Should I Pay to Find People Online?

If you're looking for someone, check out these free online resources

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, 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.

Most online resources are absolutely free and will not ask users for personal financial information. Of course, there are always a few websites that choose to change their policies; there is a disclaimer for any website that has the potential to do so at the beginning of an article referencing that particular website. 

What Happens if A Site Is Asking Me to Pay to Find Someone? 

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 mentioned in this article. 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.

This Site Won't Give Me Information Without a Credit Card

Readers should never give their credit card or other personally identifying information to any website that offers to find someone. This is because readers have the same access to this information as the sites asking for money do, thus there is no need to pay for it.

Unfortunately, there are situations in which this happens, and financial information is exchanged. Instead of paying for information and potentially putting your information in danger, we suggest using common sense online safety protocols, such as keeping your financial information secure to avoid online scams and carefully vetting companies before handing over your credit card.

None of the Sites You Are Featuring Are Free

As previously mentioned, every website we include in our people search resources here is free at the time of publication. However, sometimes sites change their policies without public announcements -- including making their services no longer free. 

There is another scenario that happens quite often; readers accidentally ​click on an ad that contains paid services. 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 most websites, it's strongly suggested that you browse carefully when reading and click only on suggested resources within the article itself. 

Can You Suggest a Paid Site?

Paid sites are not featured on this site simply because most of them do not provide a level of access that isn't already available. It is completely possible to find a good amount of information on people online using the free resources already mentioned.

However, while it is certainly possible to 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 internet, it will be difficult to track down pertinent information. Many times a web search can be a great way to kick-start a greater search that continues offline, at​ the county records offices, genealogy societies, and other free public resources. 

Are Free People Search Sites Accurate? 

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?

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.

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 here and enlisting the expertise of more knowledgeable searchers, in addition to 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 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:

  • Use this step by step guide to finding someone online. 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.
  • Simply start with Google, as it's the world's most popular search engine, and it's also a key to unlocking databases, digging behind information walls, and much more.
  • Utilize one of the many search engines geared specifically for finding people. Search engines are useful tools, especially when they're focused only on finding people-related information. Using these niche search engines to find the person you're looking for online might increase your chances of finding them.

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 readily available on the web.

Just remember, you should 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.