Online People Searches - it's not what you think.
There has been an explosion in the past few years of sites online that claim to tell you everything you want to know about someone. Location, criminal history, assets, phone number, legal history, and many more claims are made leading people to believe that they are just a click away from doing a background check on their sisters weird new boyfriend. Businesses have started using these as well to background check potential employees. Unfortunately, in some states (such as CA) this is illegal. Potential employees must be notified of background checks and be given a copy of all information if desired.
But where does the information from these one-stop people search sites come from? Let's look into that.
Pretend for a minute that the site you've selected actually has some information that your looking for. (many advertise that there is data on your subject, only to find that after you pay, there is none.) Say you want to find out where someone currently lives, how does the website know this? The website purchases this information from retailers and others who collect your information from credit and purchases made. Things like the grocery store rewards card, amazon purchases, your bank, subscriptions, and some even use credit header data.
The problem is that there is no guarantee that the data is true, current, or complete. Putting aside the fact that most people who don't want to be found use a PO box for most everything, a lot of others don't put a real or current address for many reasons. #1 reason, they don't want junk mail.
These search engines determine "current address" status by the date at which the address was reported or sold to them.
Let's look at a very common and real life example of why this doesn't work.
Ted K has a Chase account. 10 years ago when he opened the account, he used an address of 1234 holiday lane as his address on file. This was his address at the time. 2 years later he moves to 5678 hideaway cove. He gets a best buy card and uses his new address for this. 4 years after this Ted decides to get a chase credit card. He goes to his bank and applies for the card and is granted a new card. When Chase runs his credit app, they use his information on file, which is 1234 holiday lane. This address now shows up as the newest one added to Teds credit header info. The people search engine will interpret the information reported like this:
1234 Holiday Lane 2008-Current
5678 Hideaway Cove 2010-2014
In this example ( which is greatly simplified- we are only using 2 data points) you can see that his previous address would be considered current because it was the latest one to be reported. Ted didn't intend to do this, neither did Chase bank. Information is assumed current unless the customer updates it. Now add 25 more data points to this, which would be common over a 10 year period, and see how complicated it can be to find the current address.
The same principal is applied to phone numbers.
It should be worth mentioning that a lot of criminal data is incorrectly reported, and the search engines just combine data that matches. Records with the wrong date of birth, SS number, and name are common and get attributed to the wrong people.
To get accurate results you need an experienced analyst to sort though this data, they can determine what is actually happening and then compare the data against other sources, to verify and fill in blanks. No one source of information should ever be enough to make an accurate report. Professionals have a wide variety of tools for these purposes. The human element is still an important one in the digital age.
Questions or comments - firstname.lastname@example.org