There are a lot of good reasons that you might go online and check into the background of someone. There are formal background checks that employers might do, and there are also informal checks you can do, often before you bring someone new into your life. 

Some of the things you can learn about from doing a people search online include:

  • Criminal records, including convictions and pending court cases. 
  • Arrest records. Arrests that don’t lead to someone being convicted of a crime won’t show up on a criminal record, but usually, the record of the arrest itself still exists. 
  • Sex offender status. 
  • Civil records, such as information about child custody disputes, debts, and restraining orders. 
  • Traffic violations. 
  • Information about someone’s financial history, such as bankruptcies and liens. 
  • Marriage and divorce records. 
  • Some lawsuits are public records, including evictions, foreclosures, and small claims cases. 

The following are seven of the key reasons you might do what’s called a people search. 

1. To Check Out a Romantic Partner

If you’re dating someone casually but thinking about getting more serious, you might want to learn more about their background or make sure they are who they say they are. This can become especially relevant in the era of online dating. 

You may even want to check someone out before you meet them for the first time, which isn’t a bad idea. Online dating can open you up to meeting people you wouldn’t have otherwise come across in your daily life, but you also have to stay safe. 

If you do a people search, you can find out if someone is married, older or younger than they say, or if they have a criminal record, just as a few examples. 

If you have a child and you’re entering into a new relationship, it can become even more important to look into that person’s background and makes sure everything checks out. You never want to introduce your child to someone who could be a threat to them, but you can’t always take people at their word when you’re starting a new relationship, unfortunately. 

2. Checking Someone’s Driving Record

You may be able to find information about a person’s driving record before you get in the car with them or maybe before you let a child or loved one ride with them. Depending on the type of search you do, you might be able to find information about speeding tickets and traffic tickets, as well as police reports and criminal records. 

3. Find Relatives and Friends

It’s becoming increasingly common to do online people searches to find relatives. These might be relatives who you knew years before but lost contact with. You can also find relatives you maybe didn’t know existed. For example, you might trace your blood relatives to create your family tree. 

Similarly, you can do a people search to find a lost friend, even if they’ve moved away. 

 4. Verify Someone’s Identity

Along with vetting romantic partners through a people search you do online, there are plenty of other cases where you want to confirm someone’s identity. For example, maybe you’re thinking of renting an apartment from a landlord, and you want to make sure you aren’t being scammed. You might be planning to buy something from a person online, or you could have someone reaching out to you with a job offer. 

5. Finding Out Something About a Former Partner

While we tend to think about doing a background check as something for the beginning of a relationship, there are plenty of instances when you might need to check on a former partner as well. 

If you’re in a child custody dispute, for example, you might want to check into the background of the person you co-parent with and make sure they don’t have any new arrests or red flags on their record that could justify a change in custody. 

Similarly, if you have a former partner who’s in a new relationship and is going to be around the children you share, then you might look into the person’s background. 

6. Screening New Friends

Bringing new friends into your life can be exciting, particularly when you’re an adult, but also a bit stressful. Before you welcome someone into your life, a people search can confirm that they are someone you want to maintain a long-term friendship with. For example, you might want to make sure your new friend doesn’t have a history of scamming people, financial problems, or a criminal record. 

Again, if you’re going to bring a new friend around your children or younger family members, you definitely want to make sure everything they tell you about themselves checks out. 

7. Learning More About New Neighbors

If you’re moving to a new building or neighborhood, doing a people search can help you learn more about your future neighbors. Some families with kids will check to make sure there aren’t registered sex offenders living within a certain distance from their home, for example. 

You can also learn whether your neighbors have a criminal record or anything else of concern that could make you decide to move somewhere else. 

If you have not only kids but also animals that spend time outside, looking up your neighbors can be critical. Even if you live alone, you want to feel like you’re surrounded by people you can trust.

Finally, while the above concepts are related to checking out the background of other people, you can also do a people search for yourself. It’s important to proactively know what other people are going to see when they look your name up online.  

For example, what if you’re looking for a new job and something negative pops up about you? If you know about it before you start your job search, there may be steps you can take to get rid of the information from being public knowledge. 

You may find that you’re surprised about what’s available about you for the world to see if you don’t check up on yourself on a regular basis.