Any true crime fan knows that the initial days after someone goes missing are crucial to whether they are found alive and well. In fact, the Australian Federal Police say that the first 24 hours are absolutely critical to whether a missing person is found.
In the last year or so, there’s been a rise in people creating ‘If I Go Missing’ files. These files contain a wide berth of information that would assist police in the incredibly unfortunate event that the creator goes missing. It also includes a signed document of release, so time is not wasted during these critical initial days by police having to gain warrants and permissions in order to gain access to things that could drastically help investigators.
The trend was birthed by true crime podcast Crime Junkie (albeit with some controversy), and seems to have particularly resonated with women. This is no surprise in Australia, where 61 women were killed by violence last year and the rapes and murders of Jill Meagher, Eurydice Dixon, Courtney Herron, Aiia Maarsarwe, and Laa Chol (among many others) shook the nation. These heartbreaking stories made many Australian women think deeply about their daily safety.
So, it’s no surprise that ‘If I Go Missing’ files are growing in popularity. Here’s some tips on how to make a comprehensive one.
1. General Info About You
Obviously police would need general information about you and your appearance: height, weight, date of birth, sex and gender identity, ethnicity, and so on. If you’ve ever filled out a government form, you know the drill.
2. Your Social Media Profiles
It’s probably pretty confronting thinking about police trawling through your messages, but remember – if you go missing, your embarrassing sexts will be the least of your worries. So remember to be comprehensive when it comes to listing all the usernames and passwords for your social media accounts: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Tik Tok, LinkedIn, Whatsapp – all of them, no matter how insignificant they might seem. Don’t forget Tinder, Grindr, Bumble, Scruff, and any other dating apps you use too – they’re important.
3. Bank Account Details
It can sometimes take ages for authorities to legally gain access to your bank accounts, so if police are able to login and see your most recent purchases straight away, it might help pinpoint your movements and help you be found quickly. Literally one ATM withdrawal can help authorities figure out where you were at crucial times.
It’s best to list all of your accounts and debit / credit card numbers, as well as all the login details for your online banking and Paypal.
4. Medical Information
Obviously list your regular GP’s details and any regular medical appointments you keep, but it’s also important to note down if you see any other medical professionals, such as psychologists, psychiatrists, dentists, physiotherapists, etc).
It’s also a good idea to list your medical conditions and diagnoses (previous and current), the medications you take (include frequency and dosage), surgical history, allergies and intolerances, health concerns that are undiagnosed, and any other general notes you might have about your physical or mental health.
5. Your Typical Day-To-Day
A general overview of a typical day and your usual week could help police figure out the general area you may have been in when you went missing. List your usual work days and hours (as well as your manager’s contact details) and your regular after-work or weekend activities like the gym, sporting events and training sessions, regular catch ups with friends, shopping, and any other hobbies.
It’s also a good idea to describe and map out the route you take to commute or to and from regular activities. List the public transport route and usual times you board and disembark, metro card account logins, as well as your login details for Uber, Lyft, and any other ridesharing apps you use. If you drive, then list your car’s make, model, and year, your license plate number, any damage or identifying features of your vehicle, your driver’s license number, and any places that you regularly park your car.
6. Places You Frequent
Even the most introverted homebody has a list of places they frequent. From your local supermarket and parks, to the pub you sometimes have a beer at after work, the restaurant you and your significant other frequent on Friday nights, or the bar you and friends always meet at for a Sunday sesh – all of them could be significant in investigations, and it’ll give authorities a list of places to start with if they can’t find any other information. Even places you have memberships at, like galleries or libraries, or even loyalty cards for, like chemists or shops, could help.
To help with this, go through your wallet and find any membership cards you have, and also go through your recent purchases via your online banking to figure out where you frequent the most.
7. Important Logins
Some other important logins that could be really helpful are activity apps, like health and walking apps that might track where you go. Another is your Google login – that way police will have access to not only your emails (if you use Gmail), but also your Google Maps, which tracks basically everywhere you go with your phone.
Another big one: your logins for your phone and computers. Your PIN code or password to enter your phone and personal computer, as well as your username and password for your Apple ID or Google Play account. These accounts can take a long time to get access to, and can give enormously important insight if your phone is found.
8. The People You’re Closest To
Make sure you list all the important people in your life. Obviously include your parents and siblings, any other important family members or anyone in your family that you keep regular contact with. Close friends are obvious too, as is your significant other if you have one. It can also be a good idea to list your boss or manager at work, as well as your landlord/rental agent. Make sure to include the best way to contact them all.
As dark as this might sound – it might also be a good idea to list anyone that you have ‘bad blood’ with. Exes, friendships that ended badly, former housemates, people that owe you money or vice versa. Grim stuff, obviously, but you never know what could help in a dire situation.
Finally – you absolutely should list who knows about your ‘If I Go Missing’ file, and who knows where it is hidden/how to access it. This is important.
9. Photos Of Yourself
It’s a really good idea to include recent photos of yourself – authorities and media often have to rely on publicly available social media photos, which can often be outdated. Do you really want a photo of you at sixteen years of age, emo fringe and all, on the top of news stories if the worst happens? I bloody don’t.
Also include photos of any identifying features: scars, birthmarks, tattoos and the like. Also any jewellery you regularly wear, in case any of these things are found.
Scans of important documents, like your passport, drivers license, Medicare card, birth certificate, marriage certificate, insurance documents, and all that sort of thing can also be helpful to collate into the one place.
10. Fingerprints & Handwriting Samples
This goes without saying, really. If you’ve ever watched any crime show ever, you know why fingerprints are important. Handwriting is not *as* important, but, y’know, if there’s a ransom note or something then knowing if it’s actually your handwriting or not could be helpful.
11. Signed Permission
Finally, a document at the end that says you wrote and compiled your ‘If I Go Missing’ file, you were of sound mind and not under duress when you did it, and you give permission for it all to be used in the event that you can’t be found and are believed to be in danger.
Make sure you sign and date it, and initial all the pages of the document too. Some people choose to take a photo of themselves holding up a newspaper or piece of paper with a date on it, too, to prove that it’s actually them.
Whether or not this letter of acknowledgment, and all the accompanying data inside a ‘If I Go Missing’ folder will hold up in court is unknown. However, the general mindset is that in a horrendous situation, it’s better to be safe than sorry – and on the off chance that this *could* help, one might as well do the most they can. As long as the file or folder is hidden in a safe place only a significant other or very close friend knows about, it seems like a positive thing to do.
This might seem like tinfoil hat kind of stuff or extremely pessimistic, but safety is something that so many of us worry about. Why not maximise our chances?
Chloe Sargeant is a Sydney-based journalist. You can follow her at @chlosarge.Image: Getty Images