The greatest promise of the early internet was that, quite simply, nobody knew who you were. It put the world on a level playing field and encouraged debates among people who, otherwise, might never meet.
As time has passed, though, the promise of being anonymous on the internet has become twisted. In an age of social media, not being who you say you are means that, sometimes, you’re trying to hide something from the world.
Whether it’s people ‘catfishing’, the act of pretending to be somebody else, in order to initiate a relationship; people adopting fake identities to try and hide their past; or people adopting fake names to avoid their previous associations, there is no shortage of nefarious reasons why people might hide their identity.
Of course, there are also plenty of reasonable and legitimate reasons too, but from a distance, those two can be hard to tell apart.
So, what are the best ways to research somebody online? Join us as we take a look at some of your options.
Running a Background Check
Background checks might seem like something only done by the police or by potential employers, but did you know that you can do them too?
Background checks enable you to find out things like:
- Criminal records (including felonies and misdemeanors)
- National warrants
- Sex offender status
- Global homeland security status
- Employment history
- License verification
- Motor vehicle reports
- Lawsuits and bankruptcies
- Drug screenings
US regulations mean that some of this information isn’t available to individual persons, but much of it is. The best background check services available online start from as little as $22 and have a 98% accuracy rate, making them a fast, secure and convenient way to find out exactly what the story is about the person you’re getting to know.
Of course, if they’re lying about their identity altogether, then a background check won’t be effective other than for confirming that they’re misleading you. In that case, it’s time to move on to…
Searching the Internet
The internet is a vast place and there’s a very high chance that whoever you’re talking to has spent many, many years leaving behind a digital footprint that can be found – if you know where to look.
Start by searching for their name. Using Google, you can do an exact-match search by putting whatever you want to search for in quotation marks. Say you want to find out more about a man called Alan Gray, you’d go to the Google search bar and enter “Alan Gray”. You can also add more detail, like email addresses, the city they say they live in and more.
If they’ve used that name before online, it should show up there. It’s a hugely effective way to find out more about somebody, but it’s not the only way you can use Google to check out the information you’ve received online.
If you don’t believe the pictures you saw online are actually of the person who they’re attributed to, why not perform a Google reverse image search? Doing so couldn’t be any easier. If you’re using Chrome, simply right-click on an image and select ‘Search Google for image’. If not, just save an image and then drag it into a Google search bar.
Google will then search the internet for every instance of that photograph. You’ll see every instance in which the picture has been used. If the picture is clearly of somebody else, you know the person you’re talking with is pretending to be somebody they aren’t.
Investigate their history
If a person is pretending to be somebody they’re not, you can be almost certain that they’re lying about their history too. Luckily, it’s not so hard to find out.
It’s time-consuming, but it can be helpful to look into a person’s claimed history. Have they said they went to a certain college? What about the jobs they’ve held in their past? Oftentimes, these things can be checked with a Google search, but sometimes you may have to call up establishments to make the check. A little politeness and gratitude go a long way in these situations.
You might also want to make friends with their friends on social media. Chatting to them will quickly reveal if they actually know them and, if they do, whether their background is as honest as they say it is.
The most effective way of finding out somebody’s true identity though? Simply ask them. Deep down, most people who are hiding their identity don’t want to maintain the farce. Offering them a judgement-free and honest way out of the situation can often be the smartest path to take.
So, whether you’re checking out a potential roommate, looking into a date to see what they’re hiding or simply putting your suspicions to bed about somebody you know, you’ve now got all the tools you need to find out the truth.