Free People Search Tools

Category: Reference

A reader asks: 'I'm trying to find some friends from high school, but so far all my searches have come up empty. Can you suggest any clever (and free) ways to find a person's address, phone number or other contact information online? I've seen paid people search tools, but I'm not sure they are legit.' Read on for my tips on finding people and businesses online...

How to Find People And Businesses Online

The Internet is all about connections. After all, it consists entirely of connections between computers. But what's important about these connections is not the computers, but the people and businesses behind them. Interestingly, "How to find people online" is one of the most frequently Googled questions. Finding businesses online is not far behind. Whether you're looking for an old friend, a classmate, long-lost relative, or a business contact, the "people finders" below will help you find them, if there's a trace of them that can be found online.

To start, I recommend that you just Google someone's name, and you will probably get more hits than you care to explore. Uncommon names are probably easier, because there will be less clutter in the results. But if your target is famous or unique in some way, you may need a bit of luck to find the right "John Doe" in the top 10 search results. Add to your search any keywords associated with your subject, such as their city, employer or school name, to increase your odds of striking the right person in this lifetime.

People Search Tools

Online white pages directories can be helpful at finding people. My current favorite is because it has a clean interface, and doesn't try to trick you into paying for contact info like some similar online white pages directories. 411 will tell you the person's address, phone number, approximate age and associated persons, all for free. If you know only the person's phone number or street address, plug it into Google, or do a reverse lookup at

The person you seek may very well be on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, or some other social networking site. These sites let you search for people in general ways, such as name and current city/state. If your friend has a common name and you don't know where he or she is, that may produce too many results.

Other free people search tools you can try are local newspaper websites, and information aggregators like Pipl. Pipl is designed to retrieve information from what's known as the "deep web," inside personal profiles, directories, publications, public records and other databases where most general-purpose search engines don't look. It then works to cluster the results that pertain to a single person and present them to the searcher.

Argali White and Yellow is a free software download (Windows only) that searches multiple online phone directories (AnyWho, Google, InfoSpace, Switchboard, and others) and presents the combined results in a clean ad-free format. It also does reverse lookups for phone numbers and addresses. The Home version is free, but only permits 10 searches a month. Argali Pro costs $30 and does not limit your queries.

What About Email Searches?

Another common question is how to find a person's email address. It's difficult to do an email lookup, because even if you know the person's name, address and telephone number, an online email directory would be a source for spammers to harvest. Your best bet is to look for them on Facebook or LinkedIn, and see if you can make contact that way. And of course, you could contact them by letter or phone, and ask!

More People Search Tools

High school and college friends can often be located with or These are legitimate and useful sites, but both have been known to use spammy techniques to advertise their services. Have you ever gotten a spam email with a subject like "A friend has searched for you, click here to connect"? Clicking the link sends you to the site, where you are prompted to enter your name and age, and then a search is initiated. The results will often list various people who purportedly have searched on your name. The catch is that you have to join the site as a member to get information on your schoolmates.

Be wary also of sites that spam you with not-so-subtle messages like "One of your friends has a crush on you!" or "Five people in your neighborhood are looking for you!? These sites are gimmicky or fraudulent, as is the case with any business that advertises via unsolicited emails. Some sites will ask you to enter your mobile phone number, then send you all kinds of advertising, and you end up paying for text messaging spam that can be hard to stop. If you don't want to lay out cash, try searching in Facebook first to find schoolmates, or find your school's website and get in touch with the alumni association.

If you're looking for information on a relative, or you're interested in genealogy, see Family Search or You can also check the Social Security Administration Death Index to search for information on deceased persons. (It will ask for your name and email address to access the records. You can enter real or fake info there to get past that roadblock.) I've also found that online obituaries, typically printed in local newspaper websites, can reveal information about people, their location, and their relatives.

If you know where a person lives, the local government offices may have a searchable online database with information about property ownership, mortgages, liens, judgements, foreclosures, matrimonial records, trade licenses and other public records. A Google search for the county clerk's website will usually point you in the right direction. And just to cover all the bases, I'll mention that most U.S. states have searchable sex offender databases online.

Finding Company and Business Info

To find a business online is usually much easier than finding a person. After all, businesses want to be found by potential customers. So most businesses list themselves in search engines and specialized industry directories. Simply Googling a company name usually does the trick. If it's something boringly generic like "Bob Smith LLC," you may have to add a city and state. But usually, you can find a business online without paying for the information.

If you want more details on a business, there are online tools that will provide public information such as the company's address, phone/fax numbers, the names of the principals, a description of their business, and competing companies in that industry. See my article on Finding Company Background Information to learn about several of these tools. Other sources of business information are the online business registration databases of State Secretaries, or any of several online Yellow Pages directories.

Paid People Search Tools

If none of those tools mentioned so far turn up the person you're looking for, then a commercial people search tool may prove useful. Paid people finders can locate people who leave few traces online. They can also reveal facts such as the person's age, unlisted numbers, property ownership, bankruptcies, previous addresses, and even criminal records. Sites such as Intelius and collect personal data on millions of citizens from public records and other sources, then charge for access to the data. The good news is that if they cannot locate the person you seek then you owe nothing.

The bad news is that the information in paid people finders may be uselessly out of date. For example, a "relative" of a friend of mine identified by PeopleFinders is a woman he divorced in 1993, and the latest address provided is equally outdated. Some people finders want you to give up your own personal data before they will give you anyone else's. That quid pro quo is up to you, but think about who might be looking for you and whether you want to be found by them.

Do you have something to say about online people search tools? Post your comment or question below...

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Most recent comments on "Free People Search Tools"

Posted by:

09 Sep 2013

Frequently it is helpful just to know where the phone call came from. The site is quite helpful in this area, needing only the Area Code and Exchange to give the general area and whether or not it is a landline or cellphone. NPA (Area Code) means Numbering Plan of America and NXX (Exchange) means 1-9, 0-9, 0-9 in phone jargon.

Posted by:

09 Sep 2013

Don't forget your friendly, neighborhood public library. It will often have subscriptions to one or more of the paid search tools. Your tax dollars paid for it, so go ahead and use it!

Posted by:

09 Sep 2013

Another good topic, Bob Rankin.
But [IMHO] the bottom line is that it is pretty difficult to obtain accurate and current data when it is free.
Your statement "Some people finders want you to give up your own personal data before they will give you anyone else's." should be emphasized!
Yet, the digital foot prints we all leave behind are so far reaching that boggles the mind. And it is not just limited to money making operations from private companies like UPS but extends all the way out to sharing of particular personal data that is sold by the Department of Motor Vehicles in most states, even if such data is not technically "public" record!

Posted by:

09 Sep 2013

Tried for years to find my lost cousin by Googling her husband, a successful attorney - no luck. One day, on a hunch, I Googled her name. 5 screens of pointers to information on her activities came up. She was mayor of a city in California. I learned an embarrassing lesson from that.

Posted by:

09 Sep 2013

I'm not impressed with either Family Search or Ancestry. Looked for myself, ultimately providing year and place of birth. Nothing useful found for either one.

Posted by:

Art F
09 Sep 2013

I've found helpful for basic information: city and age. That's free, and there's "premium" information that isn't, which I've never investigated.

Posted by:

09 Sep 2013

I have collected numerous website over the years that may be of interest to your readers Bob. Here is some of them.

Area codes

Who Called Us

Reverse Phone Lookups & more.







Posted by:

Daniel Wiener
09 Sep 2013

As a teenager 47 years ago, my wife gave up a baby girl for adoption. Years later we had our own daughter, who eventually wanted to search for her sister. The emergence of Facebook and, along with other Internet resources and some individual sleuthing, finally enabled our daughter to track her sister down three years ago. The result was a wonderful relationship for all of us, although it ended in sadness two months ago when the adopted-out daughter died of cancer. But the reunion would not have been achievable without these newly-available Internet search tools.

Regarding, it was obviously well worth it in this case to subscribe to them, but it was not easy to unsubscribe, and we still get solicitations to rejoin (although those have slowed down from the early deluge).

Posted by:

10 Sep 2013

I have actually had good luck finding people through

I know that you take a chance with outdated information there, too, as in, how recent or how updated is the information in it, but each time that I have taken a chance and used it, I have been able to find the person that I have been looking for, through that website.

Posted by:

10 Sep 2013

I have found none of these "free" sites helpful to locate a lost friend. I suppose I'll have to pay to find his current location.

Posted by:

John Seronello
10 Sep 2013

FYI In late 80's I used a search pgm (long forgotten) that found 26 individuals with the same name I was looking for in Germany. It gave all the info including their e-mails. What a thrill.

Posted by:

11 Sep 2013

@ Mr. Daniel Wiener:

Condolences to you and your family.



Posted by:

15 Sep 2013 will find any U.S. attorney. and offer international lookup. Has anyone tried them, and are there other, better ones? (The Anywho international lookup service seems to have been discontinued. offers cell phone lookup, but it's a paid service. Is there a free one?

Posted by:

Old Man
16 Sep 2013

I've done searches on my own name several times over the past few years. Every time, there are one or two people "associated" with me that I don't know - except to get junk mail for them.
I got an address for one of the search providers and told them I have no association with these two people, but nothing was changed.
Does anyone know how to "correct" these records?

NOTE: I got rid of most of the junk mail by using their pre-paid envelopes and sending the junk back with "I have never been to this address" written on it.

Posted by:

16 Sep 2013

I tried tracing a childhood friend a while back and found Family Search and wanted payment of rather substantial subscription fees up front before they would disclose any significant information. As you found, most of the freebie sites were hopelessly out of date and inaccurate in the little information they offered. I got my best lead from the high school website and Google. But I get ads from twice a week.

Posted by:

22 Jan 2015

I tried the 411 site which you say is "free". It comes up with nothing. HOWEVER, it points me to a number of fee-based sites that do have information on the person.

EDITOR'S NOTE: I just tried the site and it seems to be working fine. If the person you're searching for has an unlisted number or only a mobile number, then you probably won't find them with a free search.

Posted by:

03 Jul 2019

Pipl is no longer free as of June 2019.
LinkedIn is a pain
to unsubscribe from. I unsubscribed several times but in.

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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Free People Search Tools (Posted: 9 Sep 2013)
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