Locating People Who’ve Gone Off The Grid.

disappearing

Investigators are often asked to conduct subject locates. The usual paper trail: telephone records, address histories, voter registrations, professional licenses, civil and criminal court filings, Department of Motor Vehicle records, credit reporting agency records, Social Security data, etc., will, in a majority of cases, return with the subject’s current and valid contact information. But what do you do if the subject is simply not in the mainstream – for whatever reason: joblessness, homelessness or “on the run”? What then?

The success of a subject locate depends on several factors including the information provided to the investigator and the investigator’s own skills and tenacity.

We’ve put together a checklist for locating transient witnesses that has generally returned successful locates:

1. Check the name and SSN versus death records. (Don’t assume the subject is alive but definitely rule out that he isn’t.)

2. Scour social media for leads.  (We all know the drill at this point: Facebook, Instagram, etc.)

3. Interview family and friends. (Remember to request the date of  last known contact.)

4 . Upon developing a location start off point, check with local and adjoining police departments.  Electronically, check VineLink.com. (In their own words: VINELink is the online version of VINE (Victim Information and Notification Everyday), the National Victim Notification Network. This service allows crime victims to obtain timely and reliable information about criminal cases and the custody status of offenders 24 hours a day.)

5. Check with area hospitals and morgues.

6. Contact the local Salvation Army center and other charity organizations in the area.

7. If you are aware of the subject’s hobbies, (e.g., wine-tasting), scour the social groups, such as Meet-Up, for meeting events.  (We’ve backed up into subjects by identifying a particular interest and then contacting group members.)

8. Identify and canvass, if applicable,  local day worker locations and restaurant, bars and clubs – especially seasonal venues.

9. Recon area bus and train stations.

and finally, go the digital milkbox route:

10. Post a YouTube video, or Instagram picture of the subject, if family and or friends can provide reasonable current photos of the subject.  Add as many tags as you can to increase the chances of good hits.

Most importantly, though, when a case first enters a law firm, as much personal information , i.e., contact and emergency contact info should be obtained as possible. Our experience bears out that in the vast majority of situations,  someone “disappearing into thin air” is just a myth.

BNI Operatives: Situationally aware.

As always, be safe.

Falling Off The Grid: A How-To Disappear. Part I/II

As an investigator for well over a decade, often employed in a skip-tracing capacity, I’ve learned how a  person can disappear (fall off the grid) or modify their public data (perception management). Without delving too much into SEO and other optimization methods hawked on the market, we focus on running our people tracer searches in reverse; i.e., locate the public information available on an individual and then follow the below masking methods.  To ensure that a person has successfully dropped off of the grid, we then try to locate them ourselves; determining how well our cloaking measures have worked.

There are basically three steps involved in falling off the grid.

1. Misinformation.  There is so much electronically available information on individuals now that turning this data to suit your needs may indeed appear to be a Sisyphean task.  (We are not referring to allegedly protected information such as your Social Security Number or credit rating; albeit the latter can be manipulated as well by simply adopting a new identity.  We’ll get to that in a later article.)   I’m referring to contact information given way too freely to cell phone and cable companies, utilities and even to marketing professionals just to receive nonvaluable products or services.

Solution: Locate and deviate your known information.  I.e.,  Select a letter of the alphabet different from your middle initial or invent one if you don’t have a second name. Open a P.O. Box, directing your street address to that of an identity securer’s physical address.   Select a different date of birth.  Where and when applicable, use these three new misinformants.  As marketers, cable, fraternal organizations… upgrade their selling lists, this new information will begin to be applied to your newer identity.  Your old information will begin to drop off of aging consumer lists.

2. Disinformation.  Similar to the above but with the direct intent to mislead an aggressive researcher.

Solution: Have your created data result redirected to a different city.  Make it as difficult and expensive as possible to have the would-be seeker find you.

3. Necessary contact.  So you’ve won the lottery, need to fall off the grid for a while (if only to regain a sense of balance in your life) but you still wish to remain in contact with your family (the real ones and not those having recently spilled out of the woodwork upon news of your winnings).

Solution: Pre-paid cell phones, Internet cafes or hot spots, pre-paid calling cards and pay for everything in cash.

In our next article, we will cover the art of perception management.  Expertly applied by politicians (except Senator Edwards), large corporations and dictatorially run oppressed nations.

Our Operatives: Street smart, tech savvy.

As always, stay safe.

Louis C. Amen, NYPD, Det., ret.