Author Archives: Karen
Author Archives: Karen
If you’ve never been a victim of identity theft, consider yourself lucky. Millions of people have had to fight their way out of serious financial trouble because of one wrong person getting hold of their personal information.
A 2016 study by Javelin Strategy & Research found that about 13.1 million consumers in the U.S are victims of data theft or cybercrime in one form or another, having an estimated total of $15 billion stolen – and the numbers keep rising each year. Identity theft is possibly the worst cybercrime of all, one that can easily destroy a lifetime’s worth of reputation, finances, and credit history, which can take years to recover from. If you’ve fallen victim to identity theft, this resource is your survival guide on how to gain back control, steps to recover from fraud and identity theft, as well as many useful tips and helpful information to protect yourself from being a victim of cybercrime in the future.
The most recent statistics from the Bureau of Justice Statistics are assessed on the data collected from 2014 and were published September of 2015 as an online PDF visual representation. They show that about 7% of people over the age of 16 were victims of identity theft. That may not seem like a lot, but when you take into account that there were 242 million people over 18 in the US in 2014, that would mean over 17 million people were taken advantage of. The bureau also reports that 14%, or 2.5 million, suffered financial loss from identity theft.
Women are more likely to have their identity stolen than men, at 9.2 million women compared to 8.3 million men. When dividing by race groups, Caucasians have a rate of 8%, African Americans are about 5% – as are Hispanics. Incomes of $75,000 or more annually were targeted most, at theft rate of 11%.
Identity theft is so much more than just having your credit card compromised, though that is what most people equate it with. The truth is that having your identity stolen can be much more damaging to your life than people realize. Not only can someone open up lines of credit under your name, but they can also rent apartments and even get a job. It’s even possible to file a tax return in your name and take the returns.
52% of victims reported they were able to resolve the issues in a day or less, but 9% spent more than a month working on fixing the damage done. 29% of victims that spent more than 6 months resolving problems due to identity theft reported severe emotional distress.
Surprisingly, children are 51x more likely to have their identity stolen than adults would be. They are vulnerable to someone who might try to manipulate them because they don’t realize the risk. The vast majority of childidentities stolen are used to open credit accounts and to substantiate loans, often by family members or relatives. Parents usually warn children about sexual predators and being modest on social media, but what they don’t usually think about is people who might pray on their naivety online and get them to give up pertinent information that would compromise their identity security.
In the first half of 2016, there were a record-breaking 621 mass data breaches reported worldwide. These are hackers who are attacking large companies and corporations, attempting to break into their databases and pull out any stored financial or personal information on their customers and clients. Some recognizable and newsworthy attempts have been with companies like Target, Anthem (Blue Cross Blue Shield), and Home Depot
Home Depot – in 2014, they were attacked via a vendor through their computer’s network and 56 million credit card numbers and 53 million email addresses were stolen.
Major companies may have better security but can also be a more tempting target for potential hackers because of the wealth of information that could be retrieved if they were successful. Obviously, the attacks on Target, Anthem and Home Depot were a huge pay-off for the hackers and a catastrophic financial nightmare for the companies and, at minimum, a significant inconvenience for their customers.
According to NASDAQ, “Data breaches totaled 1,540 worldwide in 2014 – up 46 percent from the year before – and led to the compromise of more than one billion data records.” By the statistics, 55% of breach incidents are from a malicious outsider who was intentionally trying to get in and steal information. 25% came from accidental loss and 15% came from a malicious insider.
The most hacked area was North America, accounting for 76% of the known breaches around the world. 72% occurred in the United States alone. The United Kingdom accounts for 8% of the breaches, Canada carries 4%, Australia accounts for 2%, and Israel and China both carry 1% of the burden.
As for credit card fraud, the United States only carries about 24% of the credit cards in the world, yet 47% of credit card fraud. Countries that have adopted the EMV or “chip” card have shown significantly lower occurrences of fraud. The United States’ slow adoption of the technology is suspected to be the reason their rate of fraud is much higher.
Before delving deeper into understanding identity theft, let us first look into some of the common terminology used in reference to these crimes:
Misleading emails that manipulate people to enter confidential information. This could be someone pretending to be a bank representative, a health service or medical assistant, or even a credit card company.
The same concept as phishing, but done through SMS or text messaging.
When someone hacks into a wireless network and installs spyware. This allows them to see what IP addresses are being used and what each device is doing, including personal information, usernames, passwords, and much more.
Software installed either by a hacker or virus that logs every keystroke done on a computer. This key logging software reports each keystroke to the person who planted the software and can easily be deconstructed to provide them your usernames, passwords, social security information, and any other personal data they find interesting.
Devices designed to be placed over ATM and gas pump card slots that still allow the card to work, but also store the credit card information. When the person who placed it retrieves the device, the information of every credit card used during the time it was installed is then accessible by the thief.
When a person looks over your shoulder at an ATM or other place you may be using a debit card and entering your pin number. They can get your card account number and then learn your pin number by watching you enter it. From there, they would be able to use your debit account anywhere they want.
So how does personal information get out into dangerous territory? 23% of identity theft begins with phishing emails. Potential scammers send emails posing as a legitimate business that a person may or may not already be associated with (i.e.: a bank or credit card company) and manipulate the victim into giving them pertinent confidential information. This release of information ultimately leads to their financial accounts and/or identity being used without their permission. A phishing email is usually recognizable because the sender is asking you to verify your information through a non-secure online source. Also, generally speaking, a legitimate business would not contact you through email if there were any sort of breach of security on your account; they would either call a customer directly and/or just shut down their card.
Sometimes, scammers will set up legitimate-looking websites that are really just a ploy to acquire the user’s information. This could be in the form of a merchant website online where the user thinks they are buying an item that they never receive and, instead, have their information stolen. Other times, the scammer will make a page that looks and acts just like a well-known or reputable bank or credit institution but with a slightly different web address. The user trusts the site because it looks like a real one, enters their information, and never hears back from the site, only to find out that their information was stolen and misused.
In addition, many people don’t realize that large corporations and popular businesses routinely sell their users’ information. These companies are required by law to put into their terms and conditions that they are able to sell your information but very few people actually look into that information when filling out forms online. By selling that information to third parties, it opens people up to spam emails, mail, phone calls, and a whole host of other problems. Don’t be fooled – these companies do not care that they’re selling your personal information; it is just money in their eyes.
Another way your information can be compromised is by physical collection. If you’ve ever lost your purse or had your wallet stolen or even left a credit card behind at a restaurant, you are in danger. Additionally, personal information can be acquired by dumpster diving or digging through trash to find anything that was discarded without being shredded. Most banks and doctors’ offices have policies in place where they are required to shred personal information, but it may not occur to people that their trash from home might be gone through either by people they allow into their home or predators who could dig through your trash bin out by the road before it is collected. Any acquisition of a physical piece of identification puts someone at risk. Not only could they have access to your account number but they could use the person’s ID and other pieces of information to open lines of credit and do major damage financially.
In 2014, 54% of people reported that their fraudulently used information was initiated by a phone call. Most commonly, a scammer will pose as a representative from a financial institution and tell the victim that they have had suspicious activity on their account and that they need to have the victim verify information. It is only later that the victim realizes that they’ve been lied to and that they basically handed over their entire security to a stranger on the phone.
Because it can be embarrassing to admit that you have been scammed, often times victims will let their pride get the best of them and will not report that they have been victimized. A lot of online scammers rely on the human ego to be too proud to admit that they have been taken advantage of and they will go unreported. The Bureau of Justice reports that fewer than 1 in 10 identity theft victims report the incident to the police.
It is important to have a physical copy of your accounts and credit/debit card information. This could be physically written or photocopied, but make sure it is stored in a secure place where no one can misuse this information. In a situation where a card is lost or your wallet is stolen it is important to know what was in there and have quick access to the account numbers so you can actively contact the companies and report the lost or stolen cards.
Acting quickly is integral to getting your identity back. The quicker you report it the sooner you can flag your accounts and avoid further damage.
There are a few warning signs that personal information is or could be compromised. If a red flag is raised, a lot of damage can be avoided.
Protecting your password should be a #1 priority. Most people don’t realize that wireless connections can be hacked relatively easily. If a user is on a wireless network at a local coffee shop he or she may be having everything they type logged using malware that is monitoring the network.
As a rule, avoiding malware in any form is integral to security. Apple computers are generally regarded as safer from malware because viruses are supposedly harder to create for their operating system along with them being less appealing because they are less used globally than windows computers. However, they are not impervious to spyware. Installing a network protection program such as Norton Anti-Virus can block infected downloads, warn you about known social media scams and flag suspicious content.
Using encrypted sites was mentioned in passing before but it is of utmost importance and needs to be remembered. If a website begins with http:// it is NOT encrypted and any information entered on it is subject to being public information. Only sites that begin with https:// are encrypted.
Alternatively, if you would like to take a more proactive stance at protecting online predators from getting your IP address, you could utilize a VPN, or Virtual Private Network, service. For as little as $5/month, VPN services mask your IP address and give you a generalized IP address from anywhere in the world you choose. Hackers won’t be able to use your IP address to access your confidential information any time you are utilizing this tool. Even better, it can be used on any computer, laptop, tablet or smartphone via a downloadable desktop application or smartphone app.
When in doubt, check with the Better Business Bureau. It is easy to do and can be a failsafe, validating the quality of a website or business. This is an especially helpful resource when considering buying something online. Before you hand over your credit card details for a cute shirt or a funny coffee mug, check the business to make sure it isn’t a fraud.
Passwords should be changed every 4-6 months, especially those linked to financial and medical institutions. Use a complex and unique password, utilizing capitalization, numerals, and symbols wherever possible. Also, passwords should not be the same across the board for every login. As complicated as it can be to remember each password, there are programs designed to keep track of that information for you. There are mobile apps for smartphones as well as desktop applications that keep track of passwords for you.
One highly recommended one is called LastPass, which is available for Android, iOS, and Windows Mobile for free. It not only stores your passwords in a safe place but also has a strong password generator. It is integrated into your phone’s browser and will automatically fill in login details for you. Users can choose to generate new, secure passwords and it will automatically add or update their list for them. This makes changing passwords easy to keep track of. It also syncs with your other devices seamlessly, allowing family password sharing.
Another app option is called Keeper and is available for free on iOS, Windows Phone and Android. Not only does it keep passwords but it also can secure personal information and share it with trusted contacts directly from the app. It, too, has a password generator and can auto-fill login information. It offers iCloud backup and syncing for a charge but gives you a free 30-day trial.
If trusting apps isn’t appealing or if you don’t own a smartphone, you could also keep a written list of usernames and passwords in a secure location. When not in use, lists including sensitive information should be locked up in a safe.
As technology progresses, more secure technologies are becoming available. This includes, but is not limited to, voice recognition, iris-scanning, and fingerprint recognition. The fingerprint is already being utilized in iPhones, the HTC One M9+, the Samsung Galaxy A8, and a handful of others. Even better, apps that allow purchasing or could benefit from added security are using the fingerprint software built into these platforms. Already, Amazon.com, eBay, the iTunes store and many others are encouraging users to utilize the fingerprint in place of a password not only for ease of use but increased security. It doesn’t hurt that it is much quicker to press your finger to the sensor than to type a username and password.
Security extends far beyond the digital realm, too. Making sure that personal documents are shredded rather than just discarded is something most people don’t think about but should. If you don’t have a shredder, there are companies like UPS or The Office Depot that will shred documents for a nominal fee.
Finally, make sure you review your credit report annually. Under the FACT Act, Federal law allows you a free credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus once a year. Make sure to run that report every year and review any flags for accuracy. Any incorrect information or reports can be disputed and an audit can be requested to review the information. Yes, it is time consuming and often arduous but it is absolutely worth the effort. Each of the major credit bureaus, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion, offer a subscription service that allows you to check your score whenever you want but you can access your free reports by going to the Annual Credit Report website. This is a secure, federally assembled website that asks you for your social security number so make sure you are on a secure computer and in a private place where no one might snoop over your shoulder while entering your information.
If you’re overwhelmed, it is understandable. There are so many threats coming at us from various angles and it is almost impossible to stay ahead of the new ploys being conceived each and every day. It might be a wise idea to consider investing in Identity Theft Protection. Their job is to watch your back by monitoring new accounts being opened in your name and even watch for suspicious activity on your credit accounts. It can be expensive but it is worth it. Which company you choose depends on whether your identity has been stolen yet or not. If you have already suffered identity theft, you may want to consider a company like ID Watchdog ($14.95 or $19.95/month), whose primary goal is to help you recover your identity, even if the offenses happened before you joined their service. If protection before identity theft happens is the goal, a company like Identity Force might be a good option (12.95/month with 30 day free trial or $19.95/month).
Honestly, one of the best resources that I have found to date has been a compiled list of 87 security experts’ Twitter accounts. They tweet daily about the newest trends, news and security concerns to be aware of. There’s a comprehensive list found here and you can follow the experts individually or choose to follow all of them at the same time by accessing the list the author compiled.
Another useful list is by Heimdal security, which includes over 50 tips and tricks from various security experts and is a great resource to utilize.
Want to know more? Here are a few good places to look to find statistics and more in-depth information on identity theft and keeping security a priority.
FreeBackgroundCheck.org is a data-pooling search site that offers many types of specific searching with the goal of getting you information quickly and efficiently. The accuracy of the information, however, is questionable and I would advise any users to do a double check on the information provided just to be thorough.
I recently had to start over in life after a divorce and, though I had a home, I needed a new roommate. I put a few ads out on Craigslist, Facebook, etc. and got a handful of hits right away. I was particularly intrigued in a gentleman who responded to me through Facebook; I was able to look at his profile and could tell that we had quite a few things in common. I decided, just to be safe, to do a background check on him to make sure I wasn’t letting a creep into my home where my children would be coming to visit.
After a little online searching, I found FreeBackgroundCheck.org and it seemed like a very straightforward site with lots of search options so I gave it a try. My first clue should have been that I could not find any information on the site as to who the company behind the site was, where they were located, or how they started. Most companies will have an “about us” section where they proudly tell you about themselves and how they came into the business. I could not find anything about the company at all, even by searching on popular search engines.
When signing up, I was offered 3 levels of access: 1 month of unlimited searches for $19.95/month, 1 week unlimited for $4.95, and just a single report for $29.95. I had a few people I could search if this gentleman wasn’t going to work out but I knew I would be making a decision within a week so I chose the 1 week option.
Nowhere on the sign-up does it say that the payments will auto-renew but I assumed it would, as this is how most of these sites work. I looked at my account and it showed my 7 day purchase and now listed it with the term “Trial” next to it. So, I dug into the Terms & Conditions and saw that it was a recurring charge unless you canceled the subscription. So, essentially, every 7 days it would charge me another $4.95 if I did nothing. I am pretty good at remembering to follow through on things like that so I decided it would be ok.
My initial search took quite a while. I was willing to wait, though, because it showed that it was searching in many areas.
When the search was complete, it returned 54 results! I’m not sure if this is a good thing or bad in my situation, though. I don’t know much about this person other than the information I can find on their Facebook profile that they used to contact me. Because I only had his name and birthdate, I looked through the list to find people that were about 29 or 30 years old. Quite a few entries were returned without a birth date but one entry said the man was 29, which would make him most likely to be the guy I was looking for.
I didn’t know any of his relatives or locations so none of that information was of much help to me but I could see how that might make a huge difference for others.
The report generated very little information. There were minimal details given beyond his name, date of birth, age and address.
It gave only one address for him and then listed 3 sex offenses. This immediately caught my attention and decided to look further into these. The link was clickable but only brought up his profile again; it did not give any information about the offenses themselves.
Below, there were two death records listed but upon looking deeper into them I realized that they were both for other people who had been much older.
5 email addresses were listed but 4 of them were associated with someone at a different address and the person had a different middle initial. The 5th result was, again, associated with a different address and I did not have faith that it was correct.
That is it, honestly… It didn’t give me any more information than that. So, I decided to look at other people that might be him. I asked the gentleman coyly where he was living currently so I could send him a lease agreement to review and he gave me his address. I used this information to make sure I had the right person and was surprised to find that it actually was the correct address but that it was tied to three separate profiles, one with the correct birth date, one older person and one person with no birth date listed.
I checked each profile out individually and the one with no birth date listed 90 (Yes, 90!) traffic violations, most of which were duplicates. It also listed the same 3 sex offenses and email addresses as the original profile. The older gentleman, who I would assume is my guy’s father, gave 5 addresses but listed the current address as the same which would suggest that my potential roommate was living at home with his parents at almost 30 years old. That doesn’t really bode well with me because I would assume he isn’t paying rent there and might not consistently pay me on time. The older gentleman’s profile also listed the same 3 sex offenses and 5 email addresses.
It was at this point that I decided to look into the sex offenses to see if it was even the correct person. Upon searching the state’s sex offender registry it turns out it isn’t even remotely close to the same person, having been born at a different time and living at a different address than any listed for either person. This is concerning because if someone was not diligently checking into the validity of the information provided they could easily accuse someone wrongly of a very serious crime and potentially really screw up a relationship.
I did find it nice that there was a menu on the left of the page that would let you search specifically for criminal records, arrests, court records, sex offender, and many more. If you were looking for specific information, this could be very helpful. All you have to do is click on how you want to search, put in the name and it brings up a bunch of results.
It also lets you search by phone number and address in case you didn’t have someone’s name and just that information. To test its accuracy, I searched my ex wife’s address and, though the house was in her name alone, it lists that house as owned by me and that I am married and the current occupant. That has not been my residence since we split 5 years ago.
I had become very skeptical so I decided to check the validity of the rest of the information being provided by checking my own report. Four results were returned and all four were incorrect. They were someone in a different city with a different middle name and I was nowhere to be found.
I tried, instead, to search my maiden name and that finally returned some positive results. However, none of them were fully correct.
The most correct one listed an old address as the current and then listed two phone numbers that were landlines not connected with either address. It also listed 4 email addresses, 2 of which were incorrect and none of which were current and valid. This is only concerning because I currently have 6 active email addresses that I use on a regular basis for both business and personal effect and they are no secret online and on my small business’ website. The fact that they were not picked up shows a lack of information being reported.
I decided to immediately cancel my subscription. I didn’t feel like anything I found was trustworthy which made it pointless to search other candidates. It also made me feel like the company itself might give me trouble cancelling which was, sadly, the case. When I had looked up the Terms of Service previously I had noticed a link to cancel the subscription. I followed that link and was directed to a “Send Help Request” with a drop-down menu to choose “Account Cancellation” from. I added comments to let them know I wanted to cancel and then waited for an email in response.
The next day, I received an email apologizing for the lapse in reliable information, confirmed cancellation and assured me that I would not be charged further.
Though FreeBackgroundCheck.org returns a wide variety of information, I did not find it to be accurate or reliable, which is very important to me. When it comes to background checks and sexual predator histories, it is important to be sure that the information you are being presented is linked with the correct person.
I was not able to get the information I desired from this search so I ended up having to sign up for a different search site that came much more highly recommended. At the end of the day, I only spent $4.95 so I wasn’t too upset about the financial loss. Lesson learned!
TruthFinder.com has proven to be a wealth of current and precise information that lets you find almost anyone that has an online presence without hassle. For a relatively low price, it is the best option I have found to date.
I stumbled upon TruthFinder.com as I was searching for answers. I had fallen out of contact with a good friend of mine when she moved across the country just after high school. I heard she had moved to California and started her family in Los Angeles but beyond that there wasn’t much known about her. I was going to be visiting Los Angeles for a business trip, so I decided to try to find her so we could connect while I was out there. When I searched Facebook, there were entirely too many people and no way to know which was her. I knew I needed help searching so I went looking for a really reputable site that could help. I found TruthFinder.com to be the best option.
As it turns out, their home office is located in San Diego, California. They’re a relatively new company, starting out in the spring of 2015, but perhaps that worked to their advantage. They seem to be focused on acknowledging information found in social media and making the most of the ever-expanding web of content and information that is available online. They make a point to let you know that they are keeping your information as well as your searches confidential, which is not something you find very often online these days.
I decided to search for my friend and it gave me a list of a few people who would match my search, each showing age, relatives, cities lived in, etc so I could choose the right person.
Once I chose my person, it did a very thorough search of any possible online resources, including social networks!
The pricing and package options were very straightforward; $27.78/month if you wanted to take your subscription one month at a time or you could choose to start with a 3 month subscription for $23.02/month but you have to pay the 3 months ($69.07) up front. There were not confusing trial periods or hidden charges. They told you exactly what you received for the price and let you choose if you wanted to continue or not. I was able to view a sample report directly on the site and it gave me confidence that it would return the information I was seeking and help me locate my friend.
Once I got my report, I was very impressed! It gave me an incredible amount of information and it was almost like I was able to trace her life like a storyline from when she moved from Michigan and where she had gone since. There were still a few details I wanted so I decided to upgrade to get a complete report, called a “Premium Report Upgrade”.
It gave me access to additional details like business associates, professional licenses, corporate affiliations, prior addresses, properties owned, etc. for $17.47. I decided that it was worth the small cost and, with this additional information, I was able to track my friend down quickly!
In case you are intimidated by the price, they offer the opportunity to invite your family and friends to join and when they sign up you BOTH get a free premium report credit.
Also, for $2, it gave you the option to download reports as a .PDF file to your computer so that you could keep it stored or print it out. I opted not to do this but it was not much of a cost for an option that could be very convenient for some people.
The TruthFinder report I received is by far the most comprehensive collection of information I have ever received. It is easy to understand, has a very direct menu of sections on the left that will bring you where you want to go, and it doesn’t make you click 100 links to get to all the information but, instead, organizes it neatly for you all in one place.
When you first open up the report, you are given step-by-step navigation to help you get around quickly and concisely.
Your “home page” is very nicely organized with the search bar at the top asking you simply for first and last name, as well as your state. All of your previous searches are saved below in a column that allows you to sort by most recently viewed, name, age, etc. There are quite a few applications where this could be very helpful.
When you open a report on someone, they not only list their name but also their birthdate, age, astrological sign and any known aliases. This proved to be the first step I needed in finding my friend. I realized that she had gotten married somewhere along the way and her name had changed, which explains why I didn’t find her on social media under her maiden name.
Directly below that, it matched possible pictures of the person which help you make sure you’ve got the right person. It had been 20 years but her face was the same and I could see from the pictures that she had children and grandchildren!
Her jobs throughout the years were listed as well as her education, from undergraduate to graduate degree work at various universities across the country. Not only did it list the school but it went as far as to tell you the degree area and the dates attended.
Relatives from both her family and her husbands were listed very clearly and each one gave basic information on each person such as where they lived and how old they were. Each one also had a link to let you look directly at their report and showed a drop-down list of each of the relative’s relatives. Once again, above and beyond what I expected.
I was absolutely blown away by the list of related links that I was presented with. Every type of social media I could come up with was listed and even some I had never heard of. I was able to directly connect via link to her Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Google+, Twitter, etc. Essentially, anything that she had been directly tagged in was listed.
What was most important to me was the phone number section. It provided every phone number she had been connected with throughout the years. Most sites only give you the number but this told you who the carrier was, if it was a landline or cell phone, if it was prepaid, the location, and whether or not it was connected. It gave me 4 options, one of which was listed as current and connected, and I was able to call and be directly connected to her. Now, I’m not shy but if you were trying to be a bit more discrete or cautious you could utilize the email address section and possibly shoot off an email quickly.
Previous addresses were also listed; basically, anywhere she had received mail at in the last 20+ years was shown. From businesses to home addresses, each was labeled as to its usage (business, residential, PO Box, etc) as well as whether or not it was deliverable and currently receiving mail. A map was very clearly displayed and let you see a visual representation of each location. The map was interactive and let you zoom in and out for perspective but I wish it would have enlarged so you could see it better.
Nearer to the bottom, it listed criminal record, driving infractions, and sex offender registration for both the person you’re searching as well as in relation to each of the addresses they were linked to.
As if that wasn’t enough, it also went into detail about her astrological sign. It told me things I basically already knew and offered me a compatibility test so we could compare our signs and see if we might someday fall deeply in love. As the likelihood of that is slim to none, I disregarded it. However, for someone who was searching information on a lover or someone they met on an online dating site this could be very helpful.
I did notice that they offered an Android app but, since I do not have an Android platform phone, it was of no use to me.
What I did find very interesting was that at the very top of the page you were asked to review the information, rating the quality of the content with a 5-star rating system and it also allowed you to flag the report as inaccurate. I would assume that this would be most helpful when researching one’s self.
It was the information review that piqued my interest initially to search myself but I also wanted to make sure that the information I was getting on my friend was trustworthy. Not only did I search myself but I got a little carried away with friends and relatives. The unlimited searching can be a little addictive!
For the most part, the information I found about myself was accurate. It did not list a current phone number for me but it had about half of my email addresses and most of my social network information.
The LinkedIn section was very clearly off and I am assuming that it somehow linked to another person who has the same name as me, though that is uncommon. Because of that, my education background and work history was incorrect. I do not have a LinkedIn account so perhaps that is where the issue stemmed from.
I was incredibly taken aback at the amount of information the search on myself had amassed. I guess I didn’t realize how much of my information was being made public by social media venues. It even had a car accident that I had been in back 10 years ago because it had gone to court. It showed everything – the municipality in which the accident occurred, the date, the court case number, offense type and description, plea, status, and the final outcome.
All in all, I would say the information provided was about 80% correct.
When I had made contact with my friend, I decided to cancel my subscription. I remembered at the sign-up I had been given a phone number to call so I went to search for that. To my surprise, under Your Account / Membership Settings it gave me the option to cancel online. It gave a quick drop-down list to select why you were cancelling the service.
I submitted my option and was then offered a discounted rate of $9.97/month to continue my account. I did not have any use for the service so I decided against it but it was very tempting.
Once canceled, it confirmed and said that I would still have access to my canceled subscription until the end date so I was able to continue throughout the month I had paid for.Visit TruthFinder
All in all, I was very impressed and quite happy with TruthFinder.com. Not only did it find the person I had failed to find through multiple other venues, but it gave me a wealth of information and ways to contact her. It was easy to use, well organized, and an overall very pleasant experience. I ended up paying just about $30 to find a long lost friend and it was absolutely worth every penny. We were able to connect while I was in town and this has changed both of our lives going forward.Visit TruthFinder
CheckPeople.com provides a simple, straightforward way to find basic information as well as criminal records and background checks. It is a cost effective and secure site that will give you the peace of mind you are looking for.
I was searching for a background check site because I was buying a car for my daughter from a gentleman in another city. I wanted to make sure that he was who he said he was and that he didn’t have a criminal record or anything else I should be aware of on his record. It seemed a little fishy when he requested that I give him a cashier’s check for the cost of the car so I did a background check just to feel more comfortable meeting up with him.
When I looked into this background check company, I was pleased to find that the team who put together CheckPeople.com was founded in Palo Alto, California and has over 20 years of experience in running internet businesses. Their main goal was to help people make well-informed decisions by providing a wealth of information without breaking the bank. They did the best they could to make it affordable so that everyone could have access to information.
As opposed to other companies I looked at, CheckPeople only had one pricing option. For just $1 you are given a 5 day trial of the site, after which you are billed $44.85/month. The trial gave you unlimited searches and there were no upgrades or hidden fees. If you cancelled within the 5 days you aren’t billed recurrently. Truthfully, you can’t beat that price anywhere else I looked!
I also found it reassuring that they made it clear in the text below your payment information what you were agreeing to. It was not an obscured link that you had to search out and find but was, instead, in plain sight.
When I began the search, it took a little while to load up the report but it showed a status bar alongside the many things it was searching. Not only did it search public records but it also searched a plethora of social networks for information. This showed me that they cared to look in as many venues as possible so they can get you any information they can.
It also went through a few security checks and made you agree to not misuse the information and confirm that you are not “a robot” by doing a captcha-style confirmation. Its nice to know that they are taking measures to keep data-mining bots out of the system.
The site offered you a few different ways to search – by name or by phone number. Once you searched, the results were listed and all potential matches showed age, location and relatives to help you find the correct person. This was especially helpful when you were looking for someone with a generic name.
At the very top of the page was an easy-to-use menu that let you tab between personal information, address history, related people, marriage/divorce records, criminal history, and sex offender records. Each section was very straightforward and told you clearly if no results were returned. The Sex Offenders section searched not only the person you looked up but also people nearby their current residence.
Above where the different sections are, there was a PDF download option which, for $1.99, allowed you the ability to download the results of any search you do in PDF format and save it forever on your computer.
It does seem that the background check function was the same thing as the people search. I didn’t notice any difference between the two.
Because I’m a cynic, I wanted to make sure the information being provided to me was correct and trustworthy. I searched myself and a few people I know well to see how accurate the results were and found that it was mostly correct. There were a few discrepancies peppered throughout but nothing significant.
I have been married and divorced and I was surprised to see that was not reported when I looked myself up. There weren’t any marriage or divorce records for anyone I searched across the country. Of course, some states do not report that information, while others make those records public and searchable.
When I reverse searched my own phone number I found it linked to my maiden name, which has been changed for over 7 years. I will say, however, that the handful of other numbers I reverse searched did come up with correct information from which I was able to search the people they were linked to.
I also happen to know that I have 3 sex offenders living within a half mile from my house. As any mother would, I’ve looked this information up independently on online sex offender registry sites. None of this showed up on my own background check, which makes me weary that the same might be true on other reports I searched. Perhaps the radius is less than a half mile, though. If it was only looking at direct neighbors it may not have come up with anything.
When you visited the “My Home” tab at the top you were taken to a place where you could change your password and assess your membership status. It also gave you a comprehensive list of the people you have searched with a direct link to their report so you don’t have to do all of your searching from scratch.
To cancel this subscription, I had to do a little more work than I expected. There was no readily available option to cancel your subscription. I looked in my “My Home” and under “Update Account Information” but found nothing. I scoured the site and finally, buried deep in the terms and conditions, found that you could cancel your account by calling a toll free number. Upon calling, I was directed by an automated system to wait as all representatives were currently busy. After about 10 minutes of mildly-pleasant classical music, my call was finally answered. A sweet lady named Elaine asked why I was canceling, offered me a discounted subscription rate of $14.95/month if I wanted to continue, and then gave me a cancellation verification number and told me to look for an email. Most sites I’ve encountered in the past let you cancel online with just the click of a link and answering a question as to why you were canceling the service. I found the phone call and subsequent wait to be rather tedious but ultimately effective. I wasn’t harassed and I felt like I was able to accomplish my cancellation
Compared to other sites, CheckPeople seems to be focused on simplicity and ease of use. It provides you with the data you need without a bunch of hassle. It is generally correct and thorough, which is ultimately what was most important. In my search, I didn’t find any sort of criminal record or red flags that would breed mistrust. The last thing I would have wanted to find was that he had a history of fraud! True, the information doesn’t go into much detail but it was sufficient for what I was trying to do. I’m sure that more in-depth information would be more costly and I was trying to avoid spending a bunch of money if it wasn’t necessary. CheckPeople was the perfect tool for me and I will surely be back next time I need to do a little research.
The information I acquired through InstantCheckmate has proved to be thorough and correct, making it invaluable to me. It blows the competition out of the water with the user-friendly interface and high level of commitment to accuracy, providing you a ton of information in an easy-to-navigate format.
InstantCheckmate found its beginning in 2010, originally serving as a resource for people to search online-dating prospects. This was around the time that online dating became popular and, unfortunately, more and more fraudulent profiles were being created. Of course, people needed to be able to trust who they were talking and InstantCheckmate provided them with the resources they needed to validate that the person not only was who they were claiming to be but also that they didn’t have any glaring negative marks on their record that they may not be admitting to. From there, they expanded to serve people on so many more levels. Ultimately, they seem to have made it their goal to make the truth accessible to anyone, from the basics like contact information all the way through criminal records and sex offender status.Visit InstantCheckmate
I stumbled across InstantCheckmate was because of a gentleman I met on a Caribbean cruise . We got along fantastically and started to spend quite a bit of time together. He seemed very sweet but, for the sake of being thorough, I decided to do a little background research.
When I searched his name, I was offered two package options. The first was a 1 month of unlimited reports for $34.78/mo and the second was $27.82/month if you signed up for 3 months at the very beginning.
I chose the 1 month because I only really needed to search one person and didn’t think I would have an ongoing need for the services. I made sure to check out the billing details, as denoted by the asterisk and found that the membership would automatically renew after 30 days unless cancelled.
Upon entering my details, I submitted the form and was taken to a screen that offered the option to download my reports to my computer, print or send reports to friends. If I hadn’t been paying attention, it would have been very easy to press the big green button to continue but I chose to continue without the ability to download them.
I’m sure it is a very convenient option for people that don’t mind spending a little more money.Visit InstantCheckmate
Once I was all signed up, it pulled up the report and gave me little tips and helpful tidbits of information to help me make the most of my search. It showed me where to find features and offered an upgrade that would reveal a deeper level of information which, to be honest, I didn’t think I needed until I read his report.
Everything seemed pretty normal at first – contact information and relatives were sparse and there wasn’t much of a social media presence reported. A little further down things got a lot more interesting. There were a slew of charges against him noted, beginning with underage drinking, fraudulent license plate tags, driving without insurance, driving while license was suspended, etc. Then, the fraud charges. Not only did he have charges against him referencing Financial Identity Fraud but also a Felony Larceny!
Needless to say, I immediately paid for the premium membership so I could access more information, It offered civil judgement, professional licenses, weapons permits, and much more.
At this point, it was mostly curiosity that drove me to dive deeper and it didn’t prove to be that much more beneficial. Most sections that were provided by the “premium” function were blank and said returned 0 results. Despite the lack of more information, I am incredibly glad that I followed my intuition and checked into him! There is no way, knowing what I know now, I would let this man into my life.
When the website said that they have a wide variety of information that was suited to anyone, they weren’t kidding. The report showed basic contact information, possible relatives, birth date and other known names for the person. Something I haven’t found with other search sites is that gives you pictures associated with the person you’re looking up. This gives you the peace of mind to know that the person you’re looking up is the correct person. If you didn’t know the person already and had only met them online it would give you a helpful visual representation of the person so you can put a face with a name.
I was pleasantly surprised to find that they provide you with as many connections to social media profiles as are known. It shared a direct link to the person’s Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and a handful more. From my report, I was able to look through these social profiles, all of which were pretty clean. This didn’t benefit me directly but if you were searching someone you met on a dating site this would be incredibly helpful because most people use their social profiles to express their personal opinions on a wide variety of topics. You could potentially get a good sense of someone’s personality before investing too much time into conversation.
Another feature that might be of assistance when considering dating someone would be the birthdate and zodiac sign matching. Whether or not you believe in the Zodiac as truth or just regard it as entertainment, it is interesting to look into. All you do is enter your birthdate or choose your Zodiac sign and up pops a compatibility report with a detailed result with suggestions of how you might interact and how to best navigate your relationship for optimal results.
With potential pitfalls as well as ways to avoid them, this is a very helpful tool for people pursuing a relationship. Apparently this gentleman and I would be a great match… if he wasn’t a liar and a fraud who spent his days taking money from naive people who trust him.
In my experience, the criminal records were what proved to be the most helpful. Each offense was listed separately with the booking date and location. Not only did they outline the offense but gave you an expandable menu that let you see deeper. It gave you a case number and the charge type, detailed offense code, criminal code, arrest disposition showing whether they were arrested or released, disposition date, and court where the offense was dispositioned. With the case number in hand and the county location you should be able to either locally obtain a report on the offense or pay for someone else to procure that information for you online. If they were arrested, it gives you the offense they were arrested for, the type and level of arrest, and the sentencing start date.
The location information would also be a very helpful section if you were trying to find old friends. Not only does it show their most current reported location but also any past known locations and the time period they lived there. A premium function furthers this search because it lists possible neighbors for this person and their address. Each one gives you the option of doing a report on them which would provide you with their contact information and their criminal record. If you wanted to get a character reference for someone and weren’t afraid to do a little cold-calling this would be a great resource. This resource would also prove very helpful in a situation where you were sending a child to a friend’s house to play; You could look into the neighbors to make sure it was a safe neighborhood and that there weren’t any pedophiles living next door.Visit InstantCheckmate
Something that is very important when you’re looking someone up online is that the information provided is accurate and reliable, especially in my situation when I am making a character determination on someone who is essentially a stranger to me. The last thing you want to do is falsely accuse someone because of a search that provided you with misinformation. So, to be sure, I searched myself and a few close friends. It showed a handful of correct relatives, 5 email addresses (only 3 of which were correct), and almost every address I’ve ever lived dating back to when I was in primary school. It pulled up one traffic violation but, truth be told, I have a few more that weren’t shown. It pulled up 8 social media profiles for me, two of which were completely empty and were nothing I had ever intentionally signed up for. As for criminal offenses, I have a clean record so I had to look up someone I knew that had a misdemeanor to see if it was reported and was pleasantly surprised to show that the information was accurate. The same proved true for the most part on the other people I searched. To the best of my knowledge, the information was correct and thorough.
The amount of data available on InstantCheckmate was much more than I expected. It covered all of the major categories and branched into the social aspects of people. It provided information that would be helpful for people searching for any reason, be it personal or professional. I do, however, wish it gave you a little more information on the person’s education. It listed “some college” for one friend but nothing for me despite completing a bachelor’s degree and having a few professional licenses to my name.
Something I’ve never experienced on any other search site is the option to flag information as incorrect, rate information by how helpful it was, and the option to leave comments. You are allowed to anonymously leave a comment about a person or the information provided which would be very helpful if you were reviewing your information and found something untrue.
After the cruise docked back in port, I decided to cancel my membership. I hadn’t met anyone else worth searching and had no use for the service. The cancellation process was quite simple; just a short form with a few quick questions. Upon submitting the form, they offered me a discounted price of $9.97 to keep my membership which, if I had use for the service, I would definitely have taken advantage of.
My cancellation was confirmed and they let me know that I could still use the service for the remaining month that I had already paid for.Visit InstantCheckmate
I have used background search sites before with varied results but InstantCheckmate has been one of the more well-organized collection of resources and gives you a more diverse selection of types of information than other sites. It went above and beyond by linking to social media accounts and providing pictures of the people you were searching. The reports were intuitively designed and it seemed as though they had thought of everything that the end-user might need. When it comes to peace of mind and security, it is important to know that your results are accurate and thorough and that is exactly what I found with InstantCheckmate. If I ever have the need to research someone in the future I will definitely be back because I know that I will get the results I need.Visit InstantCheckmate
Been Verified incorporates a wealth of good features and manages a seamless blend of tech and old fashioned leg work that gives you a wealth of info and the ability to dig really deep.
Founded in 2007, tech-savvy Been Verified is based in New York City. This fast-growing company has one of the most popular background check sites on the market. Started by a pair of young entrepreneurs, Been Verified now has more than 50 employees, over 100,000 subscribers and boasts 10 million visits each month.
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One feature that sets Been Verified apart from many other in the field are the apps available for iPhones, iPads, Apple Watches or Android devices.
Expensive if all you need is a single basic search, Been Verified’s three-tiered monthly subscription schedule gives you a break the longer you sign up for – $22.86 for a month, $14.86 a month for three months and $9.83 a month for six months. Though pricey for a single search, Been Verified gives you far more info than some other sites and could be the better choice depending on how important it is to get the answers you’re looking for.
For an extra $9.95 per report you can access additional databases that provide more comprehensive info like employment and education histories and any licenses and permits the person you’re looking for might have.
Been Verified also goes the extra mile to search out records unavailable online by offering a “Court Runner” option for searching county criminal court records that have not been digitized. Cost for a “Court Runner” typically starts with a flat fee of just under $20 and ultimately includes any court fees incurred along the way.Visit Been Verified
Been Verified does a great job of meeting its deceptively simple goals of providing the most info for the best price quickly and painlessly. This is an excellent site if you’re doing your first background check. It’s a site that practically takes your hand and leads you through the whole process, often answering questions you haven’t even thought of yet.
I’d recommend this site if you’re attempting to perform your first background check.
Clean, uncluttered webpages make using Been Verified almost second nature and the site displays results in an easy-to-read format with an option for downloading an equally straightforward, printable PDF.
Been Verified’s sign up process is a breeze and, as an added bonus, a painless and comprehensive tutorial on the do’s and don’ts of private background checks. Even better, the sign up process provides a number of surprising and helpful suggestions on who you might want to check out and why – from locating the long lost relative of a seriously ill friend or checking to see if those misdemeanors you committed in junior high have been properly removed from your records.
The site’s standard search is so extensive, notably including criminal info, that it’s likely you’re not going to need to pay extra for a deeper search.
The standard search turns up public phone numbers, email addresses, a residential history, immediate relatives (noting those who are deceased), any imposters, available educational and professional info, social media presence, photos, criminal and traffic records and bankruptcies.
At every step, Been Verified politely and conscientiously reminds you what you should and should not be using the info for. It also goes a step further, providing a number of testimonials which detail the many uses for background checks.
This feature is just as easy to use as the rest of the site, pretty much clicking on a single button to quickly update the report (for a fee of course) with more educational, employment, financial, and contact info.
Social media monitoring
There is also an option for monitoring any changes in the social media presence of someone you’ve searched for.
Reverse phone lookup
Is just what it sounds like it is: enter a phone number in the search field and find out who it belongs (though only if it is a public number).
Been Verified goes out of its way to make it easy to get help, staffing a call center 7 days a week and providing ample online assistance. Unusually for a website, the “Support” section under the Help heading at the bottom of the webpage actually provides useful info on how for DIY tasks like cancelling your subscription, explaining why you’re having trouble with your search, downloading an app or using a specific browser.
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Results on the searches I performed were nearly universally quick, accurate and comprehensive. Searching for one of the roommates I shared a flat with in San Francisco more decades ago than I care to remember, not only turned up all the current info for him I could’ve hoped for, but also that apartment address in SF as well and several email addresses, too. Searching with premium data unearthed limited employment data, an additional phone number and the fact he once had a pilot’s license (who knew?). A self search revealed that, no, I was never arrested on some of those nights in San Francisco that I don’t remember so good and a very old satellite photo of my current residence.
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Cancellation was so simple I forgot I’d done it! I had to go back and double-check myself. Here’s how it works: simply call customer service (1-888-579-5910) or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.Visit Been Verified
I’d have to say you’d need to look around for a while to find a better value than Been Verified, especially if you’re planning on doing a lot of searches over several months. Although some sites charge considerably less for a single search you might want to consider Been Verified if that single search is a really important one – in the long run you could end up paying more for criminal and financial records on another site than if you’d just signed up for one month on Been Verified.Visit Been Verified
Intelius is a resource that allows you to search for information about an individual privately and securely. With a high accuracy rating, you can trust that the results are as thorough as it gets.
Recently, I was contacted by a woman who claimed she owned a local photography business that I had never heard of. She was looking for someone to collaborate on a creative project with. The concept was interesting to me but it almost sounded too good to be true so I decided it was in my best interest to verify the identity the person contacting me to make sure they were someone I wanted to spend a significant amount of time with. I looked online for the highest rated research company and stumbled upon quite a few but the one that stuck out to me was called Intelius.
Intelius has been around since 2003 and specializes in information and interconnectivity of people throughout the world. Located in Bellvue, Washington, they are fully integrated both online and on mobile devices so you can use them at home or on the go with your smartphone. I also noticed that they were rated A+ by the Better Business Bureau, you know you are going to get detailed results and top-notch customer service.
Modern technology is a wonderful thing that opens doors and sheds light on who people are but it is not always thorough and what is presented online is not always reported correctly or fairly. Intelius offers assurance that you can’t get other places because they boast access to billions of public records each year. That, paired with noticeably fast servers, gets you reliable data quickly.Visit Intelius
There are, of course, many companies that offer similar services. They have all been reviewed many times, both by vetted news corporations as well as thousands of individual user reviews. All too often, human nature is to only leave a review when you have something you need to say which generally is when you’ve had a negative experience so I had no trouble finding a plethora of negative reviews on the Better Business Bureau website. However, this is consistent with all of the other businesses I looked into that were similar. Ultimately, people did not read the fine print when they signed up and were complaining about so-called ‘hidden’ charges. Intelius had the same public response as did others like US Search, NetDetective, and InfoRegistry.
I looked into a few of the comparable companies and this is what I found. With US Search, I was able to access a full background check for a discounted rate of $29.95 as long as I agreed to have OmniSearch, a $19.95/month subscription, along with it. The OmniSearch function would be free for 2 days but you had to remember to cancel it. NetDetective was simplistic looking and felt cold; very basic and rudimentary. It offered a discounted rate of $4.95 for a 5 day trial version which renewed to a $29.95 monthly fee. Finally, InfoRegistry was also rather basic in nature. None of the results of my initial search matched the name to the location and a $29.95 subscription only promised that a report MAY include all the information I was looking for. The site seemed broken because when I clicked to see a sample report the page appeared jumbled and when I inquired into the “Terms of Service” it lead me back to the home page and did not give me the information I needed. With Intelius, I noticed that you can do a simple search if you’re just looking for a way to contact someone or you can look deeper into their history by doing a background check. From this standpoint, Intelius is the clear winner.
I was pleasantly surprised by the ease of finding the person I was searching for. All I had to do was enter their first and last name along with the city and it immediately returned the correct result. There, in front of me, was the person who had contacted me. I was presented with 3 options – 1 month for $14.95, 3 months for $9.98/month, or $7.48/month for 6 months. Because I was only searching for one person, I opted for the one-a-month plan. It was a little more expensive but it included the background check that I wanted so I didn’t mind paying for it.
As soon as I put in my payment information I got immediate results! It was a detailed list of where she lived (both past and present), relatives, contact information, and even gave detailed market value information of her home. I used my free background check for her and was able to look to see if she had a criminal record, any infractions or offenses, and so much more.
Front and center, there was an interactive map that linked to people and locations that the person is closely tied to. You can click on any of those bubbles and explore the information that is given on them.
It also gives you the option to upgrade the membership and run a criminal background check on the person which, for me, wasn’t necessary but could be helpful for others using the service.
Another really neat feature was the map showing exactly where the person lives. It gives a bird’s eye view of the home and breaks down the estimated market value and other property details. Again, this didn’t seem to matter much to me at first but it could have changed my opinion if she had lived in a really rough neighborhood as I was potentially going to be spending a lot of time at her home. To be honest, I don’t know if I was excited or disappointed to find nothing questionable in her background check. While it didn’t note any criminal offenses or civil court records it also had a disclaimer noting that some records may not be digitally accessible and that the results may not include all types of civil cases. I was relieved to know that the person I was searching wasn’t a convicted felon but I question that maybe there is something not listed. It also had no education or employment records for her, nor did it reference any social networks.
When I signed up for the Intelius Premium membership I was offered a free-of-charge social media assessment called TrueRep. The idea is that they survey your social media presence and show you how it looks to others and how you could potentially improve it to make it more appealing to people, including prospective employers or business relationships.
They also have a smartphone app that lets you reverse-search phone numbers. All you have to do is copy the number from your recent missed calls, paste it into the search and it will actually pull up a decent amount of information on the person, including their name, age, address, work, other forms of contact, social media profiles, and even relatives. Each section is expandable, so you basically get a full breakdown on the person.
To verify that the information I was being given was correct, I decided to go rogue and see if there was a facebook profile that might give me more information and, in fact, there was. Her business page linked back to her personal page and I was able to view a decent amount of information through that avenue. None of this information was available through the Intelius, search, which leads me to believe information is potentially being missed.
I installed it and logged onto the mobile app with no trouble at all and, though I didn’t necessarily think I needed this function, I have used it quite a bit! I tested it out on a coworker, asking for her phone number and punching it in. It not only provided me with her name but also her husband’s name and her address! I searched a few calls that I had screened recently and found them to be local people. A few of them linked to possible social media profiles. I was more confident calling them back because I knew who I was talking to. I booked two photo shoots that I would not have otherwise booked because they had not left a message and I would not have called them back blindly. Because I had the information to know who I was talking to I felt comfortable connecting with them, which is a huge perk for anyone who might otherwise shy away from answering or cold-calling unknown numbers.
However, when I went into the TrueRep section it was locked and asked me to verify my identity, which it said it could not verify. After working with a customer service representative, I was able to sort out the issue and review my online reputation. As it turns out, I’m not very influential when it comes to social media but I’m ok with that. However, this could be a really powerful tool if you utilize your social media presence to market your business online. It also gives you tools to help you improve your reputation score, which is above and beyond what I expected from this free perk.Visit Intelius
When I had searched to my heart’s content I decided to cancel the subscription. I was surprised how easy the process was! There was a simple form to fill out denoting why you were canceling your subscription and then they confirmed that you would not be billed further. It was that simple!
With all the searching I did, I didn’t find much. This is a good thing, though; The last thing I wanted was to find out that she was a felon or had other strikes against her. Of course, no online inquiry is going to have all the information and ultimately they are all searching the same pools of public data. The fact that it did not find any felonies or negative remarks on her or her business was reassuring. Because of what I found (or, perhaps, didn’t find) I felt comfortable working with her. I later inquired about her phone number because the one given for her did not match what she had used to contact me and she had no idea who that phone number belonged to.
If I had to rate the service, I would give them a 5/5 for price, 4/5 for accuracy, 5/5 for support and 5/5 for interface and features. All things considered, this website saves you a significant amount of time and frustration and gives you mostly trustworthy results quickly. I was sure to leave a positive review online.Visit Intelius
Spokeo is the “Glinda, the Good Witch” of background check sites, emphasizing all the positive reasons to research people and downplaying the Information Age’s darker sides.
What a couple Stanford grads started as a “social network aggregator” in a Silicon Valley basement in 2006 has morphed into one of the better means of mending your long neglected social ties. Sure, there’s some criminal info available on Spokeo, but the company’s website sends the clear message it would rather bring people together than keep them apart.
The customer testimonials shown below give you a good idea of the top uses promoted on the site:
Straightforward price structure is among the lowest in the field – $13.95 for a month, $7.95 a month for 3 months and $4.95 a month for half the year. Your base subscription seems to get you enough reliable, current background info to help you reconnect with someone you’ve lost touch with for a very long time.
Base plan provides contact info, location history, relatives and some other bare bones personal info – enough to make certain you’ve located the right person.
Searching available court or historical records is $2.95 extra, each.
This portion of the process could be done in your sleep.
Spokeo customer service could be among the most responsive in the industry. You can talk to a real person 24/7, unless you’d rather just handle things on your own easily online.
Spokeo’s standard search
Seems to work exactly as advertised. Simple search format is flexible enough you can include anything you happen to remember about the person you’re looking for, even if it’s incomplete, and returns a manageable list of possible matches. Once you select the most likely candidate, the extensive location history and list of relatives quickly confirms if you’ve got the right person.
Some contact info appears outdated, but the most recent available is clearly identified, which should take some of the hit and miss out of getting ahold of whomever you’re trying to connect with.
Spokeo also digs through more than 60 social networks, giving you another avenue for reestablishing those old ties.
Court and historical reports
Are fairly cheap, but still might not be worth the cost, returning a lot of US Census, marriage, death and court records on anyone sharing a name the least bit similar to your subject’s (though some of this could be helpful if you’re working on a family history).
Is a unique feature that allows you to import an address book, then performs searches to update the contact info it contains, filling in a name, perhaps, for that random phone number you once jotted down.
Spokeo is tops among several sites I’ve used. The site is ridiculously easy to navigate and displays search results in a plain, uncluttered format with no distracting graphics or annoying pop-ups for “free credit reports!”
In keeping with Spokeo’s semiofficial mission of optimistic reconnection, I decided to dig up what I could on a once close friend who’d gone through some rough times before completely severing all connections with the circle of friends we shared. No one had heard from him in several years and all of us were concerned about his health and happiness.
I’d tried finding what I could on other websites with absolutely no success at all, excepting a list of literally hundreds of names scattered willy-nilly around the country without out any useful corroborating evidence. My first search on Spokeo returned a single unequivocally positive result, complete with age, names, dates and places that clinched the ID. What I did not expect was my reluctance to contact him.
Perhaps it was the subliminally gentle message that seems to permeate Spokeo’s website, but I was more inclined to respect my old friend’s apparent wish to start his life anew. Rather than startle him a phone call from a ghost from the past, I was content with the knowledge (supplied by Spokeo) that he seems surrounded by new friends and family, is living in a safe neighborhood and is, apparently, pursuing some of his favorite interests once again.
Cancellation was easy peasy. You can cancel anytime on website’s “Usage and Subscriptions” page, call (877) 913-3088, or send an email to CustomerCare@spokeo.com. If you used PayPal, it’s even easier: 1, Log in to your PayPal account; 2, Click “Profile” near the top of the page; 3, Click “My Money; 4,Click “Update” in the “My Preapproved Payments” section; and 5, Click “Cancel” or “Cancel Automatic Billing” and follow the instructions. That’s it!
There are a lot better sites out there for digging up dirt on people, if that’s what you need in a background check. But, if you’re idly musing about what happened to an old and once dear friend or need to locate a family member you’ve lost touch with, Spokeo is perhaps the best, and cheapest, way to do it.
Without really meaning to, Spokeo tangentially touches on the issue of privacy in the information age: just because you can do an extensive background check, does it mean you should?