Private Investigator FAQ

What is a pretext?

A pretext is a story that is made up to convince another person to do something, such as give up a desired piece of information.

If you are trying to locate a debtor and the only lead you have is the debtors parent, the honest thing to do is to contact the debtors parent and say “Hi, this is Sam Spade from Collections Agency, Inc. I am trying to locate your son because he owes my client money.” The debtors parent may not be very friendly and helpful.

On the other hand, you could use a pretext such as “Hi, this is Sam, I am an old friend of your sons from college. One of his close college friends is dying of cancer and would like to see your son before he dies.” The debtors parent may be more likely to share with you the debtors current contact information.

The use of pretexts are not legal in some cases. Be sure to research all of the laws applicable in your area.

Prying Eyes: With These Operators, Your Bank Account is Now an Open Book? is an excellent Wall Street Journal article on the use of pretexts.

What is a reverse lookup?

A reverse lookup is where you have a telephone number and you try to find a name and address using that number.

There are many services which offer reserve lookups:

Where can I find a non-published number?

United States Internlink will perform a non-published phone search for $12. They will also look up non-published names and addresses for $15.

What are some good web sites to find people?

Where can I lookup a name by e-mail address?

InfoSpace Email Lookup

Where can I lookup the location of a Zip code?

InfoSpace Zip Code Lookup

Where can I search criminal records?

Can I reverse lookup a cell phone number?

Cell phone numbers are much more difficult to reverse lookup than landlines.

The folks at cell-phone-numbers.com will do a reverse lookup of any cell phone number for $79, or your money back.

 

Where can I find out what telco owns a phone number?

Local Number Portability (LNP) makes this less reliable, but you can lookup any telephone prefix at FoneFinder.

Where can I find out what city a telephone number is from?

Local Number Portability (LNP) makes this less reliable, but you can lookup any telephone prefix at FoneFinder.

How can I locate a Federal inmate?

If the person is an inmate in a federal facility, use the Federal Bureau of Prisons Inmate Finder.

Where can I search Federal law online?

The best place to search through the entire body of Federal law is GPO Access.

How can I find what county a city is in?

Use the United State Geological Survey National Mapping Information Query Form for the United States and its Territories.

Where can I lookup military service records?

Active Duty Military

For active duty service members, the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) requires the DoD to make available a public database lookup service.

The SCRA web site provides an ability to verify whether an individual is currently serving on active duty in the US military.

Prior Service Military

The two main repositories for records relating to prior military service are:

Washington, D.C.

The National Archives Building in Washington, D.C., holds records relating to:

Branch of Service Dates
Volunteers Military service performed by persons serving during an emergency and whose service was considered to be in the Federal interest, 1775 – 1902
Regular Army Enlisted personnel, 1789 – October 31, 1912

Officers, 1789 – June 30, 1917

Navy Enlisted personnel, 1798 – 1885

Officers, 1798 – 1902

Marine Corps Enlisted personnel, 1789 – 1904

Some officers, 1789 – 1895

Coast Guard Persons who served in predecessor agencies to the U.S. Coast Guard: the Revenue Cutter Service (Revenue Marine), the Life-Saving Service, and the Lighthouse Service, 1791 – 1919
Confederate States Persons who rendered military service for the Confederate States government in its armed forces, 1861 – 1865
Veterans Records Claims files for pensions based on Federal military service, 1775 – 1916 and

Bounty land warrant application files relating to claims based on wartime service, 1775 – 1855

To order military service records from Washington, D.C., use Order Online! or the NATF Form 86.

Copies of military pension claim files for military service from the American Revolution up to before World War I and bounty-land warrant applications for Federal military service before 1856 can now be ordered online, as well as through NATF Form 85.

St. Louis, Missouri

The National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, Missouri, holds military personnel files of later military service records.

Branch of Service Dates
U.S. Army Officers separated after June 29, 1917

Enlisted personnel separated after October 31, 1912

Note: Many records were destroyed by fire in the St. Louis Center in 1973.

US Air Force Officers and enlisted personnel separated after September 24, 1947

Note: Many records were destroyed by fire in the St. Louis Center in 1973.

US Navy Officers separated after 1901

Enlisted personnel separated after 1884

US Marine Corps Officers separated after 1904

Enlisted personnel separated after 1905

US Coast Guard Officers separated after 1897

Enlisted personnel separated after 1905

U.S. Coast Guard predecessor agencies Civilian employees of agencies such as Revenue Cutter Service, Lifesaving Service, and Lighthouse Service, retired after 1919.

To order records from St. Louis:

Access to Military Service Records is limited. See Services for Veterans, Next-of-Kin, or the Veteran’s Representative for more information.

How do I convert Miles-per-Hour (MPH) to Feet-per-Second (FPS)?

To convert from MPH to FPS, multiply by 1.46.

How can I find local newspapers?

The U.S. News Archives on the Web lists, and archives, local newspapers from across the entire country.

How can I search newspapers easily?

NewsLibrary.com enables you to automatically search 719 newspapers and other news sources.

Where can I search death records?

The Ancestry.com Social Security Death Index allows you to search the entire contents of the Death Master File (DMF) from the Social Security Administration (SSA). The Death Master File currently contains over 74 million records. The file is created from internal SSA records of deceased persons possessing social security numbers and whose deaths were reported to the SSA.

Where can I get a vehicle history report?

Where can I find a list of Doctors who have defaulted on Student Loans?

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services publishes a list of Defaulted Borrowers of health Education Assistance Loans (HEAL).

New HEAL loans were discontinued in 1998, but over $150 million dollars is still owed to the program.

What is skip tracing?

Skip tracing is locating a debtor who has become unreachable.

Skips often become unreachable on purpose, but many times they become unreachable due to the lack of a stable residence.

For more information on skip tracing, read our article on Skip Tracing Techniques or refer to the Skip Tracing section of the Private Investigator Library.

What is asset location?

Asset location is finding assets belonging to a debtor that may be seized or upon which a lien may be placed.

Debtors in higher income brackets tend to have larger debts, more assets, and better skills at hiding their assets.

Hidden assets can include foreign and even numbered bank accounts, foreign corporations, assets whch have been illegally shifted to spouses or children, and physical assets which have simply been moved or hidden.

What is the salary of a crime scene investigator?

The salary of a government crime scene investigator varies between agencies and generally grows with the investigators seniority in the department.

The salary of a crime scene investigator currently ranges from $30k to $50k a year.

What is a family law investigator?

A family law investigator is a private investigator who specializes in family law issues, almost always those surrounding divorce.

A family law investigator may:

  • Find evidence of a cheating spouse for an at-fault divorce
  • Locate hidden assets of a spouse to ensure a fair and equitable divorce settlement
  • Document evidence to prove that a spouse has purposefully squandered marital assets to harm the other spouse
  • Document evidence to prove that a spouse is unfit for child custody

What is a child custody investigator?

A child custody investigator is a private investigator who specializes in child custody issues.

Child customer investigators are usually hired by one parent to prove that the other parent is unfit to be granted custody of a child in divorce proceedings.

Grounds for being ruled unfit for child custody vary between jurisdictions, but may include:

  • Physical abuse
  • Mental abuse
  • Alcoholism or drug addition

The child custody investigator is a sub-specialty of family law investigator.

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