Searching for people has become very popular with the advent of the Internet. Those conducting people searches are looking for Classmates, Old Sweethearts, Old Friends they’ve lost touch with, and people who owe them money. A lot of money. And, there are many sites out there that will locate these people for you – or claim that they will.

So, what exactly are people searches? In its most simple form, people searches are simply one person trying to find another. Using modern methods of “detective” work, pretty much anyone can find whomever they’re looking for.

General Skip Tracing Sites

You’ve seen Net-Detective and Cyber-Detective and Web-Detective. You’ve probably visited the “Find People for Free” websites. Perhaps you’ve wondered how effective they are, or how they compare with the “We’ll find anyone anywhere” sites, and how those differ from other less commercial and more professional sites.

Those who do skip-tracing as a profession know that the so-called online “Detective” sites are simply using public records searches that are already available to everyone. You might be surprised that most information is quickly available for free by either “Googling” someone’s name or phone number, or going to a public records database and searching by state and county.

magnifying glassThere are other sites that offer to find anyone for as low as $9.99 to $29.99. They might even offer to find your Subject for $49.00, and then up-sell you a “guaranteed” search for $79.00. Unfortunately, what these searches for people provide is most often very different from what they promise. That’s because they are all using the same public records, and they may be accurate to an extent.

However, they usually can’t distinguish the difference between the John Doe in Rochester, New York from other John Doe’s in New York State. If you try one of those sites and put in the name of the person you are seeking, they will sell you recent addresses and phone numbers for people with that same name, then let you call and sort through them all until you find your person. It’s tedious, and most of the information is dated. And there are no guarantees. Ugh.

Then there are the Skip-trace sites that are usually more expensive. Often they have a “No Hit-No Fee” guarantee. These are professional people who do this for a living. They have methods of searching for records that are not available to either the general public or the so-called “Detective” sites. They also have experience handling those very difficult people locates.

Often they’ll locate a person by first locating friends, spouses, other family members, or employers. They will use these resources to then trace the person you are looking for. Their prices are usually in excess of $100 per search. Ouch!

How Do I Choose a Skip Tracing Company?

Which should you use? It depends on your need. If you are trying to find people for your 1980 Class Reunion, then you may want to first give the “Detective” sites a try. You may find about 15% of your Classmates there, and that may be worth it. Other people you may find by sorting through the “We’ll find anybody” sites, and calling all the numbers they give you for people with the same name in the same state.

To find some you really care about, or really want to find, it’s probably best to employ one of the more professional sites. The cost is more, but make sure they have a “No Hit-No Fee” policy. You want results, and you want someone who guarantees results. In the Internet age, that’s what everyone should demand.

What Are Skip Tracers Doing to Find People?

Professional skip tracers are well set-up to handle almost anything when it comes to finding people. The latest databases, “special” contacts and sources, and the experience to take advantage3 of modern skip tracing techniques.

And let us not forget social media sites, which can be a great resource to aid in finding people. Yes, there is much on these sites that are simply false, but they do give up clues as to family members and general geographic areas. Do not dismiss them.


Do your due diligence. Do an internet search, call around, and speak with private investigators and skip tracers to find out if they specialize in the type of search you’re looking for. Crunch the numbers first, and see if hiring someone on the outside is a viable option. People searches can be tough, but with the right tools and sources – almost anyone can be found.

Related Topics

How can I find old friends? Start with a general internet search. Then social media. If these efforts are not producing results, hire a professional to help you out. Keep in the costs involved. Your situation may be different than that of an attorney who absolutely MUST be able to find someone.

What about lost relatives? Finding anyone, including lost relatives, is pretty much the same. In this case, don’t be afraid to actually call up other relatives to get the real scoop. Remember that this is probably a more sensitive issue as many people choose to leave their family and wish no further contact.