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Home < Tips for Hiring a Private Investigator < Hire a Private Investigator to Find Someone

Hire A Private Investigator To Find Someone


Hire A Private Investigator To Find Someone

So, you're looking at hiring a private investigator to find someone for you; but what exactly does that involve? Maybe you’ve been searching for someone and have reached a dead end. With no more leads to go on and desperate to locate this person, maybe you concluded that using a private detective is your last resort. Well, be rest assured, there is hope!

IMPORTANT NOTE: Before continuing with this article and before you hire an investigator to find who it is you're looking for; you should consider reporting any missing person to the police, particularly children. The police will usually only be immediately concerned where children are missing, or vulnerable people such as the elderly or mentally retarded. Don’t go asking the police to find a debtor for you, unless a crime has been committed by that person.

And, DO NOT consider illegally hiring a private investigator to locate someone for you. It has been known for criminals to use private investigators to track people down in order to do them harm: this is illegal.

Why Does Someone Go Missing?

A missing person is really only a missing to those needing to find them; for whatever reason. The “missing person” may not know or be aware that they are being sought after and will not consider themselves as missing. But whether the person is aware of it or not, it can still be very distressing for those needing to find them, particularly with relatives. The majority of people who are missing are that way because they want to be and not because of abduction or being lost. Usually, there are reasons for someone to suddenly disappear, such as:

  • Money or debt problems.
  • Family arguments.
  • Marital problems.
  • Psychological problems.
  • Work stress.
  • Having committed a crime.
  • Fugitive on the run.
  • Some unbearable problem they are running away from.

The runaway person has found some situation in life that has become so difficult to bear that they need to get away or skip town. The missing person - or “skip” as they are also known - has lost the ability to confront (comfortably face) an area of their life and have become effect of it. The solution is to get the "runaway" back to a state where they feel they can confront the area of life they are running away from – but first you must find them!

Can A Private Investigator Find Someone?

Missing person investigations or "skip tracing" generally covers finding runaways, lost relatives, and debtors; but, are also used in the legal and finance sectors to locate beneficiaries and even witnesses. Private investigators have developed methods to evaluate situations from the information they are given, and from this they can move in a logical fashion in locating the missing person.

An investigator in one country, or state, may have to use different resources and legal means of obtaining information than one in another country or state; but the methods used and information needed are usually very similar. A missing person investigator has the skills, knowledge, and resources to locate nearly anyone. Provided you know how to hire the right investigator and can provide some basic information, you should be in good hands.

What Information Does A Private Investigator Need To Locate Someone?

The more information on the missing person that’s available to the investigator the better. So, whatever you have, no matter how small or insignificant you feel something is, hand it over. Your missing person case may be impeded and take longer, if you don’t supply all the information you have.

Depending on who it is that is looking for someone, will usually dictate what information is available. If you are a business looking for a debtor, the information will most likely be related to a financial agreement. If a family member looking for a birth parent, a birth certificate will be available. Here’s a list of some of the top pieces of information a missing person investigator will need when you hire them:

  • Full name(s) including maiden or former names.
  • Most up-to-date photograph or full description.
  • Last known home address.
  • Previous home addresses.
  • Contact details (phone numbers / email addresses).
  • Date and place of birth.
  • Occupation and current employer's details.
  • Previous employers' details.
  • Marital status.
  • Nationality.
  • Passport details.
  • Driving license details.
  • Car / vehicle ownership details.
  • Bank and credit card statements.
  • Relatives, friends, and associates.
  • Habits, hobbies, and hangout places.
  • Details of social media accounts.
  • Recent trips (domestic and abroad).
  • Medical history (mental and drug history).
  • Education and qualifications.
  • Any life problems (money, relationships, etc.).
  • Any police involvement.


This information checklist is by no means complete, but it will give you some idea of what information is needed when you hire a private investigator to find someone for you. As we have said, it's very important to provide as much information to the investigator as you can when you hire them at the start, before conducting any type of missing person inquiries - it’s in your best interest.

How Does A Private Investigator Find Someone?

When you hire a private investigator to locate someone, you are hiring someone who usually has years of training and experience in tracking people down. They will have developed their people tracing methods and resources over the years, while working as a PI, and perfected their skills, knowledge, methods and resources, as well as their wit.

To give you some idea as to how a private investigator will proceed in tracking someone down; first of all, they will ask you for the information mentioned above. They will evaluate the information you give them to build some form of life picture of the missing person and develop a plan of search. The investigator will start making enquiries from their office, as this is usually the cheapest and more efficient method. Such enquiries will consist of:

  • Phone calls to the last known address, neighbors, work, friends, etc.
  • Internet research, social media accounts, online directories
  • Online records research


There are many avenues for the investigator to pursue when searching for someone and its surprising what information is available - if you know where to look. If, however, they come to a halt, with no more avenues just dead ends, they will then need to do some, what is called, “leg-work”. Leg-work is simply moving out from the office and making physical inquiries. The investigator will visit the last known address, relatives, and places the missing person could be.

Two Types of Approach the Investigator Can Use to Find People

There are two types of approach a private investigator will use to find someone, when making inquiries by phone or through physical house-to-house, person-to-person visits, and these are:

    • An open approach: this method is overt (open, not hidden) and is used when there is no reason to hide the fact the missing person is being searched for, such as for an old friend or family member.

    • A closed approach: this method is covert (hidden) where the investigator will need to use his wits, imagination and acting skills to find out information. This method is usually used in finding debtors, fugitives, or runaway teenagers that don’t want to be found.


    This will give you some idea of what to expect and how an investigation will proceed with a missing person case; but all investigators will have their own methods of finding people.

    How Long Does It Take For A Private Investigator To Find Someone?

    The amount of time it takes for a private investigator to find a missing person varies from case to case. Some simple cases may only take an hour or two (with a few phone calls), more complex cases can take weeks, or even months. There are a number of factors to consider when talking about how long it takes to find someone. Some of these factors include:

    • The type and amount of information available regarding the missing person.
    • The age and quality of the information that’s available.
    • If the missing person is avoiding being found (as with debtors and fugitives).
    • The cost and how much you are willing to spend.

    These are some things to consider when you want a private investigator to locate someone. The investigator you hire will be able to assess whether the case is going to be simple or difficult and may be able to give you an indication of time. But do not expect the estimate to be guaranteed, as missing person investigations can take unusual turns, altering the length of time it takes to find the person. The investigator will usually keep you informed on how your case is progressing, so you are not kept in the dark.

    Using Online People Search Companies vs Hiring a Private Investigator

    Using online people search companies

    If you search online there are many excellent (some cheap and some expensive) web-based companies offering services for finding missing people, and these can be very useful. But be aware...

    • They do web-based searches only.
    • They are limited to the data on their system.
    • The data can be old and outdated.
    • There are no other searches done outside of their system.
    • They do not do physical inquiries, if their data produces no good results.


    Using private investigators to search for someone

    If you hire a private investigator to locate someone:

    • They also use online people search databases.
    • They have access to other, more restricted, online databases not available to the public.
    • They will search beyond these databases.
    • They will conduct house-to-house / physical inquiries.

    How Much Does A Private Investigator Cost To Find Someone?

    So, the BIG question always at the forefront of everyone's mind is; how much does it cost to hire a private investigator to find someone? This question has intentionally been left until last for a specific reason. To understand how much it costs to find someone, it is first important to understand what's involved in missing person investigations. And hopefully now you have some grasp of the task ahead of an investigator.


    Factors that will vary the price for you

    The costs to find someone using a private investigator will vary, depending on the following:

    • The quality of the investigator you hire (their experience and determination).
    • The location (town, city, or country) of the investigator you hire.
    • The complexity of your case (what data is available, is it a missing person cold case, etc.).
    • The methods needed to be employed.


    The cost to hire a private investigator will vary, as they charge differently, but you can expect either a set-based or hourly charged fee, or both. The investigator may at first offer a set fee of say $300-$1000, which will usually consist of office-based inquiries only - phone calls and database searches. This fee will be reasonable, and if they successfully find the person, with a few phone calls, then you will be paying a minimal fee.

    If they are unsuccessful with office-based inquiries, they will more than likely switch to charging you an hourly fee for physical inquiries - door-to-door leg-work - if you wish to continue hiring them. With an hourly fee, you can expect to pay from around $60-$100 an hour for tracing missing persons (or the equivalent in other countries).

    Things To Remember About Hiring A Private Investigator to Locate People

    If there is anything to understand and take away from this article, it would be these points:

    • Always report a missing child or vulnerable person to the police.
    • Hiring a private investigator to locate someone in order to do them harm is illegal.
    • Give the investigator all the information you have on the person you want to find.
    • Be prepared to wait; especially if the person being looked for has been missing for a long time.
    • Online people search websites are only as good as the information they hold that is up-to-date.
    • The investigator's pricing structure can change. Make sure you agree fee structure at the outset.

    Remember, for whatever reason, you are hiring someone that has developed their skills and resources to track down even the most elusive of missing people. If you want to hire a private investigator to locate someone for you then search our private investigator directory.

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