Should I Pay to Find People Online?


Here at About Web Search, I welcome reader interaction, especially when it concerns an article that resides on this site. One of the most popular topics here is how to find people online, as people all around the world are looking for a long-lost relative, digging up background information on an associate, or looking for more records to fill out their family tree.

There are a wide variety of free resources available to us on the Web, and these have been featured in a series of articles, tutorials, and lists here at About Web Search.

These include:

Every resource listed in these articles (and others like them, found at this hub of free people search resources) is absolutely free and will not ask users for personal financial information. Of course, there's a few websites that choose to change their policies; there is a disclaimer for any website that does this at the beginning of any article referencing that particular website. 

What happens if a site is asking me to pay to find someone? 

Every week, I receive dozens of emails from readers asking me to help them find someone, or, to alert me to a website that has been featured on About Web Search that is asking for a fee. In regards to help with finding someone, as stated in this Web Search FAQ, unfortunately, these requests are unable to be fulfilled.

In regards to a site asking for a fee, no site that asks for financial information in exchange for information is featured as part of the free people search resources here at About Web Search.

This policy is strictly adhered to, and while it does happen that sites that previously offered free information change to asking for a fee, this change is usually described in a disclaimer (or the site is no longer featured). 

So what happens when a reader comes across a website that is asking for money to find someone?

There are usually three distinct scenarios in which this happens. Let's go through them one by one:

"This site won't give me information without a credit card!"

I always caution About Web Search readers to never give their credit card or other personally identifying information to any website that offers to find someone. Why? Because readers have the same access to this information as the sites asking for money do, thus there is no need for you to pay for it.

Unfortunately, I receive emails every single week from readers who have forked over a lot of money to these sites. While I am certainly sympathetic, I am not able to contact the offending companies and resolve these situations. Instead, I suggest using common sense online safety protocols, such as keeping your financial information secure and carefully vetting companies before handing over your credit card. More information on keeping yourself safe online can be found in the following articles:

"None of the sites you are featuring are free!"

As previously mentioned, every single site on About Web Search is a free resource. Many times I receive emails from readers who have read one of the articles on finding people online, clicked on an ad found somewhere on the page, and found themselves on a website that is not endorsed by About Web Search.


Unfortunately, ads do sometimes feature websites that are not part of the free people search resources found in the originating article. These ads are automatically triggered by keywords found on the page, and are not able to be editorially controlled. While ads pay the bills and thus are necessary to the continuation of this site, it's strongly suggested that readers browse carefully when reading and click only on suggested resources within the article itself. 

"I can't find anyone using these resources; can you suggest a paid site?"

Paid sites are not featured here at About Web Search, simply because they don't provide another level of access that isn't already available.

It is completely possible to find information on people online using the free resources mentioned above.

However, while you can certainly find a great deal of information using the Web, there will be situations that end up being unresolved. Not all information is available online, and if someone doesn't live a life that is documented on the Web, it will be difficult to track down pertinent information. Many times a Web search can be a great way to kickstart a greater search that continues offline, at country records offices, genealogy societies, and other free public resources. 

Are free people search sites for real? 

Free people search sites: are they really out there, or are you doomed to spend X amount of money in your search for your long lost classmate/friend/significant other? In other words, how can you spot a scam?

Answer: If you've ever tried to find someone on the Web, you've probably come across a lot of sites that try to "sell" you information. Unfortunately, many people fall for these scams simply because they don't know how to use the variety of free tools and people search sites that are available online. Here are three thoughts to keep in mind when you're considering buying people-related information:

There are no secret access codes. 

The vast majority of sites that try to tell you they've got "secret" information are using the exact same resources that you have access to, for free. Don't buy something you can easily dig up yourself with just a little bit of knowledge.

Your information is not necessarily safe. 

Unfortunately, many people overestimate their ability to stay safe on the Web, and there are people just waiting to take advantage of this naive outlook. Using your credit card information to purchase "background information" is almost guaranteed to be problematic.

If you can't find it, they probably can't either. 

Not all information is necessarily online. If, after exhausting every tutorial at About Web Search, enlisting the expertise of more knowledgeable searchers, and consulting state/federal guidelines, you're not able to find what you're searching for, the chances are high that a computer-generated script robot will not be able to locate it, either.

Again, you don't have to pay for this information. Why? Because with just a little bit of practice (and a lot of patience), you can use the Web to track down almost anyone. Here are a few resources to get you started:

  • A Step by Step Guide to Finding Someone on the Web: If you're a Web search beginner, this is the best place to start when thinking of finding someone online. This step by step guide takes you through each level you need to learn, at your own pace.
  • Google People Search: Google may be the world's most popular search engine, but it's also a key to unlocking databases, digging behind information walls, and much more.
  • 15 Free People Search Engines: Search engines are useful tools, especially when they're focused only on finding people-related information. Use these niche search engines to find the person you're looking for online.

It's good to remember that in most cases you are NOT going to find everything you want in one place. Using a variety of different search engines, sites, and other search tools will help you piece together snippets of information that when brought together will give you a clear picture of who you are looking for.

Also, finding information about people is one thing; locating public records is another. In most cases, public records are not available on the Web (see The Best Sites for Free Public Records for more information).

Bottom line: never pay to find information on someone online. The vast majority of websites that ask you for your credit card number will simply serve you the same information you would have been able to track down yourself, with just a little patience.