How to find a missing person with a phone

People go missing in the UK every day in a wide variety of circumstances; a child or young person may have gone missing having run off after a telling off or difficult conversation or fall out with parents or family or friends;

a vulnerable adult may have not returned home when expected or got lost or fallen victim to a person or group with less than good intentions; someone you love may have been involved in an accident or incident that has prevented them from returning home or attending a location at the time they were due.

It could, of course, be that there is a reasonable or non-concerning reason for a person not being where they are meant to be at the time they were meant to be there and there is not always cause for panic or stress; people run late all the time or change their plans, teenagers break curfew or act out on a daily (or hourly!) basis and mobile phones break or run out of charge.

However, if someone you know and care about has gone missing, this can be an extremely distressing and anxious time. You will want to do everything in your power to find them and ensure that they are safe and well but may be overwhelmed by the size of the task or not know where to start. It is helpful to know that there is actually a wealth of tasks and uses the mobile phone you have probably got in your hand or pocket or by your side right now can perform to get your search started and make progress on locating that person that you are worrying about.

Firstly (and it may seem obvious but in times of panic human beings don’t always think that rationally!) you can just try phoning or texting the missing person. If it is a sensitive situation and they have not responded to your previous texts perhaps they are angry with you or worried about the consequences for not having returned home at the time set, you probably need to rethink your approach and the language you are using; reassure the person that they are not in any trouble and that you don’t even need to know where they are if they don’t want to share this but that you care about them and just want them to respond to let you know that they are ok. If you text through a service that provides read receipts such as imessage or whatsapp then this may reassure you to some extent even if they don’t respond as you will be able to see if the message has reached them (so you will know their phone is on and has charge) and you will be able to see if they have read the message (so you know they are alive and actively using their phone).

A vital use of your phone in the event of a missing person is to call the police and report the person missing. You don’t have to wait 24 hours to do this and can let the police know of the situation as soon as you are concerned; they can then start to use their power and resources to start looking for your missing person, massively increasing the probability of the person being found and being found in a short period of time. Police are able to access GPS data for a person’s mobile phone, so it is important that you share the mobile phone number of the missing person with them. You can also call round hospitals to find out if anyone has been admitted fitting the description of the missing person in case there was an accident or illness that has prevented them from returning home. If you think its relevant and appropriate you can also call round police stations to see if your missing person might have been arrested or in police care.

You can use your phone to start to contact other people that know the missing person or are part of their life in some way to share your concerns that they are missing which will encourage other people to engage in your search and help you, meaning considerably more manpower and resources being roped in to widen the hunt and therefore the likelihood of finding the person soon. You can call and text people who know the missing person such as friends, neighbours, colleagues, family members or employers to ask if they have seen the person or if they know of any plans the person had or any places that person tends to go to. You can call businesses or locations that you know the missing person tends to frequent such as a local café or pub to see if they are there or have been there recently.

You can also use your phone to look at the missing persons social media accounts and make contact with them through these. You can view when they were last online and if they are currently online. You can look at recent posts to determine what their current state of mind is and if they have shared any information that indicates how they are feeling right now and what is going on in their head, if they had any plans with anyone or to do anything or go anywhere, any signs that suggest where they might be as well as who they might be with. You can also use social media accounts to find out about any friends or acquaintances of the missing person that you did not know about and contact them to share information and see if they know anything about the missing person’s plans or whereabouts. It may also encourage the missing person to get in touch with you if other’s let them know that you are so concerned.

If you have consent or legitimate authority you can act preventively, in case of a person ever going missing, by placing a tracking app such as find my iphone on the mobile phone of the person and ensuring that your phone receives data from this. In the event of a person going missing, this would allow you to track the location of their mobile phone which will likely result in you tracking them.

You may also be able to use your phone to look at any tracking apps that the missing person might have themselves on sites such as snapchat and see where they are from this. If the person does not have an actual tracking or finding app downloaded onto their phone you may still be able to use GPS data from their phone yourself to locate them; you can try Google Latitude or the My iPhone App and see if you can gain any information from this but there are also online companies that will access GPS data from a known mobile phone number for a fee such as AccuTracking. This is not always successful, and its best make sure that it is a legitimate company before you part with money.

The final use of your mobile phone for finding a missing person is to search online and call to employ the services of a private investigator or professional tracing agent to conduct the search for your missing person. Professionals in this field are the experts and have access to high tech software and information recording systems that are not available to members of the public. Professional private investigators and tracing agents work fast and most agencies are able to start work on your search immediately.

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