In an era of booming social networks, it’s easier to find lost friends and colleagues than it ever was before.
The private world of yesterday is now an online world. Everyone with a search engine has open access to social networks, government databases, and public records.
If you’re looking for a long-lost friend, or maybe want to do a background check on someone, consider the following free resources to find people on the internet.
How to Search People for Free on the Internet
The internet is essentially a giant database, overflowing with data points about individuals. Today, it’s hard to find anyone who hasn’t commented on a blog entry, made a post in an online forum, or registered at Facebook or Flickr.
Different sites use this information in different ways. While the following 13 sites can be used to find people online, they may draw the data from different sources. As a result, there may be some difference between the results.
Before starting, learn a few details about the person. Start with their birthday or the state they live in. Once you have those details, the volume of information you can find online about a person is amazing. In fact, it can sometimes prove overwhelming.
When searching for people online, be sure to use multiple people search engines for the best results.
There are many websites that search standard social networks like Facebook or Twitter. But Pipl is one resource that conducts a deep web search for the name on “non-typical sites”. The search results from Pipl are impressive.
I used Pipl to perform a deep search on myself. The search pulled my own data from profiles at Soundcloud, Last.fm, and others like job search websites and Google.
I was impressed by Pipl’s efforts to uncover street addresses, phone numbers, and even family members, scraped from miscellaneous websites.
To use Pipl, however, you will have to sign up. This is a little frustrating, but worth it as the results are good. I even did a search for my wife, who works as a local government councilor, and Pipl revealed a document she was mentioned in. Impressive!
Probably the most powerful tool to find someone who used the internet a long time ago is Google Groups. Google Groups has incorporated over 800 million Usenet messages into its database, an impressive archive of internet conversations dating back to 1981.
For example, if the person you’re looking for attended university during this time, you might find a trace of them. Usenet channels were a popular way for people to access the internet before its explosion in the late 1990s. Universities, research centers, tech businesses, and other bodies relied on Usenet for collaboration and more.
Not only you might find who you’re looking for, but you’ll also get an idea about their thoughts, ideas, and motivations of the time.
A “100% free people search” service, TruePeopleSearch.com delivers some good results.
But it depends on where you’re based.
For US readers, this is a great tool, and by simply searching for a name and state of residence, you’ll find surprisingly in-depth results.
You should also get some good results for Canadian residents, too. TruePeopleSearch will typically return a list of previous addresses, along with phone numbers.
Look out too for the “Possible Associates” section. Useful to law enforcement and private eyes, this displays names of past college roommates, colleagues, and more. No doubt scraped from public Facebook information, this is useful information.
Like TruePeopleSearch, FindPeopleSearch.com generates basic background check “teaser” information. Still, that information can be extremely helpful when you’re trying to learn more about someone. What this website brings to the game is that it offers more extensive information than others.
However, again like TruePeopleSearch, this site doesn’t offer results from outside of North America. What it does, though, it does well. For example, after selecting a likely candidate, FindPeopleSearch provides a map with the likely location of your quarry.
Family information might also be listed here, depending on what data has been collated for the individual. You could find an important familial link here, such as a brother, sister, or even an aunt, uncle, or cousin.
While most people search engines scour public information and not much else, PeekYou.com goes the extra mile to dig into popular social sites like Pinterest, LinkedIn, Instagram and more.
The results are always impressive, although they can be somewhat garbled. For example, a search for my own records mixed up details about me with those of others with similar names.
Also, PeekYou gave me a new middle initial, which was certainly surprising!
As with all these sites, keep in mind that the data collected might be inaccurate. This could be due to mistakes in the source data, or errors when names are matched.
Sometimes tracking someone down requires a little bit more creativity than just typing a name into a search engine. Another approach is to rummage through popular high school reunion website Classmates.com.
Obviously, you will need to have some idea of the high school(s) the person attended. If successful, you’ll find a listing of people who’ve registered on the site with the same high school on record.
Start off by selecting a school by state and city, then enter the name of the student to search for. Many people are registered on the site, so you should stand a good chance of finding who you’re looking for.
Note that this is a US-only website.
Various genealogy sites can be used to trace individuals, although the process is a little different.
When it comes to genealogical records, information might be restricted for people who are still living. This will depend on data privacy laws and the policy of the genealogy site. As such, while it might be useful to establish familial links with whomever you’re searching, the information will be scant.
The results page will display address information and possible relatives, while paid background information can also be generated via PeopleFinders.
FamilyTreeNow is a good option for genealogy research. Interested in family history? Check our downloadable guide on how to research your family tree online.
Want to track someone down and you only have a photo of them? Use a reverse image search tool like TinEye.com. This site will turn the entire internet inside out for that same picture, and it’ll show you if it was uploaded anywhere else.
The site uses an innovative image recognition technology that can match images based on the one you upload to the site. It’s an impressive technology and it worked the first time I tried it, immediately identifying that I had uploaded that same picture to MakeUseOf. And, it even recognized the picture when only part of the image matched the original. Very impressive stuff.
Another option for reverse image searching is Google Image Search.
Google is also an effective tool to track someone down online. Before trying, keep the following tips in mind.
- Enclose the person’s full name in quotes (like “David Lee Roth”). Google will return only search results with the person’s full name.
- Include more information that you already know about the person (like “Sammy Hagar” ex-Van Halen singer). Your search results will be even more precise.
- If the person is involved with a certain organization, try searching only that site (like “site: extreme-band.com “Gary Cherone”). If the person is listed as a staff or contact on the site, you’ll discover their details
These tips work well—give them a try!
In fact, searching for people with Google works so well that people search sites that existed years ago have closed. Who needs those when Google already does it best?
10. Find Public Records With Zaba Search
If you’re conducting a full background check on someone, then you’re probably interested in more than their online activities. You’re probably looking for any of the following information:
- Residences over the last few years
- Criminal record check
- Driving record
- Birthday and birth location (for citizenship verification)
- Child predator check
A person with a criminal record or court ruling has a surprising amount of information about them online. All you need is the name and DOB of the person you’re researching; the location will help narrow things down.
One of the best sites for conducting free public records queries. Using ZabaSearch, you can determine a person’s exact past and current addresses and phone numbers.
To view a full profile will require you to pay $50 through Intelius, however. This includes past addresses, relatives, criminal history, bankruptcies, and more.
This provides a huge database for all state and federal agencies. Most services where you need to pay for background details come from these free state and federal agency databases. You can find the data for free by searching this website to find those agencies and conduct the search yourself.
For example, digging through the state of Maine agencies reveals where you can search Maine criminal records.
One of the simplest ways to find people is just to search on Facebook. It’s amazing who turns up when you search for a name in Facebook.
Other social networks can also prove useful in finding people. For example, many people avoid Facebook and are active on Twitter, or even Instagram.
Meanwhile, LinkedIn is a superb resource for finding people. A career-centered alternative to Facebook, there’s a good chance you’ll find people that you can’t find anywhere else.
If you know where the person you’re searching for has worked or studied, LinkedIn is a great option. While you won’t find too many details without a LinkedIn subscription, there should be enough to go on.
You’ll be able to find out what they’ve recently been up to professionally, as well as who they’re associated with.
13 Great People Search Engines to Find People Online
By now you should have all the tools you need to find people online, dead or alive. We’ve shown you how to use the following people search sites for free public records:
- Google Groups
Use these tools to track down the person or people you’re looking for and you should have success in no time. But what if someone is trying to track you down? Here’s how to check who is looking for you online.