All posts by g_firestone@yahoo.com

Finding & Stopping Trademark Infringers

So you started your new business, trademarked your name, and kept Googling it to see how you rank on the Internet.

Then one day, it happens. You find someone else is using
your trademark. And worse, they’re in the same line of business as you are!

“How can this be?” you cry. “I paid good money for my trademark. It’s on all my business cards. It’s on all my letterhead and now they dare use it on their title page?” Is there no decency? Why would they do such a thing?

I’ll sue! I’ll call in the navy. I’ll bring back corporal punishment in high schools! My wrath will be of Biblical proportions. If they don’t take it down, the sky will darken, and frogs will bark like spiders. They shall rue the day when they tried to take from me what is rightfully mine!!!

Welcome to my world. This is exactly what happened to me a few weeks ago. And it can happen to you too. So this blog is all about finding the trademark infringer and how to police your trademark without an expensive lawsuit.

First You Must Identify The Infringer
In my case, the Sleuth For The Truth trademark was being used on a “woman owned” website called ***snoops.com (full name concealed for privacy reasons). And like me, they also did online background checks.

The infringer was slick. She never listed her name and contact information. If you wanted to reach out to her, you were stuck filling out a form on her “CONTACT” page. And worse, the domain name was a “private registration.” So a regular Whois lookup showed nothing but that it belonged to GoDaddy. She had paid to keep her identity top secret.

So following the steps in my earlier blog Expose The Business Owner Behind A Website, I found clues to who she was through the Wayback machine. But I still had no contact information.

So my next step was to do a nationwide corporation search. While it’s always smart to search for a business name in corporate filings, there are many businesses that never file as a company. Nor do they have to. However, here she had listed herself as an LLC. And I knew that all LLCs, INC.s and Corps. must be licensed somewhere.


This is where it got interesting. A multinational search for her business name turned up NOTHING. This business had no corporate filings in the US or abroad.

So this person was infringing on my trademark, hiding behind her website, and falsely claiming to be an LLC. Was there any hope of me finding out who she was? And even if I found her, how could I convince her to stop this horrible evil wrong she was doing?

The good news is I hit paydirt with the special website reverse lookups. Yes, the ones which can sometimes find even private domain registrations. And in her case, the smoking gun was an old email of hers!

From there finding her was easy. When I plugged her email address into Google and Pipl.com, suddenly I had her full name, her age, and her professional licenses. The lady had lots of pots on the stove. She was a notary, a licensed realtor and involved in many nonprofits.

A short time later it got even juicier. It turns out that my trademark infringer also works for the federal government.

This was important, as it meant she could be held accountable for things she did on her off hours. Things like falsely advertising she had an LLC, when she didn’t, and of course, her failure to respect my most excellent trademark.

My next stop was the occupational licensing boards. Always a great place to find the contact info for licensed realtors and notaries. Now I had her private cell phone number, home address, her business email and more.

It was time to act. But with great power comes great responsibility. I could do a lot of damage. But it’s just a trademark. And she should be given the benefit of the doubt until proven otherwise.

Contacting The Infringer
I’m a guy who hates conflict. And if I can, I’d like to be friends, especially if the person is as talented and driven as she was. So I emailed her at two of her private email addresses and let her know there was a trademark issue.

I never mentioned a lawsuit or that I was a lawyer. I also encouraged her to call me and indicated that I had two of her phone numbers.

To remain nonconfrontational, I gave her a few days to process this information. I then followed up with a pleasant message on her cell phone about how I would be happy to trade tips with her but she still needs to call me about the trademark issue. The next day I pasted a similar message on her website’s contact form.

At this point I waited a week. And it was a very long week. But I heard nothing from her. Meanwhile I considered all the harsh things I could say. Things that if I wasn’t careful, could get me into trouble.

Legal Reasons Not To Be Nasty
I could talk all day about the golden rule and do unto others. But the fact is that many of you just don’t care. You want the job done and may even feel it’s your corporate duty to be a hardass. Fine.

But if you’re too much of a hardass, it could backfire. Courts hate trademark bullies. Put enough heat on the infringer and you could find yourself being sued as a defendant.

Yes, if you threaten to sue them, make over reaching claims as to what your trademark covers, or start contacting the infringer’s clients, they could file a declaratory judgment against you. And suddenly you become the defendant, and they are the plaintiff.

So if you weren’t ready to sue or wanted to sue in a nice and friendly jurisdiction, suddenly you’re in their home court and forced to present your case NOW and in hostile territory!

I believe in the Golden Rule. I’d play it nice. (And there was no way in hell I’d be stuck in central Louisiana!)

Using Their Public Image To Keep Them Accountable
I was pretty pissed she never contacted me. And I knew where she worked. I also knew that because she was a notary and a realtor, her reputation with her licensing board was critical. Falsely claiming you’re an LLC when your not, would not sit well with them.

To treat her with dignity and avoid defamation, I didn’t call her names. I just spelled out the problem and gave her guidance how she could make it well and good again. I also implied that she could get into a lot of trouble if she didn’t stop what she was doing. But I made no outright threats.

Except one.

I told her I’ve posted this letter (with her name and contact info) on the Internet. I emailed her the link and explained that if I didn’t hear from her, this post may remain online indefinitely.

She responded in a few hours. Two days later she removed my trademark.

Here is the letter I sent to her workplace and posted online. Since she did the right thing, names and places have been changed to protect her privacy.

————————————————————————————-
Sally Surrah
US Dept. of Energy
495 Shreveport Highway
Houston, TX 17136

Phone: 678-587-9228

Email: Sally.Surrah@govmint.gov

November 3, 2017

Ms. Surrah,

I was hoping we could resolve this with a phone call. However, in spite of my earnest attempts to contact you, it appears you have no interest in getting in touch with me. I have reached out by phone and left a voicemail, I’ve posted to your website and emailed you at two of your other email addresses.

It is only as a last resort that I am now emailing your workplace. To undo the damage already caused by the misuse of the Sleuth For The Truth trademark, I am also posting this letter online at sleuthforthetruth.com.

If you desire to resolve this matter amicably, please call me at 678-587-9228.

Graham Firestone
President of Sleuth For The Truth

————————————————————————————-

(Blog Title that will appear in Google:)

Sally Surrah (AKA ***snoops.com) Please Cease & Desist From Using The Sleuth For The Truth Trademark

Ms. Surrah,

The website address ***snoops.com has been traced to you through your old email sankasaves@yahoo.com. There is no question that this site belongs to you.

You are running a business off this website called I am stealing your trademark, LLC which among other things, specializes in document retrieval, investigations and background checks. It is also
operating in violation of both state and federal law.

As a business owner myself, I feel you should know of at least two concerns.

1. You have falsely designated your business as an LLC even though you have never registered with the Texas Secretary of State. In fact, I have been unable to find your business “I am stealing your trademark, LLC” registered anywhere in the US or abroad.

Passing yourself off as an LLC when you’re not is a violation of Texas false advertising laws. See Sec. 71.05 _ _(Assumed name restrictions).

Given your background and accomplishments, I am somewhat puzzled by this oversight. You are a detective, a licensed realtor and you work for the United States government. You are also highly educated and have a background in law enforcement. So if there’s anyone sensitive to the law, hopefully it would be you.

For your own peace of mind, and to comply with the law, I suggest you remove the “LLC” designation. However, this is between you and the state of Texas.

Unauthorized Use of The Sleuth For The Truth Trademark
2. As you must know from my numerous attempts to contact you, ***snoops.com is using the Sleuth For The Truth trademark without permission from Sleuth For The Truth, Inc. I have reached out to you twice by email, once on your website’s form page and once by phone.

Each time, I’ve referred to my registered federal trademark and asked you to call or email me. However, I have received no response from you.

Your failure to get back to me is not a good sign this can be resolved amicably.

By law, I am required to actively police the Sleuth For The Truth trademark. If I don’t, it means I could lose the right to enforce it.

I can understand your desire to post controversial opinions while concealing your identity. However, being anonymous does not mean you can blithely ignore federal trademark law.

Although ***snoops.com was filed under a private domain registration, I was able to trace it back to you because of your email sankasaves@yahoo.com. Your ownership of this website has also been confirmed in various other ways.

Proper and Improper Use of Sleuth For The Truth (See Screenshots Below For Further Guidance)

As I’ve explained in an earlier email, I do not have a monopoly on the words “sleuth for the truth”. For example, you are free to use “sleuth for the truth” in a sentence such as “We sleuth for the truth.”

The problem occurs when you start using it as a brand name. The more it stands alone, is in big print, bolded or in caps, the more likely it will be seen as something that identifies your services. You also run into similar trademark issues when Sleuth For The Truth is being used in your title.

In your case, the misuse is even more serious. For you are a business that also does background checks. So you are using the same brand name, for the same services, and we are being found on the Internet by the same people.

This is a recipe for confusion in the market place. Please see Screenshot #2 which shows how SLEUTH FOR THE TRUTH is being misused as a brand name.

In addition, you have inserted the SLEUTH FOR THE TRUTH trademark into your HTML title tags.
(See Screenshot #3 for how this appears in Google, See Screenshot #4 for the actual HTML code on your website) 

This is extremely misleading to the general public. It means that people who Google for Sleuth For The Truth will see a link to your site titled SLEUTH FOR THE TRUTH I am stealing your trademark, LLC.

But once they click on this link, they see your title as something entirely different. The catchy words of my trademark vanish from the screen and do not appear in your title. They can only be seen in Google.

So it looks like you’re doing a bait and switch. Google shows one thing. Your site shows another. And my federal trademark is used as the bait to lure consumers to your business.

While you may not have meant to misappropriate my trademark, adding SLEUTH FOR THE TRUTH in your title code was done on purpose. It was not computer generated.

As you can see from Snapshot #4, the phrase Sleuth For The Truth was intentionally embedded in the HTML. If it were otherwise, your title on the site would appear exactly like it does on Google (see #3.)

Put another way, somehow the code was made so that Google would see it, but it would be invisible on your title page. This does not happen by accident. (Compare screenshot #1 with #3 and you’ll see the difference.).

To police my trademark, and undo any damage for potential confusion, I am posting this correspondence online at
sleuthforthetruth.com for all to see.

Please let me know if you choose to comply with this takedown request. If I don’t hear from you or your representative, this post may remain online indefinitely.

Regards,

Graham Firestone
President of Sleuth For The Truth
678-587-9228

Snapshot of ***snoops.com with Misuse of LLC & SLEUTH FOR THE TRUTH Trademark

How infringing website appears in a Google search for Sleuth For The Truth
Sleuth For the Truth Trademark Embedded in Title Tags on ***snoops.com.com website

Look Up Partial Phone Numbers That Are Missing A Digit!

So it’s time to call your new client. Or maybe it’s the hot date you met at Trader Joe’s. The only problem is you can’t read their phone number! Staring at the napkin, you try to decipher if it’s an 8, or a 1, or a 0. Or worse, you can read all the numbers just fine. But why are there only 6 digits?

So what do you do? Where can you go for help? Who can you call?

I decided to write this blog because a few days earlier, this is exactly what happened to a friend of mine. My friend is a no good, lousy duck stuffer (a taxidermist).

He came to me because he needed to call a new client about a bird he just mounted. But the client’s handwriting was so crappy that he couldn’t make out a digit in the phone number. I was able to find the number using Google. However, it was not your typical Google search.

How To Google A Number That’s Mostly Right
Sadly, Google did away with its reverse phone number lookup.  And if you enter a 6 digit # with dashes, Google thinks it’s a subtraction problem!

But Google can pull up plenty of phone numbers if you give it some hints. This includes lots of business numbers and even some cell #s.  And remember, you want to find the number they gave you. Not the old landline they discarded 10 years ago. Here’s how:

Say you’re looking up Graham Firestone and the number you have is

678-58?-9228. Or maybe you got sloppy and wrote 678-587-92228.

Or worse, the guy gave you a bum phone number and no last name.

But don’t you fret. All is not lost! Simply Google their name along with either the 3 digit # after the area code, or with the 4 digit # at the end. You can also search this way with the full name in quotation marks and also without. Or even with just a first name. Too many hits? Then refine your search with a city or state.

Google Search Examples With Partial #s
Graham  Firestone 587 (rare name and not sure of the last 4 digits)
Graham Firestone 9228 (rare name and not sure of the first 3 digits)
“John Smith” 9228 (common name in quotes)
“John Smith” 9228 Roswell (city added to narrow hits)
Graham 9228 Roswell
(first name w/ city)

But What If I Can’t Find It On Google?
Look, life’s tough. And you can’t always get what you want. Partial number searches don’t seem to work on Facebook, Pipl, the Whitepages or on Linkedin. But they may work on your emails, or in Excel or in a Word document.

Or, if you know which digit is missing, plug in numbers
0 -9 and put the whole phone number in a reverse cell phone lookup. Sites like OK Caller or SpyDialer will often return a full name once they have the right phone number.

For more, see the links and blogs at Consumer-SOS called

Backgrounding People By Their Phone #, Email or Address

Verify What They Do For A Living

So you met this neat guy at Starbucks and he’s full of fascinating tales about himself. He says he’s a wheeler dealer world traveler. He likes art. And in his spare time, he bakes, he sews, and he deworms stray kittens. But is he for real? Is this guy too good to be true? And how can you find out?

Curiously absent from any of his exciting stories, was what he does for a living. Is a he a butcher, a baker or a candlestick maker? Or perhaps he’s a doctor or lawyer or grim undertaker? Does he have his own a company? Does he rent from his mom? Is he an industrious inventor? Is he building a bomb?

So how can you find out about these things? Or at least confirm if anything he says about his work is true.

Well, have no fear. Underdog is here! Yes, this is a blog all about employment. And how you can verify what’s true and what’s not.

Knowing The Source of Where The Information Came From
Often you’ll find lots of information, but have no idea where it came from. The source of a record is key. Because if it came from the person himself, you’ll want other means to determine if it’s true or not.

Obviously you’ll know the source if you find it on LinkedIn or Facebook. But what if you find it on seemingly respectable websites like Intellius or US Search? Where did they get it from? And is it reliable?

It may surprise you to know that often they too get their employment info from LinkedIn and Facebook! And I have proof of such which I’ll go into shortly!

The 4 Sources of Information You Need To Know About
When it comes to employment info, there are only 4 types of records to be concerned with. These are:

1. Self Published Info (but allowed to lie);
2. Self Published Info (but required to tell the truth);
3. Reliable Info Published By Others;
4. Info that mixes all three of these.

The good news is that all 4 types of records have their purpose. All 4 of these can be used to find or verify someone’s employment. OR at least to catch someone in inconsistencies.

1. Self Published Info (but allowed to lie)
The first source of info includes what they say about themselves on LinkedIn, Facebook and other social media. You may think that because it’s self published it can’t be reliable. And you’re partly right. But it’s very useful as a starting point. And even here you can verify things.

First of all, people usually tell the truth about themselves. So Facebook and LinkedIn are great places to begin. Use these resources to gather as much as you can about the person’s employment. Later you can and will be verifying from other sources. So be patient.

Sometimes, the self published records on social media are quite reliable. Especially when you’re looking to confirm someone is being deceptive.

For example: if their Facebook posts brag about their two years as a homeless hermit in India, what does their LinkedIn account say? Does it claim that during this time they worked in NYC for Arthur Andersen?

On the flip side, social media can also prove he is telling the truth about himself.

Suppose I claim to work at the law firm of Heninger Garrison & Davis. And behold, 20 of my Facebook friends and various LinkedIn contacts also work at Henninger Garrison & Davis.

Chances are, this is a very good indication I worked there now. Or at least once worked there! And what if I have posts where others laugh at what I did at last week’s office party? What more proof do you need?

Using LinkedIn & Facebook To Find Other People Who Work At The Same Company
Of course, not all Facebook friends are visible. And even when they are, not all of them will list where they work.

You could of course ask to be part of your subject’s LinkedIn network. Then you would see if they really know people in the same company. But that could be awkward. And it might make you look  like a neurotic busybody.

If you’re like me, you don’t want others to know you’re backgrounding them! So your best bet is to find the guy on Facebook and see if any of his friends work at the same company! With Facebook’s Advance Search function, this is very easy.

Once you’ve logged into your own account and are on your main page, click on Find Friends and scroll down a bit to your right where it says Search For Friends. Ignore every other field except for Employment, and type in the company they say they work for. Whallah! Suddenly you have a list of names and faces. Are any of them on his friends list?

Of course, for small companies, you can find employees by going directly to the company website. But in the case of law firms, secretaries and paralegals won’t be listed. So you’ll want to search on Linkedin, even if you don’t have an account.

As I mentioned earlier, to find employees on LinkedIn is easy when you’re already in their social network. For everyone else, you can
Google for company employees within the Linkedin website.

Using Google To Search Within Facebook and Linkedin
In the Google search box , search within a website like this:

Rooms To Go site:Linkedin.com (Searches for other employees)
Graham Firestone site:Linkedin.com (Search for your subject)
Graham Firestone site:Facebook.com (Search for your subject)

Using Other Self Published Info Mixed With  Reliable Info (Source 4 docs)
At this point, we’re still trying to find employment information on the quick. So your next step is to look for them on the websites that offer free background check information on employment.

These sites are great for matching a name with an age and a job. And they often include a mixture of information which they get from  social media, the government and professional licensing boards.

But watch out! This 4th source of information is where you can run into trouble. Sites that provide mixed records, take information from wherever they can get it. And often they conceal where they got it from. So you can gather here. But you need to verify elsewhere!

For example, most people know about Pipl, Peekyou and Spokeo. So they expect that some of the information is official (like their age) while other information is clearly self published (i.e. taken from social media).

But what about the “respectable” pay websites such as Intellius, US Search and Radaris? Won’t their employment information be more reliable?

Believe it or not, they too get much of their information from LinkedIn! So you may actually be paying for self published information you could have gotten for free. And worse, it’s never been verified. So you may be paying for lies.

Proof That Pay For Background Check Sites Use Social Media
Take my employment information. Did you know I worked for the prestigious white-shoe law firm of Salamander and Spivak? It’s a law firm that’s so exclusive, only the best even know of it.

The truth is it doesn’t exist! Except in my mind of course! Years ago I put it on LinkedIn as a joke. But it’s now listed on Radaris, US Search and other sites that charge you for online background checks!

So don’t trust them simply because they look official. Before you pay these sites a dime, find out where it is they get their information from! Sites that gather from social media may include the Whitepages, Pipl, Spokeo, US Search, Intellius and other background check websites.

2. Self Published Info (but required to tell the truth)
The second source of info is deliciously wonderful. It’s where people must voluntarily list their employment when dealing with the government, the courts or a licensing agency.

Examples include court filings, bankruptcy petitions, license applications, tax filings, census filings and the job information they volunteer when donating to political campaigns.

No one goes to jail for lying on Facebook. But lying to Uncle Sam is a sin. And if they’re caught, it could cost them their case, their license and even their freedom. With this in mind, people are usually more truthful here than on social media.

Find Their Latest Job Through Their Professional Licensing Board
Many professionals such as doctors, lawyers, nurses and insurance regulators all need to update their respective licensing boards. And this means they often are required to list where they currently work. They could lie of course. But if they get caught they could lose their license. To look up your professional by job type and state, see
Occupational Licensing Boards For All 50 States & DC.
See also Their Profession/License Or Certifications (Consumer-SOS)

Find Job Histories Through Their Federal Campaign Contributions
When you donate to a political party or candidate, Uncle Sam wants to know where the money came from. And so every contributor is asked to list their employment. The beauty of this is that you can sometimes trace the donor’s job history.

Here’s how I did so for John Stanford using the free website Political Money Online. This site tracks all federal campaign contributions since 1980. And this includes the employment history of the campaign donor!

Just enter in their name like below and select their state. Ignore everything else except Search All Cycles.

Wallah! Suddenly their occupation is listed along with the date and amount of their contribution.

In the snapshot above, I even numbered the last five jobs he had in chronological order. Are these the same jobs he posted on LinkedIn and Facebook? Is this what he put on his job application? If not he’s got a lot of explaining to do!

For more links of this sort see Campaign Contributions (Consumer-SOS)

Find Job Histories Through Their Bankruptcy Petitions
A person’s bankruptcy petition can capture years of their financial activities. And it can include other information such as where they worked, how long they held a job, and what they spent their money on.

If you want to see the type of employment info you can get for free from bankruptcy petitions, see the Sleuth For The Truth video Search For Bankruptcy Filings (Free Public Records) and advance to 5:36.

For more on using PACER to get free bankruptcy petitions, see the bottom of the Sleuth For The Truth Blog Free Bankruptcy Records.

3. Reliable Info Published By Others
Now is the time to talk about the reliable outside sources that show where they work or have worked in the past. The more official these sources are, the better. These could include government listings, a news article, or a membership roster from an occupational licensing board.

For example, a government listing of property owners, a federal listing of all US Postal workers, or a state bar directory of all Georgia attorneys. These are all official publications.

Ignore Commercial Directories Which List Employment
Commercial directories are almost never reliable. To be reliable means their information is accurate and includes all licensed members of the profession. Most commercial directories only publish the names of those who pay their fees. And they also rely on whatever their members say about themselves.

So if you’re not sure, test them by looking up at least two people you know are licensed in that profession. If one of them is missing, you’re either a bad speller or dealing with a commercial directory.

Commercial Records Can Be Reliable
Don’t be so quick to write off a record just because it’s commercial. Reliable records can be found on the employer’s website, in newspapers, from charity events, or in a list of consumer complaints from the Better Business Bureau.

For example: You can bet Steve Wosniak really works for Apple when their website shows he hit a home run at the company picnic.  Likewise, when a charity lists a 10 million dollar donation from Graham Firestone of Firestone Tires, wanna bet they got his job title right?

Googling For Reliable Records
OK.  Suppose you want to confirm that Bill Gates works at Microsoft. The first stop is to go to the firm’s homepage and see if he’s listed there or in some employee directory.

But what if he isn’t there? And suppose the firm doesn’t have a search engine where you can look for him? In that case, use Google to search for his name within the company’s website like this:
Bill Gates site:microsoft.com

If the website blocks Google from searching within the site, (and some do) you can still Google “Bill Gates” Microsoft. The latter may pull up other reliable sources such links to newspapers and charitable events that show his affiliation with the company.

To find where lawyers and other professionals work, you could also Google a person’s name along with their occupation, like this:
“Graham Firestone” attorney or
“Graham Firestone” attorney Georgia

Verify If They Have A Professional License
Earlier we used the professional licensing boards to show where they currently work. But here we just want to know if they really are a doctor or lawyer or acupuncturists. Unlike commercial directories, the licensing boards will have every single person in that profession.

How Do I Search For Licenses?
Every state’s website is different and has different ways to search for a professional. In GA, for instance, you can do a general name search without checking off which profession you’re looking for. This is great when you’re just curious as to what they do for a living.

In most cases, I recommend you search by first and last name and a profession. If you can’t find them, search by last name only. Sometimes people will register with a first name, but their friends and colleagues know them by only their middle name.

To look up your professional by job type and state, see
Occupational Licensing Boards For All 50 States & DC.

Verify Job Histories of State, Federal and Other Government Employees (Salary Lookups)
Nearly one sixth of all U.S. employees work for the government.  That’s right. Twenty two million people. The links below can show up to six years of their employment history and may include their job title and salary.

See Public Salaries & Employment History (Blog) and

Salaries: Government, Non Profits, Foundations & Publicly Traded Companies (Links)

Verify Job Histories of Executives At Publicly Traded Companies
Each year, high ranking officers of big companies like Walmart, Exxon and Apple must publish their job title and salaries. So you can see exactly how long they worked there and what their job title was. See Private Salaries That Are Really Public (Blog) and

Salaries:Publicly Traded Corporations (Links)

Verify If They Own A Corporation (Consumer-SOS)
The government keeps records on every Inc., Corp, and LLC.
The link above will also show if they are officers or agents of the company. Sites ending in .gov are the most accurate. Other non government sources may miss records, but are good when you don’t know what state the company may be incorporated in. (Allows you to search by the person’s name or company name in all 50 states at once).

Verify if They Own A Business That’s Not Incorporated or Have Patents or Other Intellectual Property
Some people are inventors. Others have a thriving business which you can only find through their websites. For links to find out if they own a website or other intangible property, see Find Their Intellectual Property(Consumer-SOS).

Verify if They Are High Up In A NonProfit or Foundation
See Foundations & Non-Profits (By Individual or Company)

Now you have more than you ever wanted to know. There’s loads of free stuff out there.  So stop lollygagging and start backgrounding!


Expose The Business Owner Behind A Website

The great thing about living in a small town is that you know everyone by name. You know their reputation and you know where to find them, especially if they’ve done you wrong. And so you’re less likely to be taken in by a pretty face, as you already know their true character.

Not so on the Internet. On the Internet the big bad wolf can masquerade as a happy sheep. And the ugly duckling can look like  a beautiful swan!

Don’t get me wrong. I like beautiful swans. Especially when they’re all so pretty soft and white. But if they’re an ugly duckling, I want to know about it. Because if the ugly duckling took all my money and won’t give me a refund, I’m going to go duck hunting.

So let’s talk about business websites. No, not the large companies that are publicly traded and easily found. But the small businesses. The ones that make nice professional web pages, where for some reason, the owner’s contact information is completely missing.

Yes, the websites where you’re unable to talk to a live person. And if you have a problem, you’re stuck filling out a complaint form which goes into the corporate abyss.

But what if you could find the business owners behind the website?  Perhaps express your joy to them at their personal email address?  Or maybe even send a bouquet of flowers to their house while they’re eating dinner?

Do you feel guilty for being so mad at them? Why not tell them all about it on their private cellphone! They may need to know about the awful dream you keep having. You know, the one where you repeatedly sue them and put a lien on their house.

Reaching real live owners is important, especially when there’s no evidence the business has been incorporated. If it’s not an official company, it means the owners could be personally liable. And so the more owners you can find, the more houses and property you can put liens on!

So this is a blog about hard to find businesses. Businesses that might not be incorporated and might not even have a bad reputation. (Yet)
The only thing you know for sure is that they owe you money and you need to reach real live people. People who can be held accountable for the wrongs they’ve done.

As an example, I will show you how to find the owners behind missiontripairfare.com. (AKA MTAF and Mission Trip Airfare)
Missiontripairfare.com is a great example of a site that doesn’t have easy to find contact information.

Just recently, Atlanta’s Fox 5 News reported they owe people over $500,000 for airline tickets. (They took the money, never bought the tickets and never refunded the money). Others have reported Mission Trip Airfare to be a scam and a fraud. And now the FBI is investigating them!

Once, their contact information used to be out in the open. But for some reason, it’s now all been neatly removed. So here I will use real public data to show you who the owners are and (if you like) how to reach them.

But before we begin, I must warn you: There’s a lot of information out there. So don’t get lost in it. Always keep in mind the following:

When You Get Their Names & Websites It Will Lead To Their Contact Info. When You Get Their Contact Info, It Will Lead To Their Names & Websites.
(So Everything Can Be Used To Find Who Owns What!)

Four Happy Tips

  1. Get their name and ways to reach them through their website, website address and older versions of their websites.
  2. Google any contact information you find, including their business names, plus any business or personal emails, addresses and phone #s.
  3. Use their names to get their contact info and their contact info to get their names. (Gather all the info you find. Even old emails and phone numbers could lead to other owners and hidden associates.)
  4. Confirm you have the right contact information. Plug your info into the free validators for their current emails, physical addresses and cell phone numbers.

Now Here’s How To Find Them:

Scour Their Current Website For Owners Names & Contact Info
Typically, ownership and contact information can be found on their  “Contact Us”, “About Us” or bio section. Copy any contact info into Word or notepad even if it’s just a first name. You’ll be Googling it later.

Sadly, through this method I could find nothing about the owners of missiontripairfare.com. The website was devoid of any helpful names, emails or phone numbers!

Scour Their Old Website For The Owners’ Names & Contact Info
Here’s where I hit paydirt! With the Way Back Machine, you can go back in time to what the website looked like in the days of yore. 

In other words, you may be able to see owner information before they got crafty enough to remove it! So with missiontripairfare.com, I was able to browse through 10 years of changes to find one of the website owners and how to reach her!

Here’s what missiontripairfare.com looked like in 2007. Note the contact info up top is now missing from the current website. But there’s no fooling the Way Back Machine!

The owner of Mission Trip Airfare is Elisabeth Greenhill, also known as Beth Greenhill. Her photo and bio is here (site as of 2005). I was also able to find a working cellphone # for her at 404-353-6824 (confirmed by the cellphone validator below). As late as 2016, she was still on the website as the founder and owner.

Lookup The Website’s Domain Name Registration For Names & Contact Info: Also Look Up Related Sites With .org & .net
Yes! Did you know that every website must register their domain name and provide contact information? Often this information can be found for free through a domain name lookup.

For large businesses, a domain lookup is pretty much useless. The reason is that any contact info you get is apt to lead to their IT department. And who wants to talk to IT people!

But it’s a goldmine for looking up small business owners. Often a domain registration gives you their name, their phone number and their email address. Sometimes you’ll even get their personal cell phone number. How about that!

But I was not so lucky with MTAF. For some reason missiontripairfare.com has concealed their domain registration. Sometimes people will pay extra for a private (or hidden) domain registration which can only be revealed through a court order.

But fear not! Sometimes you can look up a domain history which will tell you who owned the web address before they concealed it. This is how I found Beth Greenhill’s email address, which is bagreenhill@msn.com. Too bad it’s no longer valid.

For even more leads, try looking for who owns the same domain name but with the .net and .org suffix. Often people will reserve several domain names even if they’re never make them into websites. And sometimes, they will leave their contact info unprotected!

Through this approach I was able to uncover that Jonathan Andrew Greenhill owns missiontripairfare.org and missiontripairfare.net. WOW. He has the same last name as Beth Greenhill.

Is that a wild coincidence? Or could they be business partners? Whether they’re siblings or husband and wife is a separate issue.  But read on and I’ll show you that too!  But right now I’m just looking for liability. And the more partners the merrier! 

Google All Names & Contact Info For More Leads
Even if your website has virtually no contact information, be sure to do at least two Google searches.

You’ll always want to Google the business name and then do a separate search for the website address. In my case, I jumped the gun and Googled too quickly. I didn’t have the owners’ name yet. So I was overwhelmed with hundreds of useless hits.

This is what I found for missiontripairfare.com. I got more specific results when I did a separate search for “Mission Trip Airfare” (putting the business name in “quotes”).

If I knew the owner’s name earlier I could also have Googled Beth or Elisabeth or Beth Greenhill separately or in the same search box along with the website or the business name.

Also, I could have Googled any email addresses, physical addresses and phone #s to see what else comes up.

A Google search for“elisabeth greenhill” Georgia found she lives at 225 Warm Springs Circle, Atlanta, GA 30075. She owns this property as indicated in the Fulton County property lookups.

Check For Hidden Relationships
Note: To find hidden relationships between two people, I could have Googled Beth Jonathan Greenhill. Or I could have searched for their names along with a company they might own together.

In this case I confirmed that Beth and Jonathan Greenhill are brother and sister, not husband and wife.

To reveal their connection to each other, I simply checked for back links to missiontripairfare.com. This gave me the other websites which linked to them. While this won’t help for a big site like Microsoft, here it led me to the Greenhill family webpage.

And guess what?  In the middle of the page, Mama Greenhill boasts all about her 3 three sons and her daughter, the travel agent! Now ain’t that special!

For more on Googling, see Googling For Courts, Crimes, Marital Status & Names.

Find Owners Through A Company Name Search, Both Local and National.
Off the bat, I found nothing for missiontripairfare.com. But that doesn’t mean you won’t find your business. And how I searched will help you.

Be sure to search several states and in the various ways described below in red. If you find an incorporation, see if you can open up the original company filing. This will often have the owner’s cell phone number!

Searching Several Ways For A Business
For missiontripairfare.com, I did a preliminary national search making sure not to include a city or state. The free national search is good just to see what states have companies with the same name as the one you’re looking for.

If you find one in a certain state, click on the company name for their contact information. But don’t stop there. Even if you get their address, it could be an old one.

Now that you know the state where the business could be incorporated, go back to the free listing of Secretary of States and look up the most current contact info.

The national search ain’t perfect. It could miss records. So to figure out where they might be incorporated, I also would do a search where the owner lives and has lived, plus California and Delaware, which are where a lot of people incorporate.

So in the case of Mission Trip Airfare I checked with the Secretary of States in GA, DE, IL, SC and CA. Sadly, none of these had anything for MTAF, Mission Trip Airfare or MissionTripAirfare.com. In GA, I also searched for Beth Greenhill and Elisabeth Greenhill both as a registered agent and also as the officer/owner of any company. Nothing.

Now you might be asking what does it mean if your business is not
incorporated? In short, it means the owner can be personally liable for any debt incurred here.

Even when a business has incorporated, the owner may still be liable if they used the business to defraud people. So be sure to get legal advice on Piercing the Corporate Veil.

And this is where the fun begins! If more than one person is involved in the business, it could be a partnership where everyone is liable. This means you want to find all owners, so you can put a lien on all their houses! Now ain’t that something!

Plugin Names To See If They Own Other Businesses Which List Their Contact Info
If you find the names of people connected to the business, do a national search by their names too. Remember that names lead to contact information and contact information will lead to more names.

It may be they are the officers or agents of other companies. Companies where you can find where they live and send them a beautiful bouquet of flowers.

Find Their Contact Info Through The Better Business Bureau Complaint Database.
The BBB allows you to search by website, business name, phone number or email address. Keep in mind that a new business may not have complaints. I recommend a search with and without their state. It’s possible their new business  in GA has no complaints, but the old one in AL does. This only works if the owner used the same name for both businesses (not uncommon).

WIth MTAF, I was able to use the BBB to locate their virtual office which is located at 10 Glenlake Pkwy STE 130 Atlanta, GA 30328-3495. They also listed “Ms. Beth Greenhill, Founder

Find Their Contact Info Through Other Domain Names They Have
Yes, you can get their private cell phone number, physical address and email addresses based on other domain names they’ve registered for. And you can do it simply by plugging in their old and new contact information. You don’t even need to know if they have a website!

So now all the contact info you saved is paying off!

Through a Reverse Whois Lookup you can find their other websites and domain names.This works by plugging in any of the following:Their name, the name of their company, their user name, or an email address of theirs.

Now let’s get back to Jonathan Greenhill of Mission Trip Airfare. With just his name I learned he owns the following web addresses:

broadcastatlanta.com 2005-11-02 GODADDY.COM, LLC
greenhillgroupllc.com 2014-10-01 REGISTER.COM, INC.
jacobgreenhill.com 2016-04-01 GODADDY.COM, LLC
jonathangreenhill.com 2014-08-11 GODADDY.COM, LLC
missiontripairfare.net 2014-03-27 GODADDY.COM, LLC
missiontripairfare.org 2014-03-27 GODADDY.COM, LLC
policycrowd.com 2014-04-15 ENOM, INC.
policycrowd.org 2014-04-15 ENOM, INC.
videoprosim.com 2014-08-11 GODADDY.COM, LLC

To find his current address, look for the latest website/URL. In this case it’s the one I marked in red. They don’t have a website up yet. But it’s always worth checking because an up and running website might have contact information.

Note that as late as 2016, Jonathan Greenhill listed his contact address as 1425 Rock Springs Circle, and his cell phone as 404-822-4185. Here’s a photo of the property where he lives.

Are you a shy person who is too afraid to shake his hand? Well in that case, why not  email him at jag1777@gmail.com? I’m sure he’ll be very glad to hear from you. The email is still valid. But if you need several more, just grab them from one of his other domain registrations.

Note: If my link to who owns a domain name doesn’t give out details on how to find him, you may need to go to GoDaddy or where ever the domain name is registered. Then use their WHOIS to find the owner’s contact information.

Confirm You Have The Right Contact Information
By now you have a slew of emails, phone numbers and physical addresses. But which ones are current? Does the cell phone number work? Who owns it? Is the email still good? And how can you know if they even live there anymore?

For emails, check to see if it’s a working email address. For physical addresses, do a reverse lookup to find if they still live at that location. You can also verify the name of the property owner.

For phone numbers, check out OKCaller.com and Spydialer.com. Both can tell you who’s behind the phone number. And Spydialer allows you to hear their voicemail without them ever knowing who called.

For More See

fraud fraudulent scam

Googling For Courts, Crimes, Marital Status, Names & Contact Info!

We’ve all been told “just Google it!”  Well, here’s how!

Below are the best ways to Google arrest records, mugshots, criminal convictions, lawsuits, their marital status, divorces and more!

Googling For Criminal Conduct
Use variations of the person’s name along with the words
arrested, convicted, sentenced, charges, charged, felony, fraud, guilty, misdemeanor, mugshot, NOLO, pardoned, paroled and probation.

1. Jason Smith convicted
2. Jason Smith arrested
3. Jason Smith guilty
4. Jason Smith NOLO
5. “Jason Smith” conviction (name in quotes)

6. “Jason R Smith” charges (with middle initial)
7. “Jason Richard Smith” sentenced (full name in quotes)
8. Jason Smith sentenced Georgia (common name, with  state)
9. “Jason R Smith” sentenced Georgia
10. Name above with the term felony or misdemeanor

Remember to search with the name in quotes and also without quotes.  If your name is a common one, be sure to include a state as well.

Googling For Federal Crimes
Use variations of the person’s name with the words
indicted, convicted, sentenced, charges, charged and federal.

1. Jason Smith indicted
2. Jason Smith federal convicted
3. Jason Smith “federal prison”  (one term in quotes)
4. “Jason Smith” “federal prison” (both terms in quotes)

5. “United States” v “Jason Smith” (both terms in quotes)
6. Jason Smith charges federal
7. Jason Smith sentenced federal
8. Jason Smith sentenced federal Georgia
9. “Jason P Smith” sentenced federal Georgia (middle initial)
10. “Jason Parker Smith” sentenced federal Georgia (full name)

Google For Civil Lawsuits (State or Federal)
Use variations of the person’s name (with and without quotes) along with terms like plaintiff, defendant, liable, lawsuit, suit settlement, settled or litigation.

1. Graham Firestone Plaintiff OR Defendant (OR must be in caps)
2. “Graham Firestone” Plaintiff OR Defendant (“” narrow results)
3. “Graham Firestone” v (as plaintiff)

4. v “Graham Firestone” (as defendant)
5. v “Graham B Firestone” (as defendant, middle initial included)
6. v Fonzerelli (defendant, one word so no quotes)
7. v Fonzerelli “New York” (refines the search by state)

Google For Marital Status
Start with broad searches with the first names of both people along with the guy’s last name. You can narrow it down with a state or other key words if you get too many hits.

Searches with the terms above can also include the words married, husband, wife, spouse, wedding, registry, divorce, divorced and custody.  If they’re listed as husband and wife, are they still married? Find out by Googling their names with the word divorce OR divorced OR custody. (A child custody issue between them would make the answer obvious).

Or try searching for their first names and last, but with the results limited to only the past year or two.

See the search examples below:

1. Harold Karen Gruberman (his & her 1st name and last name)
2. Harold Karen Gruberman Georgia
3. Karen Harold Gruberman Georgia (names switched around)
4. Harold Karen Gruberman Georgia wife OR married (use OR in caps.)

5. Harold Karen Gruberman custody
6. Harold Karen Gruberman wedding
7. Harold Karen Gruberman registry
8. Harold Karen Gruberman divorce OR divorced

Google For Divorces
Start with broad searches and refine if you get too many hits.  See the examples below where I search with and without quotes.

Searching with his name and divorce might work.  Or it could pull up every divorce attorney in town! Here’s how to bypass those annoying ads from divorce lawyers and still get the meat!

1. “FIRESTONE v FIRESTONE” Richard
(use quotes, may pull up several of his divorces)
2. “FIRESTONE v FIRESTONE” Richard Susan
3. “FIRESTONE v FIRESTONE” Richard Susan Georgia
(WARNING: Adding GA could exclude his divorces in other states)

Googling A Name
Try various combinations. Note that each variation can yield different results. See examples below:

Name Alone
Michael Cohen
(can pull up middle initial)
“Michael Cohen” (“” for an exact phrase, good for bus. records)
“Michael R Cohen” (middle initial, good for mugshots)
“Michael Robert Cohen” (full name, good for death records)

Name With Other Info
“Michael Cohen” “New York”
(narrow hits by state or city)
“Michael Cohen” architect (narrow hits by profession)
“Michael Cohen” ukulele (narrow hits by hobby)
“Michael Cohen” Microsoft (narrow hits by employer)
Michael Roberta Cohen (narrow hits by spouse or relatives)

Googling Phone Numbers
Try various combinations. Note that each variation can yield different results. See examples below:

1. 404-867-5309        (dashes)
2. (404) 867-5309     (parentheses)
3. 4048675309           (raw number)
4. 404.867.5309         (points instead of dashes)
5. “867-5309” Graham  (root # with a first or a last name)

Googling Partial Phone Numbers
Graham  Firestone 587 (rare name and not sure of the last 4 digits)
Graham Firestone 9228 (rare name and not sure of the first 3 digits)
“John Smith” 9228 (put common name in quotes)
“John Smith” 9228 Roswell (city added to narrow your search)
Graham 9228 Roswell (first name w/ city and partial Phone #)

Googling An Address
Less is more. Do not attempt to put the whole address into Google as it may exclude valid results. Here’s how to Google
515 Wyncourtney Ct NE, Atlanta, GA 30328.

First Enter
515 Wyncourtney

If you get too many hits or irrelevant returns, try
“515 Wyncourtney”   (“” keep phrases together)

Other Searches:
“515 Wyncourtney Ct”
“515 Wyncourtney Court”
“515 Wyncourtney Ct”  Atlanta
“515 Wyncourtney” Atlanta

Googling A Business Owner
Google his name or company (do both) and then do it again with the following words: suit, lawsuit, litigation, complaints, fraud.
.
At first, search without limiting it to a particular state.  You may discover he’s had the old business in other states where people have complained about him. Too many hits?  Then add your state too.

Googling A Home Builder (phrases in quotes)
1. “Edward Hightower” builder complaints
2. “Edward Hightower” builder fraud
3. “Edward Hightower” “home improvement” complaints
4. Edward Hightower builder litigation (name w/o quotes)
and
5. “Equine Barns” complaints (his company)
6. “Edward Hightower” builder litigation Georgia
7. “Edward Hightower” builder lawsuit Georgia
8. “Edward R Hightower” (builder’s middle initial)

See Also Google Like A Pro
For How To :
1. Google search 100 hits per page instead of 10 per page
2. Search for an exact phrase using quotes
3. See old versions of a website (Google Cache)
4. Search for key words once on a web page
5. Exclude Google returns that contain unwanted words
6. Search for recent results in the past week, month or year
7. Search within a particular website
8. Search For Images (Google Reverse Image Search).

6 Ways To Background Your Date

So you’ve been texting someone from hookup.com and you’re ready for your first date.

But who is this guy? To find out, your first thought might be to do a fee based background check. After all, you want to protect yourself and these pay sites promise they can find anything.

But do you even know what you’re looking for? And if not, why should you expect results because you threw money at them?

The Overrated Criminal Background Check
When most people think PAID BACKGROUND CHECK, they’re almost always thinking about a criminal records search. And often, they have no idea what to look for. No clue on what’s truly important.

Granted, it’s a little off putting to discover your date is a dangerous child molester. Or that he may have beat up his last girlfriend for eating too much dessert at the Taco Bell.

But most people don’t have criminal records. So you won’t learn much if the guy’s missing a rap sheet. It would be like thinking he’s safe to date, simply because he has no cavities or was never seen wearing a pink tutu.

Other Things You Want To Know
For example: What about the guy with no criminal record who’s hiding he has VD? Or the ex Boy Scout/choirboy who just happens to be lying about his age, his property or the fact that his recent photo is from the Carter administration?

These are the things you won’t find in a criminal records check. And trust me, you’ll want to know about them.

Easy Ways To Weed Out Creeps & Liars
Your first step is to confirm the information he’s told you about himself. Has he given you his correct name, his true age, or concealed or misrepresented things about himself? 

For example, does he rent when he says he owns? Is there a woman on the deed to his house? Does he have 5 different dating profiles with different ages… Or do any of his photos turn up on scam lists or at ashleymadison.com?

As Mahatma Gandhi once said, “Little lies are like little wildfires. Both are far more dangerous than they appear.

How To Search Criminal & Other Databases (excluding Google)

Less is more. Don’t fill in gender, race or county. Your attempts to be specific will cause you to miss valuable records. At first, try with just a first and last name only, no middle name. If you get too many hits, then add a state. For more see People With Common Names-How To Background Them.

Free Links To Do A Real Background Check

1. Reverse Searches of Cell Phones, Emails, Photos, User Names, etc
Most people volunteer information about themselves. To verify and uncover additional information about them, be sure to plug their contact information into these free reverse lookups.

As a byproduct you’ll often get their middle initial or middle name, age plus other places where they’ve lived. This can come in handy for the criminal searches which come later! For when you know he’s lived in another state, you’ll be searching there too! 

 

Red flags include not being able to find his name, or finding a different age or another person with his contact info. Check several sources as they’re sometimes wrong. For more see Verify Their Marital Status-Part II.

Look them up on at least three of these sites to see what comes up.  Often you’ll get a history of addresses, phone numbers and even prior jobs and schools they attended. And of course, their all important middle name or initial which is great for Google searching.

Note that employment and education are self reported and almost always taken from LinkedIn and Classmates.com. So take it all with a grain of salt.

But even false information on employment and education can be helpful. For example: Maybe your John Smith lied about going to Harvard. But at least you know it’s him when you see the same guy posting the same lies on imacheater.com!

 

Red flags include not being able to find his name, or finding a different age but with the correct contact info. Also note additional states he’s lived in and if there are female relatives within 12 years of his age. Could be a spouse. Check several sources as they’re sometimes wrong.

Once you know he’s given you the right name, and you have his middle initial, search for arrest mugshots, and the obvious criminal records. For example, federal prison records, sex offenders and the national databases for misdemeanors and felonies. Don’t search with his middle initial. Just keep it in mind when you see the results so you know it’s the right person.

 

Red flags include finding his mugshot, or his name with middle initial or any contact info that leads you to believe it’s really him and not someone else with the same name. For more see Is The Crime Still Online?

4. Googling

Don’t forget to Google him by name, as well as by any of his addresses, phone numbers, emails and usernames. For phone numbers, try like this 678-587-9228 and (678) 587-9228.

For names, Google with and without quotation marks.

Examples:
John Smith
“John Smith”
John R Smith
“John R Smith”
John Roland Smith
“John Roland Smith”

Too many hits? Then add their city or state. (or a prior city where they once lived.)

 Googling For Drama

To see if they’re a hot mess, you can add words like arrested or convicted or sentenced or indicted or fraud or lawsuit or plaintiff or defendant or married or divorced. If for example, the age/relative lookups show he only lived in two states, you can plug these in to further narrow your Google search. For more see Google Like A Pro (Quick Tips and Verify Their Marital Status-Part II.

5. Bankruptcies & Bad Debt
Bankruptcy records are free and it’s always good to know in advance if he can’t handle his finances. Obviously be on the lookout for recent bankruptcies. For more see the Sleuth For The Truth blog on Free Bankruptcy Records.

6. Verify Their Profession/License or Certifications
Are they really a doctor, lawyer or teacher? Many professions are listed at the Secretary of State or state bar or state medical boards. And for government workers you can also verify their position and salaries.

For more, see the blog on Who’s Dating My Daughter?

Conclusion
Don’t sit on your hands. And don’t think you’ve got it covered with just a criminal background check. The free links above will help you uncover the lies, half truths and omissions. So be safe and don’t forget to bring along your pink tutu.

Who’s Dating My Daughter?

So your baby girl is seventeen! Congratulations. But who in the world is she dating? And should you care? After all, at 17 she presumably has some sense.

Yeah right. Maybe she’s got more sense than a gaggle of other seventeen year olds. But seriously, there’s a reason we don’t allow them to vote or drink. Teenagers need our protection. They need time to think, to grow and to become more mature.

Your kid may be a genius at school. But knowledge is not the same as wisdom. What most teens have is impulse. They think. They feel strongly.  And they live eternally in the present, without much understanding of the past or the future. So it’s natural for them to assume that what they see, feel and want must be right, good and true.

But your teenage daughter does not have the lifetime of experience that you do. She can’t see the danger signs the way a middle aged adult can. So yes, you should know who she’s dating.

Anatomy Of A Background Check-A Real Story
To protect the not so innocent, all the names and places below have been changed. (Anyone who feels I’m talking about them can sue me!)

Recently I was approached for an intervention. A father knows his daughter is prone to date bad boys. And he wanted to protect her.  So he demands she give him the name and address of her latest love interest.

She says his name is Mergio Valdez, he’s 19 and he lives with foster parents Jill and John Longbottom at 123 Main Street SW, Backwater Georgia.  An address lookup of the property confirms that the Longbottoms do in fact live there.

So what do you do with this information?

Step 1: Assume His Name & Address Is Correct and Learn More About Him
My first step was to look up Mergio Valdez in the Age Lookups. I wanted to see if there was in fact a Mergio Valdez age 19 who lived in GA. I also wanted to link him to the address I was given.

Age lookups are great for they list relatives, addresses and the all so important middle name. They also include almost everyone in the United States over 18. Even when their number is unlisted.

Red flags to look out for would include if I couldn’t find a Mergio Valdez age 19, or if I was unable to find a Mergio Valdez in backwater GA or at that address.

In this case, I looked at several sites, but his name DID NOT turn up in the age lookups! This would be virtually unheard of if he were over 30.  But it could be he was still too close to 18 for there to be much about him just yet. But I wasn’t so sure.

What really was surprising was that there was no Mergio Valdez of any age whatsoever. If I saw his name in an older age bracket, this too would be worth investigating.

Step 2: Use Social Media To Get His Photo & What He Says About Himself & Others
At this point I needed a quick and dirty way to find him on social media. I knew I could root around in Facebook. But Facebook is confusing. Especially when you have no idea what the person looks like.

Facebook floods you with a billion people including those from other countries. I didn’t want all the Mergio Valdez’s from Mexico. Just the ones in the US, and preferably from Georgia. I also wanted a means to get to all his social media postings at once.

With Pipl I was able to enter in his name and his location. If I found too little I could always search again without his location. But in this case I hit the jackpot.

A Mergio Valdez from backwater GA was on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram! And from his photo he looked like a dorky 19 year old kid. (Just as we hoped he’d be.)

Now was the time to find out if he was safe. I reviewed his tweets and postings and they were all about sports and school. There was nothing about sex or violence here.

And from the photos of his friends, it seemed his site was legit and that his friends were numerous and about the same age he was. I could even read about the 3 poems he had posted.

The age of his posts were also important. I noticed his posts were from three years ago to the present. This bolstered my conclusion that this was not just a made up site to lure in the innocent. He had this up and running for a while. But not for so long that I would doubt he was really 19.

Step 3: Check Criminal Records
At this point I went to check arrest records, and other criminal databases that would pull up anyone with his name regardless of where they live. These could also be restricted to a particular state if his name was a common one.

However, using a nationwide search I still didn’t find anything. He was either squeaky clean. Or he didn’t exist!

Step 4: Check If He’s For Real And Investigate All Other Leads
It bothered me that I could only find him on social media. I kept thinking about his posts and photo. Something seemed a bit fishy.

Mergio was just too clean. What teenage boy talks only about school and sports? Either he was unusually careful or an absolute saint!

Also, why did he keep posting the same dorky photo of himself? Add to this that he kept listing his city and state, yet I could not trace him to the address we had.

So now it was the time to see if there was anything about him that wasn’t for real. After all, he could be a real person with his own photo but using a fake name. Or it could be everything including the photo was fake. Perhaps the photo belonged to a model and he “borrowed” it for his Twitter and Facebook accounts.

Using Photo Lookup And Pipl To Learn More Based On
His Picture, Usernames, Phone Number or Email Addresses

So I checked the photo in Google Image lookup to see if it came from another person or another website. But I didn’t find anything.

I also put his usernames from his social media accounts into Google and Pipl.  But I still got nothing. I would have plugged in a phone number or email address too if I had them. But you can’t use what you don’t have!

Googling His Name With What You Know About Him
My next step was to Google his first and last name with the main part of his alleged address like this:
Mergio Valdez “123 main” backwater Georgia.

Again I found nothing. But I wasn’t about to give up. Now was the time to Google based on other things I knew about him. These included the names of his foster parents and the fact that he claimed to be a foster child.

I Googled for him and his foster parents like this:

Mergio Valdez foster Georgia
John Longbottom foster Georgia
Jill Longbottom foster Georgia
Mergio Valdez Longbottom

I could have added a city too if there were too many false leads. But the searches above found nothing! It was as if he just moved there yesterday or never existed.

Step 5: Circling Back To Reverse Address Lookups
At this point I was getting desperate. As a last resort I decided to do a reverse lookup on the address. It was then that I hit pay dirt!

Both the Whitepages and PeopleSmart listed a Ryan Starko, age 25 who was associated with this address. Sure enough, Googling his name with the address pulled up arrest mugshots!

Starko was a bad boy. He had many arrests and had been busted for crack! I was able to see his age, his photo, and that he was living at this address as late as 2013.

So was he still there now? Was daddy’s little girl dating a 25 year old crack addict? Given her background, it was frighteningly possible.

Soon I knew there would be a heart to heart talk between daddy and daughter! But as for me, my job was done. It was time to leave this small, sad  town with all its troubles. And so here I travel on this lonely road.  Bravely walking off into the deep red sunset.

The End

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Common Names-How To Background

So you Googled your date “John Smith” and got a billion hits.  Some of the John Smiths are felons.  And some are florists, bankers and lawyers.  But which one is the guy who just texted you?  Even Googling his name with “Atlanta” gives you 70 million to choose from.  So how do you know you have the right guy?

Google is great for rare names.  But for common names, it’s your worst enemy.  What you need is something more focused.  Something that allows you to discover other unique things about the person you’re looking for.  And once you know these things, Google becomes your friend again.

Spotting People By Their Unique Physical Features

Sketch of a Person-Physical Things Unique To Him

In the everyday world of face to face contact, we can spot our John Smith even when he’s in a crowd.  The reason is he has unique PHYSICAL features that make him different from everyone else.

For example: We can find him by his height , the shape of his face, the color of his hair, his voice and many other things that taken together, no one else has in the exact same package.

But when looking for records, you don’t always have the benefit of a photo.  So how do you find someone on the Internet when you can’t see their face?  The answer is to find the non physical features which like their face, make them unique. For common names, you’ll want a list of such before you start Googling.

So what non physical features make your John Smith stand out in a crowd?  What’s so unique about him that it’s obvious it could be no one else?

Spotting People By Their Unique Non-Physical Features

5.0 Stick Fig 3

For example: To find your John Smith in a Google or a criminal records search, it would be helpful to know unique things about him such as his middle name or initial, or his age or date of birth. This could narrow your search from ten thousand to 10 almost instantly.

What about the names of his relatives such as his spouse, his brother, his sister or his parents?  With this information, you could retrieve records with both his name and their names and disregard the rest.

Better yet, we would know we had the right John Smith, if his name was found along with his current and past contact information.  For example, a John Smith with at least one of the same phone numbers, addresses or email addresses as the one we were looking for.

6.0 Stick Fig 4

But why stop there?  Even without his contact information, we could still narrow down our list of John Smiths for we know our John Smith lived in 5 specific cities and states and that he’s also an attorney.

7.0 Stick Fig 5

Likewise, knowing his hobbies, his fraternity, and his college and employment history would also identify the right John Smith.  After all, there may be 10 million John Smiths.  But how many speak French, went to Harvard, liked skeet shooting and worked for Firestone tires?  And how many of these were Phi Beta Kappas?  Not many I bet.  In fact, he’s probably the only one!

So  even if the person has a common name, he’s still unique in other ways where you can identify him.  And once he’s identified, you can use these things to Google him. Or find criminal records that can only be him and him alone!

Where To Find Their Age, Relatives, Middle Name, Contact Info & More

Most of the commercial background check services give this information away for free. They are counting on the fact that you don’t know what to do with it, and will then pay for a more indepth background check. Take what they give. Without a credit card, they can’t charge you.

The best of these sites can be found at
http://www.consumer-sos.com/Georgia/People_Search/peoplesearch.htm#Age

How To Use These Sites
Enter in a first and last name only. Or add a state, if you know it. DO NOT fill in any other fields as you may miss valid records. Most people want to fill in all they know including a middle name, gender, age, city… But since some records won’t have a middle name or city, you don’t want to be too specific. This goes for any site you find. Search broadly. If there are too many hits you can go back and narrow your search terms with a city.

Other Resources For Free Background Checks
http://www.consumer-sos.com/Generic-Auto/People-Search/public-records.htm#TheirTrailofPublicRecords

Blogs On How To Do Free Background Checks
http://sleuthforthetruth.com/

 

Find Their Phone Number

Scientist say that 66 million years ago, a killer asteroid smashed into the Earth and gouged a crater hundreds of feet deep and more than 115 miles wide. The event set off a chain of global catastrophes. Seas boiled, mountains were flattened. And alas, 80 percent of all life on Earth went extinct—including the landline.

Actually, 50 percent of all Americans still own a landline. And so do many companies. The fact is that a landline can lead to a cell phone.  If you find their business info, often you’ll see a cell phone number beneath it.

So landlines are not to be scoffed at! But I ain’t skipping cell phones. So put on your big boy pants and let’s get started!

1. Free Phone Directories (Landlines Only)
Free phone directories are great for reaching retired people. So if you’re selling snake oil, reverse mortgages or hearing aids, you’re in luck! But the free phone directories won’t list cell phones.

To find younger people, use these as a means to an end. Be sure to Google every piece of info you get. Even old info. Googling an old address or phone number could pull up where they work, a cell # or their current address.

2. Age Relative Lookups Plus Phone #s (Landlines Only)
The Age Lookup sites list anyone 18 and over. You can use them to get their landlines and their addresses. Critical is that you can also find out where they’ve worked or went to school. From there, Google them with their school or company name, or do a search for them on the company website. This could lead to their private cell phone #s.

3. Googling Everything (For Both Cell Phones & Landlines)
In the course of your search you’ll often get their middle initial, full middle name, prior addresses and educational history. Google everything.

Here are some examples of how to Search:

Tiffany Jones “United Lex”  (Company)
“Tiffany R Jones” (Middle initial)
Tiffany Jones “United Lex” Atlanta  (Company & City)
Tiffany Jones 678-587-9228 (old landline)
“Tiffany Jones” “1 glenlake parkway” (address with phrases in “”)

See also how to Google for an exact phrase using quotes and also how to Google Phone Numbers and Addresses for even more leads.

See also How To Google To Find Phone #s (Lifewire)

4. Reverse Lookup Everything! (For Both Cell Phones & Landlines)
Photos, emails, websites, addresses, user names and even old phone numbers. Any of these can dig up a current work or cell phone number. Put it all into the reverse search engines and see what comes up!

5. Verify Everything!
So you found a few phone numbers for your college ex boyfriend. Great! But are they still his? And can you text him? If it’s a landline or VoIP line, don’t even try! So what to you do now?

The obvious answer is to CALL HIM. But maybe you’re shy. Or there’s a valid business reason not to tip your hand so fast. For example: say you’re a lawyer and just want to know you’ve got the right number. If you call him now, you could spook him. Not everyone wants a lawyer on their tail!

That’s where OKcaller and  Spydialer come in. Both allow you to see who owns a landline or a cell phone number. OK Caller is best for this, but use both to play it safe.

Then use Spydialer to hear their voicemail without them knowing who called. Spydialer will also reveal if it’s a landline or VoIP.  If the Hear Voicemail button is grayed out and unusable, it’s not a cell phone. So don’t bother texting them! See also Reverse Phone # Lookups.

6. Phone #s Through Your LinkedIn Contacts (Includes Cell #s)
Yes! Did you know that often you can get the phone numbers of people in your immediate contact list? Just click on your contact. Then click on SHOW MORE to the right. And wallah! Out pops their email address and often a phone #! Didn’t get  find their phone #? Then do a reverse lookup on their email, address or web address. Or, search the company website. See below for Phone #s From Where They Work.

7. Phone #s Through Their Occupation, License Or Certification
If they’re a lawyer, doctor, teacher or insurance agent, it’s usually easy to find their updated home or work phone number. To search the contact information for lawyers, doctors, bankers, pilots, CPAs, teachers and more, see Their Profession/License Or Certifications. 

Sometimes these professionals have their own practice. If they own a small company, all the better. Companies often have websites. And those that don’t have at least reserved a domain name. See below how this too can be used to get phone numbers!

8. Phone #s Through Their Domain Names & Websites
What if you could push a button and get their phone number from from all the websites they own? And what if you could do it with just their first and last name? Or the name of their company? You wouldn’t even have to know their web address! Well stop dreaming. Your prince has come!

Every respectable blog will tell you about doing a WhoIs domain lookup. All you have to do is enter their website address into the WhoIs search engine. (For example, you’d look up consumer-sos.com but without the http or www). At that point, you can see their contact information, including their phone number. The exception is if they paid to keep it private.

But there’s a catch. Normally people won’t tell you, “Hi, I’m Bill Jones and did you know I have domain names at www….” So often you’ll have no clue if they have a website or not.

But there’s a new kid on the block. It’s a Reverse WhoIs that pulls up other people’s URLs. This includes active websites and domain names they’ve reserved but never used.

And it does so with just their first and last name! Actually, you don’t even need a full name! It works with rare first names, or their full name, or an email address, or just by the name of the company they own. So you don’t have to know much. Any one of these will do.  And once you learn their domain names, it’s off to WhoIs for their phone number!

Why Should I Care About Their Websites?
Several reasons. You want their phone number right? And you’re not picky how you get it. So when you find a live website, look for their phone number on the homepage. Often you’ll see it at “Contact Us” “Contact” or “About.” Also, a real live website is more apt to have a current contact number.

Of course, not everyone has a website. Still, there are plenty of people who reserve a domain name, even if they never use it.

As mentioned earlier, you can do a WhoIs lookup on any of the active domains you find. Be sure to Google the expired domains as these won’t be in WhoIs. Google is like flypaper. It holds on to an everything, including the phone numbers of long dead domain names.

9. Phone #s From Where They Work
OK. Suppose you know that Jim Mcdonough works at Heninger Garrison Davis. The first stop is to go to the firm’s homepage and see if they list his contact info.

But what if it isn’t there? And suppose the firm doesn’t have a search engine where you could look for him? In that case, use Google to search for the phone number within the company’s website. And don’t forget to put in key words likely to return contact info.

For instance: You could Google within site for his first and last name along with the word Contact. For example: jim mcdonough contact site:hgdlawfirm.com. When you list the website you must leave out the http or www.

Some websites will block Google search within site. But don’t you fret. Try the same search without a search within site. For example you could simply Google Jim Mcdonough Heninger Garrison Davis. Often the number will be in news articles, marketing posts or on other pages floating around in cyberspace.

How To Find Where They Work
The easiest ways to search are on Google, LinkedIn, Facebook or the Age/Employment lookup sites. The latter grabs the data from Linkedin, and you don’t need a LinkedIn account to see it.

You could also look up the company they own. And from there do a reverse WhoIs for their domain names. At that point, just plug these domain names back into a regular WhoIs for any phone numbers you can find.

Note that many professionals must list their firm and phone number with their licensing board. So you may be able to find their personal or business number through their Profession/License Or Certifications.

10. Phone #s Through Companies They Own (Reserved Business Names)
You’d be surprised how many people “own” their own company. Own could mean a real company with a real product or service. But more often it means they simply paid $100 to reserve a  business name.  Yes it’s technically an INC or LLC, but it doesn’t do anything. Not that you care. You just want to look up their registration information or use it to find their phone number elsewhere.

So check the secretary of states offices where they could be an officer, agent or owner of a company. Do a separate search for each if allowed. It may be they’re just an agent.

Not sure what state to look in? Then search nationally for companies they may own, and then go back to the state of incorporation to hunt for phone numbers. A phone number could be listed in the articles of incorporation or in other corporate filings.

Can’t find one? Then plug the company name back into a reverse WhoIs for a cell phone # that’s buried within their domain name records. Perhaps now you can see why the reverse WhosIs is so useful!

For more on companies, see below.

Private Corporations (Consumer-SOS)
Search by individual or their company. You can search within a state or nationwide to find company and then look up contact info where the company is located.

11. Phone #s Through Their Trademarks (TM Owner Lookup)
If you find a trademark owner, you can often get their phone # as well. The USPTO Trademark Database allows you to search for their trademark or the name of the trademark owner.

Choose a “basic search” and in the “Search Term” box, enter the person’s name or their trademark. In the “Field” box, be sure to use the drop down to select “Combined Word Mark” or “Owner Name & Address.

When you’re on the page of their trademark, click on the TSDR button which is on the top left. At that point you’ll see owner and attorney contact information.

Although I filed my trademark without an attorney, my phone number was still found on the link to “Attorney/Correspondence Information“.  But to be safe, you’ll also want to check “Current Owner(s) Information.”

12. Phone #s Through Social Media
I’m told this works. Rumor has it that some people still list phone numbers on Facebook. You can also do a name search on sites that get their data from social media. For example, Pipl.com collects data which may include age, addresses, education, profession and phone numbers. You can also use it for reverse lookups based on username, email or phone #s.

Find Their Email Address

So you want their email address. Or maybe you just want to write them something nice.  Like “happy birthday” or “I’m gonna get you sucka!”

Of course, with their cell phone number, you can always text them. But for those like me who hate texting, try using Facebook or Linkedin. Both of these allow you to send messages or “inmails” even when the person is not in your network.

But what if they’re not on Facebook? If they own a small company, surprise them with a special message on their “Contact Us” page. Something in all caps like “HI JON, REMEMBER ME? I’M YOUR OLD SCHOOL BUDDY WHO YOU OWE A THOUSAND DOLLARS TO.  GLAD YOU’RE DOING SO WELL. I’LL BE DROPPING BY SOON…

That said, lets talk about emails! Thanks to spammers, email addresses are getting harder and harder to find. And what you find is often downright wrong or fabricated.

The Internet is rife with lots of crappy free email finders. These will give you emails of all sorts. But it’s a total mystery where they’re conjured up from!

For instance, I looked myself up on Melissa Data to learn I have an AOL email address. AOL? Seriously? Who uses AOL these days? I never did. I never will. The email result was bogus. So free email finders are a waste of your time. There are much better places to look.

Of course, you can always Google it. This works best for rare names or for common ones where you know their middle initial or company. But Google is just the beginning. And most people want to sort through less crap not more.

So Googling is not always best. At least not until you already have an email address. For more on Google, See #4 on Emails From Where They Work/How To Get Their Email Address.

Always Check If The Email Address is Valid
Obviously you’ll be tempted to use any email source you can get. But don’t email anything until you confirm it’s a valid email address. Valid means the address accepts emails. You don’t want your message to bounce back or be lost in the Bermuda Triangle.

But even with a valid email address, it may not reach the person you’re looking for. Maybe jsmith@yahoo.com still belongs to your old college friend John Smith. But maybe not. It could be he got a new email and it now goes to Jason smith. That’s why you should Google everything you find and see what comes up. You can also enter the email address in Pipl for even more leads.

So now let’s hunt for the fast and easy ways to get emails. What we want is the low hanging fruit. The places where if you shake the tree, the email falls into your lap.

1. Emails Through Your LinkedIn Contacts
Yes! Did you know that you can get the emails of everyone in your immediate contact list? Just click on your contact. Then click on SHOW MORE to the right. And wallah! Out pops their email address!

Looking for someone else in the company? With one email as a guide, you can guess the format for all the others. Often it’s a first initial last name@company.com.

Still not sure? Then plug your best guess into an Email Validator.
If it’s not valid, it could mean they’ve left the company, they have a special email address or you got the format wrong. There’s also a slight chance that the email is valid, and it’s a false negative. This could happen if the company’s server is uncooperative.

Think they’re still at the company? Then use an email permutator to list their most likely email addresses. And be sure to plug each one into the email validator until you hit pay dirt.

2. Emails Through Their Occupation, License Or Certification
If they’re a lawyer, doctor, teacher or insurance agent, it’s usually easy to find their updated home or work address. And in some cases, such as with GA lawyers, you can actually see their email address! To search the contact information for lawyers, doctors, bankers, pilots, CPAs, teachers and more, see Their Profession/License Or Certifications. 

Sometimes these professionals have their own practice. If they own a small company, all the better. Companies often have websites.  And those that don’t have at least reserved a domain name. See below  how this too can be used to get their email address!

3. Emails & Other Contact Info Through Their Domain Names & Websites
What if you could push a button and get their email address, cell phone # and physical address from all the websites they own? And what if you could do it with just their first and last name? Or the name of their company? You wouldn’t even have to know their web address! Well stop dreaming. Your prince has come!

Every respectable blog will tell you about doing a WhoIs domain lookup. All you have to do is enter their website address into the WhoIs search engine. (For example, you’d look up consumer-sos.com but without the http or www). At that point, you can see their contact information, including their email address. The exception is if they paid to keep it private.

But there’s a catch. Normally people won’t tell you, “Hi, I’m Bill Jones and did you know I have domain names at www….” So often you’ll have no clue if they have a website or not.

But there’s a new kid on the block. It’s a Reverse WhoIs that pulls up other people’s URLs. This includes active websites and domain names they’ve reserved but never used.

And it does so with just their first and last name! Actually, you don’t even need a full name!  It works with rare first names, or their full name, or an email address, or just by the name of the company they own. So you don’t have to know much. Any one of these will do.  And once you learn their domain names, it’s off to WhoIs for their emails!

Why Should I Care About Their Websites?
Several reasons. You want their email address right? And you’re not picky how you get it. So when you find a live website, look for their email address on the homepage. Often you’ll see it at “contact us” “Contact” or “About.” Also, a real live website is more apt to have a current email address.

Of course, not everyone has a website. Still, there are plenty of people who reserve a domain name, even if they never use it.

As mentioned earlier, you can do a WhoIs lookup on any of the active domains you find. Be sure to Google the expired domains as these won’t be in WhoIs. Google is like flypaper. It holds on to an everything, including the email addresses of long dead domain names.

For Past Versions of a Website Use The Way Back Machine. Lookup all domain names in the Way Back Machine to find old Websites even if they no longer exist. Or to see early versions of the current website. The reason? Even if the current website has no contact info, the subject may have listed it in earlier versions. And this could include a cell phone # or email address #!

4. Emails From Where They Work/How To Get or Guess Their Email Address
OK. Suppose you know that Jim Mcdonough works at Heninger Garrison Davis. The first stop is to go to the firm’s homepage and see if they list his contact info.

But what if it isn’t there? And suppose the firm doesn’t have a search engine where you could look for him? In that case, use Google to search for the email within the company’s website. And don’t forget to put in key words that are likely to return his email address.

For instance: You could Google within site for his first and last name along with the word Contact or Email. For example: jim mcdonough contact site:hgdlawfirm.com. When you list the website you must leave out the http or www.

Some websites will block Google search within site. But don’t you fret. Try the same search without a search within site. For example you could simply Google Jim Mcdonough Heninger Garrison Davis. Often the email will be in news articles, marketing posts or on other pages floating around in cyberspace.

How To Find Where They Work
The easiest ways to search are on Google, LinkedIn, Facebook or the Age/Employment lookup sites. The latter grabs the data from Linkedin, and you don’t need a LinkedIn account to see it.

You could also look up the company they own. And from there do a reverse WhoIs for their domain names. At that point, just plug these domain names back into a regular WhoIs for any emails you can find.

Note that many professionals must list their firm and email address with their licensing board. So you may be able to find their personal or business email through their Profession/License Or Certifications.

How To Guess An Email Address.
So he works for Microsoft? Then get a sample email address from Microsoft and copy the format. For example, many companies use a first initial last name approach.

To get a sample email, check the obvious places like their sales, marketing or legal divisions. Don’t forget to check your LinkedIn connections as well. Or do a WhoIs lookup on their website and copy the format from the email in their registration records.

Still can’t find it? Then use an email permutator to list the likely suspects. Once you’re armed with an email that could work, use an Email Validator to confirm it’s a good one.

5. Emails Through Companies They Own (Reserved Business Names)
You’d be surprised how many people “own” their own company. Own could mean a real company with a real product or service. But more often it means they simply paid $100 to reserve a  business name.  Yes it’s technically an INC or LLC, but it doesn’t do anything. Not that you care. You just want to look up their registration information or use it to find their email elsewhere.

So check the secretary of states offices where they could be an officer, agent or owner of a company. Do a separate search for each if allowed. It may be they’re just an agent.

Not sure what state to look in? Then search nationally for companies they may own, and then go back to the state of incorporation to hunt for emails. Emails could be listed in the articles of incorporation or in other corporate filings.

Can’t find an email? Then plug the company name back into a reverse WhoIs for emails buried within their domain name records. Perhaps now you can see why the reverse WhosIs is so useful!

For more on companies, see below.

Private Corporations (Consumer-SOS)
Search by individual or their company. You can search within a state or nationwide to find company and then look up contact info where the company is located.

6. Emails Through Their Trademarks (TM Owner Lookup)
If you find a trademark owner, you can often get their email address as well. The USPTO Trademark Database allows you to search for their trademark or the name of the trademark owner.

Choose a “basic search” and in the “Search Term” box, enter the person’s name or their trademark. In the “Field” box, be sure to use the drop down to select “Combined Word Mark” or “Owner Name & Address.”

When you’re on the page of their trademark, click on the TSDR button which is on the top left. At that point you’ll see owner and attorney contact information.

Although I filed my trademark without an attorney, my email address was still found on the link to “Attorney/Correspondence Information“.  But to be safe, you’ll also want to check “Current Owner(s) Information.”

7. Googling Valid and Invalid emails
Old or new, be sure to Google any email you get! You may learn they’ve changed jobs, have another email address, or there’s some other way to reach them.

 8. Ways to Find Email Addresses In Google & Twitter
Here are blogs that cover this subject better than I can.