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Spokeo review

Spokeo's hidden add-ons, and sparse and largely inaccurate information make the service difficult to trust.

Spokeo review
(Image: © Spokeo)

Our Verdict

While Spokeo is 'no-frills' and easy to use and navigate, results are a best outdated and inaccurate, and at worst non-existent.

For

  • No-frills searching
  • PDF available
  • Interesting data points like wealth data and interests

Against

  • Hard to refine search results without location
  • Hidden add-ons you need to pay for
  • Information is too often missing or inaccurate

Spokeo review

Spokeo is a legitimate service that offers people search for a monthly fee. Spokeo aggregates publicly available information in public records and associates that information to an individual. Spokeo, and people search sites like it, can be used to find information about anyone in the United States, like addresses, phone numbers, and even a criminal history.

Due to the nature of consumer people search or background check services, it is expected that a certain percentage of the information you find will be outdated, inaccurate, missing, or associated to the wrong individual. 

Is Spokeo legit?

Spokeo is a service that is legal to both operate and use. However, there are certain restrictions on the reasons for use: in the cases of tenant screening, employment screening, or other reasons as defined by the FCRA, consumer people search and background check services cannot be used. 

Spokeo review: Sign up and cost

As with most, if not all, online people search services, potential customers are drawn to how easy it is to simply type in a name and find out information about the person they are searching for. People who are certain that they want to sign up can simply hit the 'sign up' button at the top of the homepage. Those who are more curious and who want to verify that they are investing in a worthwhile service may type in a name – perhaps their own. 

The search results appear near-instantaneously. You may have to sift through results depending on the name that you searched for, but the no-frills search experience is pleasant: there are no false loading bars to give the impression that records are being searched in real-time. Upon clicking on a report, you will be prompted to sign up to see the information within the report. However, you will be able to see some basic information, such as name, age, possible occupation, and the town the person allegedly resides in. 

Customers can choose to sign up for one month for $14 per month, or for 3 months for about $24. After signing up, you will still have limited access to some information like criminal and court records, which cost extra.  Remember that, unless you cancel your subscription, you will be billed at the beginning of every cycle. 

The limited number of searches per month is not disclosed at sign up. It was only when we went under the 'Account' tab that we saw this – and that an upgrade to 200 profile views (as opposed to the standard 100) would cost an additional $21 per month. 

Spokeo review: Advantages

Key features

Plans available: 1 month subscription, 3 month subscription
Cost: $13.95 for 1 month, $23.85 for 3 months (limited number of searches)
Extras:
Court and criminal records, historical records, PDF download
Additional services: reverse phone search, email search, address search
App:
Yes (Google Play)

Searching

It's easy to search any name in Spokeo's database, provided that you know the person's first and last name and the state in which they currently live, or a state where they have previously lived. Results are quick to appear, and, when we searched a few names, there were little to no profile duplicates. When associating public record information to individuals, some people search services will mistakenly create two different reports for the same person. This happens, for example, when a person has one or more aliases. 

Website

The layout and the organization of the information in a report is easy to browse and find.

Reports and information

Despite the hit-or-miss nature of a people search service, Spokeo manages to include some interesting information in its reports. Such information included astrological sign, wealth data, and interests. 

We also like that PDF versions of reports are available, for those who want to save the results on their computers or who prefer print outs. 

Subscription model

In reviewing people search services like Spokeo, we heavily preferred subscription models to single report payments, simply because of the implied risk that the report that you intend to purchase may not be the one you're looking for. Spokeo offers unlimited searches for a single monthly price, which means that you can see the information of more than one report. This comes in handy when you're performing a people search on someone who has a very common name. 

Additional services

To cross-reference any information you find in a people search report, you can search for a phone number, address, or email address to to to whom that information belongs. 

Spokeo review

(Image credit: Spokeo)

Spokeo review: Disadvantages

Despite its advantages, we found that the disadvantages of subscribing to Spokeo greatly outweigh them. 

Searching

While it's easy and quick to perform a people search, it was disappointing that searching was not more flexible. You need to search for a full name – a first and a last name – in order to get people search results. Searching for a single name will yield results for usernames and social media accounts that match. Searching for a first, middle, and last name will likely yield inaccurate results as the last name will not be included in the results. 

If you're searching for someone with a common name, you'll have to know which state they reside in or a state where they have previously resided – there is no other way to refine results. 

Reports and information

The information in the reports we checked was by far the most disappointing feature of Spokeo's people search service. For half of the reports, the information was generally sparse and any data in the reports was either outdated or inaccurate. For the remaining half, information in the reports were either wildly inaccurate and outrageously outrageously outdated – years-old, in fact. Addresses were not updated, phone numbers were incorrect, interests were unfounded, and wealth data did not seem to be based on anything other than real estate information and the residential address on file. Marital status was also wrong in one of the searches we did. In reviewing, we accounted for the inevitable error here and there, but we deemed Spokeo's reports to be too inaccurate to be worth the cost. 

Hidden costs

While most of the basic information in a people search report comes with the subscription price, there are some unexpected add ons that come at a cost.  Criminal and court records, historical records (birth and marriage records, for example), and the PDF download of a report require payment. Many people search services offer this information with a subscription. Furthermore, these add-ons were not advertised as extra costs upon sign-up.  

Spokeo review: Customer experience and service

Navigating Spokeo isn't hard: searching is easy and finding information in a report is straightforward. However, we were disappointed that some of the most interesting information you can find about a person in the public record can only be accessed by paying extra. A negative surprise took away from an otherwise positive customer experience. 

Customer service can be reached by phone 7 days a week from 5am to 8pm. You can also reach customer service by email. There is also a Help Center where some of the more common questions are answered, such as cancellation options and subscription questions. 

Spokeo: User reviews

Spokeo's customer reviews are overwhelmingly negative, aside from the few people who have been able to find useful information after performing a people search. A main complaint is in regard to billing: there are many examples in which people are surprised by months of being charged despite cancelling their subscriptions, and then finding it difficult to cancel a second time through customer service. A common theme in the complaints is some level of deception in order to make money off unsuspecting customers. Although we cannot comment on business practices specific to Spokeo, even accounting for some level of user error didn't stop our conclusion that many of the negative reviews make a fair point. 

Should you choose Spokeo?

Unfortunately, what seemed to be a somewhat reliable service at first is not the best people search website – in fact, it doesn't even come close. While the nature of people search services forces users to accept that there will be some amount of error, including missing, inaccurate, and outdated information, there was nothing about Spokeo that could compel us to sign up for the long term. Users are better off with another service like Intelius or TruthFinder

Useful information

How to remove your information from Spokeo

Many subscribers who find themselves on people search services likes Spokeo are unhappy with the information provided: they may see the data as damaging to their reputation, or they worry that the data can enable identity fraud. Despite the nature of the data, people search sites can only provide information that can be found in the public record and through other means, such as visiting a court house or other records office. 

Nevertheless, Spokeo provides instructions for users who want to opt out of the service, meaning that their record can be scrubbed from the site. This is done by following a link found on the website's Help Center. However, this does not guarantee that action will be taken, or that a new report won't be generated after opting out. 

Spokeo: How to cancel your subscription

Paradoxically, Spokeo makes it very easy for anyone to cancel their accounts. All you need to do is go to the 'Account' tab and follow the instructions at the top of the page. The process is automated, and you should receive an email confirmation that your subscription has been cancelled.