How to Find Information About Someone

“We are only investigative superheroes; we’re not demigods.” ~VP

As private investigators, we wish we had superhero powers; sadly, we don’t.  We rely on some tools, certain databases, instinct and know-how to find information about someone.

They certainly do not involve magic, but here are 10 places private investigators go to find information about someone (in no particular order).

1Investigative Database

Investigators have access to professional-grade investigative databases that compile public records, credit header information, telephone information, social network information and other information about people and businesses. There are a number of high-quality databases – available only to licensed private investigators – including Accurint and TLO that compile information from wide variety of sources.

2Court Records

Current and historical court records provide an array of information about a person’s or even a business’ past. While criminal records might be the holy grail of relevant information, don’t overlook the value of civil lawsuits. Disputes with employees, litigiousness and sexual harassment allegations can tell a lot about a person’s character.

3Public Records

In addition to court records, a vast amount of public information is widely available in the U.S., including records relating to property transactions, corporation records and various government records. The problem is that the information is fractured and not quick and easy to search and review. That is why investigators use services such as LexisNexis and Westlaw, which gather millions of public records into searchable databases.

4Social Networks

Whether you like them or not, social networks are gaining popularity every day. There are more than 1.6 billion active users daily on Facebook and 126 million active users on Twitter. In addition to the most popular social networks, there are hundreds of other niche social networks. Although users of social networks are becoming increasingly cautious about the information they post, social networks continue to be a treasure trove of information.

5News Archives

Despite what people think, most historical news coverage is not available on the Internet without paying a hefty fee. Millions of current and historical news items are available through services like LexisNexis, Factiva and Proquest, each of which has a vast array of news publications not widely available on the Internet or through Google.

6Government Repositories

Military records, state government records, lobbyists’ records, Securities and Exchange Commission records and federal government contract information are just a sampling of the types of records available through various state and federal government agencies. And if the information is not immediately available online, there is a good chance you can request it under the federal Freedom of Information Act or similar state legislation.


Did you know that, in most states, your garbage is no longer considered your personal property once you bring it out to the curb for disposal? Consider what you don’t shred when you throw out your garbage: medical records, credit card bills, telephone bills, etc.  (If you don’t have a shredder, maybe you should buy one.)

8Human Intelligence

What we like to describe as human intelligence comes in various forms, including surveillance; contacting sources; or interviews with a person’s neighbors, colleagues or former friends. You might be surprised by what people will say.

9The Internet

With more than 1,300,000 domains and bajillions of pages, the Internet is filled with information about people, businesses and topics of interest. The difficult part is harnessing the information and weeding through the bajillions of pages of information to find credible and reliable information.

10Motor Vehicle

The state motor vehicle department not only provides details about a person’s traffic infractions, a person’s date of birth, and details such as a person’s height and weight, but in many states it’s the only place to determine if a person has ever been charged with a DWI (driving while intoxicated) offense (some states consider driving while intoxicated a criminal offense). Additionally, in some states, such as New York, you can discover if a person’s license has been suspended for failure to pay child support.

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29 replies
  1. mcgrew
    mcgrew says:

    Please take my asking you for advice of your site on google.
    Can’t believe that anybody can read this by just putting my name in google,including my bf!!!

    Please erase my question to you from your site.

  2. Marika
    Marika says:

    This is regarding a child/custody case with my 2 ten year old granddaughters. They have lived with me since they were born. The mom and dad lived with me until the were 4 years old. Mom has had them with her off and on every other weekend. No one had custody over the girls until last month. Now its joint custody. They were never married. My son is a Narcissist . He’s verbally abusive and threatening the girls. I had to put a restraining order on him. However, I had to withdrawal it due to him needing to pick up the girls and drop off curbside at my residence. His married a young woman with a 7 year old boy. He’s very abusive with him and threatening his wife doesn’t stop him. The first court appearance he was given partial custody with the mother. He lied about where he lives, he put a wrong phone number on the court docs. The judge seems to be leaning his way because mom admitted the girls have primarily resided with me and she had weekend visits. Now the girls are starting counseling (not court ordered) I and the mom requested it. when they come back from his visits they cry and tell me (and mom) all the threats and terrible things he says and he better not find out they told Nana or mom or he’d be mad. One girls he promises her a bedroom of her own, a swimming pool and a horse to ride…One girl is starting to wet the bed now. They tell us they don’t want to go with him. I’ve been told the judge won’t care about the drug issue it was 5 years ago.? I can’t afford / mom can’t afford an attorney..We can’t afford a P.I….we need to get evidence about him that the children should have monitored visits. And no over night visits. He has a drug past however, hasn’t been arrested for 5 years. so the judge said people change. His friend stated my son was selling drugs and using Meth about 1 1/2 months ago. I do not know what to do. The girls told me if their dad and stepmom take them away to live they will climb out the window one night and run away. The court won’t request an court representative for the girls or she didn’t request counseling for them. The court case is Nov. 23/24 2015 ….The girls a afraid and we don’t know what to do. Only find a way to show that he is an unstable person & father….Any reply would be appreciated.
    Thank you

    • Rebecca
      Rebecca says:

      Do you have counsel whom is representing you for the court date ?
      I personally would place cameras and voice recorders when he visits, I’d also video take your grandchildren when they come back from his visits. It might be a good idea to write diaries for them as well, there behaviour, how they sleep etc, a pattern may show, proving there stressed/scared during/after there time with there father.
      You could possible ask others to be witnesses, if others have been present during his behaviour. I doubt the drug charge will change much, but you could ask for him to take a drug test. I know in the UK children over (ten I think I is) are asked whom they want to live with and its taken into consideration with the judge.

  3. Brooke
    Brooke says:

    Hi I was wondering if you could tell me exactly what a pi can find out. I have an ex from Colorado. Long distant relationship. And he’s a pi. Long story short I broke up with him. and now he’s threatening to contact my current boyfriend. And tell him a lot of crap that isn’t true. I blocked him on Facebook changed my passwords and everything. He knows my cell number. I was wondering is there anyone he could possibly find out who my current boyfriend is???? I’m scared of losing my current boyfriend over this. I haven’t done anything since he and I got together. But I none the less have sent pictures and other things to my ex. And he’s threatening to show them to him and make it look like I just did it. If you can please give me some advice on what I can do to protect my relationship. And my privacy I’d greatly appreciate it. Thank you in advance. :)

  4. Travis
    Travis says:

    Hi, just had a question about if my ex has moved someone in and I wanted to find out about him because of my sons living there ..would you be able to retrieve his military files along with arrest records on military institutions ?? He was thrown out of military just wanted to know if I could find out why ??

  5. janinemcgrew
    janinemcgrew says:

    Have been in a relationship for 1]1\2 year,love my bf and he loves me but he is very secretive,locked me out of his fb by just quitting,also just sense something.
    We spend weekends from Friday till Tuesday together.
    If I give you his name and email adr could you get into his personal stuff?
    I looks up Spokeo but that’s just public records.
    he is an ex cop so have to be careful.
    Some thing just does not feel right.
    Let me know what you can do and how much it will be.
    Sincerely,janine mcgrew.

  6. Penny
    Penny says:

    To add to the above, it is a catfish situation, if that wasn’t obvious. He has my real name and address….I don’t know his -what he told me was fake. I want to find out who has been texting me and sending me things.

  7. Penny
    Penny says:

    I have been talking to someone online for 4 months and I just googled his name and there is nothing. I have his twitter account, two cell phone numbers, an IG account and his name (which I believe his fake)….can you find the identity of the person with this information?

    • Steve C
      Steve C says:

      Hi Penny,

      There is a good chance he has used his cell phones for other activity which can link back to him. Have you tried Googling the Cell numbers? – sometimes that works but there are databases that are populated with cell phone numbers.

  8. Scarlett
    Scarlett says:

    I am seeking a way to find a possible relative I may just have discovered..I was given an anonymous tip that he is a Grand Prairie(Texas)police officer and only his first name. I have already done social media searches but can’t find any info, plus I’m very reluctant and unsure how to contact his pd.

  9. Desiree
    Desiree says:

    I was just wondering if you can find someone who has been adopted as a minor who is now a adult. I’ve been searching for my daughter over the year’s but seem as though I have no luck. I’ve tried white pages,Fb, Ig but still no luck. I have vital information about her aswell as her aunt , her father,grandmother. Just wondering how would hiring a P.I benefit my situation ?

  10. Michael Caria"so"
    Michael Caria"so" says:

    Dear Sir or Madam,
    I am a student looking to get certified for P.I.
    services. Helping people, finding alterative ways to correct current issues( no madder the issue), creating a safer tomorrow, finding the corrupted in our system and crime prevention are some reasons for me to make an impact. I know I have unique avenues that will benefit my future job immensely. Being a victim I know what it feels like, only in my case its a little different.
    I have been gathering information and proof of state and police corruption. not yet certified, but I will take the information public when ready!
    Plots are illegal and that’s what I’ve encountered.

    Why did you decide to become P.I. and do you have any suggestions when perusing such matter?
    Michael James Cariaso of WA State

    • sara
      sara says:

      Hi I read that you want to become a PI and know a lot of Corruption and will go public when ready. I am caught in a very corrupt situation going public soon also lot of proof please contact me back thank you

  11. John
    John says:

    I am looking to find a long lost friend, I have some basic info, name DoB other people who would be living with them and a prior address. How could a PI assist me? and would it be exspensive?

  12. Andy
    Andy says:

    If someone has outstanding warrants and is hiding from authorities but you have their cell number is there a way to find them?

  13. Curt W
    Curt W says:

    Under what circumstances can bank records, including screen-shots of canceled checks, be available? I’m particularly interested in accounts of a now-closed living trust where the funds may have been misused by the trustee at the time.

  14. Perrin cyril
    Perrin cyril says:

    I am French and fomation to become private investigator, I study your access to databases and I would like to know if you, as a private detective you more access than a normal citizen?
    Because we are in France only has access to the same databases that any citizen! (No right to file vehicle, court records …)
    thank you very much

  15. Ron
    Ron says:

    My favorite are voter registration records. Here in New York City, one can visit any Board Of Elections location, sit down at a computer and access these records by the person’s name or even punch in an address and bring up the names of all registerd voters at that address.

    Here in New York, when a person registers to vote, the are required to complete what is called a buff card. Usually contained in the buff card are the persons date of birth, middle name or initail, place of birth, full address and in most cases their apartment number, sometimes their phone number, even a non pub number, a partial social security number and their political affiliation.

    A historical search can be conducted which will bring up all their former addresses where they were registered to vote. If the voter has moved fom city limits and registered in anothe New York County, there forwarding information may often be included in these records.

    The best piece of information than can be found on a buff card is the voter’s signature, since they must sign the buff card. It is important to note, that failure to willfully provide inaccurate or false information on a buff card is considered purjury under NYS Law. Do people provide false information on the buff cards? Some do but most do not. In any event, people are rarely prosicuted for doing so and some voters do have multipli cards.

    Back in the day when I was a criminal defense investigator I would use these buff cards to find witnesses, sometimes only having a first name and possible address. I would then match up the signatures on the buff card, to the signatures on the court complaints, police statements or other relevant paper work contained within the case discovery materials.

    In New York City, each of the 5 bouroughs have a Board Of Elections office with computers that are available to the public. In some other states, voter registration records can be accessed online.

    Happy Hunting

    • Brian Willingham
      Brian Willingham says:

      Thanks for your comment Ron. While many voter registration records can be found online, the one thing that you typically don’t get is a copy of the signature, which can only be viewed at the local office.

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