DIY – Skip Tracing: Tips From the Pros on Locating People

Looking for a child, mother, father? Maybe you are looking for a friend you have not seen for years. Perhaps you are looking for the father of your child who has skipped town along with his child support payments or an heir to an estate that is being inherited and you need to reach them for dispersement of property. Are you trying to get custody of a child and need to get court papers served on the other parent but they seem to keep disappearing and eluding service?

What ever your reason, there are many steps you can take to try and locate someone, many of which are free and will cost you nothing more than internet access. I will provide you with a few techniques and search options you can use to try and locate someone. Many of these tips are standard techniques used by investigators as part of their diligent check list when conducting skip tracing investigations. This list is by far not all inclusive but can possibly help you locate someone who is not intentionally trying to hide, and in some cases can locate someone who is trying to avoid detection.

Before trying to spy on, follow, or make contact with someone with whom you have no legal guardianship over, make sure you are aware of the laws in your state regarding harassment and peeping tom statutes. If you have any concern in this area, be sure to speak with your attorney or private investigator for assistance. In addition to trying to locate your target, if this is a missing person case, especially a child, make sure you contact your local Law Enforcement agency immediately and file a missing persons case. In North Carolina, you can be criminally charged for failing to report a missing child if you had grounds to believe they were missing. Here is the wording directly from North Carolina House Bill 149. Check your state for similar laws.

NC House Bill 149


(b) A parent or any other person providing care to or supervision of a child who knowingly or wantonly fails to report the disappearance of a child to law enforcement is in violation of this subsection. Unless the conduct is covered under some other provision of law providing greater punishment, a violation of this subsection is punishable as a Class I felony.

(c) Any person who reasonably suspects the disappearance of a child and who reasonably suspects that the child may be in danger shall report those suspicions to law enforcement within a reasonable time. Unless the conduct is covered under some other provision of law providing greater punishment, a violation of this subsection is punishable as a Class 1 misdemeanor.

Some of these techniques are more common than others but feel free to use these as you need.

1: Social Media-Check your targets social media accounts such as Facebook and Twitter. It never fails that people always feel compelled to post everything about themselves online for the world to see. Oftentimes you can look at photo’s of your target to see whom they are hanging out with. While you are looking at the photo, be sure to take a good look at the background of the photo to see where the photo may have been taken. Pay close attention to street signs, building/business names, photos/windows on the walls, and anything else you can see that may tell you where the photo was taken.

2: Sex Offender Registry- If your subject is a registered sex offender, check your geographical territory by visiting and search by the subjects first and last name. Once you find your target, their most recent address will be posted.

3: Federal Prison- Check to see if your target is incarcerated in Federal Prison. Visit and you can search by name or many other search options.

4: Local Jail- Use your favorite search engine to look up your local county jail. Find a contact number for the intake department of the jail and call them. Provide them with your targets name and date of birth and they should let you know whether they are incarcerated or not. If they were incarcerated, some jails may provide you with the release date and time.

5: County Real Estate Deed Search- Most large counties have an online database of real estate deeds that you can search by the deed holders name or by the address. You can search by name and find all addresses in that county registered to your target.

6: White Pages- This is a free search and may be helpful in a few cases. Visit the white pages website and you can search your targets name. If your target is listed, it will provide an address as well as offer suggestions of people that your target may affiliate with based on their address search.

7: Hospital Check- Depending on the circumstances, this option may be helpful or may not but it is worth a try. If you call a hospital and ask to see if they have a patient there, they will most likely tell you no regardless if they are there or not. This is to protect the patience rights and safety. Depending on what the patient/target is in the hospital for, they may tell you that they are not there even if you show up in person and ask for them. This is for good reason. Say your target comes into the hospital with an assault injury. The hospital does not know whom the assailant was so they will tell you that they are not there to protect them. If you are a family member or someone with a need-to-know, and depending on the circumstances then they may let you know if they are being treated (i.e. mother of an injured child brought in by ambulance from school)

8: Voter Registration Search- Look up your states voter registration search engine. The site will provide you with the targets address where they last registered to vote.

All of these searches are public record and are free to look up without creating accounts on the above mentioned websites. Keep a list of all the addresses you run across during your search and make sure when doing your jail search and hospital searches to check the jails and hospitals in counties of which they have lived. There were many times when people have been reported missing to the police when in fact they were simply arrested. Our private investigators use these resources as well as many other advanced database searches and investigative techniques to assist our clients locate just about anyone.

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