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Best people search sites 2021

Best People Search sites 2021: People finder services
(Image credit: Intelius)

The best people search sites can help you uncover loved ones, business contacts and missed connections. These top-rated people finder services can trace individuals from just a small amount of information – as long as you have a few key details, such as name and location.

When you’re using one of the best people search sites, bear in mind that they can’t be used for a lot of professional purposes. You can’t legally use any of the information you uncover in a report to make a decision on employment, housing or financial matters. This is because there's always a small chance the information contained could be misleading or inaccurate.

In partnership with Intelius

With clearly presented data and relatively fast results, Intelius was among the best people search services that we tried and tested. VIEW DEAL ON Intelius

These types of services also differ slightly to the best background check services. People finder services rely on a mix of publicly available information and details provided by data brokers, while background check services usually provide additional information on criminal records. But both sets of services have limitations on how you can legally use the information provided.

If you’re specifically interested in expanding your understanding of your family history, we also recommend that you use the services of the best genealogy sites, which can help you uncover a wealth of information relating to census records and passenger lists.

To accurately rank these services, we tried and tested several big names, including the likes of TruthFinder and US Search. In our assessment, Intelius came out as the best people search site overall, thanks to its clearly formatted results.


1. Intelius: Best people search site overall

Intelius: Best people search site overall

(Image credit: Intelius)

Intelius

A strikingly clear data visualization technique sets this service apart from the others

Spider-graph is visually unique
Provides work history
Affordable monthly subscription
Single reports are expensive
Can’t download reports
No social media information

Intelius presents its findings in a clever, web-like design, which allows you to clearly map out the connections between your subject and their acquaintances, work history and previous addresses. While this may sound like a small design choice, we found that it actually had a sizable impact on our interpretation of the report. We saw connections that we might otherwise have overlooked.

That doesn’t mean it’s perfect, though. We found there were some slight inaccuracies in the reporting, although not significantly more than were noted in other services. It scored a B+ for its accuracy overall, which is in line with most of the other platforms. We also found that its pricing structure was a little difficult to understand.

While this site used to offer individual reports, you can no longer find that option. This means that prices are significantly higher than they used to be, as a monthly subscription starts at around $25. As outlined above, this site could really benefit from a clearer breakdown of its prices, which are fairly well hidden at present.


2. Instant Checkmate: Best people search site for accuracy

Instant Checkmate: Best people search site for accuracy

(Image credit: Instant Checkmate)

Instant Checkmate

Both accurate and transparent on its pricing structure

Accurate reports
Well laid-out data
Additional fee to download reports

This site scores big on accuracy - and, unlike a lot of the other services we reviewed it’s fairly upfront with its costs. You can’t buy individual reports, which means that you have to pay out for a monthly subscription, starting at $35.12 per month (or $28.09 per month if you commit to a three month period.) It also regularly offers introductory trial periods for as little as $1, which last for around five days.

Instant Checkmate was the most accurate in our tests. Not only was the information the most accurate, it included information many other services neglected, such as marriage and divorce records. It also flagged potential criminal records rather than including the information indiscriminately. This is especially useful if you’re searching yourself, because this service allows you to easily flag the inaccurate criminal information to have it removed from your report.

The reports we purchased included current and correct phone numbers, email addresses, relatives and associates and current and former addresses going back 15 years.

The reports are also among the cleanest and best designed. The information is laid out in a chronological timeline, making it easy to view the person’s history in a clear, linear progression. In addition, the left-panel menu makes it easy to navigate the report’s various sections easily without having to scroll endlessly.


3. TruthFinder: Best people search site for basic reports

TruthFinder: Best people search site for basic reports

(Image credit: TruthFinder)

TruthFinder

TruthFinder has some of the most accurate basic info of all

Basic info is very reliable
Good criminal report info
Search function and web design isn't great

We like TruthFinder because it's accurate. While it's not the easiest to use, nor does it have the broadest range of search options, what it does provide is some of the most accurate and complete basic info reports of all People Search services. It's slightly more expensive than some other People Search engines, but you do get what you pay for when it comes to actually getting the information that you need.

What you also get is the opportunity to search for yourself, which is handy for cleaning up your online presence if you're worried it's inaccurate, or you don't want people to get in touch with you. TruthFinder's biggest strengths lie in its reporting of social media accounts, criminal records, and job histories, so it's ideal for things like checking out the new nanny or finding a good tutor for your kids.

It's good for People Search, but if you're doing a more thorough background check and need a wider range of information, something like Intelius is a better bet.


4. US Search: A solid all-rounder

US Search: A solid all rounder in our round-up of best people search site

(Image credit: US Search)

A good all rounder, but let down by its website

Download individual reports for free (with a subscription)
Easy to read reports
Affordable
Inconsistent accuracy
Lacks chronological information layout
Website is difficult to navigate

US Search was one of the best performing people search services when it came to accuracy, pricing, interface navigation and report formatting. It’s not the best in any of these categories, but it’s among the best. Previously, the site had an option that let you search for an individual for a one-off fee, but it's now switched to a subscription model that costs $19.86 per month. There are usually introductory offers on this though, which push these prices down to $1.99 for the first 30 days.

While the accuracy of the reports was above average in our test, it wasn’t perfect. We purchased full background reports for our tests, and while this provided more information – criminal records, social media, marriages, divorces, property and business ownership – the accuracy of the reports earned just a B grade in our tests. We found the addresses and property ownership records to be accurate, and finding people wasn’t difficult, even with common names, but the phone numbers and emails were inconsistent.

The layout of the reports is clean and easy to read. The information is divided into sections that you can bounce to from the top of the menu. The reports also included a map showing all the addresses and properties within a geographic context.


5. PeopleFinders: Best value people search site

PeopleFinders: Best value people search site

(Image credit: PeopleFinders)

PeopleFinders

A great value option

Affordable single reports
Affordable subscriptions
Above-average accuracy
Background check reports are expensive
Reports lacked social media information
No marriage records included

PeopleFinders earned our pick for best value because it has the most affordable plans and one of the highest accuracy grades. You have the best chance of getting the right information at the lowest cost. That said, while the subscription isn’t the most affordable option at about $40 per month, you can purchase a single report on a person for less than $2. And since it had the second-best accuracy grade in our tests, you have a good chance of paying for good information.

In our test, each person said their reports were accurate with addresses, relatives, properties and businesses, but there were some inconsistencies with phone numbers and email addresses. In addition, the marriages of each person we bought reports on were not included in the reports. Social media and work history information was also not in the report.

The layout of PeopleFinders’ reports is appealing. It lets you skip to relevant sections using the menu, making it particularly easy to navigate compared to some services. And as with most services, it utilizes filtering tools to help find the person you’re looking for, so the more information you have on the person, the easier it is to narrow your search.


6. BeenVerified: Best people search site for work history

BeenVerified: Best people search site for work history

(Image credit: BeenVerified)

BeenVerified

A good one for checking work history

Accurate work history in reports
Individual reports can’t be purchased

While you can’t use people search services to make hiring decisions, BeenVerified is the best service for finding someone through their work history. Often, the easiest path to finding and contacting a person is through their work, former work associates and coworkers. In our tests, while it wasn’t as accurate in some areas, the work history and social media information provided by this service was the most accurate and was provided in an easy-to-read report. The information was pulled from LinkedIn and social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. So, you can probably find the person you’re looking for on those sites without paying an expensive fee.

BeenVerified did struggle to find marriage and divorce records in our tests, but it provided accurate addresses, including the most recent address. It also provided  accurate emails and phone numbers, including mobile numbers most services didn’t provide.

The biggest downside to BeenVerified is the pricing structure. You can’t purchase individual reports; instead you sign up for a $22.86 monthly subscription, making it one of the more costly services... if you're not a regular user.


How we tested the best people search services

To test these services, we purchased people searches for three different people, including one of our reviewers. Our search targets had names that ranged from very common to fairly uncommon, which let us see how well the search element of these services worked.

For each report we purchased, we had the subjects verify the information to ensure it was as accurate as possible. We looked at email and phone numbers, addresses, assets, marriages, divorces, relatives and criminal history information in each report. We also checked to see if the information was current.

How much do the best people search services cost 

Many of these services are adopting a subscription model, which costs anywhere between $20 - $35 per month. This is the standard non-promotional price, but bear in mind that many services offer introductory discounts if you sign up for a trial during checkout.

Subscribing usually means you can conduct unlimited searches on the site, but some companies operate on a credit model, so you may have to pay extra if you’re conducting a lot of investigations.

A final note on this: although we like having the option to purchase individual reports, we did find that these one-off services provide fairly sparse information. An expanded report increases the cost, but these accounts contain all the information the people search company can provide.

How can I find a person for free? 

All the information people search services collect and sell is public information. They simply make it easier to find by doing all the detective work for you, by using web-scraping software and through the purchase of data in bulk from companies like Facebook. If you want to find a person on your own for free, put your detective-cap on and start doing some internet sleuthing.  

Try using tools like Google, Facebook and LinkedIn to track down acquaintances. You can even reverse-search for people by uploading old photos to images.google.com. Or, if you’re looking to connect with an old classmate, you can use more specific tools like Classmates.com

How accurate are people search sites

We found that most of these services did a good job with addresses, relatives and criminal history information. There was a greater variation in results when it came to finding email addresses and phone numbers, especially cell phone numbers. The information did vary depending on how much our subjects shared on their social media profile. In some rare cases, the service couldn’t provide any information. 

What is the fair credit and reporting act?

Dating back to 1970, this piece of data protection legislation was enacted in order to protect citizens from unfair applications of information extracted via these types of searches. 

As these search sites aren’t always completely accurate, acting on the information provided by them can have bad consequences for individuals involved. For example, an individual who has a common name shared by someone with a criminal background could be unfairly dismissed from an employment process, because of a confusion in identity. As such, federal law prohibits people from using this information in conjunction with decisions being made about employment, housing and credit lending.

Each service we reviewed has a version of the Fair Credit and Reporting Act disclaimer on its website. It’s important to abide by these laws - you could seriously hurt your business if you don’t.

Should I hire a private investigator to find someone?

If people search services don’t help you find the person you’re looking for, hiring a private investigator is the next option. According to Brian Willingham from the Diligentia Group, private investigators can find just about anyone, as it’s among their core skills. However, the bigger question he urges you to ask is why you want to find them. Just because a PI can find almost anyone doesn’t mean they will agree to it.

In addition to being bound by state and federal laws about the kinds of information they can share, PI’s are likely to vet your intentions before agreeing to take on your account. They need to make sure they understand your motivations for finding the person to limit their liability. Willingham argues it’s one thing to wish to reconnect with an old friend or a biological parent, but it’s something else entirely to look for an old flame or ex-spouse. As such, Willingham says the best private investigators will contact the person they’ve been hired to find to ask if they are fine with having their client contact them – the PI only passes the information along once the person agrees. 

The next question to ask yourself before hiring a private investigator is how much you are willing to spend to find the person. While people search services can cost upward of $40 a month, a private investigator can cost many times that an hour. This is because you’re paying for their expertise and their access to information consumers don’t have. And the result is costly. For example, the Diligentia Group charges a $750 flat fee retainer. That said, private investigators typically have a high success rate and a fast turnaround time, so if you’re desperate to find the person you’re looking for, be prepared to pay for it.

What do you say to a long lost relative or old friend?

A Pew Research Center survey found that about 46 percent of those who use people search services are trying to reconnect with old friends, estranged family members, lost business associates or former flames. But after finding the contact information on someone from your past, you need a careful approach if you want the best chance of success. Here are some easy rules to follow when making first contact: 

  • Be noninvasive. Give them the opportunity to ignore you. If the report has an email or social media profile, try sending a message or friend request. It seems counterintuitive, but contacting the person this way allows them to respond on their own terms, respects their right to privacy and you don’t seem too eager. If the report lacks email or social media information, a letter is the next best option, as long as you... 
  • Keep it short. It’s tempting to write a lot, but too much is overwhelming. One to three sentences with your contact info is ideal. And you should...
  • Avoid phone numbers. Since most of us carry our phones everywhere, this method of contact is tempting, but very invasive. It should be a last resort. And even if this fails, you should…
  • Never show up to any of the addresses listed in the report. This is the easiest way to ruin your attempt to reconnect. It borders on creepy. Just keep in mind, if they ignore your email...
  • Give it time. Don’t repeatedly try to contact them. If they ignore the email or don’t respond to a mailed letter, give it several months before trying again.