PracticePeople In PracticeYou CAN find a good plumber.

You CAN find a good plumber.

Private detectives have it easy these days. You can trace anyone or anything via the web

You would have thought it would be easy to find people over the internet. And it is, but only up to a point.

The web has provided access to information like never before, but now one of the major problems is the sheer volume of information out there.

Trying to find someone can prove frustrating, especially if the person has a relatively common name. But there are a number of personal and business directories that can make the task of hunting someone down, or finding a business phone number, that little bit easier.

It has been possible to access directory enquiry services for a while but now it is easy to get to other sources which, though publicly available, have not been easily accessible.

While British Telecom continues to charge for directory enquiries over the phone, its online service will remain attractive, particularly for those businesses that have a permanent internet connection.

First go to www.bt.com and then click on the directory enquiries button to go to the enquiry screen.

Try to put in as much information as possible in the boxes otherwise your enquiry could be rejected. If you don’t know the town where the business is located, then your enquiry comes to a rapid halt and you might feel it would have been better to call instead.

You get ten free searches a day – if you want more you will need to register.

The site is basic but reasonably fast with a good success rate.

But why didn’t BT buy the 192.com domain name? – www.192.com is independent of BT and can, consequently, be used to find much more information. To access its databases you need to register; the free option gives you only limited access, but this would probably be enough for most users.

As well as straight directory enquiries, you can hunt through the electoral register, which if you are searching for a relatively uncommon name means that you can find someone without much difficulty.

You are limited to 20 free searches a month and then have to sign up to buy more searches – the site needs to make money somehow.

But it has a very good success rate so it might be worth the expenditure.

And www.yell.com is certainly very good for finding businesses’ full addresses or phone numbers. It can obviously help you track down a plumber, but also has one of the most extensive business databases around, so can find you virtually anything else. Very simple to use, it is probably better than its hard copy version, Yellow Pages.

If it’s an email address you are after, then life becomes more complicated.

However, an obscure German site has been getting good reviews recently, so this would be as good a starting point. Mesa.rrzn.uni-hannover.de, run by the computer centre of Lower Saxony, is a meta search engine that crawls over a number of other directories and then collates the results.

These can be variable, but frankly this is your best option.

THE BEST PEOPLE AND BUSINESS SEARCH SITES: COMMON NAMES ARE STILL TRICKY

www.bt.com

The directory enquiries requires more than a name to give you a number, but is fast and efficient, though sometimes it might be easier to call.

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www.192.com

A smart hijacking of BT’s number, this gives you access to directories and the electoral roll as well as a host of other services. Some need to be paid for.

****

www.yell.com

Very good site for finding businesses, so can help you find virtually anything. Even easier to use than its hard copy version, Yellow Pages.

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mesa.rrzn.uni-hannover.de

Obscure German site that searches for email addresses. Has had rave reviews, but finding an email address is still not easy.

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