Why Use A People Search Service?
The top performers in our review are US Search, the Gold Award winner; Intelius, the Silver Award winner; and Spokeo, the Bronze Award winner. Here's more on choosing a service to meet your needs, along with detail on how we arrived at our ranking of the best people search services.
When you want to reconnect with someone you've lost touch with, the internet offers you a lot of ways to search. While search engines and social media sites can guide you to some information, it can be time consuming to dig through the search results. Rather than trudge through public records yourself, you can turn to people search services to do all the work for you.
People finders generally provide you with basic personal information – like names and addresses – about the person with whom you are trying to reconnect. However, if you want to know more specific details about someone you've just met before starting a personal or business relationship, consider using background check services. Background check reports can provide in-depth criminal and financial history about a person. Several services offer both people search and background check services. Read our articles about people search services to learn more about how to make the most of these companies' offerings.
People Search Services Pull Public Data
People search services are all about helping you find someone with whom you have lost contact. Reports often include personal data, such as name and age, as well as identifying information like addresses and aliases. The data provided comes from a variety of sources, such as public documents and other public information. However, some services, like Spokeo and Instant Checkmate, can also pull information from social media profiles and include it on the reports.
It's important to note that because people search services pull data from public records, the reports you get may not be entirely up to date. In addition, people can actively suppress, through aggregates or data suppliers, the amount of personal information available for public viewing. This means that you might not be able to find current information for every person you try to locate.
People Search Services: How We Tested, What We Found
In order to test people search services, we purchased reports from each of the companies on our lineup. Most of the companies we tested have a one-time report purchase option, but several companies offer monthly or 24-hour passes. Some companies allow you to perform an unlimited number or searches during the time frame, while others limit the number of searches you can perform.
The main focus of our testing was to see what kind of information was available on the reports and how accurately that information was represented. We tested these services on subjects who had varying levels of public visibility – on people who actively try to suppress their information, as well as on those who do not actively do so. The companies we tested had no input on the way we tested, and we did not provide them any results of the testing before publication.
The best people search services offer highly accurate results, as well as a large amount of information, on their reports. During our testing, we compared the information we got on the reports to the data our test subjects provided about themselves. Anything on the report that was incorrect resulted a reduction in the company's accuracy score. Because public records can often be out of date, it's important to remember that the information included on the report may be accurate, but outdated. We didn't reduce accuracy scores for out-of-date information.
Of course, it's important that the information in each report is clear and easy to read. We found that, across the board, the people search companies we reviewed provide reports that are clearly laid out and simple to grasp. We had no significant problems understanding the information each report presented.
Our top three companies all ranked high in both accuracy and in how much information they provide, but FindOutTheTruth.com performed especially well in accuracy. Even though it doesn't offer as much data as other services, this company ranked highest for accuracy out of the 10 companies we reviewed.
More Search Options Help Narrow Your Results
In order for you to reconnect with a lost family member or romantic connection, the information you use to initiate a search also must be accurate, or you may be back to square one if no results turn up. The details you can provide are also important. The more you have, the easier it is for you to locate someone.
All of the people search services we reviewed allow you to initiate a search for someone by using basic personal information such as names, addresses, phone numbers and maiden names, which are typically the most common data points used for locating someone in people finder databases. However, we also looked for the companies that allow you to search with information that is more specific, which can narrow down the results you receive. Searching by specific criteria, such as a general age, date of birth or email addresses can be immensely beneficial when you can't find someone by searching with the average data points.
As we tested specific search criteria, PeopleFinders stood out because it allows you to search for someone with their Social Security number.
With the ever-growing popularity of social media, we also found it useful when companies included social media as part of the search criteria. While a few services include social media results in their people search reports, Spokeo is the only company on our lineup to allow you to search by social media usernames.
As you initiate a search, you may find several potential matches. The best people search services will offer you a preview of the results with some identifying information – typically age, relatives and locations – that will help you choose the right person.
Protect Your Online Identity with People Search
Searching for someone and finding a wealth of information can really open your eyes to the possibility that your information is available for others to access. Of course, you can purchase people search reports about yourself from these companies, and you may want to do so if you are worried about your information being searched by others. The best people search services have an opt-out option that you can use to remove your information from their searchable databases. This option is typically a little difficult to access, so you may need to contact the company to see if it is available.
Legal Use of People Search Services
The Fair Credit Reporting Act limits the way you can use the results you receive from people search services. Because of this law, you are not able to use the information you've purchased from people search companies to determine a person's eligibility for credit, insurance or employment. If you want to purchase reports on personal information to use in these contexts, you will need to direct your attention to credit reporting agencies or employment screening services.
People Search Services: Our Verdict and Recommendations
While there are many things to consider when choosing a people search service, it's important to first evaluate what kind of data you have available to use in the search so you can select a company that allows you to search using those data points.
Our top three services performed the best in our testing at giving you a variety of search options and accurate results. US Search excels at providing accurate previews before you purchase so you know exactly what you are buying. Intelius gives you unlimited access to reports on your account after you purchase them, while Spokeo allows you to search with a wider variety of criteria than most.
While the top three companies on our lineup offer the most comprehensive and accurate reports, there are other companies that excel in different areas. One company worth considering is PeopleSmart, which can show you how long someone lived at different addresses.
In finding the best people search service for your search, look for a company that can use the information you have to search and provide you accurate results, especially if you have an urgent need to reconnect with someone.