Internet Manhunt: Six Tools to Track People Online

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BBC’s Paul Myers. Photo: Madelene Cronjé

To find someone online, the BBC’s internet sleuth Paul Myers says you’ll first need as many unique details as you can gather: name, date of birth, town and country, phone number, usernames and names of any associated companies, in order to be sure the person you are investigating  is the right one.

Following are six tools from Myers’s #GIJC17 presentation in Johannesburg: “Internet Manhunt: Backgrounding and Tracking People Online.”

Aggregating Online Information

Spokeo is a people search website that aggregates data from online and offline sources. The firm pulls together information from public records, giving users access to 12 billion public records. By entering the name, physical address, email address or social profile name, the researcher can find detailed information about the person they are researching, including where that person has lived, who lived with them and much more.

Pipl is a people search engine that searches the “invisible” web for information. The engine searches across social networks, search engines and databases to find information that does’t normally pop up on basic online search engines.

Stalking Social Media

Stalkscan is a third-party tool that can find and highlight any information that’s publicly visible for a particular profile. The user can enter the full link to a person’s profile in the search box and the site will give you quick links to a bunch of searches for things like their photos and videos, and even their social media “likes.”

PeopleFindThor is journalistic tool for getting information about people on Facebook by applying various filters. One can select filters from a drop down menu on the website to apply to the search query. For example, you can search for people who like a specific Facebook page or/and add a location filter.

Phone Number Search

Truecaller is a global telephone directory with both standard use and reverse telephone directory format that has caller ID, social media integration and call-blocking functionality. It uses crowdsourced data, which enables it to work even in countries such as the UK and India where public data is not available. (An alternative to Truecaller is

HLR Lookups is a technology that can check the status of any GSM cell phone number. By making a query to the Home Location Register, the lookup service determines whether that number is valid, whether it is currently active in a mobile network, and if so which network and whether it is roaming. So one can easily see if the owner of hat number is abroad right now.

For more infos and tools check out Paul Myers’s website.

Eva Limmer, Reporter/Author with ARD/BR, Munich

Eva Limmer is a Munich-based reporter and author at the regional outlet of public broadcaster ARD. Before that she worked in the online newsroom of Sueddeutsche Zeitung, mostly covering regional and local news.


Madelene Cronjé is an independent photographer based in Johannesburg, South Africa. Formerly a staff photographer the Mail & Guardian she specializes in photojournalism and editorial portraiture. 

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