Finding a Missing Person

Private Investigators are often tasked with missing person investigations. These types of cases can also be called “locates” or “skip tracing.” The people hiring a Private Investigator for a missing person case are typically friends, family, or associates of the missing person. In the case of “skip tracing,” the client will often be an insurance agency or a debt collection agency. With an insurance locate, the subject of the missing person case will often be involved in alleged fraud. Obviously, with a missing person case regarding debt, the subject is needed to be located to settle their debt. However, there are also many business deals that turn sour and create victims of business wrongdoings. These victims will also use “skip tracing” to locate the guilty party. One of the most common missing persons case a PI will work is missing children. Experienced and capable Investigators know how to find a missing person or missing children. Private Investigators can use many avenues to locate a missing person, such as Cyber Investigations, interviewing, and surveillance.

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Cyber Investigations will often be the first place a Private Investigator starts when attempting to find a missing person. Many articles on this topic will state that a missing person Investigator will start with investigating the subject’s network of known associates and spread outward from there. However, this is not entirely accurate. The client will often have unique and intimate information regarding the missing person. The Private Investigator will use this information to determine how to start the missing person investigation. The client should also be able to provide the missing persons Investigator with the subject’s online information. This can be things such as, social media accounts and emails. This is a great way for the missing persons Investigator to establish “Anchor” points when beginning the missing person case.


Utilizing interviewing for a missing person case is just as it sounds. The missing persons Investigator will gather information on individuals that appear to have knowledge on the subject’s whereabouts and then interview them. The method of interviewing can be in-person, thru telephone, and even communicating via the internet. Attempting to locate the missing person overtly or covertly will depend on if the Investigator wants the subject to know that they are trying to be located. If the subject is purposely missing (skip trace) in order to avoid consequences for their past actions, the missing persons Investigator is probably not going to want to alert them of the missing persons investigation. This can be done by the Investigator interviewing individuals through a pre-text.

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Surveillance is used when the missing persons Investigator has known locations that the subject might be located at, or perhaps known associates of the missing person. In order for the missing persons Investigator to properly perform surveillance, they will need complete and up to date information regarding the missing person. This information can be things such as, up do date photos or vehicle information. Surveillance requires a lot of time and resources. If a skilled and experienced missing persons Investigator decides that surveilling a location is needed, there is a good chance that the surveillance will provide valuable information to the missing person case. This can be providing the next step in the missing person investigation or finding the missing person altogether.




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About the Author

missing person case

Peter Sandru is an Instructor & Co-Founder of NDIL with over 13 years as a Professional Private Investigator including investigating multiple missing persons. Peter has spent more than a decade conducting investigations and security operations throughout the world, primarily for corporations, law firms, and government agencies. Peter has assisted in the creation of numerous investigative & security training programs in various capacities.