How to Track Down a Missing Person that Needs to be Served
If you’re trying to serve process to someone in Colorado that doesn’t want to be found, you’re in luck! The professional process servers at Accurate Serve® in Denver are trained to hunt down even the most evasive individuals. We can even do skip traces or diligent searches to find process recipients. But how do we do it?
Our clients typically provide some very basic information about the defendants and witnesses they need to serve. If the client happens to know the defendant or witnesses well, then they usually give enough information for us to find the intended recipient with ease. However, there are times when things aren’t so easy. In this post, we’ll go over some of our top tips for locating defendants and witnesses for service of process.
Process serving used to be a completely in-person type of affair, but in the past 10-20 years it seems that everything has gone online. From court records to tax bills to posts about their dinner tonight, almost everything about a person can now be found online. This makes a computer a great place to start when trying to locate someone. But where to begin?
It’s impossible to come up with a complete list of places to search online for information about someone, as new sites pop up every day while others shut down. Also, the intended process recipient might not be registered or active on a certain site today, only to sign up and begin posting tomorrow. Or maybe they’re into a very niche hobby and only active on groups or sites related to that hobby. This makes online research about people very fluid and apt to change at a moment’s notice.
So let’s start with a few basics. Unless you’ve been off the grid for the past three decades, you’ve surely heard of Google. Google has become such a behemoth in the world of online search that its name is literally used as a verb for searching online. While there are other search engines out there (remember Bing?), we recommend starting with Google since it is the largest and most used. To get started, simply type your process recipient’s name and last known address into the search bar and hit Enter. You’ll probably see a whole page of links referencing your target appear. Open up each link and either print off the information related to your process recipient (or take notes in a dedicated notebook or online document). You can flip through the pages of search results as needed, but Google does a pretty good job of putting the most recent and relevant links on the first page. While gathering this search result information, pay attention to things like known associates, other addresses, phone numbers, hobbies, or anything else that may help guide you to the target.
Not seeing enough relevant results? Sometimes Google just needs a little help to figure out exactly what you want. For example, does the process recipient have a very common name, like John Michael Smith? Google might have a hard time pinning down the exact person in this case, as it will look for all combinations of the name by default. This means you’ll see info on John Smith, Michael Smith, John Michael, etc. Add in the confusion of initials, and you can see how difficult finding the right person can be. Eliminate this headache by using search operators, or little shortcuts that help the search engine focus on exactly what you need. In this case, using the “” symbols will help a lot. Simply place the recipient’s name in quotation marks – “John Michael Smith” along with their last known address or city, and Google will now only show results that have that exact name in that exact order. Also, try combinations like “John M. Smith” or “J.M. Smith”.
This simple search technique will reveal more information about your process recipient than you can imagine. In many cases, this is all that is needed to find a good address or phone number for the recipient.
Search Local Records
In many areas of the U.S., government and other local records are now available online. If you think you know the city or county where the process recipient is located, you can try going to that city or county’s website and searching through property records or tax bills to find contact information for them. If the recipient frequents multiple counties, search all of them for the best information. You can also search these records for their known associates, as people often register property or vehicles in other people’s names.
Another great resource could be Colorado’s Secretary of State Business Entity Search site, where you can find information about registered business owners in the state if you know the business name.
There are still some areas, especially in rural locations, that do not have their records published online. In these areas, you’ll need to actually call or visit the Register of Deeds or Tax Department in person to gather information.
Let’s say the Google search for the process recipient wasn’t as fruitful as expected. No worries! We can dig a little deeper into the online world to hopefully uncover more information. One great place to look online for information about people is their social media accounts. Now, when we say social media, people automatically think of the big boys like TikTok, Facebook (Meta), Instagram, Snapchat, or Twitter. However, there are dozens, if not hundreds, of social media sites out there today. Many of these alternative social media sites are fine-tuned to the interests of their users. For example, Twitch is a popular social media site that specializes in video game streaming, while imgur caters to photographers. Knowing a little about the process recipient’s interests and background might help you find the right social media site to search for. Keep in mind that you may need to register on many of these sites to search their users and that it is unethical to lie to anyone about your identity or purpose, even if it’s on social media.
Our favorite social media sites to search for evasive process recipients include:
- Facebook (Meta)
- Truth Social
Hit the Pavement
If you’ve scoured every corner of the internet but still can’t get a good idea of where the process recipient is located, it’s time to hit the streets. Start by visiting the addresses and associates that you do know, and ask questions about the process recipient’s current location. While their associates probably won’t give them up to you, it’s not uncommon to get a call from the intended recipient once they find out you’re chatting up their friends and family.
If you’ve got a good idea of where the intended process recipient may be, but you think you’re missing them during your service attempts, it may be time for a stakeout. While this may invoke images of sleuths camping out in their van on a street corner for days, modern-day stakeouts are rarely so involved. The use of cameras and even drones in stakeouts makes them much easier and gives video evidence. Just be sure to check on any public recording or drone flying laws in the area before setting anything up.
They Can’t Hide From Accurate Serve®!
Do you need to find an elusive process recipient in the Denver area? We’ve got you covered. At Accurate Serve®, our servers have the skills and resources to track down almost any process recipient. Call us at (303) 501-7121 or send us a work request online to get started today.