Are You Searching for a Dead Person?

There are specific osint sources and information that is only available for people that have passed away.

Furthermore, standard sources for finding information on someone will often come up empty because your target is actually deceased. This is especially true with US-focused People-Searching Websites which often remove data on persons after their deaths. This post will explain how to check if a US-based person has passed away and/or find information that is only available about the deceased.

There are three main tools for finding dead people, and they are categorized by when the person died.

The time periods and associated tools are as follows:

1 – Deaths AFTER 2013 – Find A Grave (findagrave.com)

2 – Deaths between 1965 and 2013 – Ancestry-related websites that

3 – Deaths BEFORE 1965

1 – For Deaths AFTER 2013, researchers can use Find A Grave (findagrave.com). This tool focuses on finding actual graves (hence the name) rather than death records and relies on verified data from users. Despite the fact that this tool uses information from users, it is an amazingly comprehensive source, maybe even the best. There are MANY enthusiasts that search for graves and upload their information and often photos to source. And if the information you are looking for is not available, you can even submit a general request for someone to look for the grave of interest. Anecdotal evidence suggests that it is actually much more difficult to find graves that are NOT documented by this tool.

Finally, Find A Grave is useful for deaths that occurred at any date before or after 2013. However, I recommend this tool specifically for deaths after 2013 because most other tools do not have information during that time period.

2 – For Deaths between 1965 and 2013, the Social Security Death Index is the best source for Americans. Rather than accessing the indiex yourself, you will need to find a genealogy tool with access to the index. However, per information provided by Anceestry.com, the Social Security Administration stopped using the Death Index starting in 2014 and instead began documenting deaths in the Death Master File. Access to this later source is very restricted, and for all intents and purposes it should not be considered as a viable source in your osint research.

3 – For Deaths before 1965, any standard genealogy website will do the trick. Try using the genealogy sites FamilySearch.org, GenealogyBank.com, and Ancestry.com. FamilySearch.org is highly recommended and all of its information is free, you only need to register an account.

Returning to the issue of pre-1965 deaths, there is no specific database for this information. However, historic deaths is one of, if not the, most prioritized info sought after by genealogy websites so you can assume it is more likely than not that you’ll find the death record you are looking for. Most genealogy sites will automatically search all of their data sources, but if you are looking for a death record make sure your search includes Census data. The specific details of US census data becomes public record after 72 years and will be incorporated into any genealogy site you use.

The following includes a basic overview of using the relevant sites.

The Find A Grave Website

Nonetheless, the search function within the actual findagrave.com website is pretty thorough and gives a lot of different options for different ways to search for a record. Therefore, you may decide to try using the website itself.

For example, as you see in the findagrave.com search function below, you can even choose to search by burial plot information. That might seem like an obscure bit of information, but many records will identify the specific plot or cemetery section. Based on that information, you can search for relatives by looking for grave sites next to the first one, or for grave sites within the same section of the cemetery, possibly filtered for people with the same last name.

Below you see an example of the kinds of information that might be available in a particular record.

Your record may not always have identified family members, memorials, or photos, but you can generally count on four pieces of information being available:

1 – Name

2 – Date of Birth (and maybe location)

3 – Date of Death (and maybe location)

4 – The cemetery where they were buried

Social Security Death Index

The Social Security Death Index (SSDI) is an official list of American’s whose deaths were reported to the Social Security Administration. The SSDI is available online (though only included deaths after 1965) and can be accessed for free at FamilySearch.org, GenealogyBank.com, and Ancestry.com.

See the URLs below:

(screenshot from Genealogy Bank – https://www.genealogybank.com/explore/ssdi/all)

More information on the SSDI is available here:

https://www.familysearch.org/wiki/en/United_States_Social_Security_Administration_Records

Genealogy Websites

As noted before, there are several genealogy websites that can be used but we are going to focus on how to use just one for searching deaths, Family Search (FamilySearch.org).

After you go to the website and quickly sign up for a free account (there are no strings attached as far as I can tell), you then go to the main page. To reach the basic search function, click on “Search” from the menu bar and then click on “Records” from the drop down menu.

Later on, you can return to this drop down menu and click on “Genealogies” or “Research Wiki.” Clicking on “Genealogies” will let you search family trees that were uploaded by users. “Research Wiki” is a wiki of different local genealogy-related databases that are specific to different locations.

You’ll want to start with the search records functions. The following search window will appear. If you submit a search here, the website will also search for results that are similar but not exactly what you typed (such as names there are spelt similarly to what you typed). If this give you too many results, then before getting started, it might be worth clicking on “More Options,” so you can choose to search for an exact spelling of a name. 

The following window will appear and you will notice that there are options for search for exactly what you typed.

At this point look under the heading “Life Event” and you will want to click on “ +death ”. If you have additional info like location or date/year you can add that in on the line below but it isn’t necessary. W

hen you are done, just hit search and hopefully you’ll find the right info.

That’s all, good luck!

Private Investigator Basics: Skip Tracing and Property Liens

What is skip-tracing?

Skip-tracing is one of the central functions of private investigation.

“Skip tracing is a process used to find a debtor who has relocated or disappeared to avoid legal responsibilities, such as debt payments. The skip-tracing process involves verifying a debtor’s information, searching public records and contacting people who know the debtor.” …according to an article at wolterskluwer.com.

Given that skip-tracing is a broad topic, this post will focus on one part of the process- doing a lien search.

What is a lien ?

“A ‘lien’ is a notice that attaches to your property, telling the world that a creditor claims you owe it some money. A lien is typically a public record” …according to a post at Nolo.

Liens are a common way for creditors to collect what they’re owed. When someone puts a lien on your property, that property effectively becomes collateral for the debt.

There are 4 kinds of liens to look for

  1. UCC lien search
  2. Federal tax lien search
  3. State tax lien search
  4. County tax lien – Judgment lien search

A tax lien differs from a UCC lien because a recorded UCC financing statement shows a borrower agreed to give a lender an interest in a particular property in exchange for a loan; it’s a consensual lien. Tax liens, whether federal or state, are non-consensual. The borrower didn’t agree to the government taking a security interest in their property.

In some cases, the debtor isn’t even aware there’s a tax lien against them

How to Search?

Finding a recorded UCC-1 financing statement is relatively straightforward: you query the Secretary of State (SOS) where the property is located, or where the borrower is incorporated.

The IRS files the Notice of Federal Tax Lien with the secretary of state, county clerk, or state recorder’s office to secure your tax debt.

Liens against property can be recorded at the Department of Land Records alongside deeds. Search for liens online using state (some examples here will be Maryland focused because that’s my background- Maryland Land Records)(mdlandrec.net).

Some liens come from court judgments. If this happens, the lien may not be at Land Records. Go to state case searches (Maryland Case Search to search for court judgments against the property’s owner.)

Unpaid taxes on the property may result in a lien. Visit your local county or city’s finance office to find property tax or other municipal liens.

Walter Skluwer also adds the following advice:

Federal / ITS tax lien search – You can conduct a federal tax lien search at the following places:

  • State Recorder’s office
  • Secretary of State’s office
  • IRS Automated Lien System database
  • Private third-party database search services like Lien Solutions

State and county liens – Information on a tax lien is either maintained by the Secretary of State or the county tax office. Where the government records its interest depends on state law. Some states require recording certain interests at the state level. For example, Colorado files tax liens with its Department of Revenue’s Division of Taxation. Many others require agencies to secure liens in the county records office where the person, business, or property is located.

Several states have formed a tax lien registry which serves as a centralized location for recording and searching for tax liens. These states file all tax liens with the registry instead of at the county level, giving you one place to look instead of searching for information in several county offices

This is not very specific as the lien database varies depending on location, but with some patience this can be a useful way to gain info on a person of interest.

Internet Archives

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The Archives:

There are three main archives for US-related purposes, (though there are several other initiatives around the world, see wiki page List of Archiving Initiatives.).

web.archive.org – The Internet Archive / WAYBACKMACHINE is :

  • the archive with more archived data
  • does have keyword search
  • does have a reverse image search via – rootabout.com
  • BUT when you are searching for a url you will only find results for that exact url you typed

archive.is – Archive Today is :

  • a better archive for finding websites and information as it will find subdomains or related hosts for the url that you searched
  • can lookup social media and google maps
  • consider using spoonbill in conjunction with archive.is searches on Twitter, spoonbill technique (below) will let you see all a Twitter account’s profile changes over time
  • BUT it no keyword search tool
  • reportedly has less data than the Internet Archive

https://webarchive.loc.gov/ – The Library of Congress Web Archive is categorized and its content was deliberately chosen, therefore I think it is best to search for you subject matter before looking for a specific website. Alternatively, if you see your website-of-interest is archived there, look at its category so you can maybe find other useful sites. :

  • LOC is best used if you are looking for a specific subject. Go to the central page – https://www.loc.gov/web-archives/ – will let you search by subject, dates, locations, series, etc.

https://carbondate.cs.odu.edu/ – attempts to figure out when a website was created (consider using this in conjunction with whois history searches from previous post)

http://timetravel.mementoweb.org/ – look up archived website from specified date and time

Rootabout.com – does reverse image searches in Internet Archive and Open Library

Spoonbill – See Twitter profiles’ changes over time by using the following url with the account username:

https://spoonbill%5B.%5Dio/twitter/data/search_ish <–input other twitter usernames here and remove the brackets from ” spoonbill[.]io ”

Genealogy – Social Security Death Index

The Social Security Death Index (SSDI) is an official list of American’s whose deaths were reported to the Social Security Administration. The SSDI is available online (though only included deaths from 1965 to 2013) and can be accessed for free at FamilySearch.org, GenealogyBank.com, and Ancestry.com. See the URLs below:

(screenshot from Genealogy Bank – https://www.genealogybank.com/explore/ssdi/all)

The SSDI is a public database maintained by the Social Security Administration of US citizens who had received social security benefits (so not everyone but still most people in the US) and died after 1965 (when the list was computerized). This is a more or less comprehensive list of Americans who have died.

Genealogy websites often include this data in their repositories.

More information on the list is available here:

https://www.familysearch.org/wiki/en/United_States_Social_Security_Administration_Records

Freedom of Information Act Requests

You can submit a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the Social Security Administration to request the information listed in the deceased person’s original application form for a social security card, which is called an SS-5. You will have to pay a fee of about $20. You can request a copy of the original document, if it is available, or a computer generated list of the information from the form (this is called a “Numident printout”).

This service was surprisingly fast, I submitted my request for a Numident printout and received a response in the mail 16 days later.

For more information you can go to (https://www.ssa.gov/foia/request.html)

Process for FOIA request:

1 – Go to FOIA Online (https://foiaonline.gov/foiaonline/action/public/home) click on “create request” and then “begin”.

2 – in the next page, there is a drop down menu at the top where you choose which agency you are interested in. After you choose Social Security Administration a form appears for your SS-5/Numident request.

3 – Now you have to fill out the form, choose SS-5 or Numident, pay the fee, and hit “submit”

I requested a Numident printout and received my response in the mail 2 weeks later. Below is a redacted copy of what I received in the mail:

In particular, note the following pieces of information included in this response:

  • Date of Birth
  • Date of Death
  • Place of Birth
  • Place of Death
  • Social Security Number
  • Names of Parents

That’s it!

Websites to Lookup “Whois” Domain Registration History

This posts lists out the current free resources available for obtaining history whois domain registration information. Be aware that these services will also let you search often by email or name of the registrant too

1 – WhoIsXMLAPI

The Domain Research Suite of WhoIsXMLAPI is currently the best bet.

https://drs.whoisxmlapi.com/

See the post below from ToolsForReporters.com to read a walkthrough of the service. The main points are that you have to sign up for a free account, you will only get a limited number of searches, and you have to login and go to the Domain Research Suite in order to access the Whois History Search tool.

2 – Whoxy

Whoxy is also a great source that will let you run a few free searches. You may need to sign up for a free account at some point

whoxy.com

3 – Tools for Reverse Whois Lookups: DomainBigData and ViewDNSinfo

These two are actually not for whois history, but rather it is for reverse whois lookups (i.e. check if an email was used to register any domains). It seems like a similar enough topic

domainbigdata.com

https://viewdns.info/reversewhois/

That’s it!

Genealogy – How To Document People in RootsMagic Software

This is a run through for how to document one new person and one fact about them in the free version of the genealogy software RootsMagic.

Short Version (without citing any sources)

If you want to just start building your family tree without worrying about documentation, getting started is very easy.

A.) Open RootsMagic,

B.) choose to open a new file,

C) choose a file name and place to save it,

D.) an empty family tree will appear, looking like the picture above,

E.) Double click where it says to “Add Person”, a window appears where you can type in any info about the person

F.) Now just click “OK”, a new window will appear asking you to source your information but you can ignore it and just click Cancel on the bottom right corner.

And then you are done! you have added a new person onto your family tree!

The process is basically three parts, A.) open a new file, B.) create a source C.) label one person on a family tree.

Longer Version (with how to cite your information)

In this example we have a named person, and we have one fact about them that we want to include on our family tree and cite where we obtained the information.

The person is a random “John Smith”, who’s date of death is documented in FindAGrave.com (see below).

(The basic search function for findagrave.com)
(the record for a random person named John Smith)

How-To Process

So in order to document this information in RootsMagic, take the following steps.

1 – Open opening the software click on “new file”, then “Empty File”, and then “Documents”

2 – you will be prompted to choose a place to save the new file and what to name it. I default to choose the location as Documents and choose a random name.

3 – You will then be prompted with the following options. You can ignore and just hit OK, but to check LDS support and Family Tree Support (but that is for reasons that will be addressed in a separate post).

4 – Now you will be presented with an empty family tree and the spot for one unidentified person highlighted.

5 – In order to document a fact, then we first want to create a source for the fact. On the left side click on “Sources”

6 – You are brought to the page seen below. At this point, click on the plus sign on the top bar.

SIDE NOTE: Do not be confused by the “Edit Source” section on the right, especially since it says free form under source type. This gives the false impression that you can type sourcing information in there. But that section is only for editing an existing source. If you type anything in there it will not be saved because there are no sources yet that you could edit. So do NOT touch the section on the right, just click the plus sign on the top bar.

7 – Clicking the plus sign will bring up a menu of different source types as seen below. But for this post, we will just use Free Form for the sake of simplicity. So click on “Free Form”, make sure it is highlighted, and then click “Next” on the bottom right.

7 – A window pops up with different sections for inputing information about the source.

8 – Now input the relevant information into the source file. In this case we are just documenting the existence of a gravesite based on a webpage from FindAGrave.com.

At the very least, you should input 3 pieces of information.

  • a title (for example, “FindAGrave record for John Smith”)
  • information that you want recorded (for example, “John Smith”, “died in 1788”)
  • some kind of sourcing for the record, in this case i just pasted the url for the webpage listing the information

The final result looks like below. Then hit “ok”

9 – This returns you to the Sourcing page and now you see that a source has been added to the list.

10 – On the left side, click on “People” and you are brought to a page with a blank family tree and a spot for one unidentified person. Click where it says “+ a person”

11- A popup window appears where you can input information about the person.

12 – Input the name and date of death as seen below and then hit “OK”

13 – A new window appears where we can provide the source for the information that we provided.

14 – Next to each fact about the person, there are 5 boxes on the right that have pictures above them. In the line on top where it lists the name as John Smith, we click on the box to the right that is under the picture of a pen. (note that the same fact is at the bottom of the screen, but this is just redundant, feel free to ignore)

15 – After clicking on the box under the pen, the heading on the right side of the screen will change from “Person”, to “Sources”. Under the heading “Sources”, click where it says “+ Add source citation”.

16 – This brings you to a new screen where all of your sources are listed and you are supposed to choose the source that supports the fact (in this case the person’s name) that you have chosen. However, in this example you only have one source so it is automatically chosen and highlighted.

Now you click “Next” on the bottom right corner, followed by “OK”, then “OK”.

“People-Search Websites” (list of tools to search names, addresses, phones)

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The following is a list of websites that can search for US-based people if you know the individuals name, phone number, or address:

Search name, phone, or address

truepeoplesearch.com – name, address, phone (NAP)

searchpeoplefree.com – email, (NAP)

cyberbackgroundchecks.com – email, (NAP)

thatsthem.com – email, (NAP)

advancedbackgroundchecks.com – email, (NAP)

fastpeoplesearch.com – (NAP)

nuwber.com – (NAP)

familytreenow.com – (NAP) – focuses on genealogy

radaris.com – (NAP)

whitepages.com – (NAP)

clustrmaps.com – name, address

truthfinder.com – only for searching phones

Johndoe.com – better results for associates

xlek.com – name

howmanyofme.com – name

spytox.com – https://www.spytox.com/firstname-lastname

spokeo.com – https://www.spokeo.com/Firstname-Lastname?loaded=1

zabasearch.com – only use then name-based search

classmates.com – name

social-searcher.com – focuses on usernames and mentions in social media

yasni.com

homemetry.com – address

Property and other public records

Publicaccountability.org – name, address

Publicrecords.directory – name

https://publicrecords.netronline.com/ – this is a database listing the websites for county governments public records – especially the county appraiser or assessor, which have property records

Phone CallerID Lookup

https://calleridtest.com/

calleridservice.com

https://apeiron.io/cnam

https://www.spydialer.com/

telnyx.com

serviceobjects.om

Crowd-Sourced Phone Search

https://www.truecaller.com/

https://sync.me/

Remove Your Personal Information from the Internet

There are several companies and websites that make use of your personal information but they are required to allow you to opt out. Here is a list of the places and relevant links for you to find where your information is collected and opt out so that it cannot be used by these companies.

Data Brokers

The following links will let you opt out of the major marketing data brokers selling your information

  1. Acxiom
  2. Experian
  3. Oracle
  4. Lexis Nexis and 
  5. Epsilon.

Credit Data

Stop credit reporting agencies from sell your data (the source of junk mail offering “Pre-approved credit offers”) using Opt Out Prescreen:

optoutprescreen.com

Financial Data

Banks also share data about their customers. Choose the bank from the list below to opt out of having your data shared

  1. JP Morgan Chase
  2. Citi
  3. Wells Fargo, and 
  4. Bank of America.

Credit Card

Do a Google search of “[insert credit card company name here] opt out of sharing my information”

You will likely be brought to a page that tells you that you need to actually call them and request to “opt out of sharing my information”. This is inconvenient but most companies make the process relatively convenient. As two examples, see the info below for Capital One and Discover

Capital One – 1-888-817-2970 – click here

Discover Card – 1-800-225-5202 – webpage is here

You can take your name out of Caller ID databases. You should have an account on your carrier’s website. When you log in you will see there is a name listed next to your phone number. If you have more than one phone on the same account there will be a different name listed next to each number. If you change this name it will eventually be reflected in caller ID databases. You can test by calling a phone that does not have your number in its contacts.

Mailing Lists

You can opt out of some of these offers if you:

  • Visit DMAchoice.org to create an account with the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) and decide which mail you want to receive from DMA members. There’s a $2 processing fee, which will cover you for 10 years.
  • Request to be taken off non-DMA mailing and marketing lists, such as those run by RetailMeNot and Valpak.

No Call Lists

You can register for the National Do Not Call Registry – donotcall.gov – which is limited in its effect but still useful

As a backup to the Do Not Call Registry, you can also go to No Mo Robo – nomorobo.com –

Do Not Contact for Caretaker’s Registration – https://ims-dm.com/cgi/dncc.php

Remove your personal data (name, address, phone, birthday) from people-searching websites:

According to Inteltechniques.com: “The ‘MOST BANG FOR YOUR BUCK’ removals: Spokeo, Mylife, Radaris, Whitepages, Intelius, BeenVerified, Acxiom, Infotracer, Lexis Nexis, TruePeopleSearch”

Inteltechniques.com provides and exhaustive list of such websites and the urls for opting out of each of them – https://inteltechniques.com/workbook.html

You may choose to simply google your name and see which websites show up in your results with your personal information and focus on those.

Remove Google Street Views of Your Home

1 -Go to Google Streetview and look at your home. (note that the address has been blocked out with red for privacy)

2 – Click on the three dots (circled here in yellow) and then in the drop down choose “Report a Problem”

This brings you to a new page where you can adjust the photo to center the red and black square over your home

You choose from a list of options what you want to blur (in this case we chose “my home”)

And then you have to input a justification, such as “I am concerned for my privacy”

Don’t forgot two more issues, the first is that even after you have blurred the one image, you can move down the street one space and turn and see the same house, so you have to blur the house from a few different locations and angles

Second, don’t forget about Google Maps’ time machine feature.

See the little clock on the bottom left

When you click on it, you will see the same location from different times in the past. You will also have to blur them individually.

There are similar options for removing photos from Bing Maps, Mapillary.com, and https://kartaview.org/.

And that is it for now!

What you can do with a “right-click”

You can often find good data from a website if you use a right-click.

Here is a quick example, below is a screenshot of a people-searching website. The results from a name search show that the website knows the person’s Facebook account, but you may have to pay for this info.

Instead, you can just right-click on the “Facebook” button and choose “inspect”

Now we see the publicly accessible coding that exists behind the website’s front facing page. A window pops up below showing the site’s coding and if we hover our cursor over a part of the code, we see that the corresponding part of the website will be highlighted so that we know what we are looking at. So you cannot see my cursor, but it is hovering over the highlighed part of the coding text that includes the word “Facebook” and now you see that this is the part of the code that tells the website to show the word “Facebook” on the screen.

What is more important is that 4 lines up from the highlighted line of code, you see a line of code that starts with:

<a class=”detail” href=

The term “href” signals that a link will follow it (In case you are curious, “href” stands for Hypertext REFerence)

As you see in the screenshot below, if we highlight the “href” line we see that it corresponds to the “Facebook” button on the webpage. So when the coding says “href=”, it means that the link in the button on the webpage screen will take you to the url that follows “href=”.

I you want to be overly literal about it, the code is communicating that the href is the location that the button takes you, so the code is saying that the href “=” (or “is”) the following url. Though I have obscured the full link, you see below that the link is for a specific Facebook account and therefore you now know the location of the Facebook account without actually haveing to click on the button itself.

This is just one example. You may notice that some company websites will have a page with photos of all of its staff members but you need to hover your cursor over a photo for the name and info of the staff member to appear. This is an increasingly common trend in corporate websites. If you encounter such a page, you can right-click and hit inspect. Doing so will bring you to the coding behind the website, which will include all of the info for each staff member, thereby allowing you to avoid the cumbersome process of hovering your cursor over each photo one at a time. This is especially useful if you are looking for a specific name.

If you find yourself needing to access, download, and manipulate (on your own computer) the data from a website (such as info on staff members), you can consider using the tool Parsehub. There is a great explanation of how you can use this tool even if you are a complete novice. See the guide “Saving time and rearranging websites” written by Samantha Sunne on ToolsForReporters.com (one of my favorite websites).