Uncover Your Subject's Past: How Online PIs Dig Deep (2024)

Today, it’s easier than ever to find information about someone online. While social media sites and search engines provide a wealth of data, they only scratch the surface of what’s available in public records and proprietary databases. This is where online private investigators come in.

four detectives chatting in a blue-lit room

Unlike amateur online sleuths, professional online PIs have access to sophisticated tools and datasets that enable them to conduct in-depth background checks remotely. Read on to learn how they leverage technology to uncover hard-to-find details about a person’s past and present.


Gathering Basic Personal Details

The first step in any background check is gathering the subject’s core biographical information like:

  • Full legal name
  • Previous legal names and aliases
  • Date and place of birth
  • Current and previous home addresses
  • Phone numbers
  • Email addresses


Online PIs collect this data from basic web searches, public records aggregators, and social media snooping. Resources like spokeo.com compile data from sources like phone books, business websites, and social networks.

For a small fee, sites like these provide a wealth of info about an individual’s online footprint. Public records aggregators also compile data from sources like:

  • Birth and death certificates
  • Marriage and divorce filings
  • Property deeds and titles
  • Voter registration databases
  • Business licenses


Armed with the subject’s basic details, the investigation can dig deeper.


Searching Court Records and Legal Documents

a picture of a person using a computer with his hands in focus

One of the most valuable resources for background checks are state and county court records. These contain a goldmine of info, including:

  • Criminal records – Arrests, convictions, court dates, fines/sentencing
  • Civil records – Lawsuits, personal injury cases, tenant disputes, small claims
  • Family records – Divorce, child support, custody battles, adoptions
  • Probate records – Wills, estates, guardianships


Sites like SearchQuarry.com allow registered users to search through billions of public documents and court records from jurisdictions across the country.

For a modest subscription fee, online PIs can look up case dockets by name, date, location, and type of filing. This turns up records related to the subject that they may have tried to bury.


Searching Property and Assets Documentation

Another way they gather intel is by searching databases of property records and asset ownership documentation. Sites like BeenVerified let you search property records by address or owner name across 120+ million US properties.

You can find details like:

  • Property values and taxes
  • Mortgage liens
  • Foreclosure and vacancy history
  • Property size and features


This can uncover info about a subject’s current and former residences and their histories as homeowners, tenants or borrowers.

Asset searches through public business registries can also uncover information about a person’s business dealings and holdings. You can find info on assets like:

  • Home and vehicle ownership
  • Business partnerships and investments
  • Bankruptcies and tax liens
  • Patents, licensing deals and royalties


Having documentation related to the subject’s major assets gives greater context about their financial situation and net worth.


Searching Social Media and Other Online Platforms

a hand with what appears to be floating icons

With billions of users generating endless streams of updates, photos, and location check-ins, social media is a data goldmine for investigation.

While much of this data is private, an experienced online PI knows how to extract public information and piece together details about a subject’s:


In addition, extensive web searches can turn up accounts on niche sites related to:

  • Dating and relationships
  • Jobs and professional networks
  • Shopping and classifieds
  • Gambling and gaming
  • Genealogy and ancestry


The digital crumbs we all leave behind offer glimpses into our habits, lifestyles, beliefs and relationships. PIs simply know where to look.


Searching Private Databases and Specialized Tools

The free online search techniques and public records provide a solid starting point. However, the most thorough background checks utilize private investigation tools and proprietary data sources.

Database access

Professional grade databases like LexisNexis, TLOxp, and Accurint go far beyond basic public records. Online PIs get access to:

  • Hundreds of millions of detailed profiles
  • Thousands of data sources
  • Historic and current information
  • Household members and associates
  • Assets, property, legal issues and more


This high-powered access helps investigators connect the dots by finding links between a subject and people, places, assets, court cases, etc.


Social media monitoring

a detective using his phone while driving a vehicle

Special social media monitoring tools comb through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other networks to find every scrap of public data tied to a subject. This can unveil social connections, photos, aliases, geotags, and networks.


Email tracking

Email tracking platforms can be used to confirm email addresses and track email opens. This verifies contact points and tests if the subject remains active on certain accounts.


Mobile and vehicle history

Databases from vendors like CARFAX allow PIs to uncover details about a subject’s current and past vehicles. This includes ownership records, accidents, insurance claims, registrations, repairs and more.

Meanwhile, phone lookup tools can provide current and previous numbers, carriers, and IP details that help investigators connect digital dots.


Person locator services

For finding someone or verifying identities, systems like Spokeo People Search, AnyWho, and PeopleFinders offer batch processing of searches across hundreds of data sources.

This makes tracking down a subject’s current whereabouts much easier than through manual web searches alone.


Utility Records and Usage History

Investigators can gain valuable personal insights on a subject through utility records that are often overlooked. Databases allow authorized access to consumer utility account details across services like:

Electricity – Providers maintain records on household account holders, service addresses, usage patterns over time that imply occupancy.

Water – Similar account and consumption data can confirm current or prior residences tied to a subject.

Gas – Propane and natural gas accounts also provide location breadcrumbs through billing and service records.

Waste – Some jurisdictions like California provide public access to waste utility accounts associated with names/addresses.

Internet – ISP records can reveal service locations and IP addresses associated with a subject over time through subscriber information.

By compiling identified utility accounts, record of usage at specific addresses can complement or validate other public and property records showing a subject’s historical locations and household size.


Leaked and Paste Databases

a man in a suit holding a sign reading investigations

Investigators may check paste sites and breach databases where hackers leak stolen account information. Sites like HaveIBeenPwned let investigators search for exposed emails or usernames to uncover:

  • Previous data breaches the subject’s information appeared in
  • Associated passwords or security answers that may assist access
  • Dating site accounts, online forums or social media profiles linked to emails
  • Other screennames and associated accounts surfaceable through cross-referenced emails


This can provide details about a subject’s digital security habits, account reuse patterns, and additional online properties for profiling their tech footprint across both surface and dark web sources.

While ethical questions exist around use of illegally obtained data, it can provide raw intelligence for trained investigators to advance wider inquiries through above-board methods.


Following Ethical Best Practices

While the depth of data available to online PIs is formidable, it does not give them free license to obtain information by any means necessary. Licensed pros understand the importance of working within legal and ethical boundaries.

Some important guidelines include:

  • Only accessing databases they have legal authority to use for investigation purposes
  • Refraining from fraud, hacking, or identity theft to obtain private records
  • Being upfront about their purpose if contacting sources for information directly
  • Respecting privacy by only disclosing necessary information to clients
  • Handling sensitive information discreetly and securely


When You Need In-Depth Investigating

Thanks to search engines and social networks, finding basic information about someone is easier than ever. But when you require deeper, more detailed background data, turning to the public online sources rarely suffices.

That’s when hiring a professional online private investigator is the wise solution. Their sophisticated data access and analytical skills take background checks to the next level.

So if you need discreet, ethical and accurate investigation work, connect with a highly reviewed online PI agency. They have the tools and data resources regular people don’t.

Just remember that thorough background checks require combing through sources that may reveal unpleasant surprises. Make sure you’re ready to handle any potentially unflattering or sensitive revelations before launching an in-depth investigation about someone!


What kind of confidential information can an online PI legally access?
They have access to most public records but cannot legally access sealed documents like juvenile records, sealed adoption records, or classified government documents without court approval.
They may use partial names, aliases, email addresses, social media accounts, relatives’ info, property records, facial recognition, and other creative search strategies to find those evading detection.
Experienced PIs corroborate online sources against other verified public records, conduct interviews to confirm findings, and have access to proprietary verification tools and databases.
They can access public property, deed, bankruptcy, lien, and foreclosure records that provide useful snapshots of finances. They cannot legally access private banking or investment account details without consent.
Most jurisdictions forbid private investigators from impersonating others online or creating fake accounts for investigation purposes without proper legal authority.
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