If you want to track a person down, the web is awash with potential resources. You can find anyone online with the help of search engines, social networks, and public records among other tools.
Whether it’s a lost friend, a rogue landlord, or an old teacher, you should be able to locate them with a bit of digging. Here are steps to finding information about someone online.
Step 1: Check Google Search
Google should always be your first port of call. A simple search could reveal all sorts of information about a person, including their job, family, and the city they live in.
If the person in question has a common name, try using some of Google’s Boolean search operators to narrow your focus. It’s also worth checking out Google News. It will reveal any recent notable achievements or infamous scandals.
Step 2: Set Up a Google Alert
If you can’t find any information using Google, try setting up some Google Alerts. If something about the person you are looking for appears on the web in the future, you’ll receive a notification in your email inbox.
To set up a Google Alert, head to google.com/alerts and enter the person’s name in the search box. Click on Show Options to customize settings such as language, region, and notification frequency.
Step 3: Check Other Search Engines
Google isn’t the only show in town. There are lots of search engines out there. They all have differing search algorithms, meaning you’ll be able to dig up alternative nuggets of information by using them.
Step 4: Locating People Through Social Media
Over 70% of adults 18 years or older report are active on online social media. You can search major social networking sites to see if your target is an active member. In the United States, the most popular sites include Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
- Most social media sites allow you to search their content to find users or identify users associated with a certain company, institution, or geographic region.
- Information on social networks is self-reported and as a result, may not be accurate. The creation of fake or spam profiles on social media sites is on the rise, which can make it difficult to know if you are connecting with your target or someone else.
- Find people on Facebook. People primarily use social media sites like Facebook to connect with family or friends. Type a person’s name plus additional information such as city of residence, place of work, or school into the search bar.
- Find people on LinkedIn. LinkedIn is one of the largest sites worldwide for professional networking. It is a good tool for finding information on a person’s career history and job interests. On the LinkedIn homepage, scroll to the bottom and next to “Find a Colleague” type a person’s full first and last name.
- Find people on SnapChat. If you have phone number of a particular person then simply save it in your phone and open snapchat click on add contact then search for new contact.
- Use social media to find people from other countries. While Facebook has the most users worldwide, it is not the most popular social network site in every country. Major social media sites specific to a country or region include QZone and Sina Weibo in China and VKontakte and Odnoklassniki in Russia and parts of the former Soviet Union.
Step 5: Locate state or county online public record repositories.
Public records are created and maintained by government agencies. While the definition of public records varies by state to state, they are directed by law to be made available to the public, often upon formal request.
- See if your state or county has a searchable online public records database. In Google or Bing, type the state or county plus “public records”. Next, search for specific public records (birth, death, marriage, divorce, etc.) within state or county webpages.
- Access vital records through state or county health departments. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides links to state and county agencies that maintain vital records (births, deaths, divorces, marriages). Go to the CDC.gov website and search for “where to write for vital records”.
- Research military service records through the National Archives. The National Archives provide resources for obtaining military personnel or medical records. They provide a searchable database for records and documents in their collection from before World War I.Military service records can only be requested by a veteran or their next-of-kin. Casualty lists and records of medals, awards, and decorations up to the Vietnam War are also available on the webpage for the National Archives.
Step 6: Find civil and criminal records online
Civil and criminal cases are handled at the county, state, and federal levels, so you will need to determine the relevant jurisdiction(s) when searching for case data. Civil cases refer to acts of negligence or disputes between organizations or individuals, while criminal cases are those that cause harm or violate privacy and safety.
- Search the county clerk’s office for criminal or civil court records. The county clerk maintains records for civil, small claims, and even criminal cases decided at the district or county level. In a search engine, type the county’s name and “criminal records” or “civil court records”. If known, you can also enter the appellate’s or defendant’s name or the case number.
- Track down inmate records through the state Department of Corrections (DOC). In a search engine, type the name of the state and “department of corrections”. In general, you should be able to find information such as an inmate’s DOC number, location of incarceration, and dates of incarceration.
Step 7: Hiring a Private Investigator
Hire and retain a private investigator. Private investigators (PIs) can be hired to find and analyze information regarding legal, personal, and financial matters. They offer services such as background checks, investigating suspected marital infidelities, conducting employment screenings, verifying a person’s identity, finding missing people, and recovering stolen property. In most states, licensed PIs have passed pass the private investigator examination, be at least 25 years of age, and completed 3 years of professional experience. They must also pass a criminal history and background check administered by the Department of Justice and FBI, and be licensed by the Department of Consumer Affairs.
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