Yet another excerpt (dare I say, an “exciting excerpt”?) from “How The *Bleep* Did You Find Me”, available now at Amazon.
Dealing with attorneys on both sides of the courtroom (defendant and plaintiff) represents 90% of my business, so, no matter what time of day it is, when a call comes in from a law firm, you answer the phone.
Thank goodness my grandmother’s recipe for spaghetti sauce is going to take a while to cook.
A lead attorney from well known law firm in southern Colorado is on the line. When the attorney himself calls you, and not his paralegal, it’s got to be an important case. He has sent his process server to three separate addresses trying to get papers served on a 23 year old young lady named Caroline who caused a major accident on the highway three years ago. The process server is frustrated because she’s simply vanished. The attorney is concerned that the statute of limitations is going to run out before they can get her served.
We’ve got six short days to find this little gal and get the summons and complaint in her hands, or his client is going to be barred forever from recovering damages for the injuries she suffered in the accident.
Working with attorneys sometimes also means working hand in hand with process servers. On those cases, I have to be pretty cocksure that I have good information for the process server to “effect service” on the person. In other words, the attorneys do not look kindly on having their process server charge them for running all over town trying to serve papers on somebody that I merely “think” might be at a certain address. That usually means I try to get not only vehicle information on the defendant or witness to be served, but also a recent photograph of them.
I ask the attorney for the addresses that were no good, and get the date and location of the accident. My next stop is to a site where I can download actual copies of the traffic accident reports and tickets.
Time to start building my file. From the accident report, I glean Caroline’s date of birth, her address and drivers license number, home phone number, work phone number and information on the vehicle she was driving at the time of the accident. I stay on the site and find three subsequent traffic tickets for Caroline, the most recent one was 11 months ago.
The addresses all match up with the unsuccessful service attempts, so I’m not going to get any new information here.
Next stop is running the VIN number on her car. She sold it right after the accident. Additional checking shows that she has not purchased another car. In Colorado, you only have to renew your drivers license every few years and, while you’re supposed to notify the Department of Revenue every time your address changes, few people do. But, you DO have to register your car each year. That’s usually a more reliable source of current address information than a drivers license check. And, oh yeah – that information is, you guessed it, public information.
But, Caroline didn’t buy another car. Oh Caroline, where have you taken off to?
I decide that Caroline is young enough that she probably is actively using Facebook, so that’s my next stop.
Social media has made my life’s work that much easier. Back in 1968, Andy Warhol said “In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes”. In their rush to their claim to fame, I have learned that way too many people will post way too many personal things on social media.
45% of social media users share their birth date, month and year. No big deal, right? Wrong! If you’re living in an anonymity bubble because your name is John Smith, knowing that you are THE John Smith born on October 31 of 1970 has just put me on your doorstep.
Sure enough, my hunch is right. Caroline has a Facebook page. She hasn’t used any privacy settings, and that’s just like Christmas Day for me. Because once I have found you on social media, honey, I will haunt your home page and photographs like a jealous lover.
I pour myself a glass of iced tea and settle in at my computer to delve into the life and times of little miss Caroline.
Like most 20-somethings, Caroline is chatty on Facebook. Way too chatty. It takes me all of a minute to go to the “About” section on her Facebook page, where she proudly lists her birth date, hometown (Pueblo, Colorado) and her current city, St. Louis, Missouri. Thank you Caroline.
But it gets better. She also says she’s working as a barista at a trendy little coffee shop there. “Love my life! I think I’ve found my calling!” she writes.
And it’s got a link to the address and the hours of operation. A few computer links later, I find that she put the utilities in her name at a little apartment just a few blocks from the Java place in St. Louis three months ago.
I could easily hook up the attorney with a process server in Missouri and have her served in under a week.
Could this be any more sublime? Oh yes. Oh yes, it can.
As I’m scrolling down her page and hundreds of her posts to find a good picture of her to print off, I find a status of hers saying “Can’t wait to be back in Pueblo this Friday for Richie’s graduation!” Oh really? You’re coming back to Colorado, are you? In three days?
Well, let’s just find your friend Richie and see which high school he’s graduating from in Pueblo.
Click click click.
High School found, a fast search on Google for graduation information lists the place, date and time of the graduation ceremony.
One more sweep of Caroline’s page and…oh girl – you didn’t – you just put your new cell phone number in a comment along with the Amtrak train info for your trip home.
Methinks we need to call the attorney. Pronto.
Three days later. It’s graduation day.
Armed with the papers, plus my two day old photos of Caroline modeling the new dress she bought for Richie’s graduation, the process server calmly walks into the auditorium for the ceremony.
Within a few minutes, he spots Caroline and, just to be sure, he dials her cell phone number.
She picks up her cell phone.
The attorney is happy.