Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Using Our Powers for Good, Not Evil

I recently completed a case for an overseas client, a bank as it turned out. I was tasked with locating an individual to tell him that he had recently come into some money.

Good news, right?

Of course, I also had to tell him his father died. No such thing as a free lunch.

But how hard could it be to successfully locate someone whose total details known are first and last names (and middle initial only), a year of birth, and a post box last known to be used in 2007 and subsequently closed?



I was given some additional information that wasn't all that useful although did paint a picture of the individual sought: born in the US but living here since mid-'70s, a loner who kept to himself, might have dealt in second-hand goods, and said he was 'quite ill' when they last had contact with him. But did that mean he had a bad cold on the day or cancer?

Well, I did all the usual tracing attempts first, consulting various online databases that most people tend to appear in. It is very difficult not to generate some kind of electronic trail if you are just an everyday normal person.


What this told me was that the subject either was no longer in the country or alive, or was used to living in a manner that kept him below the electronic horizon, so to speak.

I also spoke with the manager of the box lobby who recalled the individual, but only as a name on envelopes. When the box was closed there was no forwarding address given.

Then there were the off-line databases such as death records, electoral rolls etc. Some progress here as it seemed that he had not died in the subsequent years, but I came across some information on an individual who might very well be the one I was looking for. And now I had an address and a full name.

I spoke with the landlords of the address I had located and he certainly could be the one as he matched the approximate age and did have a faint American accent. Great!

Unfortunately, he hadn't lived at that address for around 5 years and they no longer had any paperwork on him such as his tenancy application (which would have given other details).

I also exhausted other lines of enquiry, such as through the Police. While they are not able to provide any concrete information, it was suggested that I try making some enquiries in a nearby town. Unfortunately, that was a waste of time and effort, having been in relation to someone with the same first and last names but different middle.

Similarly, I was told by the ex-landlord that this person cost them a lot of money when he made a complaint to the Fire Service regarding the safety of the building he had lived in once he left. I followed up that complaint and, unfortunately, it was made anonymously without any contact information given.

So, while I had made some progress, fairly much all avenues were starting to close and now I had to start getting creative. I even prepared adverts in several local publications as well as putting up some posters around the area he was last known to be in.

Now I'm not going to tell you how I found him, but find him I did. Not because I'm trying to be modest but because I broke the law. Well, more like I convinced someone else to break the law - but all in a good cause. I guess the copy of the father's Will and Death Certificate indicated that I was genuine.

The subject wasn't displeased I found him, quite the opposite. While he wasn't overjoyed to hear about his father he also wasn't upset, not having been close. He was more interested why the Executors needed to get a PI to find him when he believed his sister, still in the US, had his phone number. Perhaps she was hoping he couldn't be found?

I guess I'll never know.

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