Guns, Gams & Gumshoes

A defense attorney & PI who also happen to be writers

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  • Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes

Four Free Tips to Find a Long-Lost Friend

Posted by Writing PIs on December 4, 2010

Just last week, a fellow private eye was prepping his family’s Thanksgiving turkey when he spied an article in the local paper about a woman wanting to find a long-lost relative so she could pass on the family Bible.  He used a proprietary database that many private investigators use to locate people, and within minutes had found several people who might be that woman’s relative–turned out one of them was the right person and on Thanksgiving, a very grateful woman found the long-lost heir to their family Bible.

Although most people don’t have access to such proprietary databases–which are fee-based, and available only to professional PIs and other professions such as law enforcement, law firms, collection agencies–there are several free resources people can use to search for a long-lost friend, high school sweetheart, neighbor, or other acquaintance.  Let’s look at 4 of these free resources:

Free Tip #1: Look up the person’s name in Google.  At our investigations agency, Google is the first place we’ll run a name (phone number, address, or other identifying information) because it’s still the most comprehensive, public, and free search engine available. Let’s say you’re looking for Billy Jones, and the two of you went to high school in SmallTown Nebraska.  In the Google browser, type “Billy Jones SmallTown Nebraska” (without the quotation marks), press the Google Search button, then review the results.  All instances that Google finds of Billy Jones in that town/state will display as links to websites, blogs, social networking engines, online documents (such as resumes), and much more.  Click on a link and search that online site/document for additional contact information for Billy Jones–this will require some patience and sleuthing on your part as you’ll be reading through information and picking out relevant bits to aid your search (for example, you might see Billy Jones’s name in a roster for an upcoming high school reunion, or a reference to a relative of Billy Jones still living in SmallTown). Use those bits of information to continue your search (for example, contact the high school reunion committee and request they send a message from you to Billy Jones, or call directory assistance for SmallTown Nebraska and ask for Billy Jones’s relative’s phone number).  You might also get lucky and find a website for Billy Jones with an email address that you can use to write him directly.

Note: If you’re looking for a woman’s name, keep in mind her surname may have changed due to marriage.

Free Tip #2: Conduct a deep web name search using Pipl. Some statistics claim the deep web (also called the invisible web) is 500 times more comprehensive than the surface web because its web crawlers find information traditional web crawlers can’t.  One useful free deep web search engine is Pipl, which searches websites, social networking sites, online profiles, online news articles, and much more. Go to Pipl.com, enter the person’s first and last names, and a known city and state.  As in the above Google search, click on links in the results, and look for any relevant information that can help you find more contact information for the person.

Note: The results in Pipl are littered with pay-for research sites (usually highlighted in yellow).  Skip these and search the other, free links.

Free Tip #3: Check the name in Kgbpeople.  This search engine breaks down results in 4 categories: social networks, search engines, photo/video/audio, and personal.  As in the above searches, click on a link and review its contents for any relevant information that might lead you to contact information for that name.  You can also filter your search with keywords, or click on one of the tags associated with that name.

Free Tip #4: Check a local criss-cross directory. Did the person live in your city or neighboring region?  One free, and very handy resource is your local library.  Often, they maintain criss-cross directories (also called reverse directories) that go back a decade or more, and in which you can search by surname and other identifiers (such as occupation, former phone number, street address).  It’s possible a criss-cross directory reveals Billy Jones still lives in the region.  Or you might find a relative’s or former employer’s name who can provide you with current contact information for Billy.  Ask your reference librarian to show you where they keep their criss-cross directories.

Not a free resource, but the best way to locate a person if other attempts fail: Hire a professional private investigator.  At our agency, we’re often tasked with locating people not only in our region, but throughout the United States as well.  For our services, contact us at Highlands Investigations 303-500-9604 (http://www.highlandsinvestigations.com/).

To find a professional private investigator in your state, contact your state professional private investigator association (for a listing of all state PI associations, go to PIMagazine.com (under “PI Links” in the top blue bar, select “State Associations – USA”).

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