Before you begin your own search or retain someone to search on your behalf, you need to know that success cannot be guaranteed. If you have an unlimited budget, the odds of success (success being defined not only as finding a person or thing that you are looking for, but also making contact with that person or thing) are greatly improved. However, given that most of us will be working with a limited budget the likelihood that our search will result in complete success is reduced.
The first reason you may not have success is due to the fact that the person or thing you are looking for can’t be found using only a computer and telephone or it doesn’t exist. Among those things not likely to exist are hidden pockets of wealth such as real property, hidden bank accounts and stock portfolios. More often than not, a client’s belief that such things must exist is based on wishful or spiteful thinking. If an ex-spouse, ex-partner or ex-business partner took off with cash, the cash is more than likely spent, not stashed.
Sometimes people cannot be found because they are “off the gird.” In this case, its the information grid. Whether intentionally or not, people may not show up through basic search techniques because they just aren’t leaving a paper trail and they are not utilizing any of the more familiar social networks. If they do not buy a house, rent an apartment, buy or rent a car or otherwise establish credit, they may not show with any current information. If they live with others, but do appear on a lease or mortgage, they may not show up anywhere. Even basic white pages searches are less productive than they once were because so many people rely exclusively on their cell phones. (Mobile phones for our European readers.)
I had one case that took 2 and 1/2 years to find the subject largely because he just stopped living in a way that left much of a trail and he had fairly common name. (See the upcoming post on information to collect before you search) In case you are wondering if I was slacking off, the FBI didn’t find him at all. That does happen with regularity, particularly when a person makes a concerted effort to live “off the grid.”
For all the reasons stated above, young people are difficult to track even if they use Facebook or any other social network. If they have a common name, you may have to try to work your way through many hundreds of possible matches on Facebook alone. If you are hiring someone to do the search the meter is running and that part of the search alone could take a great many hours. Teenagers and people in their early twenties can be very difficult to track until they start applying for credit or start their own businesses.
When starting a search, you must keep in mind that the possibility exists that the subject of your search cannot be found, at least for now.
Next: Why search results can’t be guaranteed. (Part 2)