How to find people free of charge – The most comprehensive lookup guide online

I bet this is not the first article you’ve tried to read on how to find people free of charge via the internet. I can also bet and say you’ve read or visited ppl (people) search websites where they promised you that you can search free of charge only to point you towards a site that tried to charge you a fee somewhere down the line. If you are one of those people looking for a really helpful guide and you are tired of being messed around by these bloggers and websites then this epic piece is for you.



I will explain the essence of a person finder online and why most of these people search sites look like scams (and some truly are) and why you are probably never going to know how to find a person fee using any of those said free people search site if you continue to use the tactics that everyone recommends e.g. just Google people search sites and use them to find people for free (no charge at all) – try as many as you can etc – they keep telling you. Been there done that and got scammed once or twice.

In this piece I have pulled in everything I know about this field based on my many years of blogging about it. I mean everything there is to know about how to find people free of charge online. You can skip to the sections that you like below but I highly advise that you read the entire thing – it will save you a lot of time a headache in future as you scan through some people pages.

1. Who can use this people finder guide?

1.1. Anyone who is looking for long lost friends and classmates

This guide is useful to you if you are trying to find someone free i.e. reunite with someone you’ve lost touch with like a long lost friend, colleague or classmate.

1.2. Adopted and looking for biological parents

we will help you with some tips of how to find a person free i.e. birth parents, mother or father and even find your long lost siblings.

1.3. Looking to find information about people

So you’ve just met this guy or girl and want to find out more about them. You’ve fallen for him and feel the need to find out if he is married or not. Could be a new neighbor who has just moved in next door.

1.4. Someone who’s being harassed by an anonymous person

want to find out who called (who a phone number belongs to) who an email address belongs to or any of the other details like social security number, license plate, residential address etc. then we will show you how to that search for free.

2. Things you need to know before you start searching for people

I know you probably want to get to the gist of this guide but trust me when I say you need to read this background information first on how to find someone free at absolutely no charge. Whatever it is you want to search about people, there are few core things I need to draw your attention to first. It’s going to get more interesting as you read – trust me.

2.1. The different between Free searches and free results

Every people site you will come across will tell you they offer a free people search service. This is where most people searching for their friends, families or loved ones go only to find that these people finder free online sites offer a free search but not free results – there is a difference. I mean they let you run your searches without charging you anything. You can run as many searches as you want without reaching a limit but when it’s time to get the results, you get asked to key in your credit card details. This is why most people end up calling these sites scam sites – because it is proving impossible to find a free people finder with free results.

2.2. Multiple websites using same people database and/owned by same companies

If you Google “Free people search” you will probably come across thousands of search results. Below is a snapshot I took at the time of writing this article.

Notice that there are 140 million search results or people finds as I often call them. This should be exciting right? Well, wrong. Try looking through the first 10 results and you will notice that the information about people is practically the same. As well, using their search boxes will practically yield the same results. That’s because most of the sites are fronts for one or two sites that own the people search databases online.
Below are some few examples;

Note: these are at the time of writing this article

Legal entity Popular websites they own Total number of people domains they own
Inflection Inc. Phonedetective.com, Identity.com, Peoplesmart.com, 272
Whitepages Inc. 411.com, address.com, whitepages.com 183
Experian Inc. Experian.com, protectmyid.com, CreditReport.com 1664
Intelius Intelius.com, Zabasearch, 2,000+
Ancestry Ancestry.com, Rootsweb.com, Findagrave.com, Geneology.com 1,800+
Spokeo Inc. Spokeo.com 24
Search systems Inc searchsystems.net 171
Mylife Inc Mylife.com, reunion.com, Citizenlocal.com, sold wink.com 428

Other than setting up these search engines on their owned sites, they also allow other people (3rd parties) to access through APIs (technical connections to their search (people) directory or database). The user of a site may never know where the data is being sourced – so you can be on findanyoneanywhere.com searching only to find that you are actually accessing information from another person directory e.g. whitepages.com. See example below, how Anywho discloses that they use Intelius data.

anywho people search data disclaimer

So you will keep hoping from one site to the other thinking you are trying to find information about people using different people search database when in fact it’s the same one just connected through APIs to the same database.

Piple Inc. is an example site that offers APIs to developers : https://pipl.com/dev

2.3. Prohibitions and limitations

One of the biggest limitations in people lookups is the prohibition and limitations it comes with. With the rise in privacy advocacy.

2.3.1. Do not call or suppression lists

More and more people are registering on these lists, which makes it difficult to access their information. Reality is, some apps and search engines are able to access these databases but you should know that generally they are not allowed and not as easy to access.

2.3.2. Internet access

The reality is only about 50% of the world’s population uses the internet. That’s about 3.2 billion. This means not everyone is on the internet so do not expect to find anyone from anywhere online. The chart below shows internet usage by regions. For example if you are looking to find someone online who lives in Africa there is a 20.7% chance you will find them via the internet.

Note: I am aware that you do not have to use the internet for your information to be online. That is very true, however I am just highlighting the probabilities. As well that 20.7% does not mean everyone who uses the internet in Africa shares their personal information on the internet, so the number could be even much lower.

2.3.3. Privacy settings

Even sites that allow you to search free of charge are compelled to hide some user information. We’ve seen this happen mostly with sites like Facebook where over the years lobbyists have pressured the company to introduce stricter privacy policies. It’s true that a large percentage of social media users do not turn on their privacy setting but of late these sites are being compelled to make these settings default i.e. not to have users turn them on.

2.4. The deep web has more people information

The deep web is where search engines crawlers never reach. This is where they get locked out by the site or database owners. It is also made up of websites that have not been properly linked to the internet so they are not easy to access. Technically speaking these  include password-protected or dynamic pages and encrypted networks.

This is where the largest portion of the internet resides. The surface web (what we generally access) is much smaller than this deep web – about 1% to be precise. This is exactly where most information of people resides. Think about it, if the deep web is made of inaccessible sources like databases owned by institutions it just makes sense to think most of the information in those records is about people. Unless you are a hacker, forget about accessing those records. Even if you are, your days would be numbered before the feds knock at your door step.

By the way there is an even deeper web called the Tor network where illegal stuff happens. This is where you can access using special software that hides your identity. Here you can find stolen credit cards and of course anything illegal. I don’t want to get into details but you can read more about this here.

Here is an awesome video from Mashable that explains the deep web in  a fun but informative manner:

2.5. Time is the price you have to pay

We find that the paid vs. free debacle is an issue of time. When deciding to go for the totally free people search option then you must be ready to spend a bit of time digging in to your quest. Generally, you can manually do what the paid services do however it might take you days, week, months what can take them a few minutes. They have the software and data records to quickly retrieve store and present information. You don’t.

You may argue and say if Google and Facebook is free then there’s got to be a free people finder service out there. Yes there is but the best data, like Facebook and Google is locked behind a paid wall. For example, only paying advertisers on both Google Facebook can reach certain people. They have access to people’s data and can twist and turn it at will (of course under certain strict guidelines and terms and conditions). So essentially they are not as 100% free as you are led to believe.

2.6. Use the snowball effect

This is basically starting with one piece of information and using it to find more details about the person. Usually one piece of info is easier to use as a base to populate other personal details so try them all. The name and address and the two most popular start points. So for example if you start with a name (which is usually too broad to help find a person) then use it to find maybe an address and then take that address and punch it into the relevant search engines (see below) to try and find a phone number. Then use that phone number to run what is called a reverse people search (more details next).

In the next section we are going to get into the details on how to find a person and all their information. That is what brought you here in the first place – right? The truth is, I wanted to drum some realities in to your head before you dive into the details of online searching for people. Don’t misunderstand me, you can use the methods described below to find anyone anywhere just not everyone. Got it? Now let’s begin.

3. Key ways to find people absolutely free of charge

If you’ve asked yourself how to find people free of charge and thought there must be a millions ways, trust me when I say there aren’t that many ways – just many sources of doing the same thing. I will cover just 8 of them here and this should be everything you will ever need.

Each of these methods come with very comprehensive steps. So what I have done is provide an overview of each in this article and then we’ve created epic pieces for each one of them here on Findwhoo.com. I have added a link to the descriptive articles for each method.

3.1. Use a Reverse people search

If you have one piece of information then you can use it to find another about a person. This is what is called a reverse people search. So in this “how to find people free” guide, I am going to delve into this concept a bit. You can find information by any of the following;

3.1.1.  Find a person By name

For this one, I will show you how to search people by name.  This is when you have a name of the person at hand. It’s usually better to even know the surname. I mean if you were to Google the name “Susan” you would get 394,000 000 results but “Susan Johnson” will give you 454 000, which is better.

Google search bar - susan johnson query.jpg

But “Susan T. Johnson” will give you more manageable results as shown below. Just 8,670.

I am sure you can see why it’s difficult to find people for free by name only. So if you can try to find additional information. If you must try to run this search on Google.com or on Facebook. These are my preferred free ppl search sites at the moment. For Google you should also try out the different tabs like Images to see if you can’t spot the person visually.

If you can then click the image to access the site where the information has been sourced from.

Facebook also give you images in their search results, which is awesome!

Although not inspiring for this particular example, Linkedin.com is also a good free resource you can try out.

3.1.2. Find a person By residential address

Finding someone by their residential address is another way you can use to answer the question, how to find people free of charge. It is one of the most popular reverse people search methods. So the assumption here is that you have the person’s address at hand. The best place to use an address for reverse searching is http://www.whitepages.com. Then Of course try finding property records, which are generally public knowledge. If you go to your city’s website, there should be a link to the properties database. If not then maybe going offline and visiting your county clerk’s office might help. If this does not work then try 411.com, Thatsthem.com or yellowpages.com

3.1.3. Find people online By phone number

You can also find people for free by using their phone number or find out who a phone number belongs to. The idea here is that by using a phone number in your search, you can then reveal more information associated with it.

While whitepages.com is still a good and relevant resource, of late www.facebook.com has proved to be a great source to find people by cell phone number. All you have to do is punch in the person’s cell phone number on their search bar and if the person has submitted their phone number to Facebook (made it public), details of that Facebook user will show up on the screen. If that fails, try entering the number on the Google, Bing or Ask search bars to see what comes up. If not then my last recommendation is www.whocalled.us.

3.1.4. Find people online By email address

If you have an email address of the person you are looking for then use free email reverse search to identify the owner or to get more information about who it belongs to. If the domain name is not public e.g. shows a company name not a gmail or yahoo email then it’s easy. Simply visit the domain name via your browser. However if it’s one of those public emails then you need to put in a bit of effort. I would first suggest that you try trace the location of the sender (assuming that you received an email from that person).

This can be done by tracking the IP address of the sender. Now this is another topic for another day but you can find a lot of information on how to do this online. Once you’ve done that at least you cannot focus of email finders from that particular area.

As you can see you can find people free of charge by running a reverse people search. If this is of particular interest in your search then I suggest you read the detailed information on how to do this here: free reverse people search. In the article we dig even further to show you how to find people for free by using their picture, country, IP address, birthdate, social security number (SSN), License plate and more.   Otherwise I still have 6 more ideas to share with you below.

3.2. Find anyone using people search engines

In the years I have been blogging about ppl search, I have found that 99.9% of these people search sites charge a certain about to run a people search on their site. As I mentioned earlier, they allow you to search but when you want to retrieve the results, they ask that you either pay a onetime fee or sign up as a subscriber.

One trick that has worked out well for some of our readers is using their free trials. You find a people search site that offers a free 7-day or 30 day trial then sign up. Well, you don’t just sign up, start with running the search and if it looks like they have the information about the person, then subscribe. Once you get access to the information you can then unsubscribe before you are charged for the information.  Now this borders more towards black hat tactics so I leave it to you to decide if you want to use this approach or not.

Note that when you choose this options they will ask you to enter valid payment information such as a credit card and you must if you expect them to give you access to the person’s details. Most of the sites also has a paypal payment options. Just make sure you cancel before your trial period is over – otherwise you will be billed.

3.3. Google people search

Most people have no idea how effective Google can be when wondering how to find people free of charge. Below are some  few examples that you can use.

3.3.1.  Google Search bar

We start with the obvious one; try typing in the details of the person that you have and google might just give you the results you are looking for – don’t bet on this though. While you are on this, make sure to view all the different tabs available e.g. images, news and even books (hey you never know where you answers are lying).

3.3.2. Google advanced search

If you go to https://www.google.com/advanced_search then you will have the options to customize your search a bit better. You can instruct Google to search for specific words, exclude certain terms, search within a given location etc. Just skip where you don’t have details to enter.

3.3.3. Google search tools

By clicking on the tools tab you can instruct google to search within a certain time frame, which is great for sifting all those useless pages.

3.3.4. Google alerts

set up Google alerts of the person’s name and yours. I delve a bit deeper on this tactic later on in this article.

3.3.5. Google maps and Google earth

This obviously needs a dedicated guide to show you how to find people free of charge by using maps and google earth. However if you are familiar with the basic uses of these tools then you can try them to locate any person or find more information about anyone.

3.4. Facebook people search

After (or before) Google, this is the site you should spend most of your time on when trying to find someone for free. Nearly 70% of people using the internet have a Facebook account. So horning your skill on how to use this social site to find people will be worth your time.

Like everything online, Facebook comes with its own limitations. For example some people have hidden their information by turning on privacy settings, which means you can’t access them. So there is a chance the person you are looking for is on Facebook but you can’t see them because they’ve hidden their details. You could go around this if you know the person and are trying to reconnect. This way Facebook will eventually recommend them to you (if your user data tallies with theirs e.g. went to same school, know the same people etc.). Then you can send that person a friend request and the rest would be history.

3.5. Find people using public records

Public records are made up of information that can be accessed by just about anyone. Some of the information is made up of user generated content (UGC) and some of it is from public entities like government organizations. Most people refer to the latter when talking about public records.

While public records are meant to be accessed by the public without actually paying a fee, these records are kept and made available through agencies who may request a fee for their services as provided for in the public records act. There is, however an upper limit to what they can charge per page i.e. about 15 cents. This of course varies from state to state and sometimes from record to record. Below is an extract from the act

“(a) In determining the actual per page cost for providing photocopies of public records, an agency may include all costs directly incident to copying such public records including the actual cost of the paper and the per page cost for use of agency copying equipment. In determining other actual costs for providing photocopies of public records, an agency may include all costs directly incident to shipping such public records, including the cost of postage or delivery charges and the cost of any container or envelope used.”

Example fees table

public records fee schedule table

Just as well, availability of the public records is can vary by federal and state law, as well as extenuating factors such as juvenile cases, adoption cases. Some records may be sealed or expunged.

Depending on which area you want to search from, you will find that some agencies have made the information available online. For example, Erie County has been scanning and putting documents online for a while now and have made available on http://ecclerk.erie.gov/recordsng_web/. While you have to subscribe and pay a fee for the information, their basic offering, which comes without images is free. So it might be that you have to go over a few state or county websites to find the one that will let you search and find public records free of charge.

Some of the individual public records you can find from these agencies include birth and death certificates, marriage certificates and divorce decrees, deeds, mortgages, and other related property records, court records, various licenses, including professional and business licenses, driving records, criminal records, including wants and warrants, voter registration and election records, sex offender records, unclaimed property and missing persons.

The simplest way to access these is to simply Google “public records” + “type of record”+ state or county. There will be a list of websites you can try out. Then vary the type of record e.g. put in marriage records, arrest records etc. depending on where you suspect the details of the person can be found.  Being government led data, there are some formal procedures you may have to follow to access the data such as submitting a public records request. You can do this by email, request form found on the sites, regular mail or in person at the agency’s offices. Write to the attention of the public records officer.

3.6. How to find people free with the latest free to use technology

There are a number of tools that you can utilize when trying to find people for free. In this section I will discuss just two.

3.6.1. Alert services

There are some tools that enable you to monitor the web for new content that people put up from all over the world. Now imagine if you could use this tool to monitor information that is put up about the person you are looking for.

The most popular alert services is www.google.com/alerts. You will need to have a Gmail account to set up the free alerts from Google. Below is an example of how to set up the alert.You can click the “show options” link and it will open up some options. As shown below

how to find people free - susan crow Google alerts options example

Choose what works for you. You can always edit these options later (if your current settings don’t work as effectively for you). I would change “how often” to as-it happens and “how many” to all results. Then click the “create alert” button and you should be set up.

A few tips on how to find people free of charge using alert services;

Tip#1: You can set up as many alerts as you like e.g. enter variations of the person’s name e.g. “Susan Crow”, “Susan J. Crow”, “Susan Jane Crow”. As I mentioned earlier, the first option may just yield too many irrelevant results when compared to the other options but then again not everyone uses their initial or middle name that often.

Tip#2: You can try your luck by setting up an alert for a piece of information you have about her e.g. phone number, residential address, email address.

Tip#3: Try to think of subject matters that would interest her and follow them as well. You might find that you end up hanging in the same places online and meet up from there.

I have found Google to work quite well for me but to broaden your scope you can also use www.talkwalker.com/alerts. This is an alerting system that focuses on monitoring various sources online including forums, social networks blogs, and news.

3.6.2. People search Apps

Apps are the most recent phenomenon that is taking the mobile web by storm. I have found a few people search apps that you can try out. I will be honest, I haven’t yet exhausted by tests with some of these apps. However my observation is that on the people search side, apps are still trying to catch up in terms of quality. Most of the reviews for top apps are negative, which makes it difficult for me to recommend the best free people finder app.

My recommendation is that you visit the apps stores (I checked out the Android store, which seems to have more options) and download those with a better rating (yes! Just make sure to read those reviews). Then try them out and if it’s not working for you delete it and try another one.

After all, you are looking for a free people lookup service and I told you “free is not as cheap” – so do put in the time if you don’t have money to spare. My starters (not to say they are the best – just look descent) would be the ark app, they claim to have over one billion people’s profiles and have review from some of the top media publishers.  “People search by peoplelooker”. They offer free lookups for up to a certain about of information then you will have to pay for more.

3.7. Leaving Digital footprints

So far in this guide my focus has been on finding information about a person online. Meaning, trying to detect or identify pieces of information that have been left behind by the person or someone else who happened to mention the person in documents uploaded and indexed on the internet.
I want to end this guide with a twist.

So if all fails, which as you know by now it probably will, then you can try leaving your own digital footprints for the person to pick up (hopefully). For example, if you are looking for a long lost friend and you can’t find anything about him on the internet then put up your own information – in case there are people looking for you. Typically any person searching for someone else will Google anyone they are looking for before they use more advanced people finder methods – so if you put your info out there, Google will find it and present it to the person who is looking for you.

Tips to do this effectively

Tip#1: Put up details that you know the person would look up about you.

Tip#2: Be active in online communities where he/she would typically hang out. Even make your username a nickname he/she would identify. So if he knew you as a skate boarding lover, find relevant forums and be very active while giving away pieces of information about yourself.

Tip#3: One other way on how to find people free is to start a blog using one of those free services like WordPress or BlogSpot. Even set up social accounts with your visible identity (keeping in mind that some other people will also access this info in future – so share responsibly).

Tip#4: My final tip is to make sure that you always associate the information you share about yourself with the person’s information. The reasoning here is that the person will most likely Google themselves sometime in the near future so you want to make sure that his find leads him to a page where you are also mentioned and would then be able to reach out and get in touch. This is why the concept of a blog is a great idea because in it you can even have articles about your past activities with your friend – mentioning each other’s details in the article.

Tip#5: If you know search engine optimization (SEO) you could then build links to these pages to make sure that they show up first in Google, Bing and other search engines when that person decides to do a people lookup of himself or you. If you are one of those search engine people or experts then this should come easy for you, if you are not no sweat, there are plenty of SEO tutorials online.

If you’ve been patient enough to read up to this far then you should by now know how to find a person free and where to search for people online. If you apply the tips presented here taking into consideration the limitations shared.  The topic “how to find people free of charge” online is quite broad and cannot be exhausted in a single guide. This is why there are more articles here on Findwhoo.com that dives into the specific topic of interest. In some of the guides we provide a walk through and visual cues to help you find person with ease. So do take the time to check them out and learn more about how to find people for free.

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