This is an exhaustive page of all the ways you can find someone online. If you have a method to add to the list, comment below. This assumes a lawful approach.
The first place you should look is social media. People put tons of information about themselves on social media in order to better communicate with friends, build a brand, or get hired. Specifically look at Pintrest, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Don’t ignore Instagram, Tiktok, Snap Chat, or a person’s YouTube channel subscriptions. Here is an example of one random YouTube user’s subscription feed that is public. Here is how you can pull metadata from a person’s videos posted on YouTube.
Do you know their user name? Check out other sites like Reddit or Quora and see what questions they are asking. Then take that username and do a reverse lookup to find their emails. You can sometimes even guess email addresses with different combinations of firstnamelastname@popularEmail.com.
Everything posted tells you something. Do they have favorite music or movies, quotes, or influences? Now you can use linguistics and personality theory to derive their personality traits. From personality traits you can derive values and motivations. You can even find out where they are more likely to live.
Don’t forget about niche social media sites for things like dog lovers or forums for those who like to fish.
Try Google News if the person you are researching is a public figure.
Linguistics Tells You Everything
The words people use can tell you about their personality. Here is one page that discusses how you can figure out a person’s personality based on the words they write on social media: linguistics and personality. For example, people higher on trait extroversion tend to use words like party, weekend, and love more often, while introverts tend ot use words like internet, anime, and sigh frequently. Read more about psycholinguistics here.
The image a person puts forth can tell you about them. Whether we are talking about the they like, the clothes they wear, or the friends they keep, people curate an image based on what they consume. Here is one page about image and personality and another study on the topic.
Finally the way a person dresses is influenced by the geography they live in. You wouldn’t take pictures all the time in sandals if you lived in a below freezing area.
Linguistics provides us with a few tools for figuring out where someone grew up, and where someone lives. Based on the area of the country and world you live in, you will use certain words over other words. Here are a few examples of sites that correlate word usage to geography: example 1, example 2.
People finders can be useful. Some are free and others are paid. At the time of this article, the following ones have at least some free functionality. These sites can tell you everything from phone numbers, user names, addresses, relatives, and even full background checks. Once you have things like addresses, you can use Google street maps and other images to find more information.
- https://www.zabasearch.com/people Make sure to check the “this is me” box. Because you are searching for information on yourself, right?
There are many public databases that provide a vast variety of information on people. If a person has a blog, check out archive.org/web to see older versions of their posts. Sometimes people will post something and then delete it because it is too personal or irrelevant to the blog. Work on genealogy also can give you useful information on people. Check out prison records if you want to know more about an inmate. Sex offender registries can help you find out if anyone worth avoiding is near your home.
- https://www.archives.com/search/vital (Vital records like birth certificates)
- https://www.familytreenow.com/ (Genealogy)
- https://cocatalog.loc.gov/cgi-bin/Pwebrecon.cgi?DB=local&PAGE=First (Copyright)
- https://www.archives.gov/veterans (Military search)
- https://www.nsopw.gov/ (Sex offenders)
- https://www.bop.gov/inmateloc/ (Federal Inmate search)
- https://www.findagrave.com/ (Site for finding people’s headstones)
Paid/Restricted Research Databases
Paid people research is vastly superior to free. Collection companies, bail bondsman, law offices, and other companies that make money by finding people use one specific tool (or a variation on it). You typically can only have access to these tools by working at one of the places listed above. You might be able to get access at a law library. Try the free to paid versions listed above under “People Finders.”
- Hire a private investigator
Google Search Tricks
Google search’s power shouldn’t be overlooked. It finds some very interesting things on people if you know how to sort through and find it. Learn to use google search operators for a more powerful search. For example “vice president of * at IKEA”. Try other search engines as well as they don’t always have the same information (duckDuckGo, bing, Yahoo).
- Reverse image search (Useful if you have a picture of someone but no name)
- Google Maps Street View (Useful for driving around an area with out actually going there)
- Zillow Houses (Zoom all the way in to see information about house price)
It is best to be aware of tricks people can use to hack you so you can protect yourself. We do not condone anything illegal.
- Fishing emails are emails sent to an address that try to get information from someone. For example they might ask for help finding a lost friend.
- Be careful of the links you post. Links often contain information for a website that localizes and customizes the page to the user. If you aren’t careful you can reveal your location via your links.
- Your home router is an attack vector. Make sure you change the router name and password. If you leave it default, people can simply look up the router name and find exploits and default passwords online easily.
- As mentioned earlier you can guess company emails. Typically they follow a pattern like firstnameLastname@companyEmailOrCompanySiteName.com.
- UserRecon is a terminal tool for looking up usernames across social and other sites.
- Sites like https://shademap.app and http://suncalc.net/ can be used to figure out where a person is based on the shadows in the picture.
- Sites like https://www.earthcam.com, https://zoom.earth, and https://www.instantstreetview.com/ provide additional functionality to google’s street view.
- Try the IP lookup tool here. But you can also use command prompt tools like dig or whois to find information on a site.
- https://osintframework.com/ Gives you a taste of how professionals work.)
If you want to take this to a higher level, check out this post on the career of OSINT, or this page that gives an overview.