It used to be that if you wanted someone to find someone, you hired a private detective and let him “work through his sources.” Of course, you can still do this, but private detectives are expensive. If you are looking for someone, quite often you can find one yourself on the Internet.
A lot of people try their best not to be online, but to be honest, you get online these days whether you like it or not. Therefore, if you are looking for someone, you just need to know where to look on the Internet.
The first obvious port of call is obviously social media in the form of Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn Twitter is very limited in what they can tell you about a person (other than their photo and location – if they enter that information).
I read books by former US marshals who participated in the Witness Protection Program, which said that many of the program participants were eventually found by their enemies because they kept updating their social media pages!
Whether or not the person you’re looking for is on Facebook will depend on how old they are and how “tech-savvy” they are. Generally speaking, those under the age of 50 are more likely to have a Facebook account. Anyone over 50 well, then it’s a draw.
Finding a person will depend on things like:
- how unique the person’s name is. Zachary Zucker is more likely to appear clearly than John Smith.
- If they still live in the same area where you last saw them. If they have a common name and have moved to the other side of the world, identifying them can be a problem.
- If their profile contains information that makes it obvious that they are photos, former schools, former employers, etc.
Another thing to try (if you know this) is to see if their former school has a Facebook alumni group. Most schools have Facebook groups created by former students who upload old class photos and talk about the old days. You can find a person there.
If you’re struck out of Facebook, try LinkedIn next. I am incredibly lucky to have LinkedIn because it has become a one-stop destination for anyone looking to build a career. This means there will be photographs of that person, their work history, location, schools, etc.
It can also be incredibly rewarding to look at former school bullies and find them flipping burgers at Burger King or cleaning toilets!
If this person is not on social media, the next step is the search engine, which more or less means Google.
Google can provide a wealth of information about people. Newspaper articles can be indexed on Google, so maybe the person did something remarkable that attracted them to the news?
Or maybe they committed a crime and ended up in jail, in which case the court would have been closed? In addition, there are obituaries that say that my friend died when one day he suddenly disappeared from the radar. Finally, check to see if the person has their own website.
Here are some specialized search engines that you can also try. Most of them will provide you with basic information for a nominal fee needed to access more complex information. But the basic information will cover things like names, addresses, relatives, and possibly phone numbers.
It is a little annoying, however, that many of these websites only cover the US.
Many countries now publish their telephone directories on the Internet, making the days of mass printed books a thing of the past. A Google search for “phone book” + “your country” will open the directories. But when checking this article, the site with US numbers did not work. British equivalents – BT and 192 Directory Inquiries.
If you find out from Google that they are in jail, or you just want to cross jail off the list, the next step is to find the databases you want.
There is no valid database in the UK. Instead, you must write a letter to the Prison Service asking them to find you. The prisoner must then agree to provide information about his whereabouts
However, in the US, forget about prisoners’ privacy! The Federal Bureau of Prisons maintains a database for federal prisoners. This website has links to prisoner search tools for each state in the United States.
Local Newspaper Archives
You can also try the archives of local newspapers. Some newspapers allow search engines to index their articles, but many do not. Instead, they host their archives for a fee. New York Times and Washington Post are infamous for this, as are many small local community newspapers.
So see if the newspapers in the region have archives, pay a nominal fee, and look for the person you’re looking for. I’ve had success before so it’s worth it.
If all else fails – follow friends and relatives
Do not misunderstand me. I don’t mean, like in a creepy stalker, hiding in the bushes with a long-range camera lens. I mean, if the person you’re looking for doesn’t show up – and you know their friends and family – look for them. If they are in contact with a person, you can find them this way.
This is probably the best option if someone has changed their name due to marriage and you don’t know it. Search your friends and family lists on social networks – see if this person is there under a new name.
If you don’t know relatives, visit ancestry.com Enter the person you are looking for and he will tell you the details of his relatives. This is a public protocol, so you are not doing anything wrong.