Have you ever spent hours trying to hunt down your child, friend or potential romantic partner’s social media accounts? You know they’re there, but finding them is something else.
Facebook, Instagram and others all include search bars that let you look up people by name. You could also run a Google search for the person’s name along with “Facebook” or “Instagram.” Unfortunately, if the person has a common name, it might return hundreds or thousands of results to sift through. Fortunately, there are a few ways you can speed up the process.
Before I tell you how, though, let me just clarify that I’m not telling you this so you can cyberstalk someone. I’m telling you how to do it so you can keep your child safe, or make sure that your potential romantic partner isn’t hiding some devastating secret, like that they’re married.
Along those lines, be careful because you can turn up accounts from unrelated people with the same name. Take whatever you find with a grain of salt until you’re sure you have the right account.
Also, I encourage you to use these techniques to look up your own accounts and see just what other people can find if they go looking. You might need to take steps to hide information you don’t want seen.
A Google search for the person’s name is a good start, but an image search can be faster. That’s because instead of clicking on result after result and loading page after page, an image search puts everything you need right in front of your eyes.
Go to images.google.com to start, and then simply search for the person’s full name. If you want to narrow down the results, add information like the city they live in, the school they go to, or some other identifying tidbit.
Next, scroll down the page looking for the person’s image. There’s a good bet you’ll come across their profile picture for Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest or another site. Once you find an image of them, click it and select View Page to open up the social media page.
In the cases of linked accounts, such as the person posting images from Instagram on their Twitter feed, you can follow those images back to the other account. Sometimes the person will also place links to other accounts in their social media profile, so be sure to check there.
You can also turn to a people search site like PeekYou. People search sites collect publicly available information and combine it into a profile you can find if you search for a person’s name and location.
Handy hint: If you want to look up a neighbor and aren’t sure about their full name, White Pages Neighbors has you covered. It helps you look up people in your immediate area.
You usually have to pay if you want to get the full information, but PeekYou gives you the person’s known social media accounts for free. It also gives you the username on the account(s), and that’s important.
Something not many people think about is that they use the same username for every account. PeekYou lets you click on the person’s username to pull up other social accounts that have the same username. Or you can type the username manually into Google.
Note that you can usually get the username on any social media account from the Web address as well. For example, my Facebook page is https://www.facebook.com/kimkomando, which means my username is “kimkomando.”
Sure enough, if you add “kimkomando” to the address for Twitter (https://twitter.com/kimkomando), Instagram (https://instagram.com/kimkomando/) or Pinterest (https://www.pinterest.com/kimkomando/), you’ll see I have accounts there too. Funny story, I actually forgot I had an Instagram account until I was putting this together.
This username hack is a good way to turn up someone’s accounts, even if the person has chosen not to include their real name. Of course, if that’s the case they’ll probably also have their privacy locked down tight, and you should, too.
On the Kim Komando Show, the nation’s largest weekend radio talk show, Kim takes calls and dispenses advice on today’s digital lifestyle, from smartphones and tablets to online privacy and data hacks. For her daily tips, free newsletters and more, visit her website at Komando.com. Kim also posts breaking tech news 24/7 at News.Komando.com.