How to Hire a PI to find a Missing Person and the Reasons People go Missing.

Hiring a PI to find a Missing Person: Reasons People decide to go “Missing”

Written by Shaun E. Sundahl, Private Investigator

Date of Publication: July 3, 2011


Why did the person whom we are looking for choose to go “missing?” This is a question the client should be able to answer as it will assist the Private Investigator in locating the missing person.

Drug or Alcohol Abuse

The veteran PI knows drug use or alcohol abuse is a popular reason contact between client and missing person cease. In many cases the missing person ceases contact with the client because he or she either began or is continuing a life of drug or alcohol abuse. The missing person avoids contact with the client since he or she understands the negative stigma of being associated with drug or alcohol abuse. Unfortunately, you as the client are a reminder of the negative stigma. People naturally flow to others who support their values, beliefs, and addiction, although detrimental or even fatal to one’s health.

Associating with drug users or elements is what fuels an addiction to feel “higher than life” or in severe cases, “normal.” I refer to the term, “normal” since in the beginning stages of drug or alcohol use, the user feels great and higher than life.  After constantly using drugs or alcohol, the body is “tricked” into believing the drugs or alcohol entering their body is a “normal” element to sustain life. When the user stops consuming, the body will enter into withdrawals; basically the user will feel “less than normal.” To illustrate the feeling of a withdrawal, think of a time when you had a bad case of flu and multiply it times three. The user’s body is tricked into believing the only way to get back to feeling normal is through drug or alcohol abuse, similar to when someone is prescribed medication to reduce flu-like symptoms.

The unconscious mind of a drug or alcohol user feels that by making contact with you, you may cause them to stop using drugs; hence withdrawals.  Many drug or alcohol abusers want to stop using; however it is the body’s fear of withdrawals and negative stigma that prevails. Nevertheless, positive ties with loved ones will reinforce the importance of social institutions by emphasizing ties with family, friends, and community over drug or alcohol abuse. Unfortunately, if this person is not saved in time by either a police arrest or by a loved one, I fear the worst.  While writing this portion of the article, I am reminded of the time when I found a young man (22-years old) slumped over dead with a needle in his arm. Before injecting that syringe of heroin into his arm, he might have uttered the word help.


The PI knows it is perfectly normal for someone to want to answer the question of who their maternal parents and biological parents are. The client must understand there is a reason the parent(s) may have offered their offspring to adoption.  In many cases, it was probably a good decision considering the context of the situation.  Perhaps the parents were very young and ill-prepared to accept this strong responsibility. Were the parents declared by the state as unfit parents due to abuse, drug or alcohol abuse, neglect, or unstable financial ability? Was the child conceived by rape? How about conceived outside of the relationship? All of these can be possible reasons for adoption and finding the parent might cause more grief than happiness. If the client chooses to forego with the search, the client must accept the worst case scenario.  The parent might become upset the child they left many years ago has appeared—especially if the child was conceived from a former relationship.  Private Investigators should inform their client of this possibility so there are no surprises.

Debt to Others

Many people have hired a PI to locate people who owe others this century considering the current economic crisis. We call them debtors.  For the purposes of this section, when I refer to debtors, I am referring to those who have no intention of returning payment to the creditor or those who have not developed a reasonable re-payment plan. The owing of money to others provides a strong initiative to flee from creditors. The creditor can be a business such as a grocery store, a parent, sibling, parent, friend, doctor’s office, dentist, or even an attorney.  PIs know that some debtors are difficult to locate since the debtor encourages the people they live with not to open any doors for anyone or answer the phones.  If they live by themselves, they won’t open the door for others.  Debtors love to change phone numbers, addresses, obtain utilities and rent in other people’s names. That is why it might be difficult to locate a debtor using the best online databases technology out there.  Private Investigators know they might find some debtors in casinos, the racetracks, inside bars placing bets on games or fights.

Passage of Time

Over time, people lose each other’s phone numbers, addresses, and e-mail addresses. People tend to move to new neighborhoods and meet new people who disapprove of former friends or family. From cell phone to cell phone, some numbers might be stored in the new phone while others will be deleted. Some people lose their cell phone and all the contact numbers with it.  When personal phone books were more common than cell phones, many people would lose their phone book; therefore losing the missing persons contact information.

If the person you are searching for is deceased, their name will likely appear in the Social Security Death Master Index.  The Social Security Administration appears to be confident the person is deceased since they publish the Social Security Number. Before hiring a Private Investigator to search for a missing person, do search this Index for the person. Please note this list may not be updated and you’re missing person will not be in this Index if they are not identified by the Coroner and more importantly, identified by Social Security. In all other cases, there is a strong likely hood you’re missing person is not missing.

United States Armed Forces

Sometimes the person may be active in the military. If you’re missing person is possibly in the U.S. Armed Forces, you can find them on the link below if you have a Name, Date of Birth, and preferably the Social Security Number. If the missing person is in a special operation unit, information is likely withheld.


When searching for a missing person, the Private Investigator never rules out death as a factor. On the link below, you may search your missing person through the Social Security Death Master Index. It appears the Social Security Administration is so sure of their death; they publish the decedent’s social security number (A PI’s nightmare in some cases) If your missing person is deceased, a private investigator can assist you with investigating the circumstances surrounding their death.


The seasoned PI knows that some people go missing because they have entered the jail or prison system. I once tried to find a debtor to a mortgage company.  I would have saved countless hours searching for this person had I checked to make sure the debtor was not imprisoned.  When I searched him through the Federal Bureau of Prisons, I found out he was a prisoner in a maximum security prison in Colorado! I relayed this information to another PI who was not impressed.

The link below is for prisoners in the State of California prison system.  Please note that if the prisoner is in a county or city jail, he or she will not appear in the state website.  There are usually online inmate locators in every state that PIs normally use.  For those without online service, you may call the local county jail and ask if the person you are looking for is there.  In most cases, the person’s current charges are public information. The words “Public Information” are useful to the PI, since the Private Investigator’s business and success depends on public information.

The link below is for federal prisoners.

We hope you enjoyed reading this article on hiring a PI to find a Missing Person and the reasons people decide to go “missing.” Sundahl & Associates, Detective Agency is a licensed private investigations firm serving San Bernardino County, Los Angeles County, Orange County, Imperial County, and Riverside County. Our office is located in Chino, California.

**All information presented here is under copyright by Sundahl & Associates, Inc. 2011. You may not reproduce or copy the information contained herein without the express permission of Sundahl & Associates. Shaun Sundahl (CEO) is a professional writer and you may employ his services from time to time. For permission please contact us by phone or e-mail. Thank you.**

******Would you like to cite this article under APA guidelines? Here you are:

Sundahl, S. (2011, July 3). Hiring a PI to find a Missing Person: Reasons People decide to go “Missing”. Retrieved [enter today's date], from Sundahl & Associates:



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