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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
They seem genuinely interested in knowing how to better their service. They have a floating “feedback” bar on the right side of the site that opens up a quick questionnaire asking what you liked and didn’t like and how they could do better.
The site lets you search by name, phone number or email, which opens up a lot of options for how to use the service.
The results were propagated quickly; I didn’t have to spend a lot of time waiting for the search to load information.
The mobile app is very helpful for reverse searching phone calls that you don’t recognize.
There is a tab at the top of the page entitled “My List” which shows you people you add to your list,, which keeps the information at your fingertips for as long as you have the service.
To get more than just the one criminal background check you are given with your membership you need to upgrade your account. This is an additional $19.95 per report, which seems expensive compared to other services that allow you to do unlimited background checks for around $40/month. If you were needing to do multiple background checks this service might not be the best one for you.
Background checks are only available when you purchase them and after you close out of them they are gone. They should be available for continual access on your profile since you paid for the information.
I wish there had more contacts listed in connection to the person I was searching. It seemed like there should have been more people associated than there were.
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.
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
How to Cancel 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.
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:
Spokeo Pricing and Available Plans
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.
How to Use Spokeo?
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!”
How Good is Spokeo Data?
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.
How do I Cancel Spokeo?
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!
Spokeo Final Thoughts
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?
PeopleSmart is a public records search that bridges the gap of the other search avenues and provides simple, direct, correct results. It’s easy-to-use interface can reconnect lost friends or help companies feel secure about people they trust.
The information was straightforward and presented in a user-friendly manner.
When you search, it pulls up multiple people so that I could make sure I was selecting the correct person.
The site wasn’t inundated with banner ads and pop-ups.
The information presented was very basic and didn’t go into much detail.
To get any significant information on someone other than their basic contact required an upgrade in your account, which was confusing. Your account already has some credits (in my case, 75 credits) and a premium report cost 250 credits. To buy the outstanding 175 credits was going to cost me $35. It also gave me an option to spend $99 to get a PremiumPro membership or I could spend $119 and get 3 premium reports. It seemed to me to be excessive for my purposes and was an expensive upgrade.
There were a few discrepancies on the information provided but nothing major.
I stumbled across PeopleSmart completely by accident, or maybe it was a fortunate mistake. I was in charge of putting together the class reunion and had a handful of contacts I couldn’t reach. While looking for an old friend who I hadn’t spoken to in years I ended up on PeopleSmart. After searching other places unsuccessfully for a long time I was ready to give up but this was the breakthrough I needed.
Upon digging deeper, it turns out PeopleSmart is a side-project of a company called Inflection, based in Omaha, Nebraska, which is ultimately a resource for employers to verify and background-check their potential employees. As you know, technology never stops growing and changing. In a world of increasing connection over the web, the power of inquiry has become increasingly important. This applies both to small businesses and to large, established corporations. The internet lends many tools to not only learn and grow personally but also connect and build relationships across the globe. This can be a great opportunity to branch out and grow, unleashing the ability to link up with people that are well suited to your goals. Be it close to home or abroad, it is important to know who you are connecting with and trusting. Inflection offers a host of options, including CommunitySafety andIdentity.com. CommunitySafety is geared toward non-profits and schools to make sure the people they are allowing in are trustworthy andidentity.com gives you quick and reliable identification and background checks to make sure you know who you are speaking with and gives you that extra buffer against fraud and unnecessary risk.
PeopleSmart Pricing and Available Plans
Not only is the site easy to use but it is direct. It is a service you pay for, which might deter some people, but the fact that they outline exactly what you get for your money makes you realize the worth. I opted for the $19.99/month plan that gave me 10 searches by phone number, 10 by email, and even let me send emails and physical letters on my behalf through the company. Because I had more people on my list to contact, this was the best option.
How to Use PeopleSmart?
There are so many interesting facets to this service that I got hooked almost immediately. Unfortunately, the friend I was looking for has a rather generic name, which proved very frustrating. When other search queries amassed a blur of results, PeopleSmart allowed me to look deeper than just the name I was searching for and find the specific details that narrowed my search. Even though it returned 14 results the search provided things like estimated age, previous known cities, maiden name(s), and even relatives. Some of the entries also listed if the person had passed away and how long ago they passed. I was absolutely blown away by the accuracy and was very quickly able to find the specific person I was looking for.
I wanted to check to make sure the site was legitimate so I looked online for reviews and was pleasantly surprised! When you see, “we found that PeopleSmart was very close to being 100 percent accurate” you know you’re onto something good.
How Good is PeopleSmart Data?
The report showed a map of where she lived but did not give a direct address. It offers you the option of upgrading your membership to reveal a direct address but by collaborating with different search avenues I was able to cross-search and find what I needed. It also provided me with her current phone number as well as her cell phone number and an alternative home number. I called the cell phone number and was successfully connected the first time!
When you sign up, it offers you something called “IdentitySmart” which allows you to monitor your public records including credit accounts and email addresses which would be really helpful to potentially avoid credit card fraud and identity theft. This was an additional $14.95/month and I might do it someday but decided to skip it for now. It did, however, pique my interest. Of course, I had to look myself up; Curiosity is a powerful thing! I’m not sure if I am happy or disappointed but I did not find much about myself. It provided my name and birthday but did not have any contact information for me. It did, however, list relatives of mine which would probably get someone the information they needed to contact me if they really wanted to. There was one person I looked up that did not give any phone contact but, instead, listed that they had an address and gave me the option to send a letter via the postal system. I opted to send a postcard and found it to be surprisingly simple! It opened up a dialogue box, I typed in my text, and I pressed send.
I received a phone call 3 days later from the gentleman I sent the letter to confirming his reservation for the reunion. Though it did not give me a direct address, it got the job done and didn’t cost me anything extra. For the sake of full disclosure, there were a few addresses that were not current or correct within the results but the vast majority were correct.
Of course, no system is going to be perfect. The fact that it did not find any information on myself was a bit surprising because I do not go to any length to hide my contact information. My email and phone are both listed on my Facebook page and my LinkedIn. I am also a small-business owner which, I would think, would propagate my contact information throughout the internet. I had no problem finding information on the handful of other missing contacts I needed, which was nice. It saves you a significant amount of time and frustration because you’re not searching multiple locations for information.
The nice thing about PeopleSmart is that it gives you the flexibility you need to serve your personal needs. I only needed to search a handful of people so I was able to choose the less expensive monthly charge. Had I needed more, there was an option available for $49.99 which gave me 5x the search power and 10x the ability to contact people directly. If I only had to search for 1 person, there’s an option for that, too. You have the opportunity to pay a one-time charge of $4.99 and avoid costly subscriptions and the hassle of cancellation.
True, the business review ratings weren’t as high as their competitors but, for the price, it was absolutely worth it. On one review site, Intelius received a 90% accuracy rating, US Search received 85%, and PeopleSmart received 60%. It still gave me everything I needed, though. The review site stated that PeopleSmart, “offers a mostly accurate view of criminal and bankruptcy history on those we investigated. The complete reports offer more data than most, which can help you branch out your investigation if you choose”.
Upon looking into other services, Intelius offered searches for $14.95/month with one background check or discounted rates if you sign up for 3 or 6 months initially. If you only wanted one report, however, it would cost you $49.95! The other service, US Search, was much less appealing in my opinion as it came across as less user-friendly and much less personal. It gave a 1 person report for $2.45 which included just the basic contact information, a criminal check for $14.95, or a background check for $39.95. If you paid for a single report and it didn’t return any information you would be out of luck and would have paid to be told nothing at all. There really wasn’t an option to search multiple people without consenting to a $1.45 charge with a hidden $19.95/month subscription, which was only discussed deeper within the expandable details. It wasn’t exactly straightforward about the charges which might undermine your trust for the company.
How to Cancel PeopleSmart?
When I was done getting all of the names and contacts for my event I decided to cancel the subscription. It was surprisingly easy! I did not have to argue with customer service or go through any lengthy steps. It asked why I was canceling, I noted my reasons, it asked me to confirm and it was done. I got to continue my month of subscription and it would automatically terminate on the date requested. As an added bonus, it offered me a lesser subscription where I could search name, address, email and work information for a discounted rate of $4.95/month.
PeopleSmart Final Thoughts
Ultimately, I was very pleased with this service. Not only did it streamline my searching but it took only minutes to do what had taken me hours previous to subscribing for this service. I cannot even begin to tell you how valuable time is on this project and this service was a life saver! It was accurate for the most part and got the job done. It wasn’t the least expensive option but it was the most appealing and seemed to have options that were best suited to my needs. For only $14.99 I was able to find everyone I needed with very minimal hassle. I was able to send a letter when no phone contact information was given, which is not something that was offered by other services. I could see it being very valuable in many different applications. I will absolutely be back in the future.
Bellevue, Washington-based US Search was one of the first companies to provide information about people online and still occupies the comfortable niche it first carved out in 1994. From the beginning, US Search has been a reliable way to locate long, lost childhood friends or to verify your new neighbor’s backstory about having just relocated after living on a pineapple plantation in Hawaii for the last decade. From the start, this has been a company that seems to make certain that the information it does provide is both accurate and the most current available.
You can get some peace of mind about that new neighbor or old flame for the modest a la carte price of $2.45 for the basic one-off “People Search” report that provides full name and any aliases, age, address and address history, publicly listed phone numbers plus relatives and associates. For a monthly fee of just under $20, you can perform an unlimited number of basic searches (minus relatives, but with social network info) with the company’s “OmniSearch” subscription. More detailed info, like that provided by the company’s top of the line “Background Check” comes at nearly $40 but adds real meat to the report including criminal records, social network information and financial information such bankruptcies and tax liens.
In between is the 1-State Criminal Records search for around $15.
Maybe not as cutting edge as it was when it pioneered the concept of supplying people’s info online, US Search remains a solid entry in the field, well-suited for those with an occasional need to search out basic contact information in order to reconnect with someone you’ve lost touch with over the years or double check a new acquaintance’s backstory.
Although the signup process is fairly straightforward, it wasn’t immediately clear I was signing up for the monthly OmniSearch subscription and that if I wanted to dig deeper into any subject’s info I was going to have to pay quite a bit more to do it.
This is where US Search really earns its keep. If you’re only occasionally in need of locating a shoestring relative’s phone number or feel moved to contact your best bud from PS 23, a one-time People Search is the way to go. For less than $3 you’ll get an extensive list of possible matches, allowing you to focus your efforts on the most likely subject without paying for multiple look-ups.
Both include an address history check and list of relatives/associates which can be a real help in helping narrow down where you need to look or help you connect with that hard to locate someone through a third party.
An OmniSearch monthly membership gives you access to the same basic info for an unlimited number of searches with the flexibility to opt-out whenever you please, an arrangement perfect for putting together contact lists for a class reunion or similar events. Be aware, thought, that you’ll be charged automatically each month unless you cancel your subscription online or, more problematically, by phone. US Search’s customer service phone lines are open Monday through Friday only from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Pacific Time (3 hours behind the east coast and some 7 ahead of Alaska and Hawaii.
One-State Criminal Check/Background Check
US Search’s pricier options provide more info, but, in many cases, from fewer sources. For instance, the company has access to marriage and divorce records from only 11 states and criminal records from 43 (excluding Colorado, Delaware, Maine, Massachusetts, North and South Dakota, Vermont and Wyoming). So, if you want to check if that great new dude/dudette you just met at the Flax Festival is, in fact, a serial polygamist/bigamist chances are you’ll need to go another route. Likewise if you’d feel better about your second cousin’s nephew from Wyoming with the odd face tattoo dating your daughter after a criminal records check.
The 1-State Criminal Check is a check of the records available from a selected state for specific person. If that person has a criminal record in another state it will not appear in the 1-State Criminal Check.
The full on, full-priced Background Check proves all available criminal and financial info in the form of property ownership details and info about civil judgments, bankruptcies and tax liens. In order to limit identify theft, US Search does not provide credit histories, dates of birth and other sensitive information.
Reverse phone lookup
US search can also tell you who belongs to that phone number that keeps mysteriously appearing on your caller id, a family member’s phone or on a phone bill.
As a testament to US Search’s accuracy, it remembered more about me than I did, digging up an address from two decades ago I lived at for about a year and a half. Even better when I did a little digging on a neighbor, not only did it corroborate facts I was already certain of, it filled in a few blanks besides and as an added bonus displayed a satellite photo of what I couldn’t see clearly over the fence from next door. And when curiosity got the better of me it located the current location of my first crush. Try as I might, I could not unearth any criminals or deadbeats in my circle of friends and acquaintances, confirming I must be running in the right circles.
Pretty standard stuff here. To cancel, go to your account settings, scroll to “membership info” and choose “cancel service.” Or you can contact customer support by phone M-F from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. PACIFIC TIME, or Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Service terminates at end of current billing term.
I’d say this is a perfect site for the occasional, largely benign searches or to follow up on strong evidence that someone is not who or what they are pretending to be. US Search could be problematic if you’re planning on using it frequently for your business or for more specific checks of employment or education histories.
A background check on this background check website turns up very little information other than a Boston, Mass., mailing address. Further complicating matters is the fact the employment verification website shared by the Department of Homeland Security and US Citizenship and Immigration Service has a nearly identical name: E-Verify. (Make sure you’re using the right one!)
eVerify’s $19.95 Instant One Time Report could be the best bargain out there in terms of the amount of raw data it dredges up.
The $2.95 5-Day Trial, on the other hand, is kind of a tease, promising a lot, but frequently turning up just a long list of “no reports found” responses, which are suddenly filled with scads of data when you pay the $19.95 to tack on a “premium search.”
Is relatively quick and painless as is cancelling the service.
Ease of use
Not so much. Not only does this site have a name dangerously similar the government site it also shares the same kind of red-white-and-blue, stars-and-stripes-forever themed web design. And it can be difficult to separate search results from Great New Offers! However, once mastered the site could be very useful for professionals tasked with meticulously checking out every single detail of a subject’s past and present associates, dealings, finances and history.
eVerify requires more patience to negotiate than many other sites. General searches turn up so many possible matches that it can be very difficult to home in on the one person you’re checking up on (which is probably why there’s an instructional video prominently displayed on the site’s homepage). You’re best off narrowing down your search however you can beforehand (like knowing middle initials, relatives or narrowing the geographic scope of your search as much as possible.)
The standard search offers a big bonus when it comes to checking out the bad guys in your neighborhood, however. A list of sex offenders, complete with mug shots when available, living in the vicinity of the person you’ve searched for is automatically tacked onto the end of eVerify’s standard search.
eVerify’s premium search seems better suited to professionals such as investigative reporters or private eyes than it is to soccer dads checking up on carpool drivers. This search returns long lists of financial information as well as sizable numbers of the subject’s associates and the current owners of homes they once owned.
If you’re looking to talk to someone’s former neighbors, employers and need a fairly detailed snapshot of their past and current financial situation, you’ll get it here. The premium search is so detailed it brings up the all subject’s neighbors’ phone numbers which is, somehow, a little creepy.
As much information as this site returns on friends, relatives and associates, it’s very weak where social media and emails are concerned, frequently returning nothing at or results that are very clearly incorrect.
Online – all the time. Call center – 10 a.m.-8p.m. EST, M-F.
A premium search of my neighbor turned up more info (38 pages) than I could ever possibly want, need or have the time to carefully read. An attempt to locate an old college buddy with a standard search, on the other hand, was an exercise in frustration – pretty much the only result was a list of hundreds of names of possible matches without much to help further narrow down the list. While thorough in some respects, the site returned some clearly inaccurate results, especially in the area of social media, attributing accounts in Texas to a friend located clear across the country who I know has never done business in the Lone Star State. Even more disturbing were the 14 non-existent criminal offenses that showed up when I ordered up a report on myself (which also included relatives who aren’t and, although I often have trouble nailing two boards together, listed my occupation as craftsman).
Cancellation for eVerify is a pretty straightforward process. Email them at https://members.everify.com/customer/help or hit them up on the phone at (800) 791-1427. That’s it! Just keep in mind that fees are billed monthly, so there are no refunds for any unused portion of the month you’ve got left.
eVerify is just not for me. I can’t imagine needing this much info on anyone unless I was looking for a Russian mole deep inside my Silicon Valley server farm. eVerify provides far too much info, too much of it inaccurate, but will garner a good market among those looking to identify convicted sex offenders and other creeps in the neighborhood.
PeopleFinders is a data service that allows you to simply and effectively search people with confidentiality and peace of mind. It is a cost-effective option that doesn’t skimp on quality or quantity of information and gives you the added bonus of unlimited background searches.
The site was very easy to use and provided an easily understandable collection of data.
Considering other companies I looked into, the price for what you receive is fantastic.
The data returned proved to be very accurate and, though not perfect, it was better than I expected from an online aggregation of information.
Cancellation was simple and painless.
When searching myself, I found quite a few ‘relatives’ that were so distant that they would not even know who I was; a wife of a cousin of my brother’s first wife, for example. It was a stretch to label them as relatives.
Some of the relatives listed provided phone numbers and addresses despite having been deceased for over 25 years.
Recently, my teenage daughter was invited to join her best friend and her family on a weekend getaway up north to the family cabin. They talked about skiing and sledding and it all sounded really fun but I was still a little uneasy because I wasn’t that familiar with the family. I decided to put my fears to rest and just do a little searching to make sure that the parents were good people. Truth be told, we don’t know many people in that area and wanted to make sure that the surrounding neighborhood was safe, too. I looked online for a background search company and was presented with a host of options. I dug a little deeper to find the highest rated research company and eventually landed on PeopleFinders.
Once I decided which company was most attractive, I looked a little more into who they are. PeopleFinders has been in business since 1998 and is stationed in Sacremento, California. They’re considered a DaaS, or a “Data as a Service”, company and the amount of information they have access to is a bit scary but can be very helpful. Their query of information goes back 40+ years, which is going to ensure very thorough results. I was very impressed to see that they have received a plethora of awards including, but not limited to, the “Top 10 Best: Top 10 People Search Sites” and the 3 from the WMA for “Best of Industry; Information Services Standard of Excellence; and Standard of Excellence Award”
With PeopleFinders, I found the interface much more user-friendly than the others and it allowed me to do a simple search to get what I needed. I was a bit confused at first because it offered a 3 day trial for $2.95 with a $29.95 monthly charge if you kept the service but below that offer it also offered $7.95 for the report and trial together. Upon digging deeper, I realized that the $2.95 price was what would be charged if you ended up canceling within the 3 days. Otherwise, you’d pay the $7.95 each month you continued the service.
In my opinion, that was a steal of a price so I continued. I noticed at the checkout that there was a spot for a promo code so I did a quick google search to see if I could find something to sweeten the deal and found a 50% off deal but upon continuing through the link it turned out to be more expensive than the price I had already. However, deals change quite often so you might be able to find a discount if you look. I would caution you to pay attention when you sign up because it offers something called “Rewards” which allows you to do $1 background checks, assisted searches, reports on yourself, genealogy census searches, etc. It says in the fine print that you’ll be charged $24.99/mo for this service and if you aren’t careful you could click right through this without looking. I chose to not go this route and pressed the link below that says, “No thanks, complete my order without signing up for rewards”.
The simplicity of the process was very nice. All it required was for me to enter my friend’s first and last name and the city and it returned a few results with the information I needed to choose the correct person. I entered my financial information and submitted the form and within moments I was all set.
I was absolutely astonished by the wealth of information presented to me as soon as I ran the report. There were no less than 50 relatives, all listing their addresses, phone numbers, email addresses, and maiden name. No doubt, the long list included cousins and distant family. It listed her property ownership information and gave not only the location but also that she owned multiple properties. It showed no evictions or foreclosures, which showed me that she has maintained good financial standing.
One thing that surprised me was that it gave me a list of their neighbors with the address and phone number. If I wanted to, I could have easily called the neighbors and asked them for their opinion of her. There are situations where I may have done that but in this instance I did not. Further down, it listed no criminal records, liens, judgements, bankruptcies etc. Essentially, it showed that they both had a clean slate, which gave me the reassurance I needed to trust her.
Because I’m a cynic and I didn’t find any criminal records on the report I wanted to make sure that it wasn’t just left empty so I decided to do a little investigating. I looked up a well known criminal to see if he had anything listed and sure enough he had his criminal record posted on the background check along with a foreclosure. This bolstered my confidence in the accuracy of the information I was being given.
Taking it one step further, I wanted to look into the neighborhood surrounding the cabin. With the premium membership, it was as simple as plugging in the address!
It immediately brought up a list of current and previous owners as well as allowed me to see who the neighbors were.
I could do background checks on the neighbors that were closest if I wanted to. That, paired with a local sex-offender search, made me feel so much better about sending my daughter off for the weekend. I was confident that the people she was going with and the people she may meet there were all good people and it was very unlikely that she would find herself in a bad situation.
The membership came with unlimited background checks so I looked myself up. I was glad to see that the information presented was about 95% correct. I continued, almost with a guilty pleasure, looking up family members and other people I knew, just for fun. Upon returning to the home page I noticed that I was offered a free reverse phone number look-up, so I gave that a shot. I began with myself and it showed me my address as well as who had previously owned my phone number. I ended up looking up a few phone numbers of people I had screened calls from because they had not been programmed into my phone. As it turns out, they were old friends and I was able to reconnect with them for drinks and to catch up. Had I not had this service I would have never known that they had called me and I would have missed this opportunity.
It was actually rather difficult to make the decision to cancel my subscription to this site. I found myself intrigued by the endless background checks but eventually had to resign my curiosity and fight the urge to search everyone I knew. Still, some things are better left unknown. When I cut myself off, the cancellation process was very simple. There was a basic form to with a few questions asking you to explain why you were canceling your subscription.
Just as you were about to complete the cancellation, it offered you a discounted rate of $17.95 for continuing your subscription. As nice of a price as this was,I decided not to go ahead with this option.
Finding myself in a situation where I need to trust someone I don’t know with my precious daughter is a bit terrifying but I was very glad that PeopleFinders was able to give me the peace of mind that I needed. Their information was thorough and reliable and it helped me make an informed decision that I felt good about. Not finding much was the best result I could have hoped for.
The last thing I wanted to find was that she had some sort of criminal records for theft. However, had there been some mark on their records I would have definitely been glad I looked. Thankfully, PeopleFinders offers a level of quality and quantity of information that just doesn’t seem to be available other places.
I really didn’t find anything wrong with the site as a whole – I would definitely use it again if a situation arose that I needed to; Perhaps she starts dating!
Children and teens, who are just learning to navigate social relationships, often find themselves in social situations that are fraught with awkward exchanges. When the line between normal, even acceptable, playful teasing crosses into bullying, problems arise. It’s often difficult for them, and even adults, to discern when teasing becomes bullying, and when a laughing together becomes laughing at someone else’s expense.
Simply put, bullying can be boiled down to unwanted social attention. While it can be subtle or blatant; take place online, or in public; be physical or aggressive; there are a few characteristics that can help define bullying.
What Defines Bullying?
RIP is a good mnemonic to help remember the key elements of defining bullying behavior:
Bullying is repetitive, especially after the bullied person has asked for it to stop; thus, the bully is aware that s/he is causing the bullied person(s) physical/emotional discomfort, and furthering the power dynamic. Additionally, bullying is often focused, repeatedly, on the same person, or groups of people.
Bullying is done with the intent of hurting others. This can be physically, or emotionally. A bully is fully aware that they are hurting their targets, and do it anyway.
In general, a bully (or group of bullies) is in a position of social, or physical, power over the person(s) s/he is bullying. The misconception about bullying is that it’s done only by (a) physically strong person(s), or a popular person(s).
Bullying behaviors can range from anything to excluding others from social groups, to physical aggression. It is a wide range that includes verbal, social and physical behaviors. For example, verbal, physical and social behaviors are all included in the definition of bullying.
Physical Bullying can range from intimidation, threats, and assault. Bullies can resort to any form of violence, such as pushing, kicking, punching or other such examples.
Childhood Example: A child pushes another child down, and steals his toy, or swing, at the playground.
Teen Example: One teen accidentally-on-purpose bumps into another in the hallway, between classes, spilling his books and papers.
Daven, who was bullied as a child, tells Parents and Teens Against Bullying.org, that the constant physical abuse that he endured from his bully, such as flicking, punching, and even having his bully’s snot wiped on him, was humiliating. He describes the effect of this time as isolating, and full of self-doubt, and that like most victims of bullies, he regrets not involving an adult. Daven lived to tell his tale, and recognize that, in his words, “bullying is the weak choice,” but, according to a Yale University study, bullied victims are up to 9% more likely to consider suicide; and, in the UK, some studies have linked up to half of youth suicides to bullying.
Verbal/Social Bullying/Relational Bullying
Verbal bullying includes harassment in the form of teasing and taunting, such as name calling, manipulation, and spreading false rumors. According to StopBullying.gov, this is meant to destroy the victim’s reputation. Perhaps, most painful, relational and social bullying is also about socially isolating a victim, and making him/her feel like they don’t belong to their peer group.
Childhood Example: You are a poopie pants! You can’t play with us because you smell bad! We don’t play with poopie pants!
Teen Example: A group of girls stops talking as soon as Jennifer approaches. Jennifer, until a few weeks ago, considered those girls her best friends. She asks what their plans are for the weekend, and the girls exchange glances with one another, snicker, and one girl replies, “um, nothing you’d want to do.” The rest of the girls laugh. Jennifer walks away, and the girls immediately start talking and laughing again.
An Anonymous girl shares that her social isolation lead to her eventual need to be home-schooled, via a cyber-program. She says that it all started with a group of girls and a rumor that spread like wildfire; the anonymous victim lost all of her friends, and became increasingly isolated by her bullies. Still, she was not at peace, because her bullies created false social media accounts to leave cruel and taunting messages and comments on her social media pages. She wasn’t safe from their isolation, even in isolation. Ultimately, when she returned to school, her bullies weren’t finished with her. She tried to stand up for herself, but to no avail. Not unlike many bullying situations, this one doesn’t simply end; it trails on and on, highlighting administrative need for no-contact and knock-it-off policies.
Online bullying consists of harassing a victim through social media, text message, email and other messaging systems. It also includes using a school’s online resources, or false online accounts to destroy a person’s online reputation.
Childhood Example: Depends on the social media access a child has.
Teen Example: Nice bathing suit. Ever hear of a diet? Or the gym?
There is almost no end to the examples of online bulling stories in the media these days. For example, Hannah Smith, was taunted mercilessly regarding her weight, skin condition, and even a death in her family, on the messaging site Ask.fm, for weeks leading up to her suicide in 2013. Or, there is the story of Grace K. McComas, who was cyberbullied for months leading up to her suicide in 2012.
Online Bullying – Sexually Explicit Subcategory
Online bullying may have a sexual component, such as blackmail, as the bully may have access to compromising information or explicit content. The misconception is that the teen always sends the compromising material to the bully themselves. This isn’t always the case; and even if it were, it doesn’t, or shouldn’t matter. For example, in the case of Erin Andrews, the TV Sportscaster and personality who was famously involved in the “peephole” video and subsequent cyberbullying saga, she was videotaped, in the nude, in her hotel rooms, as she traveled for work, without her knowledge over the course of several years. Her life and career was nearly destroyed by a bully, and she continues to endure cyberbullies who tweet and message her regularly about the incident. Often, teens have photos (or videos) taken of them in bathrooms, through windows, or when they are unconscious. The very real pain at the loss of reputation, coupled with the mockery from peers, can be devastating.
Take the suicide of Jessica (Jesse) Logan, a typical, otherwise happy high school senior from Ohio, who sexted a nude to her boyfriend. They broke up, and he cruelly sent the photo to everyone at their school. She tried to soldier on, but her grades dropped, she started skipping school, and to make it through the day, she’d hide in the bathroom to avoid the students who were calling her a slut, and a whore. She even tried to make the best of a bad situation, going on a local news program as a victim’s advocate for cyberbullying, hoping to prevent something similar from happening to someone else. But, after attending the funeral for someone else, another suicide, Jesse came home and hung herself in her closet.
Who are Most Targeted for Bullying
Bullying can seem random, sometimes; but current research shows that nearly a quarter of students report being bullied. There is some data to suggest that certain types of students are at more risk for bullies than others, and certain personalities are more at risk for being bullies than others.
Students who are more likely to be bullied are generally perceived as “different” than their peers. LGBT youth, and those with disabilities, are especially at risk. However, these, and others, are protected under the law, from such provocation. For example, race, religion ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation and disability are all protected classes, under national law. Schools should all be versed on law, and have policies in place to protect these students, should conflicts arise.
Aside from the general idea of those who are less popular than the “in crowd,” students who simply don’t get along well with others, appear anxious, or are unable to defend themselves against provocation are easy targets for bullies. Of course, those who look different than others are always targets for bullies as well; this means that those who are overweight, or who dress differently, or wear their hair in a different fashion. None of the above list will necessarily guarantee that someone will be harassed, but it will certainly not help, if a bully is out to get them.
Often, educators focus on the victims of bullying, and fail to identify the types of students who can become bullies, and therefore don’t intervene before there’s a potential problem. But, it’s equally important to help the bully; according to the Olweus Bullying Prevention Group, 60 percent of boys who were bullies in middle school had a criminal conviction by 24. Shockingly, 40 percent had three or more convictions.
Bullies are born from students who are not only overly-concerned with social status, but also with dominance over their weaker peers to bolster, or mask, their own self-esteem issues. Bullies that turn to physical aggression, not surprisingly, often have issues with violent behavior, and with following rules and standards, and often “hang” with the wrong crowd. Perhaps most importantly, according to a University of Washington and Indiana University Study, administrators may be able to spot them early and intervene, by noting that bullies are far more likely to come from troubled and violent homes.
Definition of Cyberbullying:
The same qualities of repeated, intentional, and social/psychological power plays are involved with cyberbullying. The only difference is that the bullying takes place via electronic mediums such as cell phones, computers or other electronic devices. Cyberbullying can be threatening text messages, e-mails; or, it can even rumors or information posted on public, social media sites or message boards. It can take place exclusively online; or, bullies can combine cyberbullying with traditional bullying.
It’s easy to confuse cyberbullying with cyberstalking, especially because we often hear these words used interchangeably, sometimes. It’s especially easy to become confused because cyberbullying has an element of stalking to it: the relentless messaging, the social media pages, and the ability to track the victim, online.
However, cyberstalking is a bit different. Cyberstalking is a repetitive, malicious vendetta often with no legitimate purpose, ironically against a very personal target, carried out with premeditation and obsessive zeal. Cyberstalkers disregard all warnings to stop their illegal activity, and reasonable reasons to stop (like that they are causing distress to another human being).
How is Cyberbullying Different?
Cyberbullying is, in many ways, different than “typical” bullying. Cyberbullying is primarily psychological, as it’s perpetrated through social manipulation and intimidation via messaging and interference with one’s social status through message boards and groups. The primary, and most important, difference between cyberbullying, and traditional bullying, is that it can, and often does, occur 24-hours a day. Cyberbullying takes the “repetition part of bullying to the extreme.
Victims have no respite, or safe place, from their bullies. If they are being bullied on their cell phones, their message beep can go off, even in the safety of their bedroom, even when they are asleep. If they are gaming, involved in a safe community of peer players, it can quickly be infiltrated by bullies who attack them with brutal messages, or ostracization.
Another major difference with cyberbullying is that the “power” may not be the same typical social or physical imbalance that a typical bully has over their victim. Instead, a cyberbully may have access to virtual information, such as an “incriminating,” message, e-mail, or photograph that the victim doesn’t want anyone else to see. This is still an imbalance of power, but not in the traditional sense. It changes the power dynamic, and makes power somewhat of a grey area in the bully/victim relationship, as the bully may have access to this information because they were formerly close, or even intimate, with their victim.
Cyberbullying and Sex
Worst of all, much of cyber bullying, especially among older students, is sometimes sexually motivated, or sexually graphic. Even if untrue, cyber bullying can spread false rumors, ruining reputations through social groups. While the CDC reports that sexual promiscuity among teens is down, with an average of less than 30% of teens having engaged in sexual activity in the previous three months, 21% of those surveyed had been drinking or doing drugs, prior to sexual activity. With inhibitions lowered, photos, texts and videos are a problem.
The subjects of the new Netflix document documentary, Audrie and Daisy (2016), are teenage girls who both admit to drinking more than they normally would one night. These girls learn the hard way that the boys they thought they trusted to care for them at their worst are only lying in wait for their weakest moments, snapping photos of them as they disrobe them, probe their nude bodies, and then spreading videos, texts or rumors around their respective schools. Audrie’s will doesn’t withstand the torturous rigor of the texts, emails and constant shaming she feels at the loss of her reputation; she commits suicide. Daisy attempts to kill herself several times, especially when she learns that her perpetrators will not face sexual assault charges, and she’s called a liar and a whore by her fellow students, former friends via text and message, relentelessly.
However, not all victims of cyberbullying find online contact distressing. In fact, according to the Second Youth Internet Safety Survey, 38% of students weren’t bothered by being harassed online. It was only when online harassment crossed into offline harassment as well, did they feel upset by e-bullying.
Importance of Cyberbullying
Estimates of victims of cyberbullying vary; some studies find as many as 40% of students have reported incidents of cyberbullying. According to the CDC, 15% of high school students have reported being electronically bullied, in the past year; and, according to the National Center for Education Statistics and Bureau of Justice Statistics, 7% of students between grades 6-12 experienced cyber-bullying. Noting that cyberbullying appears to more than double, when restricted to high school students, but is reported early, begs intervention and knowledge regarding how students are engaging, and how to intervene as early as possible.
Cyberbullying.org conducted a study that made it especially clear to students what the definition of cyberbullying is. They told students that cyberbullying meant “repeatedly mak[ing] fun of another person online, or repeatedly pick[ing] on another person through email or text message; or when someone posts something online about another person that they don’t like.” With this definition, about 25% of 10,000 randomly selected 11-18 year olds reported that they’d been cyberbullied (over the past seven years); but only 12% in the past year (January 2014). 17% admitted to cyberbullying others in the past seven years; and only 4% admitted to bullying others in the past year.
This data tells us that while we may have been behind, figuring out this arena where students have been harassing their peers, programs and procedures that are designed to target and reduce it, are working. Therefore, we need to continue to both recognize and highlight cyberbullying as a problem, and we need to work toward positive and effective solutions to eliminate it.
Identifying cyberbullying starts by realizing that you need to look for both victims and bullies. Unlike traditional bullying, victims and bullies share some similar behaviors, such as hiding their phone screens from teachers, quickly minimizing computer browser windows from adults, or refuses to discuss their online activity with adults (or others). However, victims and bullies do behave differently in other ways.
Seems to have multiple accounts, or access to others’ accounts
Uses electronic devices at all hours of the day, especially (and including) at night
Expresses inappropriate anger at limits on electronic device usage
Identifying Cyberbully Victims
Generalized increase in anxiety, depression or frustration
Increased anger, frustration or depression after using electronic media
Refusal to talk with parents or teachers about online activities
Stops using electronic devices
Withdrawal from social, or even home, activity
In this video, despite some of the out dated technology, we see many the examples of a “typical,” cyberbully, and a “typical,” cyberbullying victim. The bully makes attempts to socially isolate the victim, makes him feel socially inferior, and is cruel. The victim withdraws at home, seems sad and refuses to discuss his problem with his mother, quickly hiding all evidence.
Identifying Cyberbullying Culture
According to recent data, students are less likely to report cyberbullying when their school promotes a climate with safe peer-to-peer relationships, and a generally safe environment. Currently, there is not enough research on this nebulous topic; but according to Cyberbyullying.org, students who agreed with statements such as, “feel[ing] safe at school,” feel[ing] that teachers at their school really try to help them succeed,” and “feel[ing] that teachers at their school care about them,” were less likely to report either being victims of cyberbullying, or being cyberbullies themselves. The good news, is that while incidents of cyberbullying are up more than 50 percent in the last five years, nearly 70 percent of students who felt harassed sought help from a trusted friend, parent, or other adult authority figure, leaving room for trusted practices to work.
If You See Something, Say Something
There’s no room for bystanders in bullying. With over 80% of teens using a cell phone, it’s difficult to catch; but, that’s why it’s important for adults to be engaged in the lives of young people and adolescents. Ask questions. Be involved. Notice when things are different. Quite simply: pay attention. And remember, bystanders are victims too. Bystanders report symptoms of anxiety, guilt and shame associated with incidents of bullying.
How to Help in a Cyber Bullying Situation
There’s a relatively simple list of items/ideas that can help in any cyberbullying situation:
Be a friend to youth. Or, encourage your children to have an adult friend. It’s okay if your children feel more comfortable confiding in a coach, or teacher; just make sure they feel comfortable confiding in someone.
Talk it Out
Mediation can sometimes help resolve a bullying situation, if it’s a misunderstanding that has blown out of proportion. Attempt a talk-it-out situation carefully, if you engage a trained counselor as a mediator and you are confident that violence won’t escalate.
Make sure you visit websites that your children frequent, with them, and learn the ins and outs of the pages. Get to know their online “friends,” and be aware of their online activity. Know when things change.
Teach Them Appropriate Responses
It’s never a good idea to add fuel to a fire; so, teach your children not to respond to cyberbullies. Don’t give them any information, respond to any messages, or let them know that they are bothering you. In many ways, this is not much different than traditional bullying; as emotional as it may seem, leaving it alone, may be the best answer.
Despite the grey areas of the laws, cyberbullying and cyberstalking are against the law. While there is some potential shame and fear associated with cyberbullying, especially if it’s related to sexual activity, or rule-breaking such as underage drinking or drug use, it’s vital that kids and teens are instructed to never delete any harassing messages.
All online services, such as Facebook, or even Craigslist, have reporting services to report unauthorized, or inappropriate usage, and cyberbullying. Without screenshots and evidence, it’s almost impossible to enforce their policies, however. Utilize their reporting services, and provide them with the evidence you’ve saved to quickly put an end to “small” incidents of cyberbullying.
Utilize Law Enforcement
Most schools have resource officers; engage them, and make sure they are aware of incidents of cyberbullying among the students in their purview. More importantly, make sure that they are aware of the laws that govern cyberbullying in their state, and how to enforce them. Resource officers are specially trained to deal with students and adolescents; sometimes, simply allowing the resource officer to intervene is enough to scare the cyberbully into stopping, rather than engaging criminal charges. However, if activity continues, or if harassment is especially malicious, engage the entire team and report activity to the local and state authorities.
Knock-it-Off Policy and No-Contact
If the bullying is especially pervasive or violent, and as such is affecting the learning environment, it is important to make sure that students are supervised and kept apart as much as possible, both to protect their safety, and to keep other students from being affected. It’s important to make sure that the situation is left to fizzle, rather than ignite. An adult can be provided to walk a student to class, to sit nearby, but not necessarily with the student, in the cafeteria, for example.
Appoint Staff at Every Level
An anti-bullying task manager or team manager should be assigned at the elementary through high school level to work with faculty, administrators, counselors and staff to be kept abreast of all new information in the field, and to have “boots on the ground,” as it were, with the students. Engage a staff member who cares about bullying, stopping it, and about student mental health.
Recognize Limits of “Zero-Tolerance” Programs
Zero-tolerance sounds good on paper, and it sounds good to parents; but, for kids it can sound scary and it can make them afraid to report bullying for fear of reprisal, perhaps even fearing that they may be disciplined themselves, as part of the bullying scenario. Zero tolerance policies have their merits, but it’s important to recognize their limits when dealing with complex bullying scenarios, adolescents and teens.
Parents are a valuable resource. In many cases, they will be the ones who will be able to tell you if the student’s eating, sleeping, or behavior habits have drastically changed, which will help sound the alarm to a more serious situation. Additionally, parents are a great resource to help reinforce school policy; as administrators you want them on your team, so listen to their needs and be conscious of them. Their primary concern, and yours, is stopping their child’s hurt.
Engage the Community
Community leaders, especially city and county leaders such as mayors and city council members have taken strong roles in speaking out against anti-bullying. Take the time to engage them in speaking at your school, or in writing letters to your students. Engage your local sports teams, or other civic leaders to form a culture of anti-bullying at your school.
The best way to prevent bullying, of any kind, is to create an environment where bullying isn’t tolerated or condoned. In an ideal world, this is easy. All students love one another, and everyone gets along. There’s no gossip, everyone’s a star athlete, plays in the school band, and gets straight A’s. But, that’s not how it works. So, StompOutBullying, makes these Top 20 suggestions for “Stomping Out” Bullying in your school:
Don’t encourage the bully
Stay at a safe distance, and help the target get away
Don’t become an “audience” for the bully
Reach out and become a friend to a bullying victim
Help the victim in any way that you can
Support the victim in private
If you notice someone being isolated, invite them to join you
Include the victim in some of your activities
Tell an adult if you see bullying, or are being bullied
Encourage your school to participate in bullying or cyberbullying prevention programs
Start a peer mentoring program at school
Raise awareness of bullying and cyberbullying prevention in your community
Teach friends about being more tolerant of others, even if they are different
Ask your school to set up a private box where kids who are bullied can report it, anonymously
Get someone to sponsor a conflict resolution team
Encourage school administrators to adopt Internet-use policies that address online hate, harassment and pornography
Create events in your school and community to raise anti-bullying, and bullying prevention awareness.
Create bullying prevention awareness posters for your school
Stand up and do something when you hear someone making jokes or comments about: someone’s sexual identity, family member(s), weight, clothing, skin color, accent, or disability.
Sit with Us
Consider allowing the use of smart phones, especially with apps like SitWithUs, an app designed especially for bullied kids, by a teenager, a victim of bullying herself. The app is designed for kids with no one to sit with in the school cafeteria; they can designate themselves as “alone,” and hope that someone else, an ambassador, will see their avatar and invite them to their table, or vice versa. So far, it’s being used in lunchrooms across the country, and even internationally. It prevents kids from being openly rejected, if they stroll up to a table, and try to make a new friend, while simultaneously being invited to be friends with new people. It means never having to eat alone, and never being rejected.
Cyberbullying and the Law
Currently, cyberbullying is covered at the state level. All states have laws covering cyberbullying, but there is a wide range of what is allowable, for prosecution, or what is considered legal, or protected, under the letter of the law. The Cyberbullying Research Center keeps an updated, interactive map of what states have what laws, including those proposed.
Importantly, laws must consider the fact that cyberbullying can occur both on and off campus. So, laws have to be proposed in such a way that educators have to make a determination whether cyberbullying that happens off campus is having a noticeable detrimental effect on the learning environment on campus. To understand the confusion, realize that states either have decided on criminal sanctions, school sanctions, school policy, or an off-campus policy (or a combination of these).
These terms can be confusing, because they all sound so similar.
A threatened penalty for disobeying.
Because cyberbullying (and bullying) can be classified as a crime, it is subject to criminal punishments.
Schools get to create and adopt their own disciplinary measures and policies.
The bullying law requires all states, apart from Montana, to set an anti-bullying policy to both identify behaviors and disciplinary policies.
In some states, the bullying law gives the school latitude to discipline students in certain appropriate ways.
As mentioned above, schools are allowed to discipline students for off-campus behavior, if they’ve determined that it disrupts the on-campus learning environment.
California has a “Yes” in all four categories above, for example; as does New Jersey, Louisiana and Pennsylvania and Tennessee. However, states like Wyoming are only 50% yes and 50% no. There are wide variations from state-to-state.
In some cases, felony harassment charges can be brought against cyberbullies; but, there is currently no federal laws against cyberbullying, specifically. The only specific federal laws, are those that can be brought against protected classes, as mentioned in Section 1. Protected classes, such as those with disabilities, LGBT, or minorities should be versed in the following federal laws. School administrators and staff should obviously be equally aware.
Education and information is part of the answer to stopping cyberbullying. Teaching our kids how to respond to harassment properly, and teaching our kids how not to bully, is a big part of the solution. So, how soon is too soon to teach kids about cyberbullying?
Kid’s Health recommends framing discussions about bullying, in general, as early as Pre-K, in age-appropriate ways. Eyes On Bullying agrees, pointing out that, often, people overlook early childhood years in bullying prevention, because they underestimate both children’s intelligence, and their emotional maturity. Teach InCntrl promotes cyberbullying education for all students across all areas of the curriculum.
Bullying in very young children can look very different, however, with a strong tendency toward subtle bullying for girls and physical bullying for boys. In an example described in their book, Dr. Storey and Dr. Slaby describe a scenario in which a preschool girl, sitting at lunch begins a game in which she questions the children at her table, requiring them to raise their hands for affirmative responses with prompts like, “who likes X, Y, Z.” All of her prompts are things that all children would be sure to respond in the affirmative to, such as candy, movies and the like. But, when she gets to the end of her inquiries, she asks, “and who likes Madeline?” This is the beginning of social bullying.
hey suggest bullying education for children begin as early as preschool with social skills education, while they develop the language skills to express the feelings they are having. It’s important to catch bullying behaviors while they are happening and reappoint them into appropriate social interactions. Story time and circle, or morning meeting time, they suggest, is a good time to use examples and engagement to point out appropriate ways to interact with peers, and to define the line between teasing and taunting.
Additionally, they recommend the key life skills of empathy, problem solving and assertiveness to both address bullying, and to prevent becoming one. To learn empathy, they suggest that students learn to label their feelings and that they learn to compare themselves to others in a way that helps them appreciate their differences. Additionally, helping others to feel better teaches children to feel better about themselves, and helps reinforce the “golden rule.” Problem solving activities, such as team-work, and rudimentary what-if scenarios help preschoolers learn to deal with frustration in a safe environment to build their self-confidence. Assertion activities, such as teaching kids to keep their cool, and role-playing response scenarios, and learning when to ignore and when to get help are important tools for preschoolers to both build their self-esteem, and to understand the complexities of bullying scenarios.
Counseling and Resources for Victims
There are several, national anti-bullying resource centers set up to both provide information, and to direct victims, parents, and educators to required resources. For example, the Victims of Crime Resource Center Hotline is reachable at 1-800-Victims, and through their website. Additionally, The Cyberbullying Research Center provides links to not only report bullying on all major social media sites, but also information and resources to victims, nationwide. StopBullying.gov also provides access to both information and links to both national phone number databanks, and links to local counselors.
StompOutBullying is a national website with a 24-7 web-chat service for teens to find access to help for support about bullying. Trained counselors monitor the chat room to provide support and assistance to teens who are looking for advice. Additionally, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry’s (AACP) website provides a clearinghouse of both information about bullying and cyberbullying, but also links to resources and links to counseling services in your child’s area.
Cyberbullying on Social Media and Popular Websites
New social media sites pop up seemingly every day. And, just as quickly fade away. Keeping up with what your tweens and tweens are doing online, and who they are doing it with, is important to helping them avoid both their being cyberbullied, or becoming one. For example, a newer(ish) social media site, Musical.ly has taken social media by storm, often outranking Snapchat and Instagram in the App Store. Musical.ly, a seemingly harmless video sharing site, where people can lip-sync to their favorite tunes, is no different than other social media sites, in terms of potential for cyberbullying or predatory danger. Privacy and user settings, and parental oversight can go a long way in preventing many dangerous, and harassment situations.
While it seems, sometimes, that Facebook set the gold standard for social media, it seems that teens began migrating away from it sometime ago. Still, they have a bullying prevention hub, especially targeted at teens. In their hub is access to a PDF, which includes step-by-step instructions and conversation starter ideas for teens who have found themselves in harassment scenarios.
The first step, is always to unfriend someone who is bothering you, and block offensive people. Of course, if there are false accounts out there, this can become problematic, and like cutting the head off of a hydra, but start there. And, FB warns that blocking is reciprocal, so you won’t be able to see what they post about you anymore, which can make you feel antsy, wondering if, on their page, false information about you is spreading like wildfire, now that you can’t see it anymore. Still, FB warns that the best steps are to stay calm and not to retaliate. They suggest that if there is something you find particularly offensive, you can delete it from the areas of FB that you have access to, but warn to save things you may need as evidence, if required. Additionally, they provide scripts and prompts to start conversations with people about how to calmly approach online bullies.
Interestingly, the provide the opposite side of the scenario. They provide resources for the bully. They consider what it might be like to be approached by a victim, and be blindsided as a bully, perhaps not even aware that they’ve committed an offensive act. They provide advice for the bully and suggest the most appropriate behaviors if you have been told that you’ve done something offensive to another person. For example, they suggest that you take the other person’s feelings into account, before you get angry and offended, and that the first thing you should do is apologize.
Get access to the entire PDF here. There’s also an area with links and suggestions for parents.
Block and Delete. The most common advice of any website is going to start with these simple instructions. If you are being bothered by “troll,” especially in an isolated incident, which, on a site like YouTube is the most likely scenario, the first place they advise starting is to delete offending comments, or to ask the user to do so, and block offensive users. YouTube does have specific polices against hate speech; for example, they do not allow violence or hate speech against anyone based on race or ethnic origin, relation, disability, gender, age, veteran status, or sexual orientation/gender identity. They also have specific policies against setting up fake accounts, “Impersonation,” and any suspicion of such accounts should be reported immediately. YouTube also has very strict policies against Child Endangerment as it applies to depicting sex with minors, so sharing videos of underage children engaged in any sexual activity, is strictly prohibited and should absolutely be reported, especially as it pertains to cyberbullying situations. In these cases, being a bystander is against the law, not only against YouTube policy.
However, the rest of YouTube policy is a little greyer. For example, their policy regarding sexually explicit content is prohibitive when it comes to violent, humiliating or graphic fetish, but is inclusive when it comes to nudity when it is educational, documentary or artistic. Additionally, its graphic or violent content policy is essentially a free pass, so long as its journalistic, and especially if the title is descriptive and/or there is an especially clear warning to viewers.
Threats are taken seriously, and they caution that law enforcement should be engaged immediately; however. But, their policy on harmful or dangerous content, such as videos of drug use or of dangerous “challenges” such as the choking challenge, they deem allowable if the primary purpose is educational, documentary or scientific. Finally, they caution that the best way to avoid anything you don’t want to see is the block and delete button.
Because of Instagram’s user settings, and communication settings, it’s particularly easy for cyberbullies to contact, and harass their victims, in various ways. For example, users can add cruel comments and hashtags to user’s photos, or create unflattering photos and attach them to a user’s photo/profile. Instagram has a reporting process for harassment and bullying.
Snapchat’s 10-second-and-it’s-gone makes it both easier, and more difficult for cyberbullies. It allows them to take incriminating photos, sometimes without the victim even realizing it, and send harassment without evidence lasting long enough to be traced. However, with quick knowledge of how to take a screenshot, a victim can track harassment, and there’s a way to stop the onslaught of constant messages. Snapchat has community guidelines, such as no pornography, and protecting someone’s privacy, such as not taking pics without someone else’s knowledge. And, Snapchat’s policy is no screenshots, despite their anti-bullying stance. It’s a nebulous arena. Still, they also have a reporting area; but also recommend a block first policy.
Snapchat does have policies to protect user’s privacy, and to prevent bullying. Primarily, to prevent cyberbullying, they do not allow for invasions of privacy, such as taking snaps of others without their knowledge. Additionally, they don’t allow for impersonation, much like YouTube, which means creating fake accounts, even to impersonate celebrities. Finally, they have a strict no-harassment policy, which means once someone has blocked you, you may not continue to harass them from another account, or from a new account. Their no-nudity policy, especially for those under 18 can contribute to a no-bullying environment by not allowing for embarrassing content, because it even prohibits sexually explicit drawings on otherwise benign snaps.
According to both Buzzfeed News, and CIO, Twitter’s refusal to appropriately deal with cyberbullying and online abuse and harassment has drug the social media giant to near death. Twitter promises a revamp and an absolute focus on the issue. Their current advice starts with the same advice as the others: ignore, block and unfollow. They do have a reporting process on their website.
Skype’s online communities are a great way to meet and befriend all kinds of people, for all kinds of reasons, with all kinds of interests; however, there are all kinds of ways to find trouble when the world is so big. Communities on Skype can often help police themselves, with members reporting to one another when they are having trouble, and using the block and ignore feature. But, like all other social media features, Skype also has a report feature, depending on which interface you are using.
Messenger or Other Forums
Messenger and other chat forums rely on a community standard of “knowing” who you are talking to, rather than primarily stranger interaction, such as YouTube. The best way to avoid harassment is to be engaged with friends and people you are comfortable with, not with strangers. However, like all teens and tweens, social groups change, and falling outs occur, which can spill over into an online community setting. Again, ignore, block and delete when there’s trouble. If there’s evidence, save it. If there’s serious trouble, report it.
When looked at, over time, from 2007, through 2016, the rate of reported cyberbullying offenders has declined sharply from 19.1% to 12.0% of students reporting self-reporting; however, the rates also fluctuate significantly from year to year, sometimes as much as 5-7%. Cyberbullying.org compiles data from ten different studies to gather an average of roughly 15.8% students who reported cyberbullying others, across the 9-year study period, with a low of 11.5% reporting in 2009, with an especially low sample class size. Intriguingly, the study compilation shows a sharp decrease in bullies self-reporting in 2009, suggesting that cyber bullying education has been helpful, but then an uptick to outpace 2007 numbers in 2010, and nearly again in 2011. It’s baffling to educators to figure out what works, and what doesn’t, to prevent bullying, when numbers like this present themselves over long spaces of time.
Intriguingly, victimization rates are nearly double the self-reporting rates for bullies, which suggests that either bullies are bullying more than one victim, that victims feel victimized by actions that bullies don’t necessarily feel is bullying, or that bullies are under-reporting. And, unlike the chaotic rise and fall of the bully self-reporting, victimization rates seem on a steady climb since 2007, with the exception of two slight dips in 2010 and 2013. The average reporting rate for victims, compiled over ten studies from cyberbullying.org is 27.9% and includes cyber bullying in all forms, such as e-mail, in the classroom, and over other electronic media.
An interesting comparison to note is the difference between reported victimization rates between middle schoolers and lifetime victimization rates. The rate doubles (or even triples) in almost all cases. This suggest an almost “grace” period in middle school where educators might be able to reach students and target bullying education, before the problem erupts.
Cyber bullying does not appear to discriminate for gender. Unlike other types of bullying where, for example, physical aggression is more typically associated with males, and social aggression is more typically associated with females, cyber bullying is more equally distributed. Both genders appear to be equally associated with cyber bullying behaviors. The disassociated connection with screens makes it easier for both genders to engage with behaviors that they may not otherwise engage in, if they were faced with an individual, making it easier for both genders to engage in cyber bullying behaviors; it’s like it’s simultaneously happening to both a real, and a not-real person.
Subsequently, victims of cyberbullying are also, mostly, equally spread amongst gender. There’s a slightly larger number of reported lifetime female cyber bully victims, but in general, victims are equally spread between male and female, especially amongst the middle school population. This suggests, once again, that the magic moment to reach the student population with cyber bullying education is at the beginning of middle school.
According to cyberbullying.org, middle schoolers use the Internet for a wide variety of purposes, and in descending order, it’s first and foremost for online games and homework, and lastly for chat rooms. Having data like this helps educators fine-tune education programs and gear bullying messages for their students based on what they know their students will be using and where they might be encountering bullying messages.
Conclusion and Recommendations
Cyber bullying is part of a complex puzzle that, if reduced, improves student performance and success. But, we cannot forget things like the value of parental involvement, drug and alcohol education, other education on other teen behaviors that can affect student life, like sex education. For example, according to the CDC, for example, 10% of teens (over the age of 12) have used illicit drugs in the past month. And, it’s easy to forget, but many students come to school without having eaten a decent meal; in states like Missouri, over 20% of homes have food insecurity, not knowing where their next meal comes from. Alas, cyber bullying is a very important part of a student’s success, but it’s not the only piece of their puzzle.
And, in fact, determining the other pieces, and addressing those, may help suss out the cyber bullying problem. If a student is being bullied for being so-called promiscuous, for example; or, if a student is being bullied because he wears second-hand clothes; or, if a student is being bullied for getting bad grades; it’s obvious that knowing students is helpful. Additionally, having the appropriate district, counseling, and support services is vital to student success in all cases. There is no “stop bullying,” or even “zero tolerance,” in most cases. It is not as simple as enforcing a consequence, or mending a fence; it requires support for the victim, and likely for the bully.
Additionally, based on evidence, bullying education in primary and middle school grades is vital in prevention. As we become more screen-dependent, our children will be versed earlier in technology. Despite the American Academy of Pediatrics’ newly revised, and recently released, guidelines about screen time for young children, parents will continue to expose children to technology at younger ages, until they are practically programming satellites in the crib. If we are to expect our children to understand the limitless joy and knowledge that technology can bring, it is incumbent upon us to teach them the limitless responsibility that comes with it as well, including the responsibility they bear, as in all things, to not cause others pain.