My name is Steve Wallis, I specialise in skip tracing and investigations of missing persons and assets.
When I started in this industry, some 30 years ago, a skip tracer or investigator tasked with locating someone was put in a room with a phone book, phone and, if you were really lucky, microfiche of the electoral roll!
For a number of years, I taught the Commercial Agents & Private Inquiry agents course at Newcastle TAFE. There are a large number of information sources out there now to help identify leads to assist in the location of people and missing assets.
I thought I would share a few free sources to assist you in your quest.
Important skip tracing facts:
- 1.4 million Australian are planning to sell their homes this coming year
- 55% of the Australian population move within every 5 year period
To say the methods of investigations and skip tracing have changed in the past few years is an understatement. The only problem is, anyone that has access to a computer thinks that they are a modern-day Sherlock Holmes.
The reality is, despite the creation of Privacy Acts and information security there has never been as much information available to the investigator or the general public. The trick is knowing what is current and importantly what is accurate information.
Modern Skip tracing and Investigations are “One Big Scavenger Hunt”. Whilst there is a multitude of databases available both paid and unpaid, we are only going to cover a few free sites that help my team locate people and assets around Australia and the world.
Skip Tracing Search Engines
This is a list of the best search engine in the world in order of usage:
- Microsoft Bing
- DuckDuckGo ** prefered
- Internet Archive
Search engines, such as Google, Baidu or Bing should be one of the first tools you use to find a person, as their results can be filtered by date to reveal only the latest information posted online.
Others like DuckDuckGo protect your search data and cover your trails in complicated fraud investigations where your activities need to remain shielded.
Some hints to help your Skip Tracing:
1. Use the tabs
The first tip is to use the tabs in Google search. On the top of every search are a number of tabs. Usually you’ll see Web, Image, News, and More. Using these tabs, you can help define what kind of search you need to do.
If you need images, use the Image tab. If you are looking for a recent news article, use the News tab.
It’s rudimentary and most people use the tabs already. If you are not, then it’s highly recommended to get associated with them. They can cut search times dramatically if utilized properly.
2. Use quotes
When searching for something specific, try using quotes to minimize the guesswork for Google search. When you put your search parameters in quotes, it tells the search engine to search for the whole phrase.
For instance, if you search for Puppy Dog Sweaters, the engine will search for content that contains those three words in any order.
However, if you search “Puppy Dog Sweaters”, it will search for that phrase exactly as you typed it. This can help locate specific information that may be buried under other content if not sorted out correctly.
3. Use a hyphen to exclude words
Sometimes you may find yourself searching for a word with an ambiguous meaning. An example is Mustang. When you Google search for Mustang, you may get results for both the car made by Ford or the horse. If you want to cut one out, use the hyphen to tell the engine to ignore content with one of the other. See the example below.
This tells the search engine to search for mustangs but to remove any results that have the word “car” in it. It can be wildly helpful when finding information about something without getting information about something else.
4. Use a colon to search specific sites:
There may be an instance where you need to Google search for articles or content on a certain website. The syntax is very simple and we’ll show you below.
This will search for all content about famous investigator Steve Wallis, but only on swagroup.net.au, All other search results will be removed. If you need to find specific content on a particularly large site, this is the shortcut you can use.
Top of Form
Social Media- Facebook, Google Plus, Linkedin and various others
Depending on the person you are looking for, and how often they jump on social media, along with their privacy settings and their keenness to share private information, you may be able to use their Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Linkedin pages to find crucial information about them, such as their phone number, home address, school addresses, place of work, date of birth and more.
Again, locating the data is time-consuming and often demands hours of trailing through friend’s photos and posts. It often astounds me how much personal information people add to these sites for the world to see you have just got to dig it out
Many people are smarter:
These people don’t complete these fields in their profiles, or simply hide that information from the general public. You may need to “befriend” the person online before you see their information too.
Until the last few years, investigator & skip tracers could use tools like inteltechniqes.com which gave you amazing ability to search and cross-reference social media sites.
However, in early 2018, Facebook and a political data-analytics firm named Cambridge Analytica were implicated in a massive data breach. Personal data from over 87 million Facebook users had been improperly obtained by the political data-analytics firm. It was a major loss to Skip Tracing and Investigation firms
White and Yellow Pages
Both these databases remain available but are of little use as there are a lot of paid sites that provide better and flexible data.
WhitePages can show you a given person’s phone number if you know their full name and suburb. The information is generated through Telstra Sensis, which makes it more up-to-date than other platforms, but given that it is only a telephone number that you’ll be finding, you’ll need to couple that information with other online services, such as…. Reverse Australia. You can also check for same names in the same suburb as your debtor, looking for relatives who may know the debtor.
On the other hand,
Yellow Pages is good to search for addresses and contact numbers if you know where your missing person works? Even if you have a vague idea of the company they work for- Yellow Pages will give you the contact details and website of each business or company.
Sites such as Reverse Australia & tineye.com are great sites to check phone numbers and image activity.
Reverse Australia – This company sometimes holds unlisted or “silent numbers” but to obtain addresses, the site requires users to log in with their Facebook accounts.
After you’ve entered the person’s phone number, you’ll be granted their full name, their address, the communications company that owns the number and you’ll be able to see comments from other people about that particular person (if there are any). So, if you know someone’s mobile phone or landline number, you’ll be able to reveal their address and their name. Some of the data is pretty old, but it may give you some clues.
Australia Lookup, a similar company, provides a likened service if the information you find on Reverse Australia is incorrect, incomplete or missing.
Matespotter, This site tends to amalgamate a few different sites, performing a search on all these sites and throwing all the information up on one screen. You will get basic information like what you’ll get on Google, Facebook and LinkedIn to business-related information like Ryerson Index, NSW Licensing Service, VIC Business Licensing, ABN Check and it’s free.
Lusha– is an American company, the information it holds is international. This online platform is used to help identify a given person’s social media accounts across the internet, using just their name, location, email address, username or phone number (note that they require a location, not an address). However, due to the fact that it’s an American site, Australian users may not be able to enter phone numbers.
Aussiefinder, This is a custom search engine which searches 5 popular social media sites at once, to find a profile anywhere across Australia. The search results from all 5 social media sites can be viewed all together or refined by selecting a tab for each social media site at the head of the table listing the search results.
ABN Lookup helps you identify companies business names and individual business operator and provides direct link to ASIC in Australia the ASIC is a paid site but provides invaluable information on companies and their directors.
www.email-checker.com and www.emailsherlock.com
You can check if an email address is valid. These are of course free sites although you may just need to log in.
You can check and find the owner of domain names and their technical staff. This is a free site and you do not need to login, just enter the domain name e.g “swagroup.net.au” and select the extension “ .com, net,etc…
Electoral Roll information
The Australian electoral roll is online is can assist you to confirm information. BE WARNED there are a number of so-called online Australian electoral roll sites that charge for searches. In most cases, they are simply attending the ER office and doing the search and reporting back to you. I have personally sighted invoices for over $200 for a nil result.
But wait there’s more!
There are countless databases on the open web which we all use. It provides invaluable information on all manner of thing to help locate leads on people, their movements and assets.
Keep in mind that no one database has all the answers despite all their claims. My scavenger hunt reference to Skip Tracing and Investigations has never been more relevant.
Then, of course, there is the dark web which is a whole other story and article let’s not even go there.