3 ways to dig up dirt on people
We all do it. You meet someone casually or professionally. After the exchange of pleasantries, you are compelled to bring out your inner Sherlock Holmes.
Hopping online, you are ready to validate or discredit this person. The problem is you need to use the right sites or else you'll be duped, scammed or worse.
1. People search sites
If you search the Internet using only a person's name, you're going to eventually end up at a people search site like PeekYou, Spokeo, White Pages Neighbors or any of the other few dozen around.
These sites pull publicly available information about a person into one spot. You can find a person's age, what social media accounts they have, where they live now, where they've lived in the past, their relatives' names and quite a bit more.
There are a few catches, naturally. You have to pay to get more than just the basic information, and even then it isn't always right. These sites are also loaded with advertisements that look like legitimate links. Information from people with similar names often gets mixed together.
Recently, a caller to my national radio show explained his name and a completely unrelated person's name ended up in the same profile at a people search site. He was 58. The other person was 29. He owned a consulting business. The other person had a long rap sheet with charges of drug trafficking and theft. After a little digging, I figured out it was a case of identity theft. The search site put this together before the caller did.
Super sleuthing tip: When you search Google, Bing or another search site using only a person's name, be sure to look at the search results past page 1. You might find older web pages that contain information about this person they thought were long gone.
2. Social media
Just about everyone has a social media profile of some kind. Start with Facebook and see if you can find the person's profile. Again, if they have a common name it could take a while.
If they're savvy, they'll have their profile locked down so you can't see much about them. That's OK. Just take a look at the address of their profile in your browser's address bar.
See where it says “www.facebook.com/XXXXXXX”? That XXXXXXX could be two things. Some people activate Facebook's so-called “vanity URL” feature and it's just their name — usually followed by a number. That's what mine is — www.facebook.com/kimkomando.
However, for some people that XXXXXXX is their Facebook username. And that's probably the same name they used to create their other accounts on Twitter, Instagram, Google and wherever else.
Just type that username into Google and you'll often find their other accounts. You might find they haven't been as thorough with their privacy settings in other places. Maybe you'll find they have a blog or account in some kind of forum. You never know.
If you run across Instagram pictures, you can run them through a site called The Beat. This can tell you where the photos were taken.
LinkedIn is a social network for professionals and job seekers. It's a great place to look up employment history.
Super sleuthing tip: Not having much luck finding the person? Type their name into Google images along with the state or city where they live. Scroll through the results and you'll often find one or two social account profile pictures you can click to get to their accounts.
3. Public records sites
People search sites and social media will give you an overview of a person, but what about their darker history?
Once you've gotten the locations where they've lived — usually from a people search site — you can look up public court records. Either go to Google and type in “court records” followed by the city and state, or take a look at a site like Search Systems that gives you links to public record sites.
You can find out if the person has traffic violations or more serious crimes. Again, be careful because you might come across records of people with the same name. Don't automatically assume the record is about the person you're researching unless you can match up their birth date.
Of course, the big one to check is if the person appears in a sex offender database. For that, you can look in the Department of Justice's Dru Sjodin National Sex Offender Public Website.
Super sleuthing tip: If you want to look up whether or not someone has a mortgage or two, check out Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems. It's actually kind of scary when you try it.
Use the sites to look up yourself. You need to know what other people are going to find if they go digging for dirt on you.
If you're checking into someone for any kind of paid position, under the Fair Credit Reporting Act you have to use a Consumer Reporting Agency. You can find a list of them here.
It's important to take anything you find with a grain of salt. Information on the Internet isn't perfect, so always verify your information before acting on it. After all, you wouldn't want someone jumping to conclusions about you.
Email Kim Komando at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- 2 states, 2 different conclusions about fracking
- Don’t stop job hunt in December
- Drought opens Texas ranchers’ eyes to income options
- Energy sector adjusts to global oil plummet
- EDMC accused in GI Bill scheme
- First Niagara to cut 200 jobs; Pittsburgh impact unclear
- Beacons track shoppers’ smartphones amid retailers’ aisles
- ‘Staff Pick’ is golden ticket on Kickstarter
- ExOne Co. moves solidify authority under CEO
- Harmar developer sells 15 hotels in Western Pa., West Virginia
- Makers of wine corks have lost ground to screw tops