Search Smart - People Search Company

By: Amber Higgins

People searches are an increasingly popular way to conduct business and reconnect with old friends. But a people search is only useful if it is accurate. There are three areas - data quality, customer service, and company history - where consumers can look to be confident that the searches will contain information they need.

Point 1: Data Quality
The main factor for data quality is completeness. Completeness means the number of search resources, update frequency, and how far back the data goes, and also how much information is included in the search report. People search companies are essentially data aggregators which access a huge range of public and private records to compile the search report. Determining data quality can be difficult, but there are some general questions to ask before running a search:
&bullHow frequently are their records updated? The databases which the people search company use have to be updated often in order to provide accurate information. A good search company updates their records at least every two months.
&bullHow far do those records go back? Many state and federal records go back to the 1950s, while some phone databases are only good for that year. Make sure that the people search company's data goes back far enough to provide a complete history.
&bullHow many, and what type, of resources do they use for a search? This information is almost always confidential, but they should be able to tell you in general whether they have state-by-state information, national databases, and what kinds of databases they access.
&bullIs their information tested for accuracy? A reliable people search company conducts independent tests for the quality of source information they use. The exact testing procedures are different between companies; ask what process they use to verify that their data sets are accurate.
&bullHow much information is included in the search report? Some people search companies only provide the last three mailing addresses and no phone number; others provide all data available for the past ten years, plus current contact information. Request a sample report to find out whether you will get enough information to work with.

Point 2: Customer Service
Not every search is successful at the beginning; some return no results or return too many for the person to identify their query with any certainty. The people search company's customer service can make the difference between a fruitless and successful search.

Most people search companies only offer email or online support. Look for a people search company that provides an "about us" page and direct contact information, including a phone number. A live service representative can explain difficult portions of the search report or help with technical problems. Some better people search companies even provide an extra service to work directly with search experts who conduct manual searches based on custom criteria. Better service can translate into much better accuracy for a person search.

Point 3: Company History
The threshold to become a people search company is low - essentially just buying a CD of old public records and setting up a website. The only way to determine whether the company is reputable is to do a little research. Look for a few different kinds of company information:
&bullBetter Business Bureau ratings. Many people search companies have "unsatisfactory" ratings with the Better Business Bureau because of poor data quality or customer experiences. A good rating with the Better Business Bureau indicates better quality.
&bullTime in business. Many people search companies have been in business less than a year. The more time a company is in business, the better their resources and experience.
&bullCompany standards and code of ethics. There are no standards or industry groups for people search companies. Each company sets its own standards, so check out its website for defined limits, such as not performing searches for minors, celebrities, or law enforcement personnel.

What to Search For
Doing research - or just asking direct questions - about a people search company provides a measure of certainty the people search report will contain accurate data. Checking the data quality before running a report increases the likelihood that you receive the information you're looking for, while checking into the company's background and service policies ensure that you have a satisfactory experience.

services provide accurate information, which helps customers make informed decisions.

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