Developing Your Locating Skills
By David A. Mollison

Let's face it! The location of a missing person is the number one specialization in the United States for the private investigative industry and the hugest market for the investigative industry. If you develop you skills in all avenues of it, you have no problem. However, many investigators aren't using all avenues opened to them to locate missing persons quickly and inexpensively. Given enough time and funds, with the right skill any missing person can be found but that's not usually the investigator's problem. The problem is, the professional investigator needs to learn to utilize his knowledge and skills to locate the missing person the quickest way possible and the least expensive way possible as the investigator is often restricted to a certain amount of time and funds. It's simple math. Those investigators who can locate the quickest way and the least expensive way will stay in business and those who take too long and spend too much money on tracking down a missing person will likely not stay in business. We have boiled down the skills and knowledge to locating a missing person down to eight avenues you have at your disposal. You need to develop your skills and knowledge in all eight areas in order to accomplish your goal of locating quickly and easily.

COMPUTER SEARCHES: SSN Trace, National Identifiers, Voter Registration, Different Types Of Forwarding Address Searches (3) Neighborhood Inquiry Searches, Different types of DMV and Driver License Searches, Tag And Vin Searches, UCC Searches, Full Credit Bureaus And FCRA Restrictions, 400 Plus National Sources For Computer Searches. If even one of these items seem foreign to you, you'll need to develop your knowledge of exactly what types of computer searches are available to the private investigator and how to get them on your computer screen quickly and inexpensively.

UTILIZATION OF CD ROM AND OTHER FREE SOURCES: It's simply economics and simple money. If you have CD Rom database libraries, you have inhouse free databases you can search. You will not be paying and per search charge for your search. CD Rom disks with name and address information are available nationwide for telephone book listings, voter registrations, Social Security Administration Death Claims, and DMV information. In some states like Florida, you can purchase statewide vehicle registration on micro fiche.

CALL TRAPPERS: Call Trappers is a new high tech investigative trick private investigative agencies are starting to utilize. Word is sent out in various ways that your subject needs to call a special toll free number because he one a prize or has a refund check waiting. When the subject calls the toll free number, the number he is calling from is captured. Once you have that information, all the investigator needs to do is turn the telephone number into an address.
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PUBLIC RECORDS: LOCAL: The investigator needs to know each and every country court house and city record he can search by hand to help locate a missing person and know exactly how to access that information the quickest way. Orange County Florida just put many of this record indexes online. Nine times out of ten, you will find an address or at the very least further leads by performing searches at the county courthouse. Civil and criminal records, small claims, voter registration, vehicle registration, boat registration, business DBA, probate, real property, tax rolls, marriage, UCC, these are all records that can be checked for address information and leads at the court courthouse.

PUBLIC RECORDS: STATE: State records are another vital area of information gathering. State vehicle registration and driver license records, professional licensing these are all records you need to have quick access to.

PUBLIC RECORDS: FEDERAL: Knowing federal records sources trends to be a weak avenue in many investigative agencies but there are dozens of sources you can check. The federal government keeps address information on all airplane pilots. Records are found with name and address information for any person owning a boat over 35 feet. Federal courthouse records can be a goldmine. Locator services for military personal and people in federal prison are sometimes helpful. It's the investigator's job to know where to look in federal records just like you do in local records.

The above knowledge and skills are basics. They are paper sources. The stuff below can be considered more advanced and deal with people sources. Some times you have to take the leads you developed in the paper sources which are people and interview them to complete your investigation.

BEATING THE STREETS: Too many investigators these days give up once they pass the computer sources and public records sources but nine times out of ten, they have developed indirect people sources by searching all the records they have. A minister found in marriage records who married the subject, a real estate agency who sold the subject's home for him, an attorney found in criminal and civil records, a creditor found in UCC listings, a former employer and a former neighbor all likely know something about your subject that you don't which might lead to the subject's address and some of these sources might have a general area or actual address of your subject. Ask them, and you may receive. Don't ask, and you could go out of business quickly.

PRETEXTS AND INTERVIEWING: Interviewing and pretext skills need to be developed. Proper approaches in interviewing methods are needed and, yes, you'll need to develop good pretext skills. The best way to think about pretexts is this. Think of ways to ask for the information in none threating manners. You want to appear harmless. The subject has information you need and you have to develop the right approach to ask for the information. This is asking intelligently. But don't get the wrong idea. Every time you ask for information, don't think you'll always have to use a pretext. Only use them when you feel you'll need them.


So, we have broken down the avenues of locating a missing person into eight general areas.


As a professional investigator, you'll need to develop your skills in all eight areas. How To Find Anyone Anywhere is the top selling book on on this subject. How To Investigate By Computer will provide you with detailed descriptions of the computer searches available and how to access them. The Investigator's Guide To CD Rom Technology gives you the knowledge you need about CD-Rom. The P.I. Catalog's Public Records section gives you the sources for county, state and federal public records sources. A general study of all of the investigative manuals and practice gives you the street knowledge you need. The expanded selection of books on interviewing and pretexts arms you with investigative skills that will help you crack more cases.