How to find a missing person: 13 steps

Table of contents:

How to find a missing person: 13 steps
How to find a missing person: 13 steps

If you believe that someone in your environment has disappeared, it is important that you act quickly to launch a search. Start by calling the police department to file a missing person report, then take the necessary steps to conduct your own search. If the person does not return home, you may need to alert the media and hire a private investigator. If you quickly follow the indicated steps, you will increase your chances of finding the missing person.


Part 1 of 3: Contacting the Police and Reporting

Find a Missing Person Step 1
Find a Missing Person Step 1

Step 1. Contact the police as soon as you have reason to worry

You should not wait a mandatory period of time to file a missing person report. The faster you notify the police that your loved one is missing, the faster the search can begin. Go to your local police department to file the report.

You need to understand the limits of what the police can do, especially if the missing person is an adult. It is not illegal for a person to disappear

Find a Missing Person Step 2
Find a Missing Person Step 2

Step 2. Give the police all the information on the missing person

To complete the disappearance report, you must provide detailed information on the physical characteristics and last known location of that person. Have the following information ready when you go to the police station to file a report:

  • Three updated photos of the person
  • List of nicknames or aliases by which the person is known.
  • Physical description, including height, weight, age, hair color, eye color, body constitution, etc.
  • Description of the clothes and shoes the person was wearing the last time they were seen.
  • List of possessions that the person could carry with them, such as jewelry, glasses, contact lenses, accessories, purse, wallet, identification cards, etc.
  • List of scars, tattoos and other identifying characteristics
  • List of medications that the person usually takes, as well as their allergies or any type of disability or illness that they have.
  • List of relatives or friends of the missing person, along with their contact information
  • List of places that the person usually frequents.
  • Description of the person's car or other means of transport used (a bicycle, for example) if applicable to the case.
  • Description of the situation of the environment surrounding the disappearance of the person
Find a Missing Person Step 3
Find a Missing Person Step 3

Step 3. Keep a record of the report

Make sure you get a case number for the missing person report. Write down the name of the person in charge of your case. Contact him or her when you want to follow up on the case.

Find a Missing Person Step 4
Find a Missing Person Step 4

Step 4. Contact the organization in charge of searching for missing persons in your country

In some countries, these organizations allow you to upload information about a missing person for use by the police and other agencies and individuals. This site helps resolve missing persons cases more quickly by providing this information to the public.

Find a Missing Person Step 5
Find a Missing Person Step 5

Step 5. Register your case with other missing persons databases or review your existing records

You can use other databases designed to help find missing persons, many of which are geared towards specific characteristics. Consider registering the case in additional databases to gain access to free services and resources to help you find the missing person.

  • In Mexico, the Mexican Association of Stolen and Missing Children specializes in providing services to families whose children have disappeared. After you have reported a case of missing a child to the police, you can contact this or a similar organization.
  • In Spain, the ANAR association provides help with the complaint and immediate connection with the police, legal and social advice, emotional support to families 24 hours a day, and more. Contact them at the unique number 116-000.

Part 2 of 3: Conduct a Search

Find a Missing Person Step 6
Find a Missing Person Step 6

Step 1. Get in touch with the person's friends and acquaintances

Call people in the missing person's life and ask them when they last saw them. Determine if they know anything about his whereabouts. In addition to friends, family, neighbors, and classmates, call anyone who has had regular contact with the missing person, such as teachers, doctors, dentists, bus drivers, co-workers, and neighbors.

  • Keep a log of who you have talked to and what they have told you about the missing person. Keep it updated with as much detailed information as possible.
  • Ask those people to call you if they get more information from another source.
  • Report the news to whoever is in charge of the missing person case at the police department.
Find a Missing Person Step 7
Find a Missing Person Step 7

Step 2. Ask at the hospitals and talk to the forensic doctors in the area

If the missing person has been in an accident, they could be in a local hospital and may be unable to communicate for some reason. If you have suffered a tragic accident, you can find the missing person with the forensic doctor or medical examiner. Call all the services in your area to rule out these possibilities.

  • When making calls, ask for the missing person by mentioning their name.
  • If there are no records of a person by that name, ask them if there are unidentified people in their care whose description matches that of the missing person.
Find a Missing Person Step 8
Find a Missing Person Step 8

Step 3. Ask at the local prison in your city

If the missing person has had a run-in with the law that resulted in an arrest, they may be in the local prison. Check with the police offices to see if the missing person is in jail. You can also search the internet using the inmate locator on your local police website.

Find a Missing Person Step 9
Find a Missing Person Step 9

Step 4. Check out the social networking sites

This is a very useful method of obtaining information about the days before the person disappeared. Check their Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other accounts. See if recent activity suggests any clues. Also check the accounts of the friends of the missing person.

  • Print the correspondence and any activities that may lead you to their whereabouts.
  • Report any activity that could lead to a clue to the case manager at the police department.
Find a Missing Person Step 10
Find a Missing Person Step 10

Step 5. Attach brochures with a photo and description of the missing person

In many cases, the missing person sees these brochures and decides to go home. The brochures can also alert friends and neighbors who may have information about your whereabouts. Post brochures in the neighborhood where the missing person lives and also around the places he usually frequents.

  • Post the brochures in important locations: gas stations, grocery stores, post offices, banks, pharmacies, local libraries, churches, hospitals, homeless shelters, parks, and hiking trails. These are all great places to do it.
  • Be sure to include a recent, clear photograph of the missing person.
  • Include the person's age, a physical description, and the date they disappeared.
  • Also include contact information.

Part 3 of 3: Include Third Parties in Search

Find a Missing Person Step 11
Find a Missing Person Step 11

Step 1. Ask people to spread the word

Send an email with a photograph of the missing person asking for it to be resent. Post a picture and description of the missing person on your social media pages and ask others to share it. The more they know that you are looking for the missing person, the greater the chances of finding them.

Find a Missing Person Step 12
Find a Missing Person Step 12

Step 2. Alert the local media

Including the media is another important way to publicize the fact that you are looking for that person. She could see the ad and decide to go home. There will also be others looking for the person. If you include the media, your local police may dedicate more resources to solving the case.

  • Submit photos and videos of the missing person to local television stations.
  • Call local newspapers and ask them to run an article about the missing person.
  • Post an ad in a weekly newspaper.
  • Submit information to local blogs and websites.
Find a Missing Person Step 13
Find a Missing Person Step 13

Step 3. Consider hiring a private investigator

A private investigator, unlike the police department, will spend as much time as you want on your case. If you have the money, hiring a private investigator is a good way to keep the search going when the police stop spending so much time on it. Find information on private investigators in your area and work with one to find the missing person.


  • Use close-up photography. Photographs of the person's face and upper body are generally the most effective.
  • If the police determine that your child was the victim of a kidnapping and the kidnapping meets certain criteria, they may issue an AMBER alert. The AMBER alert, a notification system implemented in several countries, notifies the broadcast media and transport officials of the province about the missing child.
  • If you have access to the phone records of the missing person, find out who the last person he spoke to was. Contact that person to see if they know anything about their whereabouts.
  • If you have access to information from the missing person's financial institutions (for example, credit or debit card providers, etc.), analyze this information. Finding out where he spent money could tell you where he is now.

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