One of the great things about the Internet is that it offers so many ways for people to connect. With people search sites such as Spokeo, social media, genealogy sites, and even plain old Google, it’s easier than ever before to track down that former colleague, distant cousin or long-lost love.
With that in mind, you might occasionally wonder, “Who is searching for me, and why?” After all, you might be that “distant” cousin for good reasons. More importantly, not everyone who’s looking for you necessarily has your best interests at heart. While there’s no surefire way to find out whether people are looking for you, we have a few helpful suggestions to consider.
Before we go any further, a disclaimer: all searches performed on Spokeo are confidential.
Who is Searching For Me, and Why?
Keeping on top of this isn’t simply a question of vanity or idle curiosity. Suppose, for example, it becomes clear that collection agencies are suddenly taking an interest in your life. This is one of the biggest red flags that you’ve been a victim of identity theft, and that scammers are actively defrauding you.
On a more positive note, it may be someone is looking for you because of a bequest from a distant relative, or because the deceased named you as an insurance beneficiary. You might be a possible organ donor for someone in your extended family, or perhaps an old flame is reaching out to you in case the spark is still there. As with so much of your online life, there’s always a reason to know what’s going on and why.
Start by Assessing Your Online Visibility
It may sound counterintuitive, but the most useful starting point for this exercise might be a quick review of your own digital presence. Knowing what information about you is publicly available, and where, and what the gaps are, can give you some insight into what anyone searching for you might be curious to know.
Spokeo’s people search tools are your best bet for this sort of thing. Work your way methodically through the name, email, phone and address searches, and take note of what information is out there. If your life is highly visible, you can be reasonably certain that anyone who wants to find you can do so (and by inference probably already has, if they’re looking). If you’re okay with that, great! If not, you can take steps to minimize your digital footprint and be less accessible.
Similarly, any gaps in your visible information can provide clues to the reasons people are looking for you. If there’s little to tie you to a physical location, for example, a lot of searchers might simply be trying to distinguish you from others with the same name. To narrow things down further, you’ll need to do a bit of digging.
Start With a Google Alert
Back in the heyday of newspapers, people and businesses who were reputation-conscious (or just had oversized egos) could sign up for a clipping service, which would scour the newspapers for mention of their name. The digital equivalent is setting up a Google Alert for your name.
It’s important to understand that this won’t tell you that someone has Googled your name. What it does, instead, is search for mentions of your name in a variety of places, including news sites, blogs, websites and forum discussions. You can tweak the alerts to restrict them to specific sources or geographic regions (very handy if your name is common); decide whether to receive all alerts or just the ones most likely to be pertinent, and you can receive them as an email or through an RSS news feed.
Seeing where your name is mentioned, and why, and in what context, will often help you deduce who’s looking for you and why.
Leverage Your Blog or Personal Site
If you have your own website or blog, for personal or professional reasons, you can leverage that to gain some insight into who is looking for you. Popular analytics tools from your website’s hosting service, or from Google, can tell you surprising things about the people who visit your page.
Services offered by your host are probably similar to those from Google Analytics. Once you’ve set up Analytics (and depending how you set it up), Google can tell you how someone arrived at your site (typing it directly vs. search results vs. a link from another site), as well as their IP address, which can tell you roughly where they’re located. For example, if the referral came from a genealogy site, and the IP address corresponds to a place where you have plenty of family, that would imply members of your extended family trying to find you.
More detailed analytics can show you things like which parts of your site a given visitor clicked through, and which of those they spent time on. With this sort of information at your disposal, you can make some educated guesses about who’s looking for you and why.
Check Social Media and Special-Interest Forums
Many social media sites have at least limited ways to find out who’s been looking for you. The most explicit of those is at LinkedIn, which makes sense given that site’s positioning as a professional networking service. If you’re using the free tier of the service you’ll only see the searcher’s work affiliation and job category, but Premium members can see much more detailed information. If you’re on the free tier and see a spike in views, you can sign up for a trial of the Premium service to see who’s checking up on you (as of this writing, LinkedIn offers a month-long free trial of the Premium service).
Facebook won’t tell you who has viewed your profile (a much-desired feature) but there are a couple of workarounds. One is to post as a “Story,” rather than to your news feed. These posts will disappear within 24 hours, but while they’re up you’ll see a small eyeball icon in the lower corner of the post. If you click that, you can see who has viewed your Story. If you’re active in public or private Facebook groups, you can also hover over the “Seen by” link to see who has viewed your post.
Twitter also won’t tell you specifically who has viewed your profile, but it has its own built-in analytics tool. It’s primarily meant for businesses who use Twitter to build engagement or conduct advertising campaigns, but it’s still useful. It breaks out which of your tweets gathered the most views, and tells you demographic details like gender, household income, and your visitors’ own interests. That can help you make some educated guesses.
It’s a Process
Like most forms of online self-defense, being aware of who’s looking for you is not a one-and-done affair. Think of it instead as a regular habit, a form of online hygiene, like regularly assessing your online digital footprint and scheduling a reminder to take advantage of Spokeo’s Identity Theft Protection service launching in 2021.
Modern life is conducted largely online, and the combination of Spokeo’s tools and your own diligence can give you the confidence to live it well.