Finding a Missing Person for Free

Our product recommendations are made independently, but we may earn affiliate commissions if you use a link on this page.

Having someone go missing in your life is a scary occurrence, and when you don’t have money to offer a reward, you might feel hopeless when it comes to searching for them. The good news is you don’t need to have money to look for a missing person.

Searching for a missing person is an arduous task, but it can typically be accomplished for free using a combination of several methods. Read on to learn more about ways you can find a missing person for free.

9. Ways to Find a Missing Person for Free

1. File a Report with the Police

Whether or not you have money, the first thing you should do when someone goes missing in your life is file a police report. This will help get your loved one attention from the local law enforcement as well as the media.

When you file a missing child report, the police will likely want to know about it right away. They will also organize a search party as soon as possible. If an adult is missing from your life, the police will likely ask that you wait 24 hours before filing a police report. Then, based on the circumstances of the disappearance, they may or may not organize a search party.

Do note that when filing a missing person report about an adult, you may need to travel to where they live to do so. Some police precincts will accept a missing person’s report over the phone, but others will not. You should also arrange to give law enforcement a recent photo of the disappeared person.

After filing your report, hold on to the case number and officer’s name so you can check back in later.

2. Contact Local Hospitals and Jails

Once you have opened a police report, it might be a good idea to contact local hospitals or jails where the individual lived to see if there is anyone there who was admitted without identification. It is also possible that your loved one committed a crime and didn’t want you to know about it.

It’s a good idea to ask the officer while you are on the phone for a website for the local precinct. Most jails currently have an inmate search system where you can find someone within 24 hours of their arrest just by using their name.

When you call hospitals, give the individual’s full name as well as a description of them. You may need to be next of kin in order to be given information about the individuals.

3. Check the Location of Their Phone

If it is your child or parent missing, and they are on the same phone plan as you, it’s possible that you may be able to see the location of their phone. This is only possible if they have shared it with you, but some phones come with this feature equipped, and people often don’t turn it off.

Additionally, even if they aren’t sharing their location with you, if you are a parent on a phone plan with a minor, you can typically contact the carrier and request access to the phone’s location. If you have already contacted the police, they will likely do this for you.

Even if you are looking for a friend, it is possible that they have shared their location with a member of their family at some point. Ask their parents and siblings to check their phones and see if they can access the phone’s location.

4. Post on Social Media

Following your filing of a missing person’s report and checking local hospitals and jails, the next best thing you can do is post on social media. Ask all your friends and family if they have seen an individual and post a picture.

Social media allows information to reach a large group of people very quickly. Plus, if someone has seen the individual more recently than you have, this can help you trace their steps. There is also a chance that the individual is just with a friend, and they will come across your post.

When making your post ensure you include the person’s name, description, and last known location. It can also be a good idea to check either in Instagram or FB Messenger to see when they were last seen online. This can give you a better idea as to when they went missing.

Keep in mind that it is never a good idea to post your phone number on social media. Instead, ask the people seeing your post to contact local authorities if they have any information. You can also ask them to message you on the social media platform you use but be prepared to be approached by scammers who are trying to take advantage of your worry.

5. Contact the Local News Station

Unless you live in a massive city like NYC, most local news stations are always looking for something to report—and they’ll likely be more than happy to post your missing person. Typically, there is an email address or website you can use to submit your query to your local channel.

Before you involve the media, check to make sure it is okay with the police. If a crime has possibly been committed, they might say no. But if you are looking for someone who disappeared without a trace, the news will get the information out as quickly as possible.

When you approach the news, ensure you have all the necessary facts in order, from what the person looked like (they will probably want a picture) to details about when and where they were last seen. Also, be prepared to speak directly to a reporter if they need more information.

6. Post Fliers

Although not as common as they used to be, it is still a good idea to post fliers when someone in your life goes missing. These fliers should be placed in the area they were last seen, as well as places with a lot of foot traffic, like bus stops and train stations.

Before posting fliers, ensure you have a recent and good-quality photo for them, as the quality will diminish when copied. You will also want to include a number to local law enforcement or purchase a separate phone with a new number. You will likely get some scams and spam calls as a result of the poster, so ensure you are prepared for this.

7. Look in a Missing Persons Database

There are many databases of missing persons which can be accessed and searched for free. The National Missing and Unidentified Persons System is run by the US government and can be used by any citizen for free.

First, look for your missing family member to see if they are in the database. If they are not, you’ll need to make a free account to be able to add their information. Once their information is in there, local police and law enforcement can look through and add their own information.

8. Take Out a Free Ad

Even though there are fewer and fewer people reading the paper every day, there are still some areas where it is a prominent hobby. If you live in an area where people read the newspaper, contact the local paper and ask about taking out a free ad.

If they say no, you can also look at posting a free ad on Craigslist or another news site that allows this practice. Just like with the fliers, you will want to avoid using your regular phone number and be prepared to entertain the possibility of a scam or spam call.

9. Search Online

The internet is more vast than any other database, and it has lots of information about people all over the world. While it will be difficult to narrow your search to a single individual, it can be a helpful tool when someone in your life goes missing.

Start by doing a Google search with their name on the off chance there is news about them from another city or state that you missed on your search. Then, try to get more specific, searching for “john doe found” or “jane doe found” along with cities and states that you think your family member might have ended up in.

You can also search their physical description to see if that turns up any results. During your search, you might come up with webpages like online directories that have the individual's name and phone number, but it’s important to note that these are likely not up to date. It is much better to focus on searching for news stories in order to get information about your missing family member.

If you are looking for a family member who went missing years ago, it may be worthwhile to sign up for a free genealogy search site to attempt to contact them or related family members.

Reference Legal Explanations

If you use any of the definitions, information, or data presented on Legal Explanations, please copy the link or reference below to properly credit us as the reference source. Thank you!

  • "Finding a Missing Person for Free". Legal Explanations. Accessed on June 13, 2024.

  • "Finding a Missing Person for Free". Legal Explanations, Accessed 13 June, 2024

  • Finding a Missing Person for Free. Legal Explanations. Retrieved from