Whether you’re trying to reconnect with an old friend, an ex, locate someone you have a crush on, someone who owes you money, or find your birth parents, there are quite a few ways you can find people online.
Top ways to find someone is to search for them by name or look through friends of friends on social media, google their name or contact info, and search through government property or criminal records. You can also run their name through a site like TruthFinder, which will pull all online public records on the person and compile them into an easy-to-read report:
Meanwhile, if you’re trying to find your birth relatives but don’t have a name to search, you can sign up for a site like Ancestry.com or 23andMe to see if any DNA relatives also use those services.
Keep reading for tips from private investigators on how to find people online and which sites to use to track people down:
1. Start with a people search site
Wondering how to find someone’s address? People search sites, such as TruthFinder and Instant Checkmate, can be a good first tool for tracking down someone you’ve lost touch with, says Maria Crispo, senior private investigator at Haywood Hunt & Associates, Inc. in Toronto.
Crispo says her firm will sometimes use these services, especially if they aren’t given a lot of information about the person they’ve been tasked with finding.
“Sometimes, we’re provided with a name and a telephone number or an email address, and we can use sites like these to cross reference and see what else is available to us.”
However, you usually have to pay a fee to actually access any real information about someone from these sites, notes Scot Martin, a private investigator in Las Vegas.
As John Troxel, CEO of Verdict Resources, Inc. in Camarillo, California, puts it:
“For low-hanging fruit, people search sites are fine — but if a subject has moved around a bit and does not own property, they will be harder to track down.”
It’s a good idea to temper your expectations if you’re looking for someone this way.
TruthFinder people search can help you find someone’s address
TruthFinder is a background search service that crawls public records and aggregates the information into a report.
You can use it to search for just about anyone in the United States — all you have to do is type in their name, phone number, email address, or physical address, and all of their publicly available information will be compiled into a downloadable report.
When you run a people search on Truthfinder, you may be able to find:
- Contact information
- Possible relatives and acquaintances
- Present and past addresses
- Criminal and arrest records
- Social media accounts
- Employment and education history
- Marriage and divorce records
- Birth and death certificates
- Property records
- Professional licenses
TruthFinder offers two subscription options that both include unlimited reports:
- $46.56 for two months ($23.28/month)
Truthfinder also offers a five-day trial for $1 — perfect if you just want to run a single report. Just make sure you cancel before the end of the promotion period if you don’t want to be charged for a membership.
Learn more about Truthfinder and start searching for people immediately >>
Other people search sites also have addresses, phone numbers, and more
Other popular people search sites include InstantCheckmate, BeenVerified, Whitepages, and Spokeo. These are all very similar, some are owned by the same company, and all work about the same. But, if you are having a tough time locating someone, it can be worth it to use more than one, as they are slightly different.
InstantCheckmate, for example, is a public records search service that aggregates a large amount of public data, allowing you to see everything from a person’s contact information to their employment history.
Similar to TruthFinder, type in the person’s name, phone number, email address, or physical address to run a report.
InstantCheckmate costs $35.12 for a monthly subscription plan, or you can prepay for three months at $84.28, which works out to $28.09 a month. Both plans include unlimited reports.
BeenVerified and Spokeo allow you to search by name, phone number, email address, or physical address, while Whitepages allows you to search by name, phone number, or physical address. All of these services cost money to access information.
2. Use social media sites to find people online
Martin says social media sites can be a useful place to start a search — even if takes some time and finesse to find what you're looking for.
Most people are pretty uncensored with their social media and don’t realize exactly how much information they have on their profile, says Glen Bhimani, CEO and founder of BPS Security in San Antonio.
“You can often find information down to the city where they live, their age, their alma mater, their relationship status, and the kind of person they are all by looking at their social media,” he says.
However, the challenge with social media is that you are only going to see what the person wants you to see.
“Anyone can make up information, so if you're using social media as a research tool, make sure you can find other points of reference to verify your facts,” Bhimani says.
Facebook reports more than 2.9 billion monthly active users making it a great place to start looking for an estranged relative, or an old friend or boy- or girlfriend.
Simply type the person’s name or email address into the search bar. Martin says that even if you can’t find your friend just by searching their name or email address on Facebook, you may still be able to track them down by searching through friends of your friends.
If you know someone who knows the person you’re looking for, see if their friend list is visible and search the person’s name.
Try searching for both their first and last name separately, since people sometimes change their names (marriage, divorce, etc.). They might also go by a nickname on social media to avoid being found by current/future employers.
Also, try looking at business pages on Facebook where they may have worked, or community pages such as community sports teams, schools and universities, or other places where the target of your search may have ‘liked,' commented or be tagged in an image.
LinkedIn is a professional network with more than 875 million users. If you know the person’s name, you can type it into the search bar and potentially see their current job, previous jobs, city, education history, and professional affiliations.
When you Google someone’s name, their LinkedIn profile is often the first thing that pops up in the search results.
There are a few other ways you can search for someone you know on LinkedIn:
- Import your email contacts and invite people to connect with you
- Look through the “People You May Know” section on the site
- View your school’s alumni page to see people you went to school with
3. Use search engines to find people online
Using a search engine like Google, Bing, or DuckDuckGo is usually the first step people take when trying to find people online, Martin says.
You can simply type someone’s name into the search bar to see photos of people with that name, news stories they’re mentioned in, and more. Also try googling any email address, phone number or street address they have used.
From there, it can take quite a bit of time to wade through search results and verify you’ve found who you’re looking for, especially if the person you’re searching for has a common name, Martin says.
If you have more information than just a name to go on, Crispo says you can use a combination of a name and anything associated with that person — past locations, jobs, alma maters, etc. — to get more targeted search results.
Google is the most popular search engine and is responsible for 80% of searches people make online.
All you have to do to get started is type the person’s name into the search bar. Putting the person’s name in quotes and adding any other relevant information you have, such as where they’re from or where they went to school, can help you get the best results.
Putting a word or phrase in quotes forces Google to show results for those words in the exact order you’ve typed them.
You can also search phone numbers on Google to see if you can match the number to a name.
“I have found that entering a phone number into Google is usually better than those reverse lookup sites,” Troxel says.
You can even use Google’s reverse image search if you have a photo of someone you’re looking for. Just upload or drag and drop the photo into the search box and see if it appears anywhere else online where there might be information about the person you’re looking for.
“Google is king, but the other sites [Bing and DuckDuckGo] can be useful as well,” Troxel says.
Bing is the second most popular search engine and accounts for 15% of searches people make online. Bing works the same way as Google and offers up similar results, though there might be slightly different information listed. You can search by name, phone number, or image to try to track someone down.
One benefit to using Bing is that they offer a rewards program. When you sign up and search using their platform, you’ll be given points that you can redeem for gift cards or donations.
If you don’t want your search data stored, consider using DuckDuckGo to conduct your search. This search engine doesn’t track, collect, or store information. That means you won’t be targeted by ads based on what you search.
DuckDuckGo claims their search results are comparable to Google’s but with more privacy. Unlike Google and Bing, DuckDuckGo doesn’t have a reverse image search, however, so you can only search for someone by typing in their name, phone number, or other information.
4. Reverse phone lookup
If you’re trying to put a name to a phone number, consider using a reverse phone lookup service. Sites like TruthFinder, InstantCheckmate, BeenVerified, and Spokeo offer this option.
“You can get a plethora of third-party verified information from reverse phone lookups, and you don’t run the risk of accidentally doing something such as liking a profile picture,” Bhiman says.
When you type in a phone number on one of these sites, you’ll get a report telling you the name of the person associated with the phone number and any known aliases.
You’ll have to pay on all of these sites to perform a reverse phone lookup. TruthFinder’s service, for example, costs $4.99 a month for unlimited searches.
5. Check criminal records
Checking criminal records may help you find someone online. However, Bhimani notes that in most cases, you will only be able to find out if the person has a criminal record and not necessarily what the record is for.
Unless the person is a sex offender, most criminal record details aren’t available to the public, Bhimani says.
To check for criminal records, start by Googling “PERSON’S STATE criminal records” to find their state’s judicial website. Depending on the state, you may be able to search through cases online or you might need to submit a request for information.
The process to get information may take up to a few weeks in some states, and there may be a fee involved. For example, in New York, the state court system charges $95 for a criminal history records search.
However, you can search the person’s name for free on the Department of Justice’s National Sex Offender Registry.
For a fee, you can also use an online background check service like TruthFinder to see criminal and arrest records. After typing in the person’s name, Truthfinder compiles all of the available information into a report that you can quickly access.
6. Check property records
Checking property records can help you determine whether someone is still at the same address — or any past addresses. You can also search for their relatives, whom you can contact, or whose whereabouts might point you to your lost friend or relative.
You can check property records for free on government websites. First, you’ll have to determine whether the county or city oversees the property of the person you’re searching for. Google “COUNTY/CITY property records” to get to the right government website.
Once you find the right website, you may be able to search by the property owner’s name or address. After typing in their name or address, you’ll be given a list of available documents to view. These may include deeds, mortgage records, tax liens, lawsuits and more.
Here’s an example property record from a county website:
You can search addresses on Zillow to learn more about a home. You might be able to see:
- Sale history
- Public tax history
- Photos of the exterior and interior of the home
- Details about the home (like the number of bedrooms and bathrooms)
- Current estimated value of the home.
You won’t be able to see the current or previous owners’ names. However, based on the sale history, you might be able to tell if, and when, the person you’re looking for sold the home.
7. Try Classmates.com
Classmates.com is a website that can help you reconnect with high school friends you’ve lost touch with. To use it, you have to sign up for an account. You’ll be asked to input the city, state, and name of your high school.
Classmates.com has a free and paid option. With a free account, you can search and view classmates in your school’s directory, list your name in Classmates communities so other people can find you, and look at yearbooks.
With a premium paid account, you can also see who’s viewed your profile and read and reply to all messages. You can choose from a three-month ($3.60 per month), one-year ($2.50 per month), or two-year ($2 per month) plan.
8. Try Ancestry.com
Wondering how to find birth parents with little information? Ancestry.com and other similar sites are great for finding family members, Troxel says.
“Sometimes people will create family trees on those sites, which gets you the details even quicker,” he says.
To find biological family members using Ancestry.com, you’ll need to purchase and take an AncestryDNA test:
- DNA kit – $99
- DNA kit with traits (includes physical/sensory traits plus family history) – $119
When the results are ready, you can log into your account and click “View all DNA matches” to see a list of biological relatives who’ve also taken an AncestryDNA test.
Your matches will be ranked based on how much DNA you share, with family members who share the most DNA at the top. If the person has created a public family tree, you’ll be able to view that. You can also click on the person’s name to message them and see if you share any other DNA matches.
Ancestry.com offers monthly memberships, but you don’t need to be a paid subscriber to message DNA relatives and respond to their messages.
If you want to do a deep-dive into your family history, a monthly membership will give you access to more than three billion international birth, marriage, death, and census records, newspaper archives dating back to the 1700s, and more.
The most popular monthly membership is the “World Explorer” option, which costs $32.99 per month if you sign up for six months.
23andMe is another website that can connect you with loved ones who have also taken a 23andMe DNA test.
Dr. Gwen Bass, Ph.D., an educational coach and parenting consultant, found biological relatives on Ancestry.com a few years ago and has written about the experience in her forthcoming memoir, Immaculate Misconception.
In the early ’80s, her two moms found a doctor who inseminated them with sperm from an anonymous donor. She says many of her parents’ friends then went to the same doctor for a sperm donor.
“I look back now at these photographs of myself, and some of these other women who were the offspring of my parents’ friends, and there's a remarkable similarity between all of us,” she says.
She says there was some speculation over the years that maybe they were related, but those suspicions weren’t confirmed until 2018, when Dr. Bass finally decided to try Ancestry to see if she could find her sperm donor and any biological siblings.
All told, she found 10 siblings using Ancestry and 23andMe.
“Especially growing up in a family where we vehemently were like, ‘Love makes a family; DNA doesn’t matter,’ to then connect with siblings who shared DNA with me, who have really remarkable characteristics — both physically and general personality characteristics that are so similar — was shockingly grounding for me,” Dr. Bass says.
Once she connected with her biological siblings, they combed through their overlapping family trees to find their biological father.
One of her sisters connected with a group on Facebook that helps people track their genealogy. She shared all of their information (including logins to the various DNA sites they had used), and the group produced a 200-page report that helped them discover the shared donor.
Although he had died, Dr. Bass says her siblings were able to connect with a couple of his relatives through Ancestry.com to learn more about him.
FAQs and expert advice for finding people online
These are some tips for finding people online:
How to find birth parents: How do I find my parents with no information?
If you’re looking to find your parents but you don’t have any information about them, consider using a service like Ancestry.com as a starting point.
“We’ve had clients come to us after using a service like Ancestry and say, ‘You know, I started out with my mom’s name or my brother’s name and from there, I was actually able to locate another sibling I didn’t know I had,’” Crispo says.
When you sign up, you’ll take a DNA test to see blood relatives who’ve also taken a DNA test through Ancestry. From there, you can view family trees of your DNA relatives and message them.
Troxel suggests looking to see if any of your DNA relatives have created family trees because that can help you find the details you’re looking for more quickly than combing through each DNA relative one by one.
Once your results are in, Ancestry suggests viewing all your DNA matches and looking at the family trees of the closest ones (these will be at the top of the list as the list goes in descending order).
If you see a green tree, that means their family tree is public and that you have a common ancestry. If you see a gray tree, that means their family tree is private and you’ll have to message them to ask if you can access it.
You can also click on a name and message your DNA relative. Ancestry.com advises being as sensitive as possible because your message might come as a surprise. You can also look at your shared matches to see if you and a DNA relative have any other relatives in common.
Above all, Dr. Bass suggests going into the process with few expectations and having boundaries.
“I wanted to be really clear that not only was I going in with the expectation that I’m here for whatever feels positive and generative but also I’m not here to fill anyone else’s holes,” she says.
“I have my own life, I’m my own person. I’m totally down to be a kind and respectful person because that matters to me as a human, but I’m not going to try to fix someone’s lifelong struggle with their identity.”
How do I find a friend I lost contact with?
There are a lot of different ways to find an old friend. Start by typing their name and any other relevant information you know about them (like where they’re from or where they went to school) into a search engine to see what comes up.
Crispo says when her team does an initial Google search on someone, they’ll use a combination of words, like the person’s name and location.
“This will help us produce more results,” she says. For example, they might try searching something like, “John Smith in Hamilton, Ontario.”
You might be able to find articles that mention them to help you glean additional information, Crispo says. For example, maybe you’ll find an article dated 2020 that says the person you’re looking for was arrested, Crispo says. That could help you figure out where the person is now.
You can also search someone’s name on social media sites like Facebook or look through friends of your friends on social media to see if you can find them.
Martin suggests looking through friends of friends on Facebook. Think about whether you can identify five people who might’ve known that friend and look through their friends to see if you spot the person, he says. “It could take some time, but, but you could find people, for sure,” says Martin.
You may also be able to find old high school friends by signing up for Classmates.com.
I signed up for a free account to see how it worked. After putting in all of my information, I was able to view the profiles of more than 90 people from my graduating class who had also signed up. With a free account, I could see their birthdays, any photos they had uploaded, and I had the ability to send them a private message if I wanted to.
You can also find someone on Truthfinder, an A+ Better Business Bureau-rated site that can provide a comprehensive report on anyone you’re searching for.
How can I find the father of my child?
If you are looking for the father of your child, your state's child support office may be able to help locate him (or the mother, if she owes child support). This information will help locate him or her:
- Social Security Number
- Address or P.O. Box Number
- Names of the parent's friends, employers, coworkers, or family members
- Copy of the order for child support
- The date of birth of the obligated parent
- Addresses of past and/or present workplaces or residences
If your state agency cannot help connect you with the father, you may consider enforcing child support punitive measures to force him to get in touch:
- Wage garnishment
- Withholding state benefits like social security, disability, unemployment or welfare
- Denying the parent a U.S. passport
- Freezing bank accounts or accounts from other financial institutions
- Property liens
- Suspending a driver's license or professional license
- Intercepting tax refunds
You can reach out to his family, hire a private investigator, use an online people location tool like Truthfinder or even Ancestory.com.
What is the easiest way to find someone for free?
Here are easy ways you can find someone for free:
- Google the heck out of them
- Social media — may involve lots and lots of searching
- Classmates.com has a free version
- Occasionally you can get a info from the free version of WhitePages.com
- Some government sites like property listings, sex registries, lawsuit filings and other records
- Reach out to the person's friends, family, colleagues
How can I find a person by name?
If all you have is someone's name — first and last — here are a few ways you may find them:
- Google their name along with any and all details about them — where they lived, phone and email, schools, jobs, hobbies and alumni directories:
- Use a service like TruthFinder or WhitePages.com
Bottom line: Make finding people online easier with the right tools
If you have time, patience and creativity, you can find a lot of people online for free through Google, social media sites and government databases. However, often the quickest way to find that missing friend, relative or enemy is through an online people search site like TruthFinder, which has an A+ BBB rating and a $1 trial.
If you’re looking to find your parents but you don’t have any information about them, consider using a service like Ancestry.com as a starting point.