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April 6, 2014

Be your own online detective

NORMAN — Have you ever wanted to track down someone’s whereabouts but didn’t know where to start and you didn’t want to pay a high-priced private investigator? To the rescue comes the Internet, which is brimming with ways to find long-lost relatives or investigate shady characters.

One place to start is Zabasearch.com. Zabasearch lets you do free searches by name, age, city and state. The more information you provide, the better the search results. The results can include address, phone number, age and the names and ages of family members. There are also links to Intelius, a paid service that can provide even more details about your search target.

Google can be a great place to search for people. Have you ever “Googled” yourself? You should give it a try; the results can be pretty surprising. Put quote marks around your name and follow that with your city and town. The quote marks tell Google to search for an exact phrase and can be helpful in eliminating irrelevant search results.

Other helpful Google search tricks exist. Type phonebook: (the word “phonebook,” followed by a colon symbol) in front of a name and city; even a name and zip code or area code will work. Try various combinations and see how the results can change.

Whitepages.com can be a good search resource, allowing you to do what are called “reverse lookups.” For example, enter an address to find out who lives there; enter a phone number to see who it belongs to.

As it turns out, people who have landline phone service with Cox and AT&T are especially vulnerable to this type of search. Cell phone numbers are harder to discover.

Vitalrec.com lists many good ways to obtain vital records such as birth certificates, marriage records and more. People who do genealogy research do this sort of thing all the time and Vitalrec.com is a good way to get started.

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