internet search, online investigation, people finder, online directories, Google search, social search

How to Find People Online

Investigators often need to find a subject’s contact information such as their email, home address, and phone number. There are vast amounts of information online and it can be challenging to navigate and determine what sources of information are reliable.

Google search

A good place to start is by doing a Google search on a subject. Investigators will often get a significant amount of information on a subject, some relevant and some useless.

It pays to have a basic understanding of the advanced search features on Google to leverage the information that’s known about a subject (such as name, birth date and city of residence) to access the new information and determine its accuracy.

Another way of cutting through irrelevant data is by using Google Images, which allows people to drag-and-drop an image, such as a subject’s photo, directly into the search field; this brings up websites that are associated with the image.

Social media

A recent blog post addresses how social media can be used for online investigations. It can be used to gain a wide range of intelligence on a subject, but there are specific places to look on social media sites to get contact information.

Investigators using Facebook can look at a subject’s About section on their profile to get contact information, such as phone number and address, if available.

Contact information on LinkedIn can be accessed via the Contact Info drop-down menu, under the subject’s image, and can reveal information such as their email address, phone number, and home address. This is also where a subject may list their websites, some of which could include their contact information.

Online directories

A variety of online directories, such as WhitePages and Canada411, can be used to find a subject’s contact information.

Multiple online directories should be searched because information, on any one directory, may not be available or current.

Whether an online directory has accurate and complete information on a subject may depend on where the subject lives, where the online directory gets its information, and how often the directory is updated. For example, some listings by independent telephone companies might not be available on Canada411.

Investigators will generally be able to use online directories to do reverse address, phone and postal code searches. For example, investigators could perform a reverse lookup with a street or postal code address to locate everyone that’s listed at a specific address.

Many online directories also have social search capabilities; however, it’s more limited than the advanced search features that are available on the specific social media websites.

The deep web

There are areas of the web called the “deep web” that some of the best search engines are not able to reach, such as public records and personal profiles that are kept in databases, not on static websites.

Information in the deep web is huge and contains about 500 times more information than is visible on traditional search engines and yield higher quality data.

Pipl is one of the top sites that allows investigators to search the deep web. They can search by a subject’s name, email, username or phone number.

They are able to query databases and get contact details from court records, member directories, scientific publications, personal profiles and other sources. Pipl uses an algorithm to present what is likely the most relevant information in a single results page.

For a full list of tool investigators can use to search the deep web, including other free Internet search resources visit Toddington International’s resource page.

Privacy issues

Individuals that want their contact information to remain private should make sure it’s not accessible to the public online.

People can use information in this post to find out what is known about them online, and take steps to protect this information or take if offline.

When to hire a private investigator

Investigations that involve gathering information that may need to be used in court, such as employee background checks and anti-counterfeiting market research, should be conducted by experienced private investigators that are familiar with privacy laws.

These investigators are able to use online and offline investigation methods such as interviewing the subject of an investigation, setting up covert buys, and conducting surveillance.

Photo Source: Flickr


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