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Researching a U.S. Target - for investigators & other spooks
Researching a U.S. Target

Researching a U.S. Target

The contents of this text document are a starting point for anyone who wishes to research a US target, however, much of the information may be relevant to Canadian citizens. The majority of information can be found in Net Detective 2000, a retail program. I take no credit for their work but believe the information they have published should be free, as should all information. This information is legal but I none the less decree than any action you take with this information is not my responsibility.
For Free,


Local Reference


The purpose of this section is to provide you with general information on some of the sources that investigators and others use to locate people. With the exception of adoption cases and those that have made every effort to hide, everyone leaves a paper trail that can be followed when you know how to go about it. The actual sources that will prove useful to you in your search are quite often decided by what information you have about your target at the onset. Therefore it is best to start your search by gathering every piece of information that you do have and putting it into one central place such as a journal.

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Adoption searches can sometimes prove to be quite difficult due to the privacy laws concerning such matters. A mother who gives up her child for adoption can rightfully expect that her privacy be protected and it is by law in the majority of states. However, depending on what state you need to access records from, state resources may still be of some help and most have some type of assistance available. If you would like to investigate what might be available to you, visit the following web site where complete information on the laws and services available by state government can be found: www.bastards.org/activism/access.htm Thankfully the WWW has made the reunion of many adoptees and their birth parents easier. There are several web sites available for adoption related searches including national and international. Most of these sites work by keeping registers of adoptees and birth parents where each may post a message with information about themselves. This method of searching is usually only successful when both parties are actively searching for one another. Be aware that posting a message within any of the registries available may result in unsolicited e-mail being sent to you from various search related companies.

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Basic Internet People Locate Tools

Internet Search Engines

Occasionally you may be lucky and locate a resume, web page or some other identifying information on someone by simply submitting a search using your target's name on a major Internet search engine. Although the actual success ratio may not be good, some have had success with this simple method and therefore it may be worthy of a few minutes of your time.

Internet People Locators

Numerous free people directories have popped up all over the Internet. Many of these directories have millions of entries including telephone numbers and e-mail addresses. Using an Internet directory to find a female friend who has since married can be difficult if you do not know their new married surname. However, quite often one does know a few details about his friend's parents (or bothers and sisters) such as their last name and general address. It may be a much simpler task to locate your friends parents using a general people search engine on the Internet and then once located, give them a call.

Internet Registries

There are many different types of registries including military, university and high school related that have been setup all over the Internet. If you have some information on where your target attended school or other clubs he attended, searching for a related registry may prove fruitful. The majority of these registry sites provide a database that allows individuals to add messages about themselves. Many of these sites are geared towards a specific group of people (ex: SunnySide High School Grads) and others are more general (ex: Veterans). When visiting a registry, one can usually search using various keywords such as by surname in hopes of finding an entry left by the individual they are searching for.

News groups

The news group soc.net-people has been setup to aid others in locating people. Simply post a message asking for help.

E-mail Addresses

Many people in search of lost friends or family have compiled lists of e-mail addresses for everyone that matches the surname of the person they are looking for. Once they have completed their list, they simply send each address an e-mail. Quite often such an endeavor will produce positive results. Even if the e-mail does not reach the person you are looking for, it may reach someone who knows them.

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Military Locates

If the person you are looking for is serving or has served in the past, finding them may be as simple as using the appropriate military locator service.

Thanks to the freedom of information act you can obtain the following information about military personnel:

- Name
- Rank
- Military Schools attended
- Present and past duty assignments
- Current duty telephone number
- Gross salary
- Awards

Another use for this information could be to locate a friend or relative of the person you are searching for. Once located, you could contact them to inquire about your target.

NATIONAL ARCHIVES OF CANADA - Holds the personnel files of over 5,500,000 former military and civilian employees of the Canadian Armed Forces and the Federal Public Service


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Federal Parent Locator Service

If the purpose of your search is to locate a deadbeat parent who owes child support payments, the Federal Parent Locator Service will be of great assistance. All that is required is that you provide them with the name and SSN of the subject and then they will initiate a search. Once found they will also determine the financial status of the individual and help you recover what is owed.

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Government Locator Services

Post Office

When someone moves, they quite often will provide their local post office with their new address by filing the proper change of address card. This ensures that they continue to receive all of their mail at the new address even when it is addressed to their old address. Fortunately this change of address information which is usually kept for two years by the post office is available to anyone who asks for it. You can request this information in person or by mail.

When requesting forwarding information by mail, simply address an envelope to the invalid address and mark the envelope with ĎDO NOT FORWARD - FORWARDING ADDRESS REQUESTEDí and then mail it. The post office will write the forwarding address on the envelope and them send it back to you using the return address.

If someone is using a PO Box to receive their mail, the post office will not provide you with their physical address information. However, if an individual or company runs a business using a PO Box number, the post office must provide the business ownerís address information to those that request it.

Department of Motor Vehicles

The department of motor vehicles is probably the best known, most used source for obtaining information when faced with the task of locating someone. Depending on the state, it may be the only information source that you will require to locate your target.

The first type of record that you may want to request would be your targetís driving record. Although it will vary from state to state, the record that you request can contain any of the following pieces of information about your subject:

Personal Information - Address, SSN, date of birth

Physical Characteristics - Eye color, hair color, height, weight

Driving Information - Accidents, tickets, license restriction

Even if you do receive all of the information as listed above, you may find that the address that is listed is no longer a valid address. If this is the case and the driverís record indicates that the subject has had traffic tickets or accidents, you should request information about these traffic violations. These records may contain a current address or other identifying information such as a license plate number.

With a license plate number one can usually obtain an up-to-date address for their target by requesting the vehicles registration records. Since a vehicleís registration must be renewed on a yearly basis, information within these records is more likely to be current as opposed to driverís records which are renewed on a much less frequent basis.

Sometimes the vehicle that your target is using (ascertained by traffic ticket records etc.) may be registered to someone else. Although this may not be ideal, it still does provide you with another lead and often to someone who does know where your target is located.

Vital Records

Vital records consist of birth and death certificates, marriage licenses and divorce records. Depending on the state that you wish to query, they may or may not be available to the public.

Although the address information contained within these records is often no longer valid, they may contain contact addresses or other information that can prove useful when requesting records from other sources (such as date of birth from a birth certificate or parentís address). If your subject is a female and you are uncertain as to whether or not she has since married (or divorced) a name search at the proper agency may prove useful in obtaining her current surname.

Voter Registration

In most states, voter registration information is of public record and can be obtained using simply a personís name. Depending on the state, this information may be obtained from a centralized source or may require that you go to county or township level. This record check will usually provide an address but, also quite often provides a date of birth and sometimes even a social security number.

Secretary of State

The Secretary of State is a useful resource for those that want to obtain information on a business or corporation (covered elsewhere). However, it can also be extremely useful for finding a personís address should they actually have any type of license that has been issued from the state. Each state has different occupations which require that an individual be licensed in order to work within the field. Some of these occupations may be as follows:

Accounting, Security, Trucking, Investigation, Services, Builders, Contractors, Pilots, Bankers, Mechanics, Pawnbrokers , Salesman , Real Estate and Professional Services

To determine if your subject has a state license, request a name search from the appropriate Secretary of State agency. Some of these agencies are also available on the internet.

Hunting & Fishing Licenses

If you believe that your subject may enjoy the sport of fishing or hunting, it may be worthwhile to request a name search from the appropriate state agency that maintains these records. If found, most states will return an address and date of birth.

Vessel/Boat Registration Records

In most states boat or vessel owners are required to register their craft. There are currently online searchable databases that you can access and perform a check for such registrations.

Aircraft Registrations

In the United States, small aircraft owners are required to register their planes. This information is open to the public and among the information that you will find is the ownerís address. Databases that you can query within your browser can be found on the internet.

Bankruptcy Records

Many Americans file for bankruptcy everyday. These records are available to the public and quite often provide a wealth of information which may include your subjectís assets, SSN, address, date of birth and employment history. To determine if there are any records for your subject, request a name search from the appropriate state bankruptcy court.

Corporation, Fictitious Name & UCC Filing Records

Various corporations and businesses records are available within each state. Most of these records are open to the public and they provide an excellent source of information should your subject own or be involved in any business or corporation.

Uniform commercial code (UCC) transactions are also available as public record in most states. Therefore if your target has ever borrowed from or lent money or other tangibles to a business they would be listed within the stateís UCC filing records. These records usually contain all the details of the transaction including the participantís name and business addresses.

Social Security Death Index

You can verify as to whether or not your subject has died using the SSN Death database which can currently be accessed for free on the Internet.

County Courthouse Records

There are numerous records available at the County Courthouse, many of which may lead you to your subject and they are also a great source of background information (covered elsewhere). Most of these records can be searched for using just the name of your subject.

Just a few of the records that are available at most courthouses are:

Assumption Agreements
Agreements (for deed, not to encumber)
Amended Judgments
Assignments ( Lien, judgment, lease, mortgage)
Breaches ( Lease, contract, agreement)
Business records
Certificates ( Tax, approval, merger, organization, title)
Change of name
Corporation records
Court records
Discharge or Dismissal records
Lien records
Power of Attorney
Support Agreements
Tax Warrants
Various Tax records

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When a Paper Trail Fails

When there is not much of a paper trail left by your subject, usually the best way to try and locate him is by locating his parents or other relatives. You can be sure that they will almost always know where your subject is located and if you are looking for a lost friend, simply contacting a relative may provide you with the information that you require.

However, if your target is in hiding and you have not been able to find a paper trail to follow, locating your targetís parents, a relative or even his last place of employment may prove to be fruitful. With this contact information and a little luck you may be able to draw your subject out from hiding (or get other useful facts) by establishing a good pretext. In most states it is not unlawful to represent yourself as working for a company that in actuality does not exist. You can even have fake id and/or business cards made that support your claim. Before we go further though, it should be noted that it is against the law to pretend to work for any company that does exist so do your homework.

Pretexts that you could devise and use are almost unlimited and could include such stories as you are trying to locate your target to give him unclaimed property, lost property, contest winnings, or just about any guise that requires he contact you. You could even provide a pre-made business card that supports your story and ask that the relative give the card to your subject so that he may contact you at the number listed. If your target falls for your pretext, you may be lucky enough to capture his phone number with call tracing. Even if he uses a phone other than his own, you may still gather important information such as the state that he called from or a friendís phone number. Remember, locating someone sometimes requires that you collect small pieces of information which when all put together, allow you to accomplish your goal.

One trick used by many investigators who only know the parentís address of a subject, is to watch the parentís house during holidays such as Christmas or Motherís Day. Sometimes their target will show up and depending on the reason for trying to locate the target, they may confront him immediately or simply take down the license plate number of the vehicle that he arrived in. Such a plan also would provide you with the possibility of following the subject to his home address when he leaves.

Another trick that you might want to use if youíre uncomfortable with verbal pretexts is to send some type of pretext via the mail to your targetís parentís address but in his name. There probably is a good chance that the parents of your subject will forward the mail to him and depending on the pretext, he may decide to call a phone number that you provide within the mailing.

As well, do not discount previous places of employment and/or past neighbors when trying to come up with pretext ideas as they may know where your target is located. For example, finding out information at your targetís last known place of employment may be as easy as pretending to be an old workmate. Whatever ideas that you come up with for flushing a target out of hiding, always be careful to make sure that you do not break any federal (including postal) or state laws. Breaking the law to flush out a criminal makes you no better than he is. Therefore remember that depending on what idea you come up with, it may or may not be legal. Always check carefully before you act.

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Background Information


Much of an individualís background can be found within readily available public records. However, your actual investigation will vary according to what information you have available at the onset. Usually the hardest investigation to put together is one where you only have a subject's name.

Depending on the purpose of the background check it can consist of the following:

Police Record Check
Credit Check
Court Records Check
Personal References
Education Check
Previous Employment Check

Many investigators and other researchers will use online Internet information brokers to obtain public records, nonetheless, with a little leg work, Internet surfing and research, one can obtain most of their subjectís background information from public sources.

It should be noted that this sectionís purpose within this text document is not to provide you with the actual addresses, phone numbers and Internet locations for a background investigation but rather to provide you with a general overview of what is available for performing a background check.

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Criminal Records Check

A criminal records search is usually a standard part of any background check. There are various sources that you can use to determine if someone has a criminal record and what route you take will depend on the information you have about your subject at the start.

Nationwide Criminal Records Check

Currently there is only one database available that includes nationwide criminal records. The NCIC (National Crime Information Center) is owned and maintained by the FBI. It is available to law enforcement officials only and cannot be accessed legally by the general public.

The fact that this information is not available to the general public has created an enormous underground market. Quite often the information is obtained from former law officials who have an associate on the inside. However, obtaining information from the database in this manner is not only illegal for the provider but there are also strict penalties for the buyer of such information.

A legal source that is available to anyone for limited information is the Federal Prison Locator. Although they will not provide you with a person's criminal history, you can find out if your subject has ever spent time in a federal prison within the United States. Contact numbers are as follows:

Federal Prison Locator - Records From 1981 to present - (202) 307-3126

Federal Prison Archives - Records before 1981 - (202) 307-2934

State Criminal Records Check

Currently there are 27 states that will allow you to search for criminal records statewide. If your subject is within one of these states, this is probably a good place to start. However, even if a statewide check is available to you, a county level record check may be an option that you do not want to overlook. Quite often weeks or even months can elapse before you receive the information requested from a statewide check. As well, some states may require a signed release or may not provide a complete history of your subject.

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Credit Checks

A credit check can easily be done if you have a signed release from your subject such as is found on some employment applications or credit authorization forms. There are currently three major credit bureaus that compile credit information:


The three agencies listed above are individual private agencies. Each one maintains a separate report for each individual and quite often, the information found at one agency is not the same as found at another. Under certain circumstances an individual can request their own credit report for free, however, when requesting authorized information on another individual, you will be charged a fee. Therefore it may be worthwhile to simply obtain these records using an online service due to the speed of delivery and convenience that they can offer.

Other sources which are available to you for credit information and that are of public record are uniform commercial code filing, lien and bankruptcy records.

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County Court Records

Records found at the county courthouse can provide you with a great deal of background information and most of the records available are open to anyone who requests them. Some of the information that can usually be found at the county level includes:

Business records and license information
Property records
Police records
Criminal records
Civil records including small claims
Tax records
Probate records
Traffic records
Auto tag registrations
Voter registration

Depending on the state, many of these records can also be found at a state level as well. It is always best when possible to start at a state level (state district court) and then work your way down to the county level. Whatever method you use, remember that if your target has lived in different counties, youíll need to check each county separately.

If you are unsure of how to go about searching for records at the county courthouse, ask the court clerk or other staff for assistance.

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Education Verification

Most schools, colleges and other education facilities will provide a past studentís records. Unfortunately few will provide this information over the phone but rather most require that you mail them your request. Some schools will not provide any records without a signed release from the subject. Consequently, it is best that you take the time to call the school administration number to determine what requirements they may have before you mail in your request.

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Additional Checks For Business

Better Business Bureau

Any business check should include a phone call to the local Better Business Bureau (BBB). If a customer has ever filed a complaint about the business, you will have access to the complaint record. This record(s) can sometimes provide a great deal of information that you would not have found elsewhere.

Secretary of State

The Secretary of State is a useful resource for those that want to obtain information about a business or corporation. Depending on the state in which the business resides, you may be able to find anything from registration records to disciplinary actions taken against licensed professionals within the business.

Bankruptcy Records

To help determine the likelihood of a business going bankrupt, you may want to check for previous bankruptcies under the ownerís name. These records are available to the public and may provide other information that is useful as well. To determine if there are any records for your subject, request a name search from the appropriate state bankruptcy court.

Corporation, Fictitious Name & UCC Filing Records

Most of these records are open to the public and many can even be found within searchable databases on the Internet. Uniform commercial code (UCC) transactions are particularly informative in a business background check and the records usually provide details of the transactions that were filed.

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Other Checks you may want to Perform

Depending on the purpose of your background information check and the information that you have, you may want to include the following within your investigation.

Previous Employment Check

- Checking previous employment can be as simple as making a phone call but of course will vary from business to business. Most businesses will not release any personal information but they can verify employment dates and overall performance of the subject.


- Checking with neighbors can sometimes provide you with information that you would not have been able to obtain elsewhere. However, such information can be unreliable and usually requires a good pretext to obtain. It is usually worth the effort since it often offers other leads for you to follow.

Personal References

- Personal references such as those usually requested on an employment application are usually not even worth checking unless you have very specific questions that you feel might be answered. It goes without saying that not many if any will list references that have anything but good reports to offer. The actual personal references that a subject provides may offer you a more accurate picture of your subject than what they actually have to say. (i.e.: Do the references include professional people or respected citizens etc.)

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