How to Track a Person

Four Methods:Tracking Someone Using Social Media and CellphonesUsing a People Tracking WebsiteHiring a Private InvestigatorCollecting Information on the Person

There are circumstances under which you may wish to find a person. The person could a long lost friend, family member or former business colleague. If you have no information on the person's whereabouts, you will need to track them to obtain current contact information. You may also want to track a person to know where they are. This article can help.

Method 1
Tracking Someone Using Social Media and Cellphones

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    Track the person through current social networking websites. Social websites like Facebook and Myspace will allow you to seek website members based on name, location, school attended or expressed interests.
    • Type in the person’s full name and last known resident state into the search bar on Facebook or Myspace.[1]
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    Look for GPS location markers. Many social media accounts will allow people to post a location when they make posts. For example, if the person you want to track is on vacation in Germany, their Facebook account might show "Berlin" as the location for photos they post. If the person uses loose privacy settings, you may be able to see these locations and determine where the person is.
    • This will only work if you are friends with the person, have a mutual friend who can look for you, or their security settings allow people who are not friends to see their posts.
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    Watch "checkins." Many accounts, such as Foursquare, Facebook, Twitter, and Google Latitude, offer "checkin" features that allow someone to tag that they visited a certain location. If you are friends with a person (or if they have loose privacy settings), you will likely be able to see these check-ins.[2]
    • This will only work if you are friends with the person, have a mutual friend who can look for you, or their security settings allow people who are not friends to see their posts.
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    Enable a cellphone tracking plan or app. If you want to keep tabs on where your child goes, you can enable a tracking plan with many major carriers.[3] For example, T-Mobile offers "FamilyWhere," a program that uses a cellphone's GPS to tell you where your child's phone is.[4] The Google Latitude app will also show where the phone is using GPS.
    • It's a good idea to tell your child that s/he is being monitored, and why. This will help avoid your child feeling like you have broken his or her trust.
    • The laws are more complicated when people are not legally minors. In many cases it is illegal to install a tracking app on an adult's phone without telling him or her.
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    Use a GPS tracker. You can use a GPS tracker to track a car or personal property, but it is a legal gray area, so be careful. In general, it's a good idea to make sure of the following:[5]
    • You own the car or property, or you are tracking a minor child (and you are the parent or legal guardian).
    • The GPS is visible and accessible.
    • You could get the same information by physically following the car.
    • Please consult with an attorney if you are unsure whether it is legal to use a GPS tracker in your situation.

Method 2
Using a People Tracking Website

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    Track the person on free tracking websites. Most sites will provide basic personal information for free, but may require payment or fees for more in depth information. Keep in mind that providing your email address and password to any of these sites can lead to access to your personal information, unless otherwise stated on the site’s registration page.
    • PeekYou - a good site for finding people online that searches over 60 different social networking sites, blogs, websites, and other online sources.
    • WhitePages - an easy to use site to search for someone’s address in the United States.
    • Zabasearch - This comprehensive search engine allows you to look up someone’s address and phone numbers, including any unlisted addresses or numbers.
    • Pipl - this search engine claims to dig up information Google may miss by looking for someone on the “deep web”.[6] The initial results are free, but there are fees for more in depth information.
    • PrivateEye - this site can provide someone’s name, address, phone number, marriage certificates, bankruptcy records, and more. The site gives out information like full name, city, state, age, and possible relatives for free, but additional details like a phone number or address require the user to pay a fee.
    • PublicRecordsNow - using public records, this site can search for someone using their phone number, name, email or address.
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    Use a comprehensive people tracking website. There are sites like that allow you to search multiple sites and services at once with a comprehensive search. This will save you time and help you collect as much information as possible about the person on multiple sites.
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    Pay to use a focused people tracking website. There are sites that offer less comprehensive services and provide search parameters for only specific information about someone.
    • These sites cost less money, in the range of $5 to $10, than full-service people tracking websites. They will search for tracking parameters like name, location, email, address, phone number, Social Security Number (SSN) and license plate.
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    Register your search on a full service people tracking website. For more in depth information, register your search on sites like and
    • These sites can charge anywhere from $50-$100 a search, but they will likely provide the most in depth information on the person you are looking for.[7]

Method 3
Hiring a Private Investigator

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    Get a referral for an investigator, if possible. Ask a trusted friend for recommendations on an investigator. As well, do as much research on the investigator as possible.[8]
    • Use an online search engine like[9] to look up pre-screened, vetted, and qualified investigators.
    • You also can and should ask your potential PI for references you can call and check with before hiring them.
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    Check the investigator’s license. A professional private detective will be able to provide their license number immediately. You can then check with your local municipality to make sure it is valid, it matches the name of the private detective, and if any complaints or issues have been filed against them.[10]
    • The only states that don’t require licensing for private detectives are Colorado, Idaho, Mississippi, South Dakota and Wyoming.[11]
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    Set up an in-person consultation with the investigator. Most investigators will offer a free initial consultation. This will allow you to become familiar with the investigator and confirm the PI has an office.
    • If the investigator only works out of restaurants or over the phone, this is a bad sign. You need to be sure you can easily locate the investigator at any time during the search at an office.
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    Discuss the investigator’s experience, background, and education. It’s best to find a detective who specializes in the task you need or person you are looking for.
    • Double check that the investigator has insurance. Most serious PIs are insured up to a few million dollars. While insurance is not necessary for all jobs, if something were to happen during the course of the work, as the employer, you would be held liable if the investigator has no insurance coverage.[12]
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    Ask the investigator about their fees. The investigator’s fees may vary based on the circumstances of your search and who you are looking for, so discuss all fees and charges up front before you hire them.
    • Expect to pay a higher fee for investigators with extensive expertise and training.
    • Discuss if the investigator has a flat fee for basic searches like a background check, personal research work like a cell phone number search, a criminal record check, or a vehicle registration search, as well as a bug sweep of a home or car and GPS monitoring.[13]
    • Inquire about the investigator’s hourly fee. These can vary by expertise and by the amount of information the investigator needs to look for. Fees can range from approximately $40-$100 per hour or higher.[14]
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    Talk to the investigator about a deposit or retainer fee. Some private investigators may require a deposit depending on the type of service required and the circumstances of the investigation.[15][16]
    • Factors like travel time, estimated number of surveillance hours, urgency, and accommodation costs will affect the deposit or retainer fee.
    • If you are using a private investigator’s service through an attorney, there will usually be no retainer required as long as the attorney takes responsibility for paying the private investigator.[17]
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    Sign a contract with the private investigator. The contract should outline the services to be performed, and require complete confidentiality between you and the investigator.[18]
    • The contract should also require the investigator to document all search activities, as well as a record or itemized list of work completed by the investigator.[19]
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    Be prepared for any information the private investigator may uncover or not uncover. There are no guarantees the investigator will successfully track the person you are looking for or locate them. But if the investigator does their job properly, they may discover information on the person you are looking for that you should be prepared and ready to receive.[20]

Method 4
Collecting Information on the Person

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    Make a list of information you have about the person you are tracking. List the person's names, starting with the full proper name of the person. If the person goes by nicknames, write those down as well. If you know their birth names or married names, note those.
    • Record the person's age or approximate age.
    • Write down the last known address that you have for the person. Add anything you have come across that may indicate that the person is now in another geographic location. For example, a former neighbor may provide information that the person left Massachusetts for a job in California.
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    Find the last known contact information that you have for the person. This includes their telephone number, email address and any social network contacts.
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    Note the person's last known employer. If the person you are tracking has an ongoing career in a specific field, the person may be on a business or professional networking web site that may list their current contact information.
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    Get in touch with friends or mutual acquaintances of the person you are looking for. Ask them about the person’s interests or hobbies. These interests may place the person on a special interest website or blog.
    • Try to identify as many former friends and family members of the person as you can. The person may be traceable through them.
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    Search the person on Internet search engines. These search engines can be used to look for names and addresses.
    • Search engines also can link the person to social networks, blogs, professional networks and special interest networks.
    • To search for someone on Google, type in the person’s name, and the state they currently live in, if you have this information, for example: “Jane Doe Idaho”. If they have a very common name, it helps to narrow down the search by searching their full name, their current resident state, and any other personal information you may have.[21]
    • You can also type the person’s phone number, if you have this information, into google to get their full name and address.
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    Search online for family members, friends and known business associates of the person. Links to those people may enable you to track the person through family, friends or business associates.


  • Do not install a GPS tracker on an individual's property if you wish to track him or her. This is likely illegal.[22]

Sources and Citations


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Categories: Social Security