How To Create An 'If I Go Missing' Folder & Why Cops Say It Could Save Your Life

Maintaining a file of photos, fingerprints, dental records, online logins, and other information that can help locate you is reportedly a new trend — and a good idea.

Updated on January 23, 2023
If I Go Missing Folder [WCNC Charlotte/screenshot]

Photo by: If I Go Missing Folder [WCNC Charlotte/screenshot]

If I Go Missing Folder [WCNC Charlotte/screenshot]

By: Mike McPadden

According to the FBI’s most recent report, more than 93,000 missing persons investigations are currently being conducted in the United States. It’s a sobering statistic that might understandably make anyone worry for their own well-being, as well as that of their loved ones.

In reading about some missing person cases, it seems natural to wish that investigators had easy access to one-stop resources that included the victim’s personal records, information, and other material that could help track them down.

From that notion, it’s being reported, the idea of creating your own “If I Go Missing” folder has apparently taken off and become a nationwide trend.

The idea is being largely credited to the popular Crime Junkie podcast, on which host Ashley Flowers reportedly suggested that everyone should create their own “safety net,” and listeners seem to have responded on a massive scale.

Among the suggested items to include in an “If I Go Missing” folder are the following:

  • Clear, recent face photos
  • Fingerprints
  • Online and personal technology logins
  • Social-media passwords
  • Bank account numbers
  • Dental and other medical records
  • Copy of your driver’s license
  • Photos of identifying scars or tattoos
  • Photos of jewelry you wear often
  • Names and address of places you frequent
  • Handwriting samples
  • Vehicle information, such as license plates, VIN, photos of the vehicle
  • Layout of your typical daily routes
  • Cellphone and laptop serial numbers
  • Names and descriptions of the relationships with the people closest to you
  • Contact info for your family members and closest friends

In addition to creating personal “If I Go Missing” folders, many parents are reportedly creating similar files for their children.

Talking to NBC affiliate WCNC, Union County Sheriff Office representative Tony Underwood said, “You do want to allow as many protections in place as you can in case you disappeared or if someone abducted you or something tragic happened. If you have one centralized location, it does circumvent having to write search warrants, court orders, trying to find someone who can give lawful consent to get access to this information.”

Of course, keeping all that crucial information in one place does pose some security risks, particularly in regard to identity theft.

It’s strongly suggested that you do not store your “If I Go Missing” file online or on an electronic device. Instead, create a physical folder that can be stored in an extremely safe place. More specifically, Underwood said, “Keep it secured in a safe-deposit box at a bank … where only a few trusted people have access.”

Some observers have pointed to the case of Kelsey Smith as one in which investigators might have greatly benefitted from an “If I Go Missing” folder.

In 2007, 18-year-old Smith was abducted from the parking lot of a Target in Kansas City. Due to various obstructions, it took investigators four days to acquire access to her cellphone, which may have led authorities to her location. Tragically, during the time that elapsed, Smith had been murdered.

At present, Smith's parents are advocating for the Kelsey Smith Act, a potential law that would enable police to get instant access to phone records without a search warrant in life-or-death crisis situations.

To help members of the public start their own “If I Go Missing” folders, the Crime Junkie podcast offers an online form that you can access here.

Note: This article was originally published on July 22, 2019 and updated on Jan. 23, 2023.

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