Author Archives: Karen
Author Archives: Karen
Spokeo is the “Glinda, the Good Witch” of background check sites, emphasizing all the positive reasons to research people and downplaying the Information Age’s darker sides.
What a couple Stanford grads started as a “social network aggregator” in a Silicon Valley basement in 2006 has morphed into one of the better means of mending your long neglected social ties. Sure, there’s some criminal info available on Spokeo, but the company’s website sends the clear message it would rather bring people together than keep them apart.
The customer testimonials shown below give you a good idea of the top uses promoted on the site:
Straightforward price structure is among the lowest in the field – $13.95 for a month, $7.95 a month for 3 months and $4.95 a month for half the year. Your base subscription seems to get you enough reliable, current background info to help you reconnect with someone you’ve lost touch with for a very long time.
Base plan provides contact info, location history, relatives and some other bare bones personal info – enough to make certain you’ve located the right person.
Searching available court or historical records is $2.95 extra, each.
This portion of the process could be done in your sleep.
Spokeo customer service could be among the most responsive in the industry. You can talk to a real person 24/7, unless you’d rather just handle things on your own easily online.
Spokeo’s standard search
Seems to work exactly as advertised. Simple search format is flexible enough you can include anything you happen to remember about the person you’re looking for, even if it’s incomplete, and returns a manageable list of possible matches. Once you select the most likely candidate, the extensive location history and list of relatives quickly confirms if you’ve got the right person.
Some contact info appears outdated, but the most recent available is clearly identified, which should take some of the hit and miss out of getting ahold of whomever you’re trying to connect with.
Spokeo also digs through more than 60 social networks, giving you another avenue for reestablishing those old ties.
Court and historical reports
Are fairly cheap, but still might not be worth the cost, returning a lot of US Census, marriage, death and court records on anyone sharing a name the least bit similar to your subject’s (though some of this could be helpful if you’re working on a family history).
Is a unique feature that allows you to import an address book, then performs searches to update the contact info it contains, filling in a name, perhaps, for that random phone number you once jotted down.
Spokeo is tops among several sites I’ve used. The site is ridiculously easy to navigate and displays search results in a plain, uncluttered format with no distracting graphics or annoying pop-ups for “free credit reports!”
In keeping with Spokeo’s semiofficial mission of optimistic reconnection, I decided to dig up what I could on a once close friend who’d gone through some rough times before completely severing all connections with the circle of friends we shared. No one had heard from him in several years and all of us were concerned about his health and happiness.
I’d tried finding what I could on other websites with absolutely no success at all, excepting a list of literally hundreds of names scattered willy-nilly around the country without out any useful corroborating evidence. My first search on Spokeo returned a single unequivocally positive result, complete with age, names, dates and places that clinched the ID. What I did not expect was my reluctance to contact him.
Perhaps it was the subliminally gentle message that seems to permeate Spokeo’s website, but I was more inclined to respect my old friend’s apparent wish to start his life anew. Rather than startle him a phone call from a ghost from the past, I was content with the knowledge (supplied by Spokeo) that he seems surrounded by new friends and family, is living in a safe neighborhood and is, apparently, pursuing some of his favorite interests once again.
Cancellation was easy peasy. You can cancel anytime on website’s “Usage and Subscriptions” page, call (877) 913-3088, or send an email to CustomerCare@spokeo.com. If you used PayPal, it’s even easier: 1, Log in to your PayPal account; 2, Click “Profile” near the top of the page; 3, Click “My Money; 4,Click “Update” in the “My Preapproved Payments” section; and 5, Click “Cancel” or “Cancel Automatic Billing” and follow the instructions. That’s it!
There are a lot better sites out there for digging up dirt on people, if that’s what you need in a background check. But, if you’re idly musing about what happened to an old and once dear friend or need to locate a family member you’ve lost touch with, Spokeo is perhaps the best, and cheapest, way to do it.
Without really meaning to, Spokeo tangentially touches on the issue of privacy in the information age: just because you can do an extensive background check, does it mean you should?
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.
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 and Identity.com. CommunitySafety is geared toward non-profits and schools to make sure the people they are allowing in are trustworthy and identity.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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Well established with a good track record, US Search is a reliable, if somewhat stodgy, middle of the road site.
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.Visit US Search
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.
Visit US Search
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.Visit US Search
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.Visit US Search
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.Visit US Search
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.Visit US Search
eVerify is singularly suited for deep research on a single subject and would be an expensive choice for someone looking to compile contact info on Riverdale High’s Class of 1979.
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!)Visit eVerify
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.Visit eVerify
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.Visit eVerify
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.Visit eVerify
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.
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 Sacramento, 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.Visit PeopleFinders
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!Visit PeopleFinders