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How To Identify Someone Who May Be Evading Service

  • March 09, 2011
  • by Staff


Not only do process servers have a number of duties and responsibilities when service of process goes as planned, but when service becomes difficult these responsibilities increase exponentially. It is of utmost importance that process servers ensure that their service adheres to both state law and their clients’ instructions so as to be valid. Failure to do so can result in a number of problems such as increased costs and time for both the client and the server. Accordingly, ensuring that the party who is to be served actually is the person served oftentimes requires thinking outside of the box when faced with a difficult target.

While it is fairly obvious that it is beneficial to get as much information from the client as to the target’s physical appearance, demeanor, daily habits or routines, vehicles, or other important traits, sometimes the server is not privy to such information and is forced to rely upon his or own persistence, quick thinking, and creativity.

If the intended recipient is aware of impending service and has a cursory knowledge of the procedure but does not wish to be served, delivery becomes a game of cat and mouse. A process server should always assume that the intended target is at the location and not simply ask. This authoritativeness sets the stage for any further communication that ensues and ensures that the server acts with confidence. Such confidence presents a greater likelihood of a successful serve than would likely be the case without it.

Surveillance is a common tactic, but this is sometimes not feasible when working within time constraints. Many process servers develop their own techniques for identifying subjects, and you likely have an arsenal of tricks, but we’ve put together a quick list of 10 tips to identify someone who may be evading service.

10 Tips for Verifying the Identity of a Difficult Subject

  1. First and foremost, neighbors are perhaps the best source of information about a target. A wealth of information can be gleaned from talking with neighbors, such as whether the target is home, working hours, type of vehicle driven, and other valuable information. In rare cases, a neighbor may be cooperative to the point that he or she calls the server when the target is actually home so as to further facilitate service.
  2. If a server sees an individual who may be the intended target, calling out the person’s name to see if they answer is fairly logical. This can be done while the person is in a yard, in a public area at his or her workplace, or even walking down a sidewalk or at a store. It is difficult to deny being a particular individual when one just answered to his or her name.
  3. Asking for someone other than the intended target when the potential target answers the door—such as a neighbor—and then asking the target for his or her name for the server’s report will likely enable the server to get a target to self-identify because the focus of attention will be shifted to someone else. This can also be done by asking for a completely fictitious person as well.
    1. Another variation on this involves the server telling whoever opens the door that he or she has a very important delivery or, simply, important papers for a resident at the address and then to ask for the person’s name. If the person refuses to give his or her name then the server can say something to the effect of, “Well, I will have to advise the court that it can proceed without so-and-so but it doesn’t look very good for that person.” In some cases, if the target is indeed speaking to the server then they will self-identify to avoid further trouble.
  4. Establishing a friendly rapport with the intended target by casual conversation can oftentimes lead to his or her own self-identification, or provide the server enough opportunities to verify the person’s identity by catching them in a lie.
  5. This tip is particularly useful and one that may not be considered as much as it should be. Look for the target—particularly if the person has a relatively uncommon name—on social networking sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn, or MySpace for a picture or further information to facilitate the serve, as chances are good that the person has created a profile on at least one of these sites.
  6. You can consider openly videotaping the service because people are less inclined to lie if they are being recorded.
  7. If a server is relatively certain that the person with whom they are speaking is the target but will not self-identify, saying something akin to, “I have to call my boss for further instructions,” gives the server an opportunity to actually take a picture of the person with a cell phone and send it to the client for identification. Further, as mentioned in #4, the ability to converse with the individual until confirmation of identity occurs is a plus.
  8. If a server is unable to verify the identity of a potential target, asking for identification in a professional and authoritative manner can establish identity. If the individual refuses to provide identification, it is a clue that you should suspect that this person is your subject.
  9. Bluffing can work wonders as well. By stating something like, “Wow, you sure look like the person in the picture I have”—even if there is no picture—can get the target to admit to his or her identify.
  10. If you are having trouble serving someone at their home and they are being difficult, you can leave a note on their door or a voice mail message saying that you plan on serving them at their place of employment (if they are employed). Rather than risk the embarrassment of that situation, people will often consent to be served at home.

As demonstrated, there is considerably more to be a process server than simply serving papers upon a known target. A server must possess detective skills as well such as being able to read people, thinking on his or her feet, as well as being thick-skinned, persistent, knowledgeable, focused, and creative. If you have your own methods that you’d like to share, join in the discussion in’s LinkedIn group for process servers.

Natalie Faulk is a staff writer for, a trusted network of local, pre-screened process servers. To learn more about becoming a member of’s trusted network of process servers, contact us online or call (877) 737-8366.

If you would like to redistribute this article or any other content for your website, newsletter or other publication, contact us to find out how. And if you’re interested in writing articles for process servers, is always looking for guest writers to share their industry knowledge.

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