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.
Are People Searches Legal?
The short answer is yes. All you have to do is perform a general internet search for ‘skip tracing’ or ‘people searches’ and you’ll run across a ton of sites that offer this service. Some are for the general public and others are for the professionals – Private Investigators, Certified Private Process Servers, Attorney’s, etc.
But what if my neighbor is running a search on me or my family members – and maybe even looking into my background? This is where the law gets a bit murky – for most of us anyway. You have to be careful with this and not violate someone’s privacy.
The good thing about all of this is that most records are public these days, with the exception of DMV, insurance, medical history and the like. You might wish to do a quick internet search to find out what you can general, search 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.
There 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 Classmates.com 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. Rather tedious, but it could be worth a shot.
To find some you really care about, or really want to find, it’s probably best to employ one of the more professional sites. Like us here at Skip Trace Pros. 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 advantage of modern skip tracing techniques.
A word about databases. You get what you pay for. Spending $49.95 for a months worth of ‘unlimited’ searches is certainly an attractive price – but how accurate are the results? Today’s skip tracers do not use these databases. They have the ‘really good stuff’ for which they pay a premium price.
For a much more detailed explanation of databases and their providers, check out my article on Skip Tracing Databases. Again, you get what you pay for. The best databases are not available to the regular public.
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. Perform 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. And what they charge for a standard skip trace or people search.
Crunch the numbers first, and see if hiring someone on the outside is a viable option. Really, it comes down to how bad you want to find your subject. People searches can be tough, but with the right tools and sources – almost anyone can be found.
Related Topics About People Searches
How can I find old friends? Start with a general internet search. Then social media. If your efforts are not producing results, hire a professional to help you out. Keep in mind 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. Tread lightly.