Should I Pay to Find People Online?

Looking for someone? You can pay or use a free service

Drawing of a crowd of people

elenabs / iStock

One of the most popular topics on the web, resulting in literally millions of searches every single day, is how to find people online. People all around the world are looking for birth records, digging up background information on a potential associate, tracking who owns a phone number, looking for more records to fill out their family tree, etc.

Should you pay to do it, or can you run a free people search? The answer is clear: there are lots of ways to find someone for free. However, there are also plenty of people finder sites that aren't free that you can either pay a one-time fee to use or subscribe to as a monthly service.

"Is a Paid Site Better Than a Free-of-Charge People Finder?"

Not necessarily. Not all people finders that cost are automatically better than free ones. This is because some (if not all) of the information you find on a paid site is most likely obtainable from one or more free sites.

In other words, you paying for the service doesn't unlock a special secret access code where suddenly you can crack into government databases and dig up information on a long-lost friend.

The major difference between a site that lets you find someone absolutely free and one that requires payment, is ease of use. The one that costs will most likely include a huge amount of information gathered from a number of sources. However, you might not need all of those details and might therefore be wasting your money.

For example, maybe you just want to look up a phone number to see who's been calling you. If you're trying to locate an old friend, you might just need to know their current address. Or, maybe you need to do a reverse username search to see who owns the account you found online, or who's been writing to you from a strange email address.

No matter the case, you shouldn't pay for a people finder site unless the paid option will most definitely give you information that you can't find from a free service. If you've used a dozen free people finder sites and none of them have been able to give you the phone number you're looking for, then you might consider one that costs.

"Why Is the People Finder Asking Me to Pay?"

There wouldn't be a reason to pay to locate someone if there weren't a fundamental difference between the free people finder and the one that costs. Here are some common benefits you might get from a people finder that costs:

  • Alerts when the site updates its information on you or the person you're tracking
  • View full phone numbers instead of just the first few or last few digits
  • Search for people using their username or email address
  • People search is faster than the free version
  • View the person's criminal records
  • Run a deeper search on the person to find things like assets they've owned, past locations they've lived, old phone numbers, social media site they use or have used in the past, etc.

"Are There Truly Free People Finder Sites?"

Absolutely! There are completely free ways to locate people online, no credit card needed. Many of them support some of the features listed above, but most likely, you'll have to use multiple free people locators to get all of that same information.

We keep a list of free people finder sites and one that has paid and free people locator search engines so that you can make the decision yourself based on what it is you're looking for.

"Are Free People Search Sites Accurate?"

The best answer to this question is to try one for yourself. You'd be surprised how easy it is to find someone for free. Do a search on yourself if you want to verify the data that shows up.

Did you find yourself on a people finder site? Whether it was a free or paid site, you can most likely request that they remove your personal information.

Since you can use a fee-free site to find an address, phone number, name, email address, etc., you're not restricted by how many you can use. Run the same search on two, five, or 10 free people finders if you need to, to see if there are any discrepancies between them.

In fact, if you've used several free people finders and found relatively similar information between all of them, you can bet that the paid version probably won't do much better. There are exceptions to this, but generally, you can manually search public records yourself to gather the same information that the paid site will show you.

One exception to this is that a paid site usually archives information, too, and doesn't just show recent data. For example, a site that finds someone's phone number will most likely show one, maybe two numbers. A paid site that's been pulling this information from public databases for years, might be able to provide half a dozen numbers, unused email address, old social media accounts, loans they've applied for, etc.