How to Legally Snoop on your Neighbors

by Marie on December 6, 2012 · 12 comments

How much do you think someone could find out about you with a few simple online searches? You might be surprised and potentially dismayed.

Basically, with a few simple name and address searches, you can find out a lot!

I searched on my married name and found my maiden name, spouse’s and childrens names, my phone number, address, age, value of my house, as well as the amount of real estate taxes owed and paid. I found my company name tied to my address, my past profession and what I probably made working in it. I found pictures and descriptions of my house, including the number of square feet I have and a view of my trees in the back yard!

Here are a few of the highlights and places I went in my search.

County government real estate and or property tax searches.

By googling my county and state I found the county web site and then went to the assessor’s page and located the real estate tax information. Many counties in the USA now use geographical information system (GIS) databases to organize their tax information for online viewing. Although not official records, they seem pretty accurate for my data! You can sometimes even find out about personal property owned and taxes owed on it as well, including the make and model of your vehicles!

If your neighbor’s aren’t paying their taxes, that will show up as well. Really, do my neighbor’s need to know my tax payment history?

People Finders, plus others.

There are multiple search engines that will find a person for you online, either through their name or phone number (not cell or unlisted though). To me this one is most disturbing, although the data returned is based on public records. Your age, marriage partner and children are pulled up with your name along with a history of places you have lived all for free. But, you can get even more for a couple of bucks:

For $1.95 you can get:

  • Full name
  • Address
  • Phone Number
  • Relatives
  • Age & Date of Birth
  • Up to 40-Year Address History

For $39.95 you can get:

  • Full name
  • Address
  • Phone Number
  • Relatives
  • Age & DOB
  • Address History
  • Property
  • Marriage / Divorce
  • Birth / Death
  • Bankruptcies
  • Sex Offender Check
  • Criminal Check

 Google Maps.

Download the Google earth app onto your pc and you can view the world from your couch. Go to Google maps and type in the address city, state and zip. Google will kindly place you on the map and by clicking on ‘Earth’ it lets you look at the house or property, from above and all around. They do blur out license plate numbers of cars parked in the driveway though. If someone has uploaded pictures, you can see those as well.

Google Maps also lets you go to satellite view. Click back to ‘Map’ and then click on satellite. You can check out what your neighbor has parked around the back of their house and zoom in from the top to get more detail. Then you can go to street view to see what else was there the day the picture was taken!

Internet search on the address.

In the search results, Zillow and Trulia will pop up and show pictures of your house and what it might be worth. You’ll see when the house was built, how many square feet it has, what it might be worth in rent per month, how many bedrooms and bathrooms there are, how big the lot is and more.

Manta.com will tell you if a business is run from the home and what it’s name is.

Linked In.

If you know some things (enough to narrow search results) and your neighbor has a Linked In profile, you can view the public part of it without even signing in. My public profile shows a summary of my professions past and present, the city and state in which I live, my websites and my skills and expertise. By searching the public profile, I saw my project management professional certification and then went to payscale.com to see what a pmp typically earns. Vioila, now you know your neighbor’s approximate salary.

Pretty scary right? We are adding to the online databases every day, of our own free volition as well as by more and more public records being brought online by our governments and other businesses.

Do you think there should be restrictions in the kinds of data that can be aggregated by online sites? How easy do we really want it to be to find out all about someone with a few simple searches?  

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Mrs. Pop @ Planting Our Pennies December 6, 2012 at 6:34 am

Have you ever used ePropertyWatch? It’s a public records search service that you can sign up for which will notify you of changes in public records relating to all the homes in your neighborhood. Somebody’s late on their mortgage and has a lis penden? You get an email. Someone else sold their house to a family trust? You get an email.

It’s very interesting, and information that helps us keep track of our home’s value, but it also can feel a little voyeuristic as the information can sometimes be out of date.

We also have excellent public records databases in our county, so if you’ve got property at all you are super easy to locate, and your records are often linked. For example, in ours, you can search for me – find the house we bought, see that I “sold” it to myself when I got married, get a link to the public part of the marriage cert, etc… But we have the Sunshine Laws, which our county takes very seriously.

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2 Marie at Family Money Values December 6, 2012 at 10:36 am

That is exactly what I am talking about. I don’t use property Watch. I don’t want it to be easy to find out all about me. Sunshine laws just make it necessary for openness in government doings, I don’t see that they require me to be open about my personal doings.

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3 Money Beagle December 6, 2012 at 9:12 am

I always go through the public tax records which are available on line to see if any neighbors haven’t paid their taxes. For awhile, there was a house on the corner of the street who was way behind and it kind of showed as things went downhill on the outside of the house, in terms of the lawn not being watered or mowed, garbage cans being left by the curb, and other issues. Then, things started to get taken care of again and I looked and all the tax bills have been recently paid on time.

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4 Marie at Family Money Values December 6, 2012 at 10:37 am

Why?

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5 krantcents December 6, 2012 at 12:34 pm

I realize these are public records, but the internet has made it too easy and anonymous to find out so much. It could potentially help criminals steal identities. It is a little sary to me!

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6 Marie at Family Money Values December 6, 2012 at 12:40 pm

Sometimes I feel as if there are two standards, one for my own data – that one being too public for my tastes, and one being information on people I’m searching – in which case I’d like to see it all! Not good to have this double standard….

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7 Christa December 6, 2012 at 1:56 pm

I actually use the tax record site to find out my neighbors’ names if I’ve forgotten them and need to contact them (then do a White Pages search for their phone numbers). Other than that, I don’t snoop — it doesn’t make much difference to me what my neighbors do with their lives.

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8 Marie at Family Money Values December 6, 2012 at 2:10 pm

Neighborhoods have changed – used to be people knew their neighbors. I guess some still do, but ours are spread out over acres and although we know them, we don’t visit often.

In our old neighborhood, back in the 1980′s we were closer together and visited back and forth more.

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9 Brick By Brick Investing | Marvin December 10, 2012 at 9:37 am

My wife is a hawk when it comes to stuff like this. Anytime we’re making a big purchase or making a life changing decision that includes someone else she does a full “Background check” online. She’s pulled up facebook profiles, linked in profiles, highschool webpages, incredible stuff that you would never think is out there. I have a google alert setup in my calendar to google my name every month just to make sure nothing to personal is out there.

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10 Marie at Family Money Values December 10, 2012 at 10:39 am

That is probably a very good idea.

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