Guns, Gams & Gumshoes

A defense attorney & PI who also happen to be writers

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How to Find Someone: Free Online Research Tips

Posted by Writing PIs on May 7, 2011

Updated April 4, 2012

There are various free online resources that specialize in people searches. Some resources offer comprehensive searches in dozens of online sources, including blogs, news archives, personal profiles, photographs, videos and publications. Other resources offer deep web searches, which means their web crawlers find indexes and links to databases that more traditional web crawlers miss. There are also business databases and search engines that offer business information associated to a person’s name.

Research the name using 123.people.com. This online people search engine lets you search globally as well as country-specific (currently, its services include 12 counties and 10 languages). Some search results take you directly to a paid-for service (read the Pipl entry at the bottom of this page about paying for such services…in a word, don’t). But other results are free and potentially useful, such as Bing search results, blog links, website links, microblogs, tag links and more.

Look up the name in Yasni.com. This people search engine looks up the name worldwide, and provides links to online sources that include that name, such as business or network profiles, education, interests, personal websites and obituary listings. The “Advanced Search” option lets you fine tune your search via keywords, name, location and company.

Conduct a deep-web name search by adding the words “database” or “search” (without the quotation marks) to your browser query. According to Marcus P. Zillman, executive director of the Virtual Private Library, in 2006, the deep web consisted of 900 billion pages of information that more traditional search engines either could not find or had difficulty accessing.

Use a social media search engine. According to Silicon.com, there are currently almost 4.5 billion active social networking and other online accounts. Therefore, it’s beneficial to conduct a name search in a social media search engine, such as Socialmention, that concurrently checks dozens of social networking sites.

Check out Biznar. This was previously advertised as a deep web business search engine; however, it now appears to be a more general, yet comprehensive, deep web people search engine. One thing we like about it is the immediacy of the results. Awesome advanced search options, too — you can select search categories such as blogs and social networks, advertising and marketing, finance and economics, government and more.

Search for a name in a business database. Linkedin lists more than 100 million professionals and their contact information.

Searches that were omitted from this list since it was first published:

Pipl. Once upon a time, this people search engine researched the deep web, with results including such online sources as public records, personal profiles, professional and business sites, publications, news articles, blog posts and more. We once found someone who’d seemingly fallen off the earth through a Pipl search.

Unfortunately, Pipl isn’t what it used to be. It still claims to “dive into the deep web” but our recent searches show it pulls up a lot of  links to “sponsored” paid-for search engines, such as peoplefinders.com, where — if you want more data on the person — you must pay $$. The problem with online people search services is that there’s no guarantee how relevant or current the information is, and there’s no live source to interpret the results. If you’re tempted to pay money to one of these online services, you’re better off hiring a professional private investigator.

Surchur. This used to be a real-time social media search engine, but now it’s an aggregate of articles about celebrities, including a disparate listing of items for sale whose only unifying thread is the word “celebrity.” Odd. We’re sorry Surchur bit the search dust.

Have a great week, Writing PIs

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