How to Find Anyone Online

If the someone you're looking for has ever done anything on the internet, we're pretty sure they left a digital footprint somewhere.

The word "Google" may be the first thing that pops up in your mind, but you should know that it's not the only way. In fact, there's only so much that Google can do when it comes to finding someone online (insert "how dare you" gasp here).

This past decade, we've seen a proliferation of people search engines that go more in-depth than Google. The best part is, many of them are free.

But before anything else; and because we've seen this question a lot...

Can You Find a Person by IP Address?

With the internet being less and less private today, this is a legit question.

The answer is:

YES - in an extreme situation.

By "extreme," we mean if a government agency subpoenas an ISP to reveal who is behind a so-and-so IP address due to a suspicion of highly illegal activity.

For us mere humans, this is pretty unlikely. Plus, with the rise of VPN services - and a considerable drop in their prices, this becomes more and more impossible.

How to Find a Person Online

a man miniature on a map

Using Social Media

We would venture a guess that the person you're looking for doesn't live in a cave.

If we guess right, then social media platforms should be the first place you check. 

But what if the person is from an older generation? Check anyway, because using social media for finding someone is easy. Plus, you just never know.

You can do one of these two things:

  • Type the name of the person + the name of social media on Google/Yahoo search engine. For example, John Smith Facebook. 
  • Go to each social media platform and do your research there. Every social media platform has a search bar.

Facebook and Instagram are the most used social media in the world but don't forget the power of LinkedIn as well. Many people who hate social media have a LinkedIn profile out of necessity.

To search for someone on LinkedIn:

  • Go to LinkedIn. You may need to create a profile. Do a burner one if you don't want to keep it.
  • Finding people by name: type the name of the person in the search bar.
  • Or, you can also search by the person's last-known company. There's a chance they haven't changed their workplace.
  • Next, you can try by finding someone who knows them first. And then, you can check on their list of connection.

polaroid pictures on a map

Using People Search Engines

A word of warning: you may find this tool creepy and stalky, but they're highly useful in this situation. Besides, there are many legitimate reasons to find someone on the internet, right? 

We recommend using these search engines in addition to your basic Google search and the social media method.

Keep track of your process by writing down the things you've done and the person you've found in a Word document or a notebook.

1. Zabasearch

Zabasearch is one of the most comprehensive people search engines out there - and it's 100% free.

It's a find-people-by-name tool which allows you to reveal someone's phone number and address. Zabasearch premium is also free and covers a broader search, but you have to connect via your Facebook account (a major turn-off for many of us).

Just be aware that at some point, something will ask you to pay for information. Just ignore it as the free info you can get is plenty enough to get going.

2. Pipl

We consider Pipl as an extension to the Google or Yahoo searches that you've done beforehand.

Pipl is a people finder that covers the invisible web, aka digital information that is not indexable by search engines. This kind of bits of knowledge is not, then, readily available on the surface.

What's cool about Pipl is that you can use a known email address or even a username, no matter how old, to find your person.

search spelled with scrabble letters

3. ZoomInfo

ZoomInfo is the perfect tool to find a person who has an online presence whatsoever.

This is the people search engine v. 2.0 because it combines different methods altogether to cover all the bases. Used by many companies to research on their potential new hires, ZoomInfo crawls the web for information of any type: press release, an article in the newspaper, SEC filings, and so on.

ZoomInfo is not free, though. But they do offer a free trial that you can take advantage of for a limited time.

4. PeekYou

PeekYou is another free people search engine that you may find helpful.

The impressive thing about PeekYou is that they gather scattered content mentioning the name of the person from all over the internet: blog posts, social media posts, online news publications, and so on.

You can even use a known username from an old platform such as Multiply or Friendster as many people keep the same username for everything.

5. Zillow

Zillow is not really a people search engine, but a real estate tool. However, you may find it useful in your people search.

Zillow can provide information related to someone's house, for example, the registered name of the owner, their profile, and how much the house is worth in today's market.

If all you have is an address, this is the perfect tool for you.

Using Public Records

If the person you're looking for has a nationality, has ever celebrated a marriage, has a driving license, has ever been to a state-owned school and so on, he has a public record.

There are multiple ways you can use public records to find your person.

1. Public Records Sites

Since records have been digitalized, you'll be able to access them online.

VitalRec has one the most comprehensive databases among the other websites. The official public record website of a country can be helpful, too. In the US, it's through the USA.gov portal.

Other free public record sites you can take advantage of are CensusFinder and Family Tree Now.

2. Online Obituaries

This may sound weird and pessimistic but could be an excellent way to go on if all other methods have rendered no fruits. You can use it as a part of the elimination process as well: "He's not in the obituaries, so he must be alive somewhere."

Obviously, it would be useful if you have their complete name and last-known place of resident. If not, you can start with the Social Security Death Index.

Since obituaries are usually published in newspapers, you can use the Google Newspaper Archives, which gather around 200 years of papers in one place.

Or, use the library archive. If you know the last place the person lived in, go to the local library and access their online newspaper archives.

If you have zero ideas of where he has been, use the International News Archive on the web or WorldCat. Both are free and hold an extensive database of newspaper archive from around the globe.

WorldCat even lets you get in touch with a real-life librarian if need be.

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Final Words

The information you can find by using these methods is mostly free and available to the public. However, it should never be used to harm someone.

While using the internet to find someone is completely legal, using that information to harm them is illegal in many countries. This is called a doxing practice, and you should try these methods only if your intent is good.

Just remember that knowledge is power. Use it wisely.

Serina Rajagukguk

Serina is a writer whose passion includes learning all about new technology and trying to explain it in a layman term. 

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