Sad News About People Finders

Category: Reference

I first wrote about “Finding People Online” way back in 2006, and updated that article with “Free People Search Tools” in 2013. Now, in 2019, I have news for everyone: it’s getting harder to get free information about people, addresses, and phone numbers. Much harder. Here's the scoop...

Information Might Want to Be Free, But...

The phrase "Information wants to be free" dates back to a hackers conference in the 1980s. The idea was that people should be able to access online information freely, without roadblocks or toll booths. Information might want to be free, but more and more, the people who gather, compile and present that information want to get paid. Almost every resource I included in those two previous articles is now out of business or it costs money to get useful information.

There are still some lookup services that are both truly free and useful. One example is voter registration records, which about half of U.S. States make public. Some private individuals buy voter records at least annually and make them available online free of charge. Colorado’s voter rolls, for example, are updated several times per year, making ColoradoVoters.info more reliable than most commercial databases. The data includes name, sex, address, county, political party affiliation, birth year, and active/inactive voter status.

The site is not particularly user-friendly, and sometimes it seems the importation of records is flawed; what is labeled a “phone” is formatted as a date, while the “precinct” field obviously contains a phone number. But overall, it provides accurate and current records for registered, active voters. Other States whose voter rolls are available, apparently from the same people who publish Colorado’s data, include Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Michigan, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Rhode Island. Texas Marriage Certificates are also available.

People search tools online

If you're looking for information on a relative, or you're interested in genealogy, see Family Search, a free service operated by the LDS church. 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.

For years, my favorite site for looking up names, addresses and phone numbers was WhitePages. The site lets you search by name & city, and can do reverse searches to see who is associated with an address or phone number. Some lookups are still free, but more often than not, I get partial information, with a link to "View Full Report." To get past that roadblock, you have to pay $10, or sign up for a subscription that costs $5/month (for mobile & landline numbers, addresses, and reverse phone lookups), or $20/month (for mobile & landline numbers, addresses, criminal history, and public records).

Other people-finder sites operate similarly, providing teasers, incomplete hits on search criteria intended to get your hopes up that yes, that could be your long-lost brother, and then hit you up for money. Before you run off to 411.com or Switchboard.com, those are also owned by WhitePages, and work the same way. Read the offers very carefully; nearly all contain “gotchas” that commit you to subscribing to an ongoing monthly charge on your credit/debit card. They all promise you can “cancel at any time” and even offer “100% satisfaction” guarantees. But I have not tested those assurances.

Promises, Promises...

There is something sleazy about many of the people-finder sites I found in the course of researching this article. They all make unnecessary noise about “connecting to federal, state, and local databases,” “establishing a secure connection,” “searching billions of records,” and so on. Spyfly.com, which promises to help you "View information about yourself, friends, family, and associates that Google can't show you," would have me believe it takes two minutes to “prepare a search report” even after the search itself finishes. It wants to keep me pinned to a web page for some reason. And the reason is: after fanning my impatience to get this interminable process over with, the "free" Spyfly hits me up for two dollars. It’s only two bucks; let’s finally get that report, shall we? How about “no?”

BeenVerified is another site that offers to help you "Search People & Public Records." They promise to "cross-check billions of data points and dozens of data sources" and "in a few minutes" you'll have access to all the public data they can find. But they play the same game. You have to endure screen after screen and several wasted minutes viewing fake progress bars and spinning circles, before they hit you with the sales pitch. And it turns out you can't even pay to view a report, they want you to sign up for a Membership that costs $26.89/month. And you know how hard those things are to cancel. No thanks, again.

Do you know of a truly free people-finder service? Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...

 
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Most recent comments on "Sad News About People Finders"

(See all 41 comments for this article.)

Posted by:

Don
15 Jan 2019

https://www.familytreenow.com/ has an amazing amount of information - pretty creepy - and for free. Billed as a genealogy site but good for general lookups of living people.


Posted by:

Bryan Smith
16 Jan 2019

Does this people finder work in Canada/
Now I have been blocked by facebook for something ,I really do not know.THEY ARE USING THE FREEDOM OF SPEECH against us , there was a post on Facebook AND A WOMAN WAS QUESTIONED BY THE USA SECRET SERVICE .I want to get off the Facebook but where do I go .I have been trying to get people to use skype but with no results. Is there a better program than Facebook.I see the owner is in court for selling info to 3rd parties. Thank you Bryan


Posted by:

Bill
16 Jan 2019

Great article, Bob! This has been bugging me for the past several years, and I'm glad someone has written about it. Corporate greed is slowly but surely ruining the Internet we once new.

A couple sites that I still use are: 411COM (http://www.411.com/); Pipl (https://pipl.com/); abd True People Search (https://www.truepeoplesearch.com/).


Posted by:

Eric Bloch
16 Jan 2019

Some info on these sites and can send messages.
https://www.geni.com/
(use "search people" on top right)
https://www.wikitree.com/


Posted by:

Bryan Hanes
16 Jan 2019

Good Article. I use Truth Finder routinely. https://www.truthfinder.com/login
It costs $27.78 per month. A bit pricey but the most complete information I have found among the beaucoup in the genre. I pay for it as I have frequent need to find folks and to update an address list. Family Search.org is good for genealogy, but as another reader pointed out, it is has some emails but is primarily for ancestry research, at which it is pretty good. Familytreenow is the most complete free site I have found. Again it is focused on genealogy but has a a surprising amount of other info.


Posted by:

slauwkoo
16 Jan 2019

Bryan Smith, the best one in Canada, I find is http://www.canada411.ca/


Posted by:

Gloria Huffman
16 Jan 2019

To find a current address and phone number, or to do a reverse phone search, I use www.addresses.com. Free.


Posted by:

Sarah L
16 Jan 2019

I miss phone books. Finding a business is so difficult, as listings last forever online. Phone books were reasonably current and so easy to use. I would pay for a paper or online version with reliable entries for businesses, especially when I am seeking companies for projects at my home. The white pages were just as useful, again for being reasonably current and allowing people who wanted to opt out, to do so. With a google search, results include people in the wrong state, wrong city, and so much time is wasted. Cheaters can get my phone number by dialing every possible phone number, so I deal with them by returning to the old method of screening by using my answer machine. It wastes time too, but I have had enough of calls from recorded voices. On my mobile phone, I answer only for names in my directory.


Posted by:

Stephe
16 Jan 2019

Nobody here even questioning whether, overall, and on balance, we actually want a world where, with just a few details anybody can find out just about everything about us? Perhaps it's just too late and, as with many other areas, the idea of being able to choose to retain some semblance of privacy is outdated and naïve? I just thought somebody would ask the question.


Posted by:

David
16 Jan 2019

Considering all the fuss we make about internet privacy (or lack of), why do we now want to find out such information? What if people don't want to be found?


Posted by:

SharonH
16 Jan 2019

Last year I received a phone call from Italy. It was from a man (from the US who was working in Italy) who was putting together info on the 94th Infantry Division from WW II, of which my father was a member.
He searched my father's name on Google and up came the entry I had uploaded for him in FindaGrave.com Not sure how he ended up with my number but thanks to FindaGrave he obtained enough information to track me down.Sometimes things can be found in unexpected places. Doesn't hurt to pursue all avenues!


Posted by:

Reynaldo
16 Jan 2019

Probably the best I've found in terms of getting more free info is Fast People Search:

https://www.fastpeoplesearch.com/

Give it a try and let me know what you think.


Posted by:

John
16 Jan 2019

Great article and very beneficial BUT i do NOT see any FB sharing buttons here. This is something to be shared to friends and the likes. Am I overlooking the buttons?

EDITOR'S NOTE: No, but you can just copy the page address, and paste into a Facebook post.


Posted by:

Paul
16 Jan 2019

Try truepeoplesearch.com


Posted by:

Eric
19 Jan 2019

I've been using Truthfinder with some success.


Posted by:

Dale
21 Jan 2019

Try www.anywho.com for white pages and reverse lookup.


Posted by:

John Nickell
21 Jan 2019

BeenVerified needs to do a better job of verifying their information. Another site that uses BeenVerified for their security verification asked questions that involved my son, but had no relationship to me.


Posted by:

Bill Weger
22 Jan 2019

I have one comment for this article -- "TANSTAAFL"
"There ain't no such thing as a free lunch."


Posted by:

Carol
26 Jan 2019

I don't care if people google my name and find my social accounts - they are as private as I want them to be. I really object to searchers being able to find my current and old street addresses and phone numbers. Credit reporting agencies and Social Security both use this info for ID verification. In particular https://pipl.com/ pulls together a lot of links (social media, linkedin, flickr) and from there links to https://whitepages.plus/ which has my address and phone number (and old defunct ph no).


Posted by:

pam wine
29 Jan 2019

Maybe this has been answered before and I missed it. What I want to know is how do they get info.? Also, if they can get all of this info, why can we not do the same thing without having to pay?


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