How to Find a Missing Person (Who Doesn’t Want to Be Found)

Some people go missing because they have been abducted or kidnapped. Others may go missing for various other reasons such as they have a mental illness, they are escaping some sort of domestic abuse, they owe someone money, they are running from the law, or they have done something that they are ashamed of. Some folks simply walk out of their lives and want to start a new one. In any of these cases, if you suspect that the person has been abducted or kidnapped, call the police and let them begin their investigations immediately.

Missing persons reports can be filed after someone has been gone for 24 hours, but what do you do if a missing person does not want to be found? This can be the case in situations such as runaways or someone who wants to be off the grid completely. Going through the proper legal channels is always the best place to start, but at times you may need to start your own investigation. Sometimes the police are not as responsive as they should be, often not sharing vital information with you or being difficult to get in touch with. When this happens, you may want to try your own detective skills or even hire your own private investigator. Here are a few tips on how to get started finding someone who doesn’t want to be found.

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Your first step should always be to use internet searches and the proper analytics to begin your search. Google is so ubiquitous these days that it’s become a verb, so “google” your missing person first to see if you get any immediate hits. In addition to search engines, social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are also a good place to try (you would be surprised how many people continue to post pictures and updates on social media—even burglars and thieves have been known to take a selfie!). Gather up all of the information you know about the person in one place and start plugging in the name and different keywords to see what you come up with. At the very least, input the following:

  • Full name, nicknames, family names
  • Date/city/state of birth
  • Hometown/last known/current city/state
  • High school and/or college names
  • Former and recent employers
  • Friends and family members
  • Any hobbies, social groups, or churches

Yes, you can absolutely use the Internet to its fullest power to try and locate someone. LinkedIn, social media sites, and “googling” someone is always a good place to start, even if they’ve been off the grid for a while.

Another good idea is to continuously keep in contact with the missing person’s friends and family, especially during the first few weeks that the person is gone. The brain and memory work in mysterious ways, so often these people will remember little details weeks later and may reveal them to you instead of the police. The missing person may also try to get in contact with their loved ones either to share their whereabouts or ask for money or resources.

Be sure to check in with the local hospitals as well. They cannot release private information due to the health information privacy laws, but you can at least call and ask if the person is currently a patient. The police may not check the local hospitals and emergency rooms more than once, so it’s up to you to keep checking in case a Jane or John Doe fitting the person’s description comes in. In addition to this, you may want to make and hang signs and flyers around your community or town that includes the person’s picture, description, and a way to get in touch with you. Again, the police are not going to go the extra mile so it’s up to you to do what you can.

If the missing person has ever: a) paid taxes, b) used their social security number to get a job, c) owned a cell phone, or d) voted, they are most likely findable through a thorough Internet search if you know what you are doing. If the person has never done any of these things, then he or she may be a little harder to find electronically. That’s when you may need to call in the professionals who can do the actual legwork for you.

Often you will need the services of a professional investigator who has access to multiple online databases that you don’t, as well as the ability to put boots on the ground, do the legwork, and follow up with all possible leads in person.

Manhattan private investigator Darrin Giglio has done just that many times. According to Giglio, “Many police departments are overworked and understaffed with large caseloads dedicating only a certain amount to their case, whereas a private investigator will dedicate all their time, resources, contacts, and willingness to share information without the constraints the police may have investigating a missing person.”


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