Paralegals: Strategies for Finding People Online

There are many instances when a paralegal will be asked to locate someone for a lawsuit. The attorney may need to find out where the potential Defendant lives prior to filing the lawsuit, or there may be a missing witness that is out there somewhere and can't be easily located. This article discusses a few tips to assist you when searching for people online. 

One of the first places a paralegal can turn to start a search for a person is the website Accurint. This is a subscription service that is provided by LexisNexis, and is widely regarded as the database leader in the legal industry for finding people. If you know the person's name, last known address and some identifier (such as date of birth or social security number),  Accurint is most likely going to be able to find the person you are looking for quickly and easily. Another subscription service many law firms use is Westlaw.  Using Westlaw's public records searches and People Map service, a paralegal can find past and current addresses, phone numbers, property information and more.  

Check all of the social media sites as well. You could get lucky and find someone's work information on LinkedIn or Facebook. This will obviously save you from having to hire a private investigator and adding those additional costs to the case. Even if this data does not appear to be obvious at first glance, you might be able to find out where the person lives by reviewing the friend and comment activity. LinkedIn is a very good place for locating both people and companies and the states they reside in.  

Once you think you have found the city and state where the person might reside, you can move on to the Tax Assessor's website for that county to verify ownership of a property. If you have a last known address or even if you just know the person's full name, check the online records for the County's Tax Assessor website. These sites will typically list the property address, owner, and a mailing address. If the mailing address does not match the property address, this could indicate that the owner is renting out the property and lives elsewhere. You can then move forward with your search in the jurisdiction that matches the mailing address.

Another good, and free,  online people search tools can typically be found on your state's Secretary of State website. You can data mine these sites to pull voter's records, Registered Agent and Company Officer information, and even see if someone maintains any sort of professional license. All of these categories will typically list the person's name and an associated address.

Lastly, if the person has a website or blog, do not forget to run the IP address through a free website such as: http://whatismyipaddress.com/. This will tell you immediately what city the person is in.

It is very hard for someone to not leave an electronic paper trail. If you do not have access to a paid subscription service that will locate people online, there are many other ways that you can go online and search for people for free. Play detective for a few minutes, and you may find that you are able to locate the person your attorney is looking for without incurring additional case costs. If you are unable to find any online traces of the witness, your attorney may conclude that the defendant is judgment proof or that the witness is purposefully hiding, both presenting their own unique set of issues. 

Paralegals have many options for locating people online, including both free and paid subscription services.  Missing witnesses, defendants, experts and yes, even missing clients, can be found easily using these online people search services.  


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