Hi Edwin,

These sites are loaded with gotchas. You need to be careful.

If you want to dig into someone’s background, start with public records. The amount of information collected by local, state and federal governments will blow you away. And lots of it is free for the taking if you know where to look.

Your first stop should be your local county assessor’s website. These sites contain detailed information on the properties in your area, from purchase price to tax information. You can search by name or address.

The easiest way to find your county assessor’s site is a quick Google search. Just type in the county you’re looking for, along with “assessor.”

Once you get there, you can see where your person of interest lives, get details on their home or any other properties they own and much more. You can even view signed documents like the deed to their home. Yes, really.

Feeling curious? Use the search feature to see what kind of house your boss has (and how much they paid for it), check up on your exes or see how much your neighbors paid for their homes. Sure, it’s a little creepy, but it’s all public record.

Every county assessor’s site works a little differently, but here’s an overview of how to search on the Maricopa County site here in Arizona.

If you’re having trouble finding the assessor’s site in your area, head to http://Publicrecords.netronline.com. This directory includes official state and county websites and can help you navigate to yours easily. You can even search by ZIP code to find the correct county.

Does this person have a criminal record?

Luckily, there are lots of ways to find court records online. A simple search may get you there or you can use the National Center for State Courts website to quickly access court records by state.

While court records won’t tell you everything a background check can, they can be pretty enlightening. You can find information like civil and criminal cases along with family court and probate cases.


Select the county you’re looking for and you will be taken to the public access page for court information. Once here, select the type of case you want information on, including civil or criminal. Be thorough and check them all.

Of course, Google the person’s full name in quotation marks, in this case, “Bobby Smith.” There are plenty of Bobby Smiths out there, so you’ll want to narrow your search using other information, such as what city he lives in. If he just moved to your neighborhood from Cincinnati, you’ll want to include that city instead of your own.

If Bobby likes to make friends, a bunch of different social media sites may pop up: Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and scores of others. Many people make their social media profiles invisible to non-friends. To see details, you may have to send him a connection request.

Remember, though, many people don’t use their real names online. If you find Bobby’s online alias, (Smirk Bob, perhaps), you may find that Bobby uses the same screen name for his other social media accounts.

Let me know how else I can help!