If you’re in the process of trying to locate lost loved ones online, the last thing on your mind might be identity theft or fraud. Like any internet-based business however, the information you provide to a people search service may be at a security risk.
People search scammers are experts at obtaining not only your own personal and payment information, but whatever private data you provide them to enable the people search. How can you protect yourself against identity theft and still find someone safely online?
First and foremost, thorough research is a must when you are exploring internet people search options. The simple truth is there is no way to determine whether or not a particular people search service is legitimate based on website appearances alone. It is crucial that you take the time to investigate any service you consider using.
Verify the Authenticity of People Search Services Online
Rate people search services on the following questions before you sign up, register with, or pay for any search, no matter how harmless creating an account might seem.
1. Is there a verifiable address and telephone number for the service? If not, look elsewhere. It should be a simple matter to call and obtain a telephone number for any reputable internet-based people finder.
Be sure the address matches the telephone number with telephone directory listings. Legitimate services will seek to capitalize on their locale as they are specialists in locating individuals in their area. If you are looking for an Australian people search service, it makes sense to verify they are in Australia.
Once you’ve verified the physical address and telephone number of a people search service, contact them directly and rate their responses to the following questions:
2. How long have they been in business?
3. Where were their investigators trained? Can this be verified?
4. What is their success rate? What data can they provide to verify this claim?
5. Can they provide references? Contact at least three references and ask them about their experience with the people search service you’re considering. Did the service help them locate someone? Were they satisfied with the service? How would they rate their experience overall on a scale of 1-10?
6. How will payment be made? Internet-based businesses may accept payment through Pay Pal or another well-known merchant services account. It should always be a secure transaction and the company should provide you with information about the exact nature of their payment security features.
Never send payment information via email – only through a verified secure website. If you prefer to pay by credit card over the telephone, they should allow you to do so. Take note of the time of payment and the name of the individual who processes your transaction.
7. What will they do with the personal information you provide them about yourself and the person you’re looking for? Are the methods they plan to use ethical? Are they legal? If in doubt, have an attorney verify the search methods are legal in the area where the search will be conducted.
8. How soon will your search begin?
9. When you can expect results? How often you will receive updates? Hold the people search service accountable by following through with these commitments.
10. Is there any guarantee? There may be no guarantee you will receive the results you are looking for, or that an individual will be found. But what if nothing at all is found, even data you might find irrelevant?
At the very least people search services should guarantee to provide you with verification of their search efforts. Even if they find nothing, at least you will be assured an honest effort was made.