Support Network for Investigators Investigating Disappeared Individuals

Investigating disappeared individuals can be a distressing and dangerous task. For this reason, it is important for investigators to have a support network.


Begin by interviewing close associates, such as family and friends. Also check with local area hospitals and emergency rooms. Often missing persons are victims of enforced disappearances, but in other cases people just get lost.

1. Contact the Local Police

Every year, hundreds of thousands of individuals go missing worldwide for many reasons—whether it’s due to conflict, criminal abduction, migration, or even natural disasters. These disappearances affect families, friends, and entire communities.

Inquiring about a missing person is a vital step in finding them, and the sooner that happens the better. The longer a person is gone, the harder it is to follow up on leads, and as time passes, evidence deteriorates or may disappear altogether.

It’s important to provide the police with as much information as possible, including a current photo of the missing person, a physical description (including tattoos, scars, or birthmarks), and details about what they were wearing the day they disappeared. It’s also helpful to include medical information like whether they take any medication and whether they suffer from any conditions that could make them particularly vulnerable to danger. Also, note whether the person was traveling with any other people and their contact information.

2. Organize a Search

When someone disappears, family members should reach out to their friends and community to spread the word. This includes canvassing homeless shelters if the missing person was known to frequent those facilities, or checking local mental health facilities if they suffer from a condition like depression or anxiety.

Make a list of places where the person often went, people they spoke to frequently and any other pertinent information. Providing this to law enforcement can help them track down their whereabouts.

Also, registering the missing person with additional databases can give investigators another set of clues. This is especially important for individuals who disappear under suspicious circumstances. Those cases may include runaways from custody battles, parents who have kidnapped children or criminals who are evading justice. These situations are categorized as being more serious and typically require the attention of specialized police teams.

3. Gather Clues

As private investigators, we are constantly on the lookout for clues that may help solve cases. We also work on hypotheses based on what could have happened to the individual who disappeared.

Sudden disruptions in a missing person’s routine are often the first indication something is wrong. People tend to leave behind important items like their cell phone, favorite food, money, valuables, keys, clothing and so on. They also leave behind loved ones and their normal schedule, making it difficult for them to disappear on purpose.

Using skip tracing is an excellent way to find out where someone has been. This is a tool used by collection agencies, bounty hunters and private detectives to track down those trying to hide. It also helps uncover social media activity and images that may provide a lead. Hanging fliers in public areas is another excellent way to gather information. Gas stations, grocery stores and local libraries are great places to start.

4. Contact the Media

In some cases, loved ones of missing individuals are able to provide clues that lead to the person’s discovery. However, it’s important for journalists to be empathetic when interviewing family members and avoid sharing information that may give their loved one false hope. Moreover, family members can also be a source of danger for themselves because their searches can put them in the hands of criminals and gangs.

Distribute photos and fliers with a description of the person, including their age, physical description, and the date they went missing. Send the information to local TV stations, and try to get them to cover the story. Consider contacting a private investigator, who can use social media to reach out to people who might know the missing individual. Additionally, a private investigator can investigate financial transactions to create a timeline of activity.

5. Investigate Financial Transactions

Many people turn to private investigators when law enforcement has closed the case on a missing person, or what is considered a “cold case.” North American Investigations has helped reconnect families with loved ones who disappeared upwards of fifty years ago.

When investigating a missing person, it is important to review all avenues of inquiry and develop various hypothesis. It is also important to keep good records and notes of all lines of inquiry. This can help save time in the future, if other investigations are needed.

When investigating missing persons, it is important to look into financial transactions. Checking when a person last accessed their bank account can help identify their location at the time of disappearance. It is also important to consider the possibility that a person may be using an alias name. Using CLEAR to search for aliases can reveal data patterns that may uncover the use of a synthetic identity, where parts of real information are mixed with incorrect data.

6. Investigate Social Media

Missing persons investigations have traditionally been more costly for police agencies than theft or assault (Fyfe, Stevenson, and Woolnough 2015). In recent years, many families have turned to social media to ask the public for assistance.

Unfortunately, the public may post inappropriate information that can compromise an investigation. This can include identifying information or updates that could alert perpetrators to possible police activity or enquiries.

Trolls have also been known to target vulnerable members of the public, such as families of missing individuals. They will bombard the main family correspondent with messages that imply their loved one has died or something terrible has happened to them. This can lead to family members performing their own searches, potentially jeopardizing the investigation.

Private investigators can use social media to cross-reference and verify information provided by witnesses, suspects, or other parties involved in a case. They can also conduct digital surveillance and track the movement of an individual’s online activities in real-time.