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How California Private Investigators Find People and How You Can Try Too

Hiring a private investigator is often the last resort for finding a missing person. If you have tried all other methods and still haven't had any luck, it may be time to bring in professional help.


Detective connecting information on the wall
Private investigators connect the dots when looking for people

When someone you love goes missing, or you are in search of an old friend, or looking for a witness to an incident, it is natural to want to do whatever you can to find them yourself. This can be an incredibly difficult task, especially if the person has gone off the grid or traveled out of state, or is couch surfing. Fortunately, there are California private investigators who have the skills and experience necessary to locate people you need to legally find. In this blog post, we will discuss how private investigators use skiptrace methods to find people.



What is Skiptracing?

Skiptrace is a term used to describe the process of locating a person's whereabouts by tracing their financial or electronic footprints. Skiptrace methods can be used to find missing persons, fugitives, and debtors.


Private investigators often use skiptrace techniques to locate missing persons and runaway children. There are a number of ways to conduct a skiptrace. Investigators may start with a simple internet search, or they may use more sophisticated methods such as combing through financial records or tracking down phone numbers.


In some cases, investigators may need to travel to another state or country to find the person they are looking for.


How does the FBI Find Someone?

The FBI’s Violent Criminal Apprehension Program (ViCAP) maintains the largest investigative database of major violent crimes in the U.S.

In order to assist local law enforcement agencies in solving cases, ViCAP analysts enter information about murders, missing persons, unidentified remains, and other violent crimes into a centralized database. If detectives enter enough information about their cases—such as the victim’s gender, race, approximate age; the type of weapon used; and the location where the body was found—the system can generate a list of similar cases from around the country.


When the FBI get enough information about cases they can connect the dots and begin to piece a case together and connect people to crimes.


Private investigators use some of the same data sources that the FBI also subscribes to. However, the FBI has resources and legal authority in more areas than a private investigator and can obtain subpoenas and warrants to get get data and information from phone companies, banks, the IRS, local law enforcement and more.


How Do the Police Find People?

Police use a variety of methods to find missing persons. There are three primary types of searches:


Area Physical Search

The police will canvas the area where the person was last seen and hand out missing person flyers. They will also check with local businesses to see if there is any surveillance footage that could be helpful. In addition local law enforcement will cnavas from door to door, especially during a missing person case.


Database Search

The police will check databases such as the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) and the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NAMUS). In addition, local police and Sheriff’s departments have some of the same data access private investigators have. They are also approved to use use proprietary data sources to aid them in their investigation.


Social Media Search

The police will search social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. They may also set up a dedicated website for the missing person.


How Do The United States Marshals Locate Fugitives?

The United States Marshals Service is the oldest and most versatile federal law enforcement agency in the country. Among its many responsibilities, the USMS is tasked with locating and apprehending federal fugitives. How do they go about doing this? Let's take a closer look.


When a fugitive is identified, the USMS gets involved and begins the process of tracking them down. They will first look into the fugitive's family, friends, and known associates to try to find out where they might be hiding.


If the fugitive is believed to have left the country, the USMS will work with Interpol and other international law enforcement agencies to try to locate and apprehend them.

In some cases, the USMS will offer a reward for information leading to the capture of a fugitive.


The USMS uses a variety of resources and techniques to locate fugitives, including:

● Conducting surveillance

● Working with informants

● Using technology, such as GPS tracking devices and cell phone tracking.



How Private Investigators Find Missing Persons?

Private investigators use many of the same methods as the police to find missing persons. In addition to conducting area, database, and social media searches, private investigators may also:


Check Public Records

Private investigators often use public records to find people. They may search through databases such as the Social Security Administration's Death Master File or the Department of Motor Vehicles' driver's license database (should they be allowed access). If the person was recently arrested or if they have a criminal record, the private investigator may also search through state and federal criminal records databases.


Search For Vital Records

Private investigators may also search for vital records, such as birth certificates, death certificates, and marriage licenses. This can be helpful in finding someone who has changed their name or if you need to confirm the identity of the person you are looking for.


Talk to Witnesses and Family Members

Private investigators may talk to witnesses and family members to try to find out more about the missing person.


Talk to Associates

Private investigators look for people who are closest to the subject and investigate their relationships. Because they often know your target's wherea