On any given day, there are as many as 100,000 active missing persons cases in the US. Every year, hundreds of thousands of people disappear per the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Some vanish in suspicious circumstances; others simply walk away from their lives. The families of these missing persons are left to cope not only with the trauma of their loved one’s disappearance, but also with the constant question as to why that person disappeared – as well as the question of where he or she is living now. And while the pain may lessen over the years, the questions don’t go away, nor does the impossibility of gaining closure on the situation. Some people are prepared to sit it out and wait for what may amount to years for their missing son or wife to return; others, however, aren’t and use whatever resources they can to search for the person who’s disappeared. And for anyone who’s considering trying to trace someone who’s gone missing, there are a number of ways in which you can do it.
First off, you should contact the police if the person missing is a child, someone you believe is unable to safely care for him- or herself, a possible danger to others, or someone who exhibited signs of uncharacteristic behavior before he or she disappeared.
You should also provide the police with the following details:
– Where and when the missing person was last seen or heard from
– A recent clear photograph of the missing person
– The names, addresses, and phone numbers of the disappeared person’s friends, relatives, and business associates
– A list of places and locations associated with the missing person
– The missing person’s recent medical details including doctor and dentist contact details
– The missing person’s bank account and credit card details
– A physical description including any distinguishing marks (e.g. tattoos.).
If at any time after reporting the person missing, you think of anything that could assist the search, however insignificant you think it may be, contact the police. And if the missing person returns, contact the police immediately.
Sometimes, however, you may feel it inappropriate to contact the police. Or perhaps, after having reported the missing person to your local police department, you want to do whatever you can to try to trace him or her yourself.
How successful you are in your search depends on how much information you have. For example, if someone’s provided you with the missing person’s current address or phone number, then it may take no more than a simple online search to find his or her whereabouts. You can use online search engines such as Google and Yahoo!, but a more useful resource is Zabasearch, a website that searches for and lists different types of information for US citizens, such as past and current addresses, phone numbers, and birth year. There are also people-searching engines such as Yahoo People Search and Switchboard.com, an online directory of telephone numbers and addresses. Social networking sites such as Facebook generally offer search facilities of their pages by name, zip code, and email address, although you have to be a registered user to access these.
You can search public records for details of publicly recorded events such as births, deaths, and marriages. The most reliable public records listings include Superior Court civil records that contain filings of civil cases including lawsuits and divorce proceedings, and Superior Court criminal records that list the names of people charged with felonies.
Each state issues licenses for various occupations and professions such as lawyers, architects, and nurses. If the person missing has, or may have, a professional license, you may find information on him or her by searching these records. State records also include bankruptcy and workers’ compensation records.
You can access federal records using the Freedom of Information Act or by writing directly to specific federal agencies. However, searching for information this way requires patience as you may have to wait up to six months for a reply. Listings include US Tax Court records (IRS filings), and military records.
A licensed private investigator will have access to proprietary databases that you, as a member of the general public, won’t. Therefore, hiring an investigator may prove fruitful, as well as save time and money in searching for someone. Because private investigators often buy searches in bulk, they may be able to search public records for a fraction of what you would pay independently. Furthermore, a private investigator will also know which databases are the most appropriate to search given the information you are able to provide on the missing person.
A number of resources are available to help anyone trace someone who’s disappeared. It may take many months before your search yields any useful information, but the possibility of finding someone who’s gone missing exists. You just need to know where to look.