Date: 5 Feb 88 13:29 -0800
From: Larry Hunter <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Skip Tracing
How would you go about finding such a person? The obvious
security issue here is perhaps this person does not want to be
found. DMV records would be the first place I would look, then
perhaps at Social Security. But who has access to these records?
First, your specific questions: The friend who left town 10 years ago
because the Hell's Angels were after him is easy. He's not really trying
to hide from you; try asking his relatives. You can get DMV records pretty
easily; they're public. Social security records are very tightly held, but
you can try impersonating the subject and asking for "your" records (highly
illegal). Almost no one is entitled to look at SS records. Your female
friend's marriage certificate (and divorce certificate, if any) is listed
in both her maiden and married names (see below).
One has very little in terms of legal right to privacy regarding where
one lives. Many of the relevant records (land ownership, leases, etc.)
are either explicitly public or not protected at all. Most of the measures
one might take to "disappear" involve name changes to evade debts and/or
false id, both of which are illegal. How hard it is to find someone
depends really on how badly they want to be lost. Most people are
relatively easy to find.
Doing a skip trace (as these investigations are generally called) usually
begins with some last known address. You should first check the phone
book for a new number or address. The phone books from nearby towns
are often helpful. Unlisted numbers at least tell you what town the
subject is in, and there are (illegal) ways of finding them out.
For $1, the post office will tell you of any active forwarding address
for a year after the move. You can also send mail to the last known
address with the inscription: "Do not forward: address correction
requested" and save yourself 78 cents. The post office is also required
to give out the actual address of businesses operating through PO boxes.
You can claim that you bought something from the subject's PO box and have not
received it; that is usually enough to get the real address of the
There are also the Polk directories that list names and phone numbers
by address. You can call some of the subject's old neighbors, and with
a suitable pretext, get potentially useful information about the subject.
These directories also indicate numbers that have changed since the last
publication, highlighting recent moves.
Public records can also be of great assistance. Marriage records are
listed by both husband and wife's original names, so find the married
name of your old flame is pretty easy. You also might consider looking
in local newspapers around the date of the marriage for announcements.
These are goldmines of information about friends, addresses, employers,
etc. Divorce records are also useful and available. Traffic tickets are
a matter of public record, and almost everybody gets them now and then;
they have names and addresses on them. Birth and other records may yield
a parent's address, which can be very useful in tracking children. Many
other city or county records (property tax, fishing licenses, auto or
boat registration, etc.) may provide information. Try the several cities
and counties around the last known address. Most records can be had be anyone
for a small fee. Some clerks may try to tell you you need some official
permission to look at files. This is incorrect: local files are a matter
of public record and anyone is entitled to look.
Private records, such as credit records, Equifax (an insurance
investigator) files, medical and banking records and so on may all be
accessible to various degrees. It depends on your connections to insiders
in those companies or the quality of your pretext in asking. Sometimes
a little money helps. If you know the subject's old employer, they
may have useful records; they may even be the ones who transferred him
to a new city.
Interviewing people who may have known the subject before he moved can
be very helpful. People in the neighborhood (friends, local grocery
store, gardeners, landlords, water company) may have information.
Relatives are generally very knowledgable. Lots of local businesses may
have forwarding addresses on file for returning deposits or for final
bills: phone company, water, gas, electric, landlord, etc.
Some people who WANT to disappear use phony mail drops, or "rented"
addresses. There are lists of such addresses in a publication called
the National Mail Drop Directory. Many of the operators of these services
will help a tracer find a true address. Phony ID is pretty easy to come
by in the US, but it is a rare case that completely drops out of his
old life, never seeing old friends, never talking to family, etc. Lee
Lapin's book How to Get Anything on Anybody may provide a useful
introduction to running a more difficult investigation.
Lapin includes a great idea from a sting operation run by the NY police
that caught dozens of fugitives. They sent letters to last known addresses
that read as follows:
"Congratulations! You have been selected to join FIST TOURS on their
inaugural trip to Atlantic City. You and a companion will be our
guest in Atlantic City for free. You'll recieve $15 in quarters each and
a buffet lunch at the Regency Lounge. The tour is complete with drinks en
route and wine and cheese on the return trip.
Also a surprise, which is free.
This is absolutely free to you and your guest. All we ask is that you fill
out the attached reply card. Your trip will be leaving at [a certain place]
but you must call to confirm your reservation...."
More than fifty felons went to jail for answering that letter ("Also a
surprise, which is free"). Happy Hunting!
Date: Mon, 30 Oct 89 22:44:00 EST
From: Michael Stack <A01MES1@niu.bitnet>
Subject: Re: How to track people down?
I know this isn't exactly a "high-tech" answer, but our high school reunion
committee made good use of city telephone directories they found at a local
library. It means lots of phone calls, and it won't help with names changed
through marriage, but the results were impressive. Only about five percent
of our graduating class was not found twenty-five years later, and we'd be
silly to believe that at least some of those didn't want to be found.
Northern Illinois University
Date: Tue, 14 Nov 89 14:21:00 EST
From: "Robyn Robertson GSRLR@ALASKA" <GSRLR@alaska.bitnet>
Subject: How to track people down.
Finding people? I have spent considerable time and effort doing this
sort of work. The only solid rule for tracking people down is that there
are no solid rules.
In general, finding people depends upon knowing enough about the target
subject(i.e. the person you want to find) to gain direction for the search.
For instance, I was retained to search for a gentleman that had absconded
from the Seattle area with substantial debts left behind. I knew very
little about the guy other than his name, the fact that he had a trust
fund administered from Los Angeles, and that he had been planning to wed
a woman from Seattle when he was last heard from several weeks before.
In this case, I managed to locate a marriage license in the King county
(Seattle) Courthouse which yielded the name and address of the woman he
had, by the time of this search, married. Although the man had covered
most of his tracks pretty well, the woman he had married took no effort
to obscure her path.
Consequently, I had the woman's name and last known residence(in
Renton, Washington, a suburb of Seattle)when I left the courthouse. Once
I had this, the remaining follow up was reasonably simple. It turnt out
that her prior residence she had been living in was up for sale. A visit
to the real estate agent acting as broker afforded a reasonably fast
face-to-face meeting with the fugative I sought. He, it developed, was
handling all the business of his new wife. The real estate agaent very
thoughtfully arranged the meeting, and also provided me with the seller's
new home address.
I tell this story as a means of illustrating an approach to finding people.
While in general it is helpful to review information resources like the
telephone book, Polk directory, etc., I believe that a general priciple
is the best advice. Find out all you can about your target, then determine
what, if any, information resources this knowledge of your target implies.
If you are uncertain what information your basic knowledge of your target
does imply, take what you know to an expert(like the records clerk in the
city/county building where the target I mention above had filed his marriage
license) and ask the expert what intelligence is necessarily implicit in
the information you have as a foundation. Once this is accomplished, the
remaining task is to exploit this information.
As for expert assistance in developing the leads that you start with,
there are as many sources for this intelligence as there are catagories
worth exploiting. I know very little about tennis, for instance,
but I know enough that if I found that a suspect I sought was a heavy tennis
player, I could certainly locate a tennis expert to tell me what
organizations associated with tennis might yield the suspect's location.
Failing that, if the suspect is a serious tennis player, and I have a good
idea what city he might be in, I might be able to develope leads by asking
questions at atheletic clubs in the area.
Although this approach seems like common sense, many people tend to forget
what creatures of habit we humans are, and they consequently fail to
exploit the obvious when searching for someone. Nonetheless, I have found
this approach fairly useful. Just find out all you can about your target,
then think! One must compile all available information on the target
subject, then follow it up and exploit whatever leads this information
Robyn Robertson | The opinions expressed here are
BITNET: GSRLR@ALASKA | my own
Internet: GSRLS@acad3.fai.alaska.edu |
P.O.Box 81638 |
Fairbanks, AK 99708 |
Date: Tue, 28 Nov 89 18:50:00 EST
Subject: Re: How to track people down.
>... many people tend to forget what creatures of habit we humans are ...
How true. I understand that some crime investigators appreciate that
the best time to try to find somebody in a public place that they
"randomly" frequent is precisely one week after a time they were known
to be there, e.g. when a crime occurred.