While searching for a person or persons remains one of the most popular Internet projects it is also one of the most frustrating ones. Unfortunately, it is also one of the most lucrative business for many online businesses-legitimate, shady or simply incompetent. Today, there are millions of sites on the Web claiming to help you ‘find anyone, anywhere’. Try Googling the phrase ‘search for people’ and you are likely to get four different types of results: Free (mostly useless), for-a-fee (net detective software where you get what you pay for), paid services provided by individuals to companies (everything from legitimate to sleazy private investigation services) and links to millions of people finder websites. If all this has overwhelmed you, try the following ways to find out personal information about someone for free or a fee.
1. Beware of scams
While it is true that you will mostly have to pay for information about a person, it isn’t always the case of ‘getting what you paid for’. People are actually selling books with bloated claims and tips for finding information about a person on the Web but most of the times, this expert advice is worthless. Many people who have used the Internet to find information about a dead or alive missing person, has encountered these suggestions, scams, claims and offers. Of course, there are some genuine companies out there having access to huge databases of legitimate information. But many sites gladly take your money and lead you to some more links which may only end up in 404 error. Thus you might end up paying for information that was actually available for free already.
2. Use search engines
The easiest way to find information about a person on the internet is to use Bing or Google or any other search engine you use normally. However, you might only get the searches such as papers presented, or their social media profile or LinkedIn profiles. An image search can give you the person’s photos. If the person in question has a very common name, then it will help if you can specifically enter their last known location along with the name. This will give you more relevant results.
3. Use multiple sites
When it comes to using the Internet to find information about a person, it always helps to use multiple sites. This is because; each site varies in information provided and also the requirements for doing the query. If you are a private investigator hired by someone to find information about a person, then it may be worthwhile using paid sites. Understand that when you use multiple sites, the data falls in two categories and this can be useful in helping you come up with complete picture of the person in question. For example, some sites can only give you a person’s name, age, employment and general location. This is tier 2 criteria and is generally known. Other paid sites can give tier 1 information like photo, age, birth date, home address, close relative, property ownership, screen or profile name etc.
4. Use people specific search engines
Search engines like Pipl are people specific and have a huge database. You need to enter your name and create an account with a password before you can use the site to find information about a person. Many business users actually use Pipl to search for customers and fill in the blanks of their customer lists. Pipl apparently is also used by top businesses including Groupon, BBC, Magento etc.
5. Search in death databases/obituaries
Often, lawyers approach private investigators to search for missing heirs in inheritance cases. In such cases, PIs also search in database of death records like Ancestry.com with their Social Security Death Index (SSDI).The RootsWeb Ancestry search is another useful resource to verify death in Social Security Death Index and to find the SSN of dead people. Ancestry.com requires registering while RootsWeb does not. Some of the data that is fee based at Ancestry.com is free at RootsWeb. You can also use websites like Find A Grave or DeathIndexes to make genealogy searches.
6. Visit public record sites
Many public record sites like VitalRec contain records of Birth, Death, Marriage and census records. This is a great resource for pro and amateur genealogists. You can discover new connections with cemetery listings as well as surname histories and military records. This site is also useful for people looking for certificates of birth, death etc.
7. Business or industry specific searches
Sites like ZoomInfo are very useful if you wish to find a prospect’s job title, function, company revenue etc. This is a paid site but you could try it out for free for a week. You could get direct access to key contacts with their email and direct dial phone number. LinkedIn is a great way to find out the professional records of the person for free. You need to have an account on LinkedIn first to make the searches.
8. Use social media
Sometimes, social media can also help you find a person for free. Instagram and Facebook allow you to view photos of the person in question, should their privacy setting allow it. Consider for a moment that you know the person’s name and alumni. Using the alumni site you could even find out the person’s year of graduation. Further with their high school name, you can search for their photo, their location, age, birth date etc. If you have two names then you could use a plus sign to combine search the two individuals. This will give you sites where the two names appear together
Zabasearch is one of the top sites to find out personal information about someone for free. You can search people by name and phone number. It is specific to United States but there are Zabasearch UK and Canada available as well. Advantages of using Zabasearch are: You get the person’s telephone and address, you need not register and results are almost instantaneous, and they claim to have a database that is thrice the database of White Pages Phone Directory.
10. If your contact is active on the web
Another great source of finding information about someone is PeekYou. This is a free people search site that helps you find family, friends, and old classmates and helps you get back in touch with lost contacts using their contact information. This site is useful if your person of interest has an active web presence since it scouts social media sites, news resource sites, blogs and other platforms to present comprehensive online identities. The best part of using PeekYou is that you don’t need to register or create an account here-at least not in the beginning. As soon as you enter the name of the person you are interested in, the site leads you to BeenVerified or InstantCheck to provide more information on that person. BeenVerfied goes on to search several sites including Reddit, YouTube and Vimeo etc to find if the person has created accounts there. On the downside, this is a very slow process since it searches so extensively. Once the report has been generated, they ask you to sign up and even pay.
Finding information about a person can help people dating online or even find one’s biological family. The process can guarantee peace of mind and can help prevent many hassles in the future.