All posts by g_firestone@yahoo.com

Using AI For Instant Free Background Checks

Today I explore the powerful and exciting world of artificial intelligence. The free AI de jour is called Celect.io. And I just love it!

What the microwave did for Betty Crocker, Celect.io is now doing for online research. And this includes free Internet background checks! If you remember in the days of yore, it took hours to cook a meal and many more hours to do a background check. But thanks to the microwave, a meal can be cooked in mere minutes. And thanks to Celect.io, your free background check can be done in mere seconds! It will even write a summary for you!

Celect.io is extremely easy to use and it requires no download or sign up. Just type in your question and hit return. For example, you can ask: “Who is Graham Firestone attorney? The AI then plunges through the Internet and within seconds, extracts a professional summary based on Linkedin, Twitter, Rocketreach, company webpages, online media and much more. Up top it links to the source documents, and it can link to other sources in the footnotes. It even extracts photos! So try it out on yourself and your friends! 

3 Similar Searches With 3 Different Results
See below what it found when I searched by my name only, my name plus my company, and finally, my name plus my consumer law website.

The first search on me was mostly OK. But with only my name to go by, it mixed me up with another Graham Firestone who’s still in high school. But even then, it pulled 3 photos of me, two of which were missed in the other searches! The second search did better by listing my current job and past professions. The third search, which was just my name with another website, did something totally unexpected. It pulled up my religious beliefs along with the last three states I’ve lived in! And all of this was done, summary included, in less than a few heartbeats!

What Else You Can Ask It?
As you can see from above. Celect.io is a bit quirky and can give different results based on minor variations. It works best for names coupled with a profession, company, city or state, or website without the www. or .com. But it’s prone to some error if you try with only a name, even if it’s a rare name. It’s also less effective at finding the owner of a phone number, (missed a lot) and it didn’t work at all for me when I searched by just an email address.

Switching It Up
I got amazingly different but true results when I entered my name with both old and new jobs, different cities, different hobbies or just rearranged minor wording. Be careful with any misspellings! It will correct them in its answer, but then tell you it didn’t find much!

Here Are Examples of How Even Minor Variations Can Change Results

  • Who is graham firestone attorney
  • Who is attorney graham firestone
  • graham firestone attorney
  • Who is graham firestone Roswell
  • Graham Firestone Georgia
  • graham firestone department of labor (with an old job it found my new one! )
  • graham firestone sleuth for the truth (my company and website)
  • graham firestone Consumer-sos (my other website)

On a Final Note, Don’t Forget To Verify!
AI is excellent for extracting and summarizing. But it’s lousy at fact checking. Much of what you’ll get is self-published information from the person being backgrounded, or it’s info scraped from the Net by commercial services that can also be inaccurate. So you still need some due diligence to confirm the summary is true. For help with that, please see the free blogs on Employment History, Salaries & Professional Licenses. Happy hunting!

Other Blogs
Sleuth For The Truth
Christian-SOS

Find Out Where The Photo Was Taken ( GeoSpy AI!)

I’m raving about this new free tool and they don’t even pay me for it! For years, I’ve watched the OSINT gurus try to explain the science of Geolocation, e.g. how to determine where a photo was taken, or at least, what country, city or state is depicted in such. The latter is important, especially if it’s a screenshot of a photo, or the photo was from a satellite.

But this was way beyond my technical expertise. Mostly, it was all about calculating the angle of the sun overhead, the shadows it casts on objects, mystically hoping the picture had coded metadata inside it, or manually scrutinizing the photo for things like the text or objects that could be traced to specific languages, landmarks, buildings, business specific advertisements and even the region specific to certain makes and models of cars, license plates, electric sockets and manhole covers…yadda yadda yadda!

I’m sure this was excellent advice for the FBI, the OSINT geeks or the very astute serial killer. But to the normal person like me, it was like learning Greek during a proctology exam. So I never even tried it.

But now comes Geospy AI, a free and easy to use Geolocation tool made for the masses! With Geospy, you simply click in the center to upload, select your photo “From Library” and then grab a pic from your files. Within seconds the AI does all the work. It even works to a lesser extent with screen shots, which means it’s doing far more than just looking at the photo’s hidden metadata.

So how good is it? Don’t take my word for it. Try it yourself! But it correctly guessed that a photo of me and my brothers was taken in GA. It also looks within the photo for key words, and landmarks to at times provide a city, state or actual location. This is what it did with some of my other photos. Is it perfect? Of course not! Is better than any free tool I’ve ever seen? YES.

So Who Cares Where a Photo Was Taken? Are There Any Good Uses for Such?

  • Lawyers: To established an alibi, or discredit one-helps if the photo can be dated as well.
  • Insurance Companies (Same as above)
  • People Looking for Old Friends (can now search for their name with a new location)
  • Stalkers (Duh!)
  • Skip Tracers and Angry Housewives (find the guy, the property, or the hidden assets)
  • The Police
  • The Military
  • The Family of missing loved ones
  • Anyone planning reunions
  • Anyone who needs to show hidden connections and alliances (was he really in bed with the Russians?)

Combining AI With Other Free Geolocation Tools
If you’re good at this stuff, I highly recommend you use a combination of free tools such as the ones found at Consumer-SOS, or by Googling Free Geolocation Tools. For real life examples on how do to these searches, check out the blog by Cyb_detective called GeoSpy + OpenStreetMap search = super power.

More Blogs on Background Checks (Sleuth For The Truth)

Other Blogs

With Free Reverse Lookups You Don’t Need Their Name for a Background Check!

This blog is all about joy. Or at least, all about the joy of finding people and doing free background checks. But unlike most blogs, this one will show you how to do these things even when you don’t know their name, want to confirm their name, or when their name is an extremely common one like “John Smith.”

The fact is we’re far too obsessed with names. Too often, this means we overlook how to get beyond a name, and get straight to the core of their identity. So I recommend you try these reverse searches on both yourself and anyone you want to learn more about. When you’re done, you’ll see that privacy in the US is a myth, and you’ll probably start walking the streets with a bag over your head. But don’t say I didn’t warn you!

Now you may think I’m exaggerating. But people use false names all the time. They’re also constantly changing their names, intentionally misspelling their names or even hiding behind their middle names! And then there’s the fact that you may not even remember how to spell their name. Or if you can, you’re still stuck weeding out the Google hits of dozens of total strangers who share the same name.

Beating the Name Game
But wouldn’t it be great if you could find something unique about that person aside from their name? Something like a fingerprint, which could easily track them down with no confusion, so you know it’s truly them.

Well you’re in luck. Here are the free ways to cut through the name game. Below, I’ve included the powerful reverse lookups which can be used to find old friends, expose the frauds on dating sites, or to learn more about potential tenants, roommates, employers or business associates. Just remember to leverage what you find by plugging it into Google and the other reverse searches. A+B leads to C, and A,B,C leads to D,E,F…all the way through Z!

Photo Reverse Lookups
You’re about to be scared. But also empowered. With facial recognition, you don’t have much privacy. But neither does the guy who’s photo you snapped as he was kicking in your car door.

Next time, try uploading their photo to Face Check ID. Face Check ID is the best free photo lookup I’ve ever seen. To test it, I snapped a new pic and uploaded it to their website. And unlike Google reverse images, it was able to pull up similar photos of me. Even better, it pulls up websites and sometimes usernames, the latter which can be plugged into reverse searches to learn even more about them! Note that this site works best for caucasians, and with faces staring straight at the camera.

Removing Unwanted Objects in Your Photos

Ever want to do a reverse lookup of just one person in a group photo? Or perhaps, your image search isn’t working because there are unwanted things in the background? Well, you just hit the jackpot! Here are 3 easy to use tools that are completely free, none of which require downloading.

First is the Windows Snipping Tool which allows you to extract only the person or object of interest. You simply trace a box over the head of the person in the photo and it will automatically be saved to your clipboard. From there, you can save the revised photo to your desktop and later upload to any reverse photo search engine.

Or if you like, you can use Remove.bg to nix any background such as trees or furniture, and then use the snipping tool.

Finally, If you’ve done all the above but still need to clean up the background a bit, the free erase tool on Cleanup.pictures will wipe away anything missed by the others. You don’t have to know Photoshop! You don’t have to select from a pallet of colors. You just brush over anything unwanted and it disappears!

For more exciting links, see photo and reverse image searches.

Email Reverse Lookups
Ever want to learn more about an old friend but have only a defunct email address? Old email or new email, now is the time to see the sites they’ve registered with and if it leads to new sites, new names, new addresses, new usernames, or a new marital status.

My favorite site used to be Osint.Industries.(now must pay as of 12/17/23) With their free signup, you were able to plug in an email address to get their photos, usernames, marital status, hobbies, where they shop or their professional occupation. The sole drawback is you must perform 2 annoying captchas per search.

When I tested with a friend’s email address, I confirmed where he works, who he’s married to and some of the websites he has accounts with. I knew most of this already, mind you, but I like to test these sites with the people I know. This is a great resource to find out what your old girlfriend is doing. But it’s also perfect for exposing con artists e.g. the guy whose email pulls up multiple names or the photos of different people.

This site claims to do the same with phone numbers; but when I tried a few, all I got was if they had a Skype account. Note that if you want to try this yourself, the format for US phone #s is xxx-xxx-xxxx.

For more on finding by email addresses, see the free links on reverse email searches.

Cell Phone Reverse Lookups
Aside from Google, there are a number of free reverse search engines for phone numbers, including defunct ones. Many of these pull up the person’s full name or a middle initial. (Things that can be Googled later of course.) Some even pull up their age, relatives, emails, and addresses. Now how about that! My favorites are CallerName.com and CyberbackgroundChecks.com (Reverse Cell Phone Lookup).

With the former, submit the cell # and then scroll down to “Caller ID” to see the name of who it belongs to. With CyberbackgroundChecks, it may pull up not just the person’s name, but also other contact info such as described above. CyberbackgroundChecks can also search by address, email, and name as well.

For more on free phone number look ups, see the other links on Cell Phone and Landline reverse searches.

Username Reverse Lookups
People like to reuse the same email addresses and usernames over and over again. This means you can search for old friends by their funky old email address and simply convert it into a username. For example, you could search for snicklefritz, which was from their old email address snicklefritz@aol.com.

Username reverse lookups are great for finding their photos, their new name, and their profiles on various social media. My favorite site is IDCrawl, which is simple to use and quite powerful. When I entered the username sleuthforthetruth, it found me on Instagram, Youtube, and even pulled up my posts on Reddit.

For more on username reverse searches, see these free username reverse lookup sites.

Street Address Reverse Lookups
Old street addresses can pull up new names and list their current addresses. I’ve used these types of reverse searches to find roommates of 20 years ago, including those who had foreign hard to spell names!

My favorite address reverse search website is Cyberbackgroundchecks.com (USA Only). Just type in a new or old address to find who lived or lives there, along with their more recent cell #s, email addresses and physical addresses.

For more, see my other links on free reverse address searches.

Domain Name and Other Reverse Lookups
Do they have a website? Or perhaps they reserved a domain name but never did anything with it. Either way, there are some powerful tools which use a name, a company name, a domain name or an email address to see what they registered. Often this reveals more phone numbers, more email addresses, and even other information about them.

For more, see my other links on Website Reverse Lookups.

Conclusion
The bottom line is that there’s tons of free info to confirm someone’s name, get their middle name, or just find out more about them, all without even using Google. But leverage whatever you find. Trust but verify; and above all, make sure to always enjoy the ride!

More Blogs on Background Checks (Sleuth For The Truth)

Other Blogs

Locate a Renter’s Current Address: The Quest for My 7th Grade Friend Who Vanished from the Internet

As of today, housing prices in the US are still stratospherically high. Coupled with rising interest rates, massive student loan debt and runaway inflation, this means that more and more people must shuck their futile hopes of ever acquiring a dream home. Instead, they’re forced to eke out their morbid, meager existence as lowly tenants, with no means of ever acquiring the land based wealth their parents once had.

But truthfully, I’m not a realtor… I’m not even a homeowner. So there’s nothing I can do except look at the bright side! And the bright side is that this isn’t about the poor plight of the American homeowner. Rather, this is a blog about all those Americans who don’t own homes. And of course, how you can find them and verify their address anyway!

Life is complicated. Perhaps you’re like me, and just looking for your old pal from grade school. Or maybe, just maybe…you want to sue your ex-tenant for being a lousy deadbeat who skipped out on you… when all you did was rent to them without a credit check, and give them the chocolate milk latte of your human kindness! But whatever your reasons, I too am a man of many flaws. So who am I to judge?

Below is the saga of how I found my 7th grade friend Jay Lus (last name misspelled to ward off the Googlebots). But for a more general overview on how to find anybody’s address, I urge you to check out my earlier blog on Find Their Current Address.

First Stop: Cyberbackgroundchecks.com or other Free Age/Address/Phone Number Lookups
You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know why I use Cyberbackground checks. Not only is it FREE; but it also lists your “private” addresses, cell phone #s, emails, and sometimes, even your businesses. Alas, no one is perfect. And even they can screw up on the correct address for where I should mail you back your car keys!

Now with my friend Jay, they listed that he lives on 72nd street in Manhattan. But I was skeptical of this. Also listed, were various other NY, NY addresses, along with an address in Atlanta and Baltimore County. See below.

I also learned the various companies Jay owned-many of which turned up from a Google search with his name in quotes. This included his LinkedIn resume which showed he probably owned

ty Hat Productions. From there, I could have checked the free corporate lookups to get an address. But I did not find any active companies in NY and GA (and didn’t bother with Maryland, or Delaware-the latter where many people ink their INCs.)

Also, I could have looked for contact info at http://jauntyhatproductions.com/contact. But the latter was a form field, and I had no interest in filling it out! I did try the Wayback Machine to see if an earlier version of the webpage listed more contact info. But it showed me the same old form!

And of course, I tried the obvious such as Facebook and the US free property lookups. (OK, I only looked in NYC…) But Jay doesn’t own property in NYC, and I wasn’t even sure which photo on Facebook was his. After all, people can change a lot in 40 years!

The good news is that I easily found his sister and she still listed him as a friend! So now, I knew that Jay looks a lot like his idol Bill Murray! And being the ambitious sort, I tried to friend him. (Still waiting for Jay to accept that friend request…)

However, I doubt he ever will. The reason is that his last Facebook post was from the year of our Lord 2013. I also did reverse lookups on Jay’s phone numbers, and emails. And he’s still listed as the phone owner. But I didn’t want to call him. And the record could be wrong anyway.

Establishing a Timeline through Google
But between Facebook and Google, it seemed that sometime around 2013, Jay Lus just dropped off the planet! Naturally, I searched for mugshots and obituaries. Sadly, I couldn’t find anything. This meant that my friend Jay was still at large! Of course, if Jay had died, I doubt his sister would have allowed him to remain on her friend’s list. But again…even if she did, who am I to judge?

So my next step was to Google him alone or with references to him and his company. But this time, with a date stamp to track all his sinister machinations! In this way, I hoped to find what state he was in and when.

Since I already knew his latest company, I Googled site:jauntyhatproductions.com. This restricts the search only to this particular website, e.g. the one he owned. And this gave me 7 results. But not all of these were dated. So on the Google page, far right top, I clicked Tools, Any Time, Custom and then entered a large date range from 1/1/1998 to today’s date.

This got me proof that at least through 2019 Jay was still alive! See green below:

There were other approaches that I could have used to get similar results. For example, I could have done the same custom search with a date stamp for “Jay Lus” or “Jay Lus” plus “his company’s name.” But in this case, I knew it was his company, and figured given its small size, that a search within the website would show his most recent footprint!

But still, I had no confirmation of his address! The links just didn’t tell me anything. Nor did I find an address by looking at his trademarks or copyrights (none found-not even for his photos). And the same went with finding the contact info for who registered his website.

Voter Records Hit Pay-dirt!
By this time I was mighty discouraged. But then I found a neat website called Voteref.com. This free site can track the current whereabouts of voters even when they haven’t voted for decades. (I just love good ole American ingenuity!)

It found my current address, and for Jay, it did a whole lot more! All I had to do was type in his name (but for common names I’d add a state).

And finally… Proof of his current address as of 2020.

Other Blogs on Background Checks

Other Blogs

  • Christian-SOS
    What does it really mean to love Jesus and love others…without the B.S.

Classmates & Reunions: Googling To Find Your Old Friends On Facebook!

I belong to a worldwide Facebook group where droves of people try to search for childhood friends they haven’t seen in half a century. And as is often the case, the person they’re looking for has long since married, divorced, changed names, or relocated.

Worse, after 50 years of post partum, they may not even remember the exact spelling of the person’s name. Was their childhood crush on Allen Greenspan? Or was it Alan Greenspan?

And while we’re on the subject of finding lost friends, what about your ex BFF Mary Jane? Yes, the 6th grade prep school pal of yours who in 1966 you made paper doilies with. (The same one who swore on her mother’s grave that she would never, ever leave you…until of course, she and her beatnik boyfriend ran away to that hippie commune in Botswana.) So how are you ever going to find her?

The answer of course is FACEBOOK. With almost three billion accounts, chances are she has a Facebook page. Or, at the very least, she went to a school or worked for a company that still has one.

And this means when looking for someone, that you can either contact them directly. Or post on their old company page, their school alumni page or the page of one of their ex classmates. Yes, where time once used to be your oldest enemy, now suddenly time is your closest friend!

You simply make your posts, and let Google and Facebook do all the work to promote your query throughout the Internet. Sooner or later, your friend or one of her classmates may see your request (even when Googling for something else) and then reach out to you. All you have to do is sit back and wait! Chances are you won’t be waiting long, especially if the Facebook account is active with lots of followers.

Googling To Get Facebook Accounts
Facebook is great because you can reach an old friend without ever knowing their current phone number or email address. But Facebook is also so vast that most searches result in overkill.

Unless you’re looking for a rare name like “Fennan Nucleoplast” or “Biswol Apocalypse”, chances are you’ll be inundated with people of the same name, who in poor taste, subject you to profile photos of their dogs, their cats, their dolphins and the pets of their dolphins. This is a cardinal sin worthy of punishment. A Facebook profile should show the human face of the profile owner. There’s no need to clutter the Internet with pics of your favorite mongoose.

But fret not. This is where Google comes in. Facebook has so many bells and whistles (ways to search for people) but most of them don’t work well. Indeed, half the bells don’t ring, and most of the whistles blow silently. So don’t be married to Facebook groups or Facebook filters. But if you must use these, check out my blog Quickly Find Old Classmates and Alumni Through Facebook, Classmates.com, Linkedin and Google.

Benefits of Using Google To Search within Facebook

  • Google will suggest other spellings of the name
  • You can search by a range e.g. 1983 ..1987
  • You can refine your Facebook hits with other words
  • You can set Google to 100 hits per page for quick viewing
  • You can view the Google Cache to see an old Facebook page that has recently changed (no longer shows what you’re looking for).
  • You can narrow results with quotes around phrases (if it’s likely the only way the term will appear). Note that putting quotes around “Stuyvesant H.S.” may not give you the same results as “Stuyvesant High School” (So experiment with both.)

    For the UK (and other places where the schools often have long names) consider not using “” around the school name at all. Instead try various searches of how your ex classmates may refer to the school. For example: The Shropshire School for Infants and Wayward Boys and Girls in Nottingham could appear as the “Shropshire school”, or “the Shropshire school for infants”, or “the Shropshire school in Nottingham.”

Examples of Google Searches within Facebook
The goal is to:
1. Find your friends directly, or
2. Find an alumni page of their school where people look for old classmates, or
3. Find postings by their former classmates. Even classmates from nearly the same school year will do. And don’t forget to check out their friends list. Your subject could be listed there, or you could find other classmates with the same surname. (Perhaps one of their siblings or cousins?)

Clickable Search TermWhat It Finds



“stuyvesant high school” site:facebook.com
Gets all references to this school on Facebook. Can do a separate search using “Stuyvesant HS” But for more targeted hits, add the terms in the columns below. To do your own Google search, just click on the ready made search links in the left column. When you see the Google search box, change to your own school, and then add the desired years you want to search for. But always be sure to keep the exact same format.
“stuyvesant high school” alumni OR reunion site:facebook.comSame as above but targets alumni or reunions.
stuyvesant high school” 1987..1991 site:facebook.comFinds exact references to the school along with any mention of the years 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991.
“stuyvesant high school” “Manhattan”1987..1991 site:facebook.com

Same as above but also mentions a city or locale just in case several schools have the same name.
“stuyvesant high school” “william chen” site:facebook.comTargets all Facebook references to the school and this particular name. This is usually a long shot but sometimes it works.
“stuyvesant high school” “william chen” “wrestling” site:facebook.comAdds another key word like a sport-don’t bother unless too many results from the search above.


Searching For Relatives Who Attended The Same School
For uncommon last names, you can also search the Facebook profiles of their brothers, sisters and cousins who have the same surname: These people may list your old classmate as a friend or can at least put you in touch with them.

Say for example, that you can’t find Graham Firestone at Stuyvesant HS. Then why not broaden your search for his relatives who went to the same school at about the same time? For example, a last name search of all Facebook entries that refer to this school and firestone. e.g. “stuyvesant high school” “firestone” site:facebook.com

This can also be used for common last names where you get lots of hits. Simply refine your search to the approximate time period when your classmate attended. To capture younger and older relatives, make the range slightly more than the 4 years in which most people graduate. See below. “stuyvesant high school” “firestone” 1968..1975 site:facebook.com

Other Blogs on Background Checks

Other Blogs

Find Old Friends and Classmates by Their Defunct Emails and Usernames

Imagine you’re in a huge, cavernous hall packed with crowds of silent people. You’re told you have just one hour to find your old friends and family or you’ll never see them again! Worse, you suddenly realize you’re blindfolded and deaf! You can only identify them by your meager sense of touch.

So how would you go about finding them? And how long would it take you? Chances are, you could look forever. For when blindfolded, all those noses, hair, eyes, clothing and even faces, would give you many false leads.

Bereft of your senses, you would be unable to identify the person you’re looking for. There’s just too many misleading similarities and not enough helpful clues.

This is your world when searching for someone with a common name. And all to often you won’t have the benefit of a photo. Sure, you’ll find Joan Smith. But chances are it’s not the Joan Smith you’re looking for. Worse, Joan could have married, divorced or remarried, which means you may be looking for the wrong name!

But what if in the above scenario, your loved one wore a special bracelet, or perhaps, a unique signature hairdo that no one else had? At that point, they would stand out in the crowd. And even with your limited senses, you’re odds of finding them would skyrocket.

This is where emails and usernames come in. Email addresses and usernames often act like a special bracelet or a signature hairdo. And better yet, because people are creatures of habit, they tend to use the same signature words or monikers they once used 20 years ago. That’s right! You can find your friends with even old and now defunct email addresses! Indeed, an old email address may contain their current username on social media. It could also pull up a new email address with the same signature phrase!

Email Searches, Extracting Their Username From an Email and How To Guess Usernames for Rare Names
OK, the person you dated 20 years ago may never have had a username. But times change and they almost certainly have one now. So to find old friends by their email or username, simply:

  1. Go through your old email list of contacts, and look for friends with rare names OR unusual email addresses. For example, I found an old friend with the ancient address of alot*sugarjet@bellsouth.net.
  2. Search in Google or Bing with their full email address in quotation marks. For example, Googling “g_firestone@yahoo.com” could lead to other postings which include new contact information and other leads.
  3. Try a Reverse Email Search using their whole email address, which can pull up their new name, plus new contact information, including new usernames, and other social media accounts. If you get a middle name or initial, be sure to Google their full name in “quotes”. These sites are hit or miss so use several of them for good leads. In my case, when I used a long dead email address it found my old friend with her current age, a new last name and plenty of phone numbers and addresses. (the last two I could plug into Google or do reverse searches on, for even more leads.)
  4. Google an old username (with no spaces) e.g..the first part of an old email before the @sign. For example: sleuthforthetruth. Also try with quotes e.g. “sleuthforthetruth”
  5. Plug this username into the most popular social media sites such as Facebook, YouTube, WhatsApp, Instagram, WeChat, TikTok, Reddit, etc. This sometimes works with old email addresses as well.
  6. For people with rare names like myself, try to guess their username with combinations like: grahamfirestone graham.firestone graham-firestone graham_firestone gfirestone g_firestone g-firestone.
  7. Use the Free Username Lookups that will tell you which usernames are NOT AVAILABLE on Social Media. These often will provide you a link to those NOT AVAILABLE, which can lead you to the person who has this name. But even if they don’t provide a link or the link leads nowhere, see if you can go to the social media site and search for them directly. Indeed, you may discover someone with the same first name and different last name, or get clues to where they live or who their friends are. These sites are hit or miss. I recommend using several of such for more leads and to see how they work: The best ones are those with the fewest false positives.
  8. Don’t forget the other numerous ways to find people. For more, see the free peoplesearch links at Consumer-SOS.com and the other blogs at Sleuth For the Truth! This includes how to find People With Common Names and How To Background Them.

For Additional Blogs, see Christian-SOS.

Dealing With Overtalkers

Blog Roadmap

  • What Is Overtalking? Why Does It Bother Us So?
  • What Makes a Good Healthy Conversation?
  • Getting Your Overtalker To Respect the Ground Rules
  • Managing Overtalkers over the Phone
  • Managing Overtalkers Face to Face

So your phone rings and on instinct you foolishly pick it up. It’s Bill, the night security guard you met while hiking, the guy who just loves to talk your ear off!

Suddenly you’re filled with dread. Bill never pauses to catch a breath, and he always seems to call at the very worst times. So what do you do now? The guy breathes through his pores so you can never get a word in edgewise. Even a few minutes with him can seem like hours! And as much as you attempt to multitask while on the phone with him, it only encourages Bill to talk even longer!

So is there any way out of this other than hanging up on him or avoiding his calls? And what about the people you actually want to talk to? Like your chatty aunt Martha. You’d love to catch up with her but talking to her is like sipping from a raging fire hose! Before you know it, she’s gushing about her grand kids, prattling over the neighbor’s dog and giving you deep, intimate details about her xylophone lessons. And slowly as you drown in the overspill, you grow more and more resentful because she’s sucking the life out of you!

We’ve all been there. Suddenly we’re held captive by someone who has no boundaries. No appreciation of your time. And so like a dinosaur stuck in the La Brea Tar Pits, we feel trapped, helpless and unable to escape.

The good news is there’s hope. This blog is all about how to deal with your friends, colleagues and even the strangers who for some reason can’t stop overtalking.

The problem for most of us is that we don’t want to be mean. So we either ignore their calls or dread their very presence. But in most cases there are better options. Options where you can enjoy their company and preserve the relationship. It’s all about how we can politely disengage. Or how we can talk on our own terms and only when we actually feel like talking! Rarely does it ever need to get nasty.

What Is Overtalking? Why Does It Bother Us So?
For the most part, overtalking has little to do with how much you’re
saying.

For example, if the conversation has no give and take, you can bet there’s overtalking. Overtalking can also occur when one person wants to talk and the other person doesn’t. Often, the trouble starts when someone feels they aren’t free to disengage. This is why even one minute with an overtalker feels like forever! We suddenly become very conscious of our time because the conversation is one sided, or we feel our needs or opinions are being ignored. And after we’re done, there’s a part of us that feels cheated. Like the person we just spoke to has zapped the life out of us.

What Makes a Good Healthy Conversation
Many overtalkers have no idea what it means to have a good conversation. A good conversation has a measure of give and take. It involves both sides talking and listening. It allows someone to respond to what is being said. Everyone feels included and everyone can get a word in edgewise. A healthy conversation is one which allows people to have options. Each person is free to change the subject, free to speak or listen, and even free to end the conversation, without ever having to justify why they need to go. 

Most of us know this instinctively. We’ve all talked with a close friend for hours and lost track of the time. The time didn’t seem to matter because the conversation flowed freely. And everyone followed the unspoken ground rules.

Getting Your Overtalker To Respect the Ground Rules
Most of us don’t want to lecture an overtalker on the art of conversation; especially if it’s a boss, a misguided aunt or a distant acquaintance. So here are nifty ways to get them to respect your time, both face to face and over the phone.

The Phone

Returning Their Calls When Time Is Most Precious To Them

Most overtalkers can control themselves when they have some skin in the game. The problem is they often call when they have lots of free time to kill (even when it’s obvious you don’t).

So become a student of their schedule. Pay close attention to when they call and the reasons they give to get off the phone. You can even get clues from them by asking about their day, the big things in their week and what they do on their free time.

Usually the caller has a set routine and reaches out to you only at specific times or on certain days of the week. For example, they’ll call when they’re doing boring house chores, or during a long road trip, or while picking up their kids from school, etc.

Create a Hard Stop: Call When You Know They Have To Go Soon
For a wonderful conversation with guaranteed time limits, screen your calls so that the overtalker gets your voicemail. Then return their call:

  • 10 minutes before they go to church
  • 10 minutes before their favorite TV show
  • 10 minutes before they’re at their kid’s school parking lot
  • 10 minutes before their spouse comes home for dinner

Avoid picking up the phone when you know they’re:

  • Doing the weekly chores
  • Just started the 40 minute drive to daycare
  • Waiting for the bus to go to work
  • At their boring all night security job
  • Washing their bi-weekly load at the laundromat

HELP! What If I Pick Up the Phone By Mistake?
Answer with, “Is that you John? Listen this is not a good time. Can I call you back later tomorrow or later in the week? Great, talk to you soon!” (Then call them during the times above, or when you have a lot less to do.)

For Work Colleagues
Call or schedule a call 10 minutes before your colleague’s next meeting. (To see their schedule, use the calendar function to plan a meeting and then hit cancel.)

Keeping Phone Calls Short and Concise

Enjoy Their Conversation but Set a Time Limit.
Immediately at the start, say you can only talk for ten minutes.  Do this as soon as you know who it is. If you don’t, it gets much tougher later on. Half way through, remind them you must go in 5 minutes.  Once their time is up, in an apologetic voice say. “Sorry, but as I said, I have to go. We’ll have to catch up  at church/at Tuesday’s meeting/at the party… Bye.”  If the caller asks why you have to go, repeat slightly more firmly. “I have to go. Bye.” Then hang up. (Why you have to go is your own business. They must respect your right to end the conversation.)

Paraphrase and Summarize To Keep Phone Calls on Track.
If you’re speaking to someone on the phone who seems to want to chat or stray from the point, say something such as, “So what I hear you saying is…” or “So the key points are…” or “Is (insert summary) a fair summary of what you were saying?”  Don’t be chatty. Just keep them focused and then end the call.

Close Each Inbound Phone Call with a Summary of Whatever Action You and the Caller Have Agreed To Take.
While this will only take seconds in most cases, it can save you a lot of time by avoiding errors and the need to double-check.  For instance, after a conversation during which you arranged a meeting with a client, you might say, “Good. I’ll meet with you at your office at (insert location) at 10 a.m. tomorrow and we’ll go over the samples together.”

Breaking Contact While on the Phone

It’s always good to have nifty ways to end a conversation. Here are a few suggestions.

  • Seize the Pause.  For those who take a pause, immediately use it to disengage.
  • Tell them how Jesus met you in the shower.
  • Say “let’s put a bookmark on that and we can take this up in our next conversation.
  • Ask for magic words so you can end the conversation without being rude. “Jon, I’ve said three times I have to go. Are there any magic words I can say for next time so I can get off the phone without being rude or hurting your feelings?”(Listen carefully and use these words next time.)

  • Signal That The Conversation Is About To End. 
    On the phone, you can’t depend on visual hints so, you’ll just have to be more verbal.  Explain you have to go now, have errands to do, or don’t like being on the phone this long etc.  For some overtalkers, you can just stop responding and give one word answers to indicate your interest in waning. With others, you will need to be more assertive.

    There’s no need to lie to get off the phone. Honest ways to end the call include:

  • “I need to use the bathroom.”
  • ” I need to go.”
  • “Let’s talk sometime soon, take care/goodbye.”
  • “It was wonderful talking, and…”
  • “I talked way too long yesterday… let’s catch up later”
  • “I am way behind on laundry.”
  • “I need to study.”
  • “I need some quiet time.”
  • “I need to get ready for my big day.”
  • “I’m walking the dog.”
  • “I need to exercise.”
  • “My ear hurts.”

Steer The Caller To Emailing You, Meeting Face To Face Or Calling at a More Convenient Time.

After 5 minutes tell your caller “Susan, I got a lot of things going on but we should talk further on this. Why not email me or my associate Jon with the things we didn’t cover and we’ll touch base soon after that.” Or give your caller a better time to call. “Our weekly conference call is coming up this Wednesday, let’s discuss it then with the group. Talk to you soon. Bye.”

Meet The Caller In Person. If they like to linger, sandwich them into a schedule where they can only stay for a short time. Or see them face to face for an activity you both like, such as taking a walk during lunch. Many overtalkers are likeable, good people. But it’s up to you to set the boundaries so you can enjoy being with them.

For Heavy Overtalkers: Break Their Momentum and Take the Conversation to a Close. Don’t wait for them to take a breath as it may never happen! Interrupt with “Excuse me I have to put you on hold for a minute.” Count to twenty or thirty. Rearrange your desk, stretch your arms, or walk out in the hall. But when you return, make sure you’re the first one to talk.

Immediately seize control of the conversation without taking a breath or asking if they’re on the line. One way to do this is to summarize the problem or course of action. For example “Hi John, so I understand you really need to talk to an attorney. Here’s what I suggest….Well I have to go now but his number is blah blah blah. We’ll talk later. Bye.” Or “Hi John. Look, now is a bad time. I have to go but we’ll talk later. Good-bye.” Still can’t get them off the phone? Then put them on hold again!

For those who really go on and on. Interrupt by saying their name a few times. Example: “John, John, John” are you there? We’ll have to take this up a little later. I have to go now/don’t like being on the phone this long/have errands to do, We’ll catch up on things later. Talk to you soon.”

Also try the broken record technique. John I have to go. John I have to go. Sorry John but I have to go. Can you hear that I have to go? I have to go. We’ll talk soon John, bye.

Dealing With Overtalkers Face To Face

Overtalkers at The Gym

Breaking Contact
Go to the treadmill, spinning room, etc., or put on headphones.
Pick up your phone and say “Sorry I need to make a phone call” smile and slowly walk away as you quietly leave a to do list on your voicemail or answering machine. When done, choose a place far away from them. Hint for Women: Virtually all straight men are deathly afraid of the aerobics room.

Continuing The Conversation on Your Own Terms
When you don’t mind talking but have things to do, tell them, I’m on a tight schedule, so you can join me as I do the rest of my workout if you like, but I must keep going. Then move towards your next machine. If they want to stop their workout and trail you, you can enjoy their company and still finish your routine. Usually, they will go back to their own routine. But either way, it’s a win win.

Changing The Topic with Conspiracy Theorists
Some people only want to talk about one thing all the time! Often they will go away if you can show them you’re aggressively uninterested.

So when they tell you their exciting theory on why the Earth is flat or that no one really dies from Covid, kindly reply with I’m sorry but I have nothing to add to this line of conversation. (then ask about their kids, talk sports, etc.) If they persist, use the broken record technique to rephrase it in an almost identical way. Be sure to sound boring, bland and monotonous and not like you’re getting angry. For example when the person just needs to add one more thing, immediately follow with Sorry but I don’t have anything to add here so we’ll have to take this up some other time. Sorry I have nothing to add here. Talk to you later sir.

Overtalkers at Work

  • Show Them You’re Too Busy To Talk. For example. Say “I can only talk for a few minutes.” Or “I’m really busy now can we talk a little later.” Or let them know exactly what they’re interrupting. Example: “I was just going over the numbers for next year’s budget. But if this critical, I can give you a few minutes.” Or “Do you mind if I continue typing as I really have work to do.” You may also put a sticky note on your computer, your door or cubical that says “Project Due/Far Behind/Can’t Talk Unless Urgent.” If the person engages you anyway, refer to the sticky note/explain you have a deadline and tell them “I’d like to hear more but we’ll just have to take it up later.”
  • Break Contact. Now is the time to excuse yourself to get coffee, return the file, make photocopies, go to the bathroom, get more food at the buffet, etc. Make sure you physically move away and distance yourself while you’re talking. Don’t let them re-engage you with something they forgot to say and certainly don’t ask for more details. Leave.

    For extreme overtalkers: In one fluid motion, practice moving away from them while speaking, all without taking a breath, so they can’t get a word in edgewise. Example: As you rise from your chair and turn away from them, say “Well, I’ve got to return the file/go to the bathroom/make a photocopy.” Smile as you take two steps back and head for the door. If they’re still there when you return, immediately open up the door for them to leave and say, “It was great to see you again. We’ll talk soon. Bye.”

    For People Who Linger in Your Office or Cubical
    When your drop-in visitors won’t leave, move overtalkers toward the door by standing and walking out with them. Some people recommend uncomfortable chairs. Consider even removing your chairs.

How Can I Tell My Friend She Talks Too Loud?
Say to Her: “I’m interested in what you’re saying. But I start to blank out when you talk so loud. If I need you to talk lower, is there a way I can tell you so without hurting your feelings?” Most people will say just tell them so, or that you can give them a hand signal if they need to turn down the volume. Either way, you’ve set the ground rules so it will be easier next time.

OR

Say to her in a very nice way “I’m so sorry, but you probably don’t realize your voice is carrying over loudly.” Then just smile, and continue the conversation in a volume that is acceptable.

Help for the Overtalker (Other Resources)

Quickly Find Old Classmates and Alumni Through Facebook, Classmates.com, Linkedin and Google

Let’s cut to the chase. There’s way too much junk on the Internet to waste your time with. Most of us just want to find the person we’re looking for, fast, cheap and dirty.

So this blog is all about the low hanging fruit. And it only includes free resources, many of which allow you to search for someone based on their college, high school or even grade school education. Some will even list your classmate by maiden name, and then provide you with their new surname. So let’s get started!

Facebook
With Facebook it’s best to keep it simple as their search functions change with the wind. Obviously you can always start with a typical name search and see what comes up. This works best for rare names but it’s not so effective for common names like Joan Smith.

If you want a tried and true way to find your old friends, try searching with an old email or phone number. Or look for your school’s alumni association which may include posts from other people you know. Simply log into your FB account and go to Facebook Groups. From there, type in the name of your school. This may lead you to an alumni directory or to a list of school reunions.

You can also search based on the person’s city, education or work. Simply type their name into the Facebook search box, and hit enter. Then click on People and select one of the following. (selecting all three will likely weed out the person you’re looking for).

Or you can Search for common names and see if they are friends of your school or work friends. For example, in the Facebook search box type in your friend John Smith, hit enter and then People just as before. But this time, go to Friends of Friends and move the toggle to the right.

Note: don’t put in their City or Education or Work unless you get too many hits. Filling in too much will do more harm than good. For example: I found dormmate Peter Merante from SUNY Binghamton as a friend of a friend. But when I used the education filter to list our alma mater, suddenly his name disappeared! So start out with less and you can always add filters in later.

Facebook: Find Someone Without Their Last Name
Here’s how to find someone when you don’t know their last name or can’t spell it? First, go back into Facebook -> type the first name in search -> click on filter “People” -> under people you’ll see more filters: friends of friends, location (city), education and work. Try different filters and don’t overlook the “friends of friends” filter: it just might get you the person you’re looking for!

As stated above, don’t use too many filters at once. For example, you can search by education or education and friends of friends. But don’t try education and work all at once. For if you do, you may miss the person who never included all this in their profile.

Still stuck? Well in that case, use the power of Google to search within Facebook and totally bypass the Facebook search engine, which may otherwise require their surname.

For example: say you’re looking for your old friend Teresa _______ from Cathedral School in Havana Cuba? If you tried this search in the Facebook search box, , you would never get anywhere without her last name. But Google is far more forgiving.

To bypass this requirement and still find her in Facebook, go to the Google search box, and type in her first name, the school in quotes, and the city where the school is located. You’ll also want to add the website for Google to search in. See the format below:

Teresa “Cathedral School” “havana” site:facebook.com

Still too many hits? Then add a year like this:

Teresa “Cathedral School” “havana” 1951 site:facebook.com

What? Your friend’s name is Julie not Teresa? And she never lived in Cuba but went to Stuyvesant High School in New York?

Fine, simply click on the green link above, and once in the Google search box, change the name, change the school and city, but leave all the rest alone. Of course this will work even better if you have a full name.

As for Facebook, don’t immediately discard the hits that show people who graduated a few years before or after your childhood friend did. CHECK THEIR FRIEND’S LIST for people you may know. If you find someone from your grade, check that person’s friend’s list as well. You might find more leads or even the person you’re looking for!

Use Classmates.com To Find Their New Surname (Good for high school and college)
If you’re looking for old classmates who may have married, remarried or divorced, you can’t afford to ignore the free sign-up at classmates.com.

Like Facebook, Classmates often lists women by both their maiden and married names. This is invaluable, for with their new name you can always Google it or use the age and relative lookup sites to find where they currently live. From there you can look up their name in the property records to confirm their address.

For easy to read tips on how to search for people in classmates.com, checkout their page on Classmates search for people and schools.

Note that Classmates will also list the year they graduated or at least the year when they attended the school, so finding the right Carol Smith should be easy.  By the way, if you’re not sure how to spell their last name, type it in Google first. Sometimes, Google will correct the spelling based on the records in its own database.

Three Easy Ways To Search on Classmates.com: The Low Hanging Fruit

1.Tamar Kummel  (rare name, no school needed)
2. Graham Firestone New York  (name and state, no school)
3. Elissa Liebman Trinity (old last name and school reveals her new surname!)

LinkedIn (Works best for colleges & graduate school)
Using Google to search within the LinkedIn website missed a lot. So it’s best to do their free sign up and enter your query in the LinkedIn search box.

You can search with quotes, and if there are too many hits, just add their school. For example: “John Tilden” Binghamton

Use LinkedIn Filters for School, Prior Jobs and City or Country

Or once in the LinkedIn search box, simply enter their name in quotes, click enter and select PEOPLE. Then choose ALL FILTERS, scroll down the page and click on the school you recognize. You can even add a school! When done, Click on SHOW RESULTS.

No hits? Then hit the RESET button, go back to ALL FILTERS and search instead based on prior jobs and location. For example you can select the country or city, or even add your own city where you’re looking for them. Then scroll down to “Past Company.”If you don’t see the company, LinkedIn allows you to start typing the company. LinkedIn will fill in the rest!

Other Places To Find People
Last but not least is Google. Don’t forget to Google the name of your school with the words alumni directory. More than likely, your school already has an alumni directory or lists your old friend as being married, having a baby or winning an award, etc.

Google Searches for Classmates Based on School
So if a name search won’t get you the results you need, here’s how to search for your school’s alumni directory, alumni association or class reunions.

Search Examples:
Graham Firestone Harvard
Harvard alumni directory 1987
Harvard reunion 1987
Harvard alumni association

Other Blogs To Help You Find Alumni and Old Classmates

Outsmarting Rocketreach To Get Business Emails (And Some Personal Emails) All For Free

I just signed up for RocketReach and was sorely disappointed. The free version allows you to search for business emails, and it gives you all sorts of nifty ways to find people.

So what’s the catch?

The catch is that yes, you can get their business email address, but only if you can find their name within the first two pages of your search. And for reasons most mysterious, this doesn’t happen much, if at all.

Now maybe I was just too dumb to figure it all out. Or maybe, just maybe, RocketReach was hoping to make it complicated so I’d sign up for their premium services.

I tried about 6 searches, but the first two pages gave me irrelevant names, often without the last name of the person I was looking for! And when I tried to search the third page, I was led to spine-chilling messages about RocketReach pricing.

Yep. It seems that if you want to routinely find people through their “free” service, you’re out of luck unless you pay them. And who but Arab oil sheiks can afford these prices?

This is slick marketing on their part. During the sign up, they coax you to divulge your business email address for free. It’s then added or updated in their premium database which they then turn around and charge you $49 a month for! WOW. It would seem then that signing up for their free tool is just a waste of time.

The good news is that it ain’t so! Turns out that Google does a far better job of searching Rocketreach than Rocketreach does! But for this to work, you still have to use their free signup just like I did. Don’t worry, it’s not painful. And you can always give them one of your crappy email addresses, or set up a disposable one for them to send their confirmation to.

After my free signup, I was able to Google for emails within the RocketReach website like this: Graham Firestone solvay site:rocketreach.co

Simply click on the link above, and replace my name with your subject’s, along with the company they work for. Be sure to leave the rest alone. You could also try with quotes like this “Graham Firestone” solvay site:rocketreach.co

This pulled up my name and my company name. To find both my business and personal email address, simply click on VIEW GRAHAM’S CONTACT INFO. Be sure to click further if it says there are other emails.

In my case, it gave out a lot of good information. It pulled up my current business email, and an email from a law firm I used to work for, and a rarely used personal email of mine (scraped from LinkedIn no doubt).

What If My Subject’s Name Doesn’t Appear But I know He Works There?
Don’t be a crybaby. No database is perfect. If the person isn’t listed, do the same Google search above but without the person’s name. This should pull up lots of other people from the same company and allow you to guess the email format.

What if I Don’t Know the Name of Their Employer or Company?
This won’t work well for common names, but with a rare name like mine, try a search like this: “Graham Firestone” site:rocketreach.co.

Note: It’s a lot easier to search for people, places or things if you get Google to display 100 searches at once instead of 10. For an easy way to do this, see Google search 100 hits per page instead of 10 per page.

For more see Cell Phone #s, Emails & Physical Addresses

The End