Sad News About People Finders
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.
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.
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...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 15 Jan 2019
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Sad News About People Finders (Posted: 15 Jan 2019)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved