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People search websites, sometimes called people finder sites, are websites that collect and sell personal information.
You might want to use one to learn more about a new neighbor, potential roommate or first date, or to look up an old friend. Private investigators, law enforcement and the media could even turn to them during an investigation. There's also the danger that hackers and identity thieves are using the sites.
Here's what you should know about these sites, how to check if your own information is on one and other ways to protect your identity.
How Do People Search Websites Work?
People search websites are a type of data broker, a general term for companies that specialize in collecting, storing and selling information.
People search sites may collect data from local, state and federal public records, along with information that's posted online in public forums and on social media. They may also purchase information from private companies, including other types of data brokers.
The sites might be ad-supported and give users free access to the information. However, many people search sites require you to sign up for a subscription or to purchase a one-off report. Some may also have different pricing options, with more in-depth background reports available for higher fees.
What Information Do People Search Sites Have?
You may be surprised how much information these sites collect and what can appear in a people search website report. The specifics will vary by person and by site, the information available about you either for free or for sale could include your:
- Name, previous names and aliases
- Age and gender
- Current and previous addresses
- Current and previous roommates
- Phone numbers and email addresses
- Marital status, records and divorce records
- Family members, including children, parents and extended family
- Social media profiles and other online activity
- Occupation and estimated income
- Political affiliations
- Education level
- Property records
- Criminal and civil records, including bankruptcies, liens and judgments
How to Check a People Search Site for Your Information
If you want to find out if your information is on a people search site, you can search for your name or other identifying information on the site. You could also do a general search online for your name or information.
The sites may share some basic details and could even indicate what's available in a paid report. However, you won't necessarily be able to get a full report (even your own) without paying.
Can You Remove Your Information From People Search Sites?
There aren't currently any federal laws that require people search sites to remove your information. While a few states have laws aimed at data brokers, they might not apply to public records.
However, many people search sites do have opt-out pages or forms you can use to request the removal of your information. But it could be an arduous process that requires you to identify the specific URL with your information or track down your record identification numbers. You'll have to repeat this process with every website that has your information, and if your records appear with one website under several names, perhaps due to a typo, you may need to repeat this process for each profile.
It's also important to keep in mind that the request might not remove your information from the data source. You may also need to re-submit requests in the future and keep an eye out for new people finder sites that pop up.
If you don't want to go through the process on your own, Experian's personal privacy scan can do much of the legwork for you by automatically identifying covered people search websites that have your information. With an Experian IdentityWorks℠ Premium or Family membership, you can use the tool to automatically submit removal requests to these sites every month, which saves you the time of doing it manually.
Protect Your Personal Information and Identity
Keeping your identity safe can be a difficult and ongoing process. Asking people search sites to remove your personal information is a great first step. But it's also important to monitor other parts of the internet for your data and suspicious activity.
Experian IdentityWorks℠ offers individual and family plans with various features to safeguard your personal information and identity. The personal privacy scan will help keep your personal information off well-known people search sites. You can receive automatic alerts if there's a suspicious change in your credit report or your information appears on the dark web. And, if something does happen, the fraud resolution service and identity theft insurance can help you restore your identity and cover eligible expenses.