pay attention to your target’s friends, followers, etc. Sometimes you can obtain the general location information you are looking for simply by checking the profiles and on-line accounts of your target’s friends and associates.
So as you can see, there is a lot you can do on your own to locate an individual. But as I address in the next post, you still may want to hire an investigator. We have access to more investigative tools and given our experience with the process we can certainly save you time and maybe even money.
What is the Goal for Finding a Person?
Moreover, through all of this, you need to keep your endgame in mind. If you need to get the person you are locating served with legal process, or you need him interviewed, or if you need his recorded statement for legal proceedings, you may still need the services of a trained private investigator to complete the job. Further, if you need someone other than yourself to make contact with the subject, if the subject may be dangerous, or if you need someone to conduct surveillance of the subject, than obviously you’ll need to hire a private investigator for the job. I’ll discuss what a good P.I. can bring to the table in my next post, so stay tuned.