Someone is looking for you online. The web is full of websites and services that provide your details to others, sometimes free, sometimes for a fee.
It’s an uncomfortable sensation to know that your personal data can be used to track you. While unlikely anyone who has Googled you would intend harm, it is useful to know who they are.
It might be a potential employer, former lover, or even a long lost relative. If someone is searching for you online, these are the five most likely ways they have of finding you.
Who Is Searching for Me Online?
If you’re concerned that someone might be looking for you, there is sadly no way of knowing who they are.
In most cases, however, you probably have a good idea. Friendly faces will probably turn up via Facebook. Others, however, are likely to find another way.
While it’s not possible to reveal who they are, you can at least use the same tools they’re using. So, while you can’t find out who searched for you on Google, you can set up alerts whenever your name appears on a website, in a forum, or on social networks.
From there, you should be able to trace the message back to the original poster and find out who they are.
1. Use Google Alerts
You might be asking yourself, “Who Googled me?” The first thing to do is to set up a Google alert. It might seem somewhat self-absorbed, but this is genuinely the first step in playing it safe.
Just don’t tell anyone you’ve got an alert for your own name on Google Alerts…
Sign into Google and visit google.com/alerts. Here, enter your name in the alert box at the top of the page and click Create Alert.
Use the Show Options link to expand the view. This lets you set how often email alerts will arrive and where they should be delivered. You’ll see a preview of your alerts too, to give you an idea of how they will look.
Now, whenever Google spots your name on a website, news page, social media, forum, or blog post, it will send you an email alert!
2. Look for Social Mentions
Like Google Alerts, but focusing on social networks that might see mention of your name is Mention.com.
This is a web-based alert system that offers apps for Windows 10 and macOS, as well as Android and iPhone. Signup is free for the standard service, while Mention also offers a 14-day trial of the fully featured service.
Once you sign up, sign in and create an alert. You can choose up to four additional alerts, which in this case might be the names of close family members.
Click Get Started to proceed. Mention will start scanning sources, including blogs, forums and social networks like Facebook and Twitter.
A default selection of sources is scanned initially; click the Edit alert button in the Mention dashboard to edit this.
The Mention dashboard lists all occurrences of your alert, which by default is sent to your email inbox. When an email is received, click the notification to instantly find out what context your name has been used in.
Is someone looking for you?
3. Set Up a LinkedIn Profile
A LinkedIn profile is incredibly useful for finding a new job. You might be a freelancer, an expert in your field or if you’re simply looking for a change of career.
However, a presence on LinkedIn means that you can be found.
Signing into the service will display a total of profile views for the current period. LinkedIn Premium members will see full details of those viewing them; the free account holders will only see a handful.
If someone is using LinkedIn to track you down, there is a good chance that it is for work-related reasons. On the other hand, you might like to know just who is looking, and why. Using the LinkedIn Premium service is a good way to get a handle on this.
4. Is Long Lost Family Searching for You?
Mawkish long-lost family reunions are TV ratings gold. They’re also often responsible for people trying to track down distant (or estranged) relatives for a reunion after many years.
Various websites exist that can be used to track you and your family down under the auspices of “family research”.
For example, adoption search sites (such as www.adopteeconnect.com) can be used to trace you, or your remote siblings. While no adoption agency would allow contact with individuals without permission, registering with one of these sites involves submitting consent.
Meanwhile, genealogy research behemoth www.ancestry.com has a vast database that could theoretically be used to track your current whereabouts.
It is, of course, one of many excellent online tools for researching your family tree. But like many of the tools we’ve mentioned here, it can be misused.
As an Ancestry member you receive notification if you have been added to other family trees. However, you cannot tell if anyone has checked yours or your ancestors’ details. It is possible to put a lock on your record, however, to prevent access by unrelated parties.
5. Obituaries and Death Notices
Interestingly, a death and subsequent announcement can show people where you are. Too busy being dead to care?
What if it was the passing of a loved one? Your mention in their obituary or death notice in the local press, replicated for the online edition, could place a big “I am here” notice about your head.
There are many people who share names, common and uncommon. Perhaps it won’t matter. But it’s worth taking care. After all, this information might be the last piece in the puzzle for someone trying to track you down.
It’s worth considering that the announcement of births and marriages in the press can also alert people to your location.
Use Alerts and Stay Aware!
People are always looking for you, be it friends, family, even fans. On the other hand, it might be debt collectors, potential employers, or even criminals.
There is no way to know who they are, so the smart option is to manage all interest in you. Five options are open to people trying to find you:
- Google Alerts
- Social networks like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram
- Professional networking tools such as LinkedIn
- Public record and genealogy sites
- Obituary and death notices of relatives
Meanwhile, it’s a good idea to take advantage of your own website (should you own one) to direct contact attempts. Don’t have your own site? Use one of the many free services to create a modest homepage.
In the opposite situation and looking for details about an individual you know? Here’s where to find information on someone online.