Missing Persons Investigation

When people are reported missing to police they are entered into the National Crime Information Center. It’s important to give the police all the details of your case so that they can prioritize the search for that person.


In some cases the family of a missing person hires a private investigator. This is a difficult but rewarding investigative area that our agency has experience in.

Background Checks

Missing persons investigations often involve individuals who have attempted to hide their identity and have made it very difficult for investigators to locate them. PI’s can perform thorough background checks to determine where the person has been in the past and how they may have changed their appearance, name or other identifying information. A criminal or civil history check, credit report, employment and social media activity are all part of the background investigation. Investigators can also interview family members, friends, acquaintances and other people who know the subject to learn more about their recent whereabouts or to uncover clues that may help with the location of a missing person.

If a missing person is known to have visited places where they are likely to be found, such as a mortuary or hospital, investigators can conduct surveillance in these facilities to identify the individual. Investigators can also search through trash, dumpsters or other personal belongings left behind for pickup to find evidence that a person has tried to change their identity, such as books about how to do so or information on websites to access fake ID cards.

Missing persons cases are among the most challenging assignments for law enforcement officers. These cases involve both legal and emotional issues and must be addressed quickly and efficiently.

Interviewing Witnesses

Missing persons investigators rely on a variety of techniques and resources to locate people. They conduct background checks, pay informants, search the Internet and public records, interview witnesses and pursue leads wherever they may lead. This is a very time-consuming and labor intensive process. Investigators often work with local law enforcement to coordinate the investigation.

While families frequently reflect positively on police interview tactics in terms of their ability to jog memories and generate ideas, they also report that the police struggle to take seriously the character and personhood of their missing loved one. This is especially true for those missing in the context of armed conflict.

The reason for this is likely a combination of factors: the fact that interviews are often carried out over the telephone, where it can be difficult to assess a witness’ emotional state; the fact that many of the interviews are conducted by officers who are not familiar with the complexities of a case and the nuances of family witness statements; and the prevailing view in some communities that high-tech methods are more valuable than good investigative interviewing.

In addition, it is important to recognize that investigations of disappearances are usually rooted in traumatic events, and that the sensitivity required for interviews of witnesses with PTSD is an added layer of complexity that is often underestimated. A good understanding of how trauma impacts memory and information retention can also help in the development of interview strategies that account for these complexities.


Missing persons investigations may require surveillance to find a missing person. Surveillance is the observation and monitoring of a person or group of people, either with their knowledge (overt surveillance) or without it (covert surveillance). It can also involve recording audio, video, or data on someone’s computer, phone, or other device. Investigators use a variety of techniques and devices to perform surveillance, including covert cameras and recorders and GPS tracking. The technology used in surveillance has developed rapidly, from the static face recognition systems featured on the TV series “The Capture” to live facial analysis of a suspect.

Some people who intentionally disappear and change their identities are very difficult to locate. These cases can be solved only by obtaining information about their activities, which is difficult for private investigators to do unless they have access to confidential sources. The days when a PI could ask his mate in the police to do a quick intelligence check on a missing person are long gone. Family members under instruction, however, may be able to help if bribes or threats are offered.

A well-established private investigative agency can use many resources to assist in a missing person’s investigation. In addition to surveillance, they can pay informants, search public databases and the Internet, study police records and interview witnesses. They can also search facilities like mortuaries and hospitals, where the person might be found, and perform background checks and a variety of other methods to find a missing person.

Locating the Person

In most missing persons investigations, the goal is to find the person. This can be accomplished in a variety of ways. Police can contact family members, known associates, school or work colleagues and review public records to determine their whereabouts. They can also ping cell phones to determine their location, review city surveillance cameras and organize community searches.

A private investigator can be a valuable resource in missing persons cases. A private investigator can help determine if the person is a runaway or if foul play is suspected. They can also interview potential witnesses and search for clues such as financial transactions, social media activity and phone records.

Lastly, it is always a good idea to canvass the area where the person was last seen. Start by posting flyers around their home, school, work and any other areas they frequented. Enlist friends, family and volunteers to help you. Drive the routes they normally take such as to and from work, school and grocery stores.

Finally, reach out to local hospitals and emergency rooms. Ask if they have received any patients with the person’s description. It is important to provide a clear and detailed description. This can also help establish a timeline of their activities. Also, you can check with local coroners to ensure the missing person has not been reported deceased.