Missing Persons Facts
Missing Persons Facts

50 Interesting Missing People Facts

Karin Lehnardt
By Karin Lehnardt, Senior Writer
Published February 25, 2017Updated March 13, 2020

You already know that every day around the world, people go missing. Some are kidnapped, some run away, and some are victims of foul play. But you may not know these surprising missing people facts and information.

  • Every 40 seconds, a child goes missing in the U.S.[7]
  • When a child goes missing, the first 3 hours are the most crucial in finding the child safely. Approximately 76.2% of abducted children who are murdered are dead within three hours of the abduction.[7]
  • It can take over 2 hours to get information about a missing child from a panicked parent.[7]
  • Every year, more than 800,000 children are missing in the United States.[5]
  • A person can be declared dead in absentia or "legally dead” after 7 years of being listed as missing. This time can be reduced in certain cases, such as in mass disasters (e.g., Sept 11, 2001) or major battles.[4]
  • In 1980, roughly 150,000 people were reported missing per year. Now the number is 900,000.[4]
  • Missing Persons Facts
    Over 2,300 Americans are reported missing every day
  • Approximately 2,300 Americans are reported missing—every day. This includes both children and adults. This does not include Americans who have vanished in other countries, individuals who disappear and are never reported, or the homeless and their children.[4]
  • In the mid-1980s, milk cartons with photos of missing children on them made their debut. The first child to appear on one of those milk cartons was Etan Patz, a 6-year-old from New York who disappeared walking to the bus stop in May 1975. He has never been found. However, in 2012, a man named Pedro Hernandez confessed to killing him.[6]
  • Minorities, those who suffer from mental disorders, and substance abusers who go missing often receive little attention from authorities and little sympathy from the press or public.[4]
  • In most jurisdictions, missing persons cases receive low priority. Authorities are already working homicides, robberies, rapes, assaults, traffic issues, and crime prevention.[4]
  • More than 99% of children reported in missing in America today come home alive. The likelihood of finding an abducted child has increased due to technological advances in the way searches are conducted and the knowledge that acting quickly saves lives.[3]
  • Most of the Indian Ocean tsunami victims in 2004 were identified through DNA extracted from molars. Since teeth are one of the hardest and most indestructible substances in the human body, they are likely to survive trauma. They are also a good source of DNA if there have been no dental fillings, root canals, etc.[4]
  • Forensic artists use techniques such as age progression to help locate missing persons. A forensic artist must have knowledge about how the face changes as it grows older, such as what sags and what expands. Having a picture of the biological parents also helps construct an accurate age progression photo. Usually, a child must be 1 to 18 months old and missing for at least 2 years before he or she can be age progressed.[4]
  • Medical examiners and coroner’s offices in the U.S. hold more than 40,000 sets of unidentified remains. That number is large enough to represent a small city.[4]
  • Of the 692,944 people reported missing in 2010, 531,928 were under the age of 18.[4]
  • According to the National Crime Information Center (NCIC), 355,243 women were reported missing in 2010 compared to 337,660 men.[4]
  • It is estimated that nearly 800,000 children will be reported each year in the U.S; 40,000 children go missing each year in Brazil; 50,500 in Canada; 39,000 in France; 100,000 in Germany; and 45,000 in Mexico. An estimated 230,000 children go missing in the U.K. each year, or one child every 5 minutes.[4]
  • It is estimated that at least 8 million children worldwide go missing each year.[4]
  • Interesting Facts about Missing Person
  • Scholars note that the media focuses more on women, especially white women, who go missing because of society’s apparent obsession with “damsels in distress.” In other words, people are interested in cases in which young, beautiful, often blond, girls have been abducted and are in need of rescue. This is called “the missing white woman syndrome.”[1]
  • Child abduction alerts patterned after the U.S. AMBER Alert have been implemented in 18 countries: Australia, Belgium, Canada, Czech Republic, France, Greece, Guatemala, Italy, Mexico, the Netherlands, Malaysia, Poland, Portugal, Romania, South Korea, Switzerland, and the U.K.[4]
  • Europe is implementing a single missing child telephone number across Europe: 116 000.[4]
  • In 1998, the International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children (ICMEC) created the Global Missing Children’s Network (GMCN), a multilingual database that features photographs and information about missing children from around the world.[4]
  • According to U.S. legal definitions, a missing person is defined as a “person 18 years or older whose disappearance is possibly not voluntary, or a child whose whereabouts are unknown to the child’s legal custodian.”[4]
  • There are several types of forensics that can be used for missing persons cases, including 1) computer forensics (examining files on the computer of a missing person or suspected abductor), 2) physical evidence (DNA samples), 3) forensic psychology (interpreting body language, verbal cues), and 4) positive identification.[4]
  • Of the 900,000 people reported missing each year in the U.S., 50,000 are over the age of 18. Half of missing adults are white, 30% are African American, and 20% are Latino.[2]
  • Half of the 800,000 missing-juvenile cases reported each year are runaways. One quarter of missing-children cases are abductions committed by family members, often as a result of custody disputes. Approximately 100 are kidnappings by strangers. Of these, most of the victims are between 12 and 17, 80% are white, and 90% of the kidnappers are men. In more than half the cases, the victims are sexually assaulted.[7]
  • Minority children make up 65% of all non-family abductions. African American children make up 42%.[2]
  • In most of the developing world—including Africa, Asia, and Latin America—no one is counting missing children. Additionally, there are no specific laws on missing children, no established protocol, and no central missing child registries.[4]
  • Sad Facts about Missing Person
    In many countries, missing children are not tracked

  • Those with drug and alcohol addiction, psychiatric problems, and the elderly suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s make up the bulk of missing-adult cases.[4]
  • The FBI designates severe, urgent missing person cases as “endangered or involuntary.” Approximately 15% of missing person cases are given that classification each year; most of them are applied to children.[4]
  • Over 83,000 Americans are missing from WWII, the Korean War, the Cold War, the Vietnam War, and the 1991 Gulf War.[8]
  • Japan has the 7th highest rate of international parental abductions involving U.S. children. Mexico ranks the first. Other countries that are uncooperative in returning abducted children to their U.S. parents include India, Slovakia, Honduras, Russia, and Switzerland.[4]
  • Of the 16 million Americans who served in WWII, there are more than 73,000 Americans still unaccounted for.[8]
  • At any given time, an estimated 90,000 people are missing in the United States.[4]
  • More than 7,500 Americans remain unaccounted for from the Korean War.[8]
  • One of the first missing children in America was Virginia Dare, who was the first baby born in the New World on Roanoke Island in 1587. When her grandfather left for England for more resources and then returned three years later, he couldn’t find the toddler—or any of the other settlers. The only clue was the word Croatan, which was carved on one of the settlement posts.[4]
  • More than 1,600 Americans remain unaccounted for from the Vietnam War.[8]
  • There are as many as 100,000 active missing persons cases in the U.S. at any given time.[4]
  • Tragic Missing Persons Fact
    There are as many as 100,000 active missing persons cases in the U.S. at any given time

  • One of the most famous missing person’s cases was Charles Lindbergh’s baby. On March 1, 1932, his 20-month-old son, Charlie, was taken from his crib. Though a ransom was paid, the child was not returned and his body was found 72 days later. The tragedy inspired Congress to pass the Federal Kidnapping Act, also known as the Lindbergh Law, to make kidnapping across state lines a federal offense.[4]
  • On November 24, 1971, a man who called himself D.B. Cooper hijacked Northwest Airlines Flight 305. Once $200,000 and several parachutes were delivered per his request, he parachuted into the night. To this day, no one knows his whereabouts—or if he even survived.[4]
  • May 25th is Missing Children’s Day in the United States and in several European countries. It was established in1983 on the anniversary of Etan Patz’s disappearance.[4]
  • Frank Ahearn, a skiptracer (a term for people who find others), says that people intentionally go missing for usually two reasons: money or danger. Men usually leave because of money, and women because of danger. While the bulk of intentional disappearances were once men, more and more women choose to bail out.[4]
  • In the United States alone, enough children are abducted by family members on an average day to fill a school bus every other hour, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.[4]
  • According to the U.S. Department of State, there are no statistics that track the number of Americans who go missing in a foreign country in a given year. The United Kingdom does, however. In 2008, 481 British disappeared abroad, an increase from 401 the previous year and 336 in 2006.[4]
  • In 2008, there were 30 officially documented disappearances on cruise ships in the preceding five years.[4]
  • Police caution families of the missing to beware of scammers and people who claim to have psychic knowledge of the loved one’s fate.[4]
  • Interesting Facts about Missing Persons
    Family abductions are the most common type of child abduction
  • Family abductions are the most common type of child abduction. Of family-abducted children, fathers are responsible 53% of the time, while mothers are responsible 25% of the time. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, and other family members abducted the remainder of these children. Around 46% are returned within a week and 21% are returned within a month.[4]
  • When children disappear, they fall under the auspices of the National Child Search Assistance Act, which was passed in 1990. This act prohibits law enforcement agencies from requiring a waiting period before taking a missing persons report and provides that certain information be entered into the national database known as the National Crime Information Center (NCIC).[4]
  • The AMBER Alert, or Child Abduction Emergency, was named for 9-year-old Amber Hagerman who was abducted and slain in 1996. Its official acronym is “America’s Missing: Broadcasting Emergency Response.”[4]
  • The first child in the U.S. to be recovered using the AMBER Alert was Rae Leigh Bradbury when she was abducted at 8 weeks old in November 1998 in Texas.[4]

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