Face Value

by admin on September 24, 2014

Storage auction shows are all over television nowadays. If you sift through the fluff, scripts and heavy production, you can find a few pointers.

Bidders are investigators. Because they can’t touch the items in the storage unit, they have to take everything at face value. Even though they only see the face, there’s much more value than you think.

Say you walk up to the open unit and see a bunch of boxes with writing on the sides. Just a bunch of boxes, right?


Are the boxes clean and stacked neatly?  If so, the people care about the contents.

Do you see the word “fragile” on the side of any boxes?  If so, they care enough about the contents to alert themselves about the contents. Plus, “fragile” means breakable, but also can mean “valuable.”

Are there layers of boxes that go the end of the unit? If so, you’re multiplying the possible score, based on your assessment of the first row.

All of that from looking at a bunch of boxes.

In all phases of the follow-up process you can look past the face value. Here are a few examples.

1. Gathering locating information – Was the participant comfortable with all the questions?  If not, they may not be telling you the full story, or even bending the truth.

2. Going by addresses – Is the grass super long?  Is there mail overflowing out of the mailbox?  They either are a hermit, out of town, or not living there.

3. Searching public records – Do they have a ton of different addresses?  You have a highly mobile person on your hands.

None of these ideas are directly stated. You need to look past the face value and look for clues, and ultimately, what they really mean. 

(By the way, 90% of the storage units up for auction are full of garbage. Television bends the truth a bit. Shocker!)







Shifting Foundations

by admin on August 18, 2014

The world of finding people continues to change. Just when you think things are stable, the ground underneath you shifts. The routine is gone. You need to start over again.

One ingredient under constant change is the world of public records databases. They never sit still. They are businesses, and businesses fail, g0 bankrupt or get bought out. They are moving targets.

Over the last 15 years, I mastered and then lost access to numerous databases. Most of the time they get bought out by their competition.

I learned an important lesson. You can’t hitch your wagon to one or even a few databases. You have to know how to jump into any database. It’s the only way to stay ahead of the game. Plus, you need to be ready for it at any time. When takeovers occur, they do so fast.


It Takes All Kinds

by admin on July 9, 2014

A guy in St. Paul recently broke into a family home and helped himself to some of their possessions. Before he left the scene of the crime, he felt compelled to check his Facebook page. He did so and then hit the road. His plan went awry when he forgot to log off of Facebook.

The cops picked up the guy walking down the street. He was wearing a watch he stole from the house. He said he planned on returning the stolen items.

Sometimes finding people is really easy.



June 19, 2014

Recently I checked out a show about the hunt for Nazi war criminals. They profile one gentleman who lost his entire family in a concentration camp. He somehow survived. Ever since the war, he dedicated his life to finding and bringing all war criminals to justice. Distance or time are not barriers for him. He […]

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The Man (or Woman) in the Arena

May 19, 2014

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who […]

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Rural Lessons

May 1, 2014

I want to talk for a few minutes about my grandfather. It’s been several years since he moved on to bigger and better things on a higher plain. But he left numerous lessons that served me well in my career of tracking participants in longitudinal research. Grandpa was a farmer in Edmore, ND. He tended […]

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One More Cup of Coffee

April 20, 2014

Whether it be at conferences or someone reaching out through the website, I love the first conversations about a possible partnership. (It’s even better if it’s over coffee!) I’m always intrigued by the nuances of each project. I always look forward to their questions. They range from humble beginnings to the latest trends in reducing […]

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Clean Slate

April 3, 2014

At the start of my tracking career in 1999, I was tasked with finding over 900 illicit drug users from ten years prior, using scant identifiable participant data.  I didn’t know a thing.  I even told them in the interview. Ha! As I reflect back on that time, a new awareness becomes apparent. What I […]

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Pack Your Bags

March 18, 2014

With March Madness around the corner, I’d like to share some insight from one of the greats – Jimmy Valvano. I think it’s obvious how his words apply to any obstacle ahead of you, including locating the hardest to find in longitudinal research. I hope you enjoy it.

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Anatomy of a Neighborhood

March 14, 2014

When you’re going by addresses, you’re not just going to someone’s residence. You’re entering into a neighborhood, with unique routines and nuances. It’s important to pay extra attention to these dynamics, and ensure you’re not disrupting the flow. When I was a kid living in a small town in North Dakota, the town newspaper contained […]

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