Hiring a private investigator can be a very expensive proposition, and even if you can afford to hire one, there is no guarantee that they will be able to find the person or information you are looking for. While this can be a time-consuming process, there are a wide variety of free online tools that can turn anyone into a private investigator.
Although this may sound like an obvious starting point, many people overlook the most basic step of doing research on a person or company — simply using the world’s most popular search engine.
If you are looking for a person, start by searching with their name in quotes so you will not be overwhelmed by the number of search results if the person has a common first or last name. You can even use something like checkpeople.com to look for someone you want to find.
If you are unsure of the full spelling of the person’s name, try searching for the part you do know along with any other unique piece of information you might have.
Switchboard is a website that basically works like a traditional phone book without limiting you to one state or region. The site can be a valuable tool for finding someone with whom you have lost touch.
Switchboard also features a directory for businesses and a reverse lookup section that allows you to search for a name by its associated phone number or address. You could even check out something like a reverse phone lookup, particularly if you want to search for someone.
Interment.net is a free directory of cemetery and burial records from all over the United States. The site can be very useful if you are looking for a deceased person’s records or if you are trying to determine whether a particular person has died.
Interment.net is a free database supported by funeral directors, the Social Security Administration, and newspapers, so its records tend to be fairly complete and accurate.
4. National Obituary Archive
Although Interment.net is a valuable tool, you should also check the National Obituary Archive if you do not get any results but believe the person you are looking for may be deceased.
The National Obituary Archive contains over 60 million entries, which is considerably larger than the cemetery and burial records found on Internment.net.
Classmates.com is a fairly well-known website that provides contact information for more than 50 million people based on factors like their education, military service, and work history. You will have to register for a membership to use Classmates.com, but there is no charge for doing so.
Classmates.com members also have the ability to put pictures in their profile, so once you have signed up you may be able to find the person you are looking for with just their name if they have provided a photo.
Facebook.com is a social media site that almost everyone is familiar with by now, whether they use it on a regular basis or not — and most people do. Like Google, Facebook should be one of the obvious resources you check first for information on a particular person.
The network allows users to fill in as much of their personal information as they want on their profiles; this information can include details about work history, current and past residences, military history, education, hobbies and more.
WhoIsHostingThis.com is a website that allows you to figure out who is the host of a certain site on the internet by using its domain name search directory.
This may be vital if the only information you have at the beginning of your search for a person or group of people is a website with which they are associated. In addition to its unique search function, WhoIsHostingThis.com offers reviews of and background information on different hosting companies. WhoIsHostingThis.com is free for all users.
8. Professional Directories
More than a single website or source, professional directories can be beneficial for finding somebody if you know their chosen career.
For example, doctors, dentists, lawyers, real estate agents, architects, and CPAs – virtually any profession that requires a license to practice — all have professional directories where basic contact information can be retrieved.
GISearch.com is a website where present or former service members of all branches of the United States military can enter personal information about themselves, including their current and past location, telephone number and where they are stationed if they are currently in service.
GISearch.com is free for everybody and all records are open to the public. Military.com is a very similar tool, but it does require you to complete a free registration to use the service.
The Social Security Administration’s website can be a valuable tool for immediate family members looking for death, illness or monetary records. However, you must be able to prove that you are directly related to the person you are seeking information about in order to receive help from the Social Security Administration.
In many cases, the SSA will require you to know the person’s Social Security number as well. If you know the government owes a missing or deceased person a large amount of money, this is the best way to seek a claim on their behalf.
11. The Virtual Chase
If you are looking for state, federal or even international criminal records, whether you are doing a general background check or are looking for somebody you know has a criminal record, The Virtual Chase is the best available resource outside of the National Crime Information Center, which can only be accessed by law enforcement agencies.
Virtual Chase allows you to search for a person or to browse a database of criminal records in a certain area or state. Virtual Chase only works to locate people with felony convictions, as records of misdemeanors are not public information.
12. The Federal Bureau of Prisons
The website for the Federal Bureau of Prisons provides information about people who have served time in federal prison since 1982, including what crime they committed, where they served their sentence and their current location.
The Federal Bureau of Prisons website can be accessed by anyone, though some information may not be displayed for individuals outside of the prison system or law enforcement. Many states have databases similar to those used by the Federal Bureau of Prisons, some of which may be easier to navigate.
Findlaw.com allows you to search court records to determine whether somebody has been involved in a lawsuit in the past, as well as the outcome of any lawsuits filed against a person or company. The site lets you search multiple jurisdictions, making it a fairly effective tool, though its records are not always complete.
If you do not find the information you are looking for through Findlaw.com, check out Lexisone.com. It is similar to Findlaw.com, but because neither of them is complete databases, searching may sometimes be necessary.
Newslink.org is a searchable database of magazine, newspaper and internet-based articles that can help you find information about a person or company if any article has been published about them.
Newslink includes death records and obituaries as well as published records like evictions, so it can be a very diverse and effective tool. Newslink is completely free and does not require registration or media credentials in order to use it.
CodeAmber.org is an online tool that tracks Amber Alerts created by law enforcement officials in order to find missing children. On the CodeAmber.org website, you can search by name or region to try to find a missing child, as well as any updates about their last known whereabouts.
Tips given by the public and “last-seen” records can also be found on the CodeAmber.org website, which is fully available to the public. The CodeAmber.org website includes records of all missing children for which an Amber Alert was issued.