top of page

Let's Talk


The Guide To: How a San Francisco Bay Area Private Investigator Finds Addresses

People locates, or people searches are as complex of a topic as any other investigation service. For one to be looking for someone, after they have Googled their eyes crosswise means that the person is likely difficult to find. This article talks about some of the tactics a San Francisco private investigator may use to find someone. So when you call our PIs, you will have a greater sense of the scope of how a PI finds someone.

tunnel with person at end
When you need to hire a private investigator find an address or conduct a people locate, call our detectives


Most people reading this article are looking for a person, perhaps in the San Francisco Bay Area. We help people find a person they are looking for. Perhaps you are looking for a private investigator to find family members? Or, you want to hire an investigator to find someone you lost track of, perhaps an old pal or school friend?

No matter why you want to hire a private detective to find someone, you should understand all the ways a PI might use in conducting a people locate search.

Understanding Public Records In People Locates

Public records are documents or pieces of information that are not considered confidential. They are typically maintained by government agencies and are accessible to the general public, though some may require specific permissions or small fees to access. These records exist at the federal, state, and local levels. Many addresses are a matter of public record. This includes property tax records, marriage licenses, voter registration, and court records.

Types of Public Records A Private Investigator Uses To Find Addresses

  • Property Records: These are commonly used to find addresses as they include details about property ownership, property tax payments, and historical sales data. In the San Francisco Bay Area, these can be accessed through county assessors' offices or online portals.

  • Court Records: These can include information from criminal cases, civil lawsuits, family court proceedings, bankruptcies, and small claims cases. If someone has been involved in legal proceedings, their address may be part of the record.

  • Voter Registration: This is often a good source for current addresses, as most voters register with their home address.

  • Marriage Licenses and Divorces: These records can provide past and current addresses of the parties involved.

  • Professional Licenses: Individuals holding professional licenses (e.g., doctors, lawyers, plumbers) have their addresses recorded as part of the licensing process.

  • Business Records: If the subject owns or is associated with a business, records like business licenses, articles of incorporation, or annual reports can provide address information.

Accessing Public Records:

  • Most public records can be accessed through government offices such as city hall, the county clerk's office, the county recorder, or the local courthouse. Increasingly, these records are also available online through various government portals.

  • Some information might be available directly through standard internet searches or specialized public record search engines, but for more detailed or sensitive records, investigators may need to make formal requests or visit government offices in person.

Challenges and Considerations:

  • While many public records are freely available, others may require payment of a fee, especially for certified copies or for searches that consume substantial government employee time.

  • There are privacy laws in place that restrict access to certain information. For instance, under the California Public Records Act, certain data is exempt from public view for privacy or safety reasons.

  • Accuracy can be a concern, as public records can sometimes contain outdated or incorrect information. Investigators need to verify the information from multiple sources whenever possible.

Ethical and Legal Adherence:

  • Private investigators, like all citizens, must adhere to the law. While public records are generally accessible to everyone, obtaining records under false pretenses or misusing the information can lead to legal repercussions.

  • Ethical private investigators ensure they have a legitimate purpose for requesting these records and use the information in a manner that respects privacy and complies with data protection laws.

In summary, public records are an invaluable resource for private investigators seeking to locate someone's address. They offer a wealth of information, often require minimal costs to access, and can provide data that is difficult to obtain through other means. However, successful navigation of public records requires a deep understanding of where to look, how to interpret the data, and the legalities surrounding the access and use of this information.

man typing on laptop
Open Source Intelligence using online sources can yield significant results in locating a person

Locate a Person Using Online Searches

Various online directories and databases may have address information. Websites like Whitepages or Spokeo can be starting points, although PIs often have access to more specialized databases.

Certainly, online searches are a fundamental aspect of modern private investigations, offering a plethora of data that can be crucial in locating addresses or obtaining relevant information about individuals, businesses, or properties.

I want to be clear, just because we list something in this article, does not mean we use it on every case or any people locates that we do. These are some ideas on where a private investigator may look when you hire a detective to find someone.

Here's an expanded look at how private investigators might utilize online searches:

Basic Search Engines:

  • General Searches: Investigators start with search engines like Google, Bing, or DuckDuckGo, entering the person’s name along with other identifying information they might have, such as a previous address, employer, or known associates.

  • Advanced Search Queries: Utilizing advanced search techniques or operators can filter and narrow down the search results, making the data more manageable and relevant.

People Search Websites:

  • Websites like Whitepages, Spokeo, Intelius, or BeenVerified allow users to search for individuals using a name, phone number, email, or previous address. These sites aggregate information from various sources, providing details such as current and past addresses, phone numbers, and even information about family members.

  • Most of these services provide basic information for free but require a fee for detailed reports.

Social Media Platforms:

  • Investigators examine profiles, posts, friends’ lists, and photos on platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram. They look for any clues regarding location, such as tagged check-ins or photos with recognizable landmarks.

  • Comments or posts by friends or relatives might inadvertently reveal information about a person’s location or new address.

Public and Government Databases:

  • Many government entities have online portals that provide access to various public records, including criminal records, court records, marriage licenses, and more. These can sometimes reveal a person’s address directly or provide clues leading to their current location.