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How to do an online background check for free

And how to protect your own image online

There are plenty of reasons for doing an online background check - and not all of them are dodgy. So here's how to do a thorough online background check without spending any cash.

I know what you're thinking - but hear me out. Plenty of reasons for doing an online background check exist, and not all of them are sketchy.

In fact, everyone should do at least one online background check on - you guessed it - themselves. After all, if you can find out sensitive information about yourself with a little (free) online sleuthing, there's no telling what employers, stalkers, and ex-girlfriends or -boyfriends will be able to uncover.

So here's how to do a thorough online background check without dropping any cash.

If you know your target's name

If you know name of the person you're looking for, the first places you should check are the usual venues - good old search engines and social networks. Google, Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter are all good stepping-stones for discovering valuable information about people.

Google is your first stop for a DIY background check. Remember to use advanced search techniques when looking people up on Google or other search engines. Just enclosing your search terms in quotation marks will help immensely in weeding out non-correlated or irrelevant search results. If the person you're searching for has a common name, you should also add any information you know about them after the quotation marks. For example, if I search for "sarah jacobsson purewal" pcworld, I'm going to get more details about the Sarah Jacobsson Purewal who writes for PC Advisor's sister title PCWorld, helping to narrow my search down a bit.

Use any information you know about this person, including places of work, types of work, schools they've attended, cities they've lived in, and the names of other people they know. You can also use site-specific searches if you're looking for someone within a school or business. For example: site:pcworld.com "sarah jacobsson purewal" will give a list of search results found only in the PCWorld.com domain.

NEXT PAGE: Search social networks

  1. Not all reasons for background check are shady
  2. Search social networks
  3. If you don't know your target's name
  4. Web domain/IP address

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