- Versatile search options
- Criminal and financial records
- Identity protection
- Smartphone app with extra features
- Confusing layout
- Forceful pricing strategy
- No report clarification
Staying relevant as a record searching business and background checking service for more than 15 years is no easy task, yet Intelius has managed to stay in the spotlight since it’s foundation in 2003. The company is a shared venture of six formal InfoSpace executives who purchased several smaller information gathering and screening companies over the course of years, including Spock, TalentWise and Bothell. With the backing of such services behind Intelius it has been able to develop a complete service, the biggest strength of which being its highly-refined search engine that returns a multitude of personal data about the target. This intel includes date of birth, criminal records, financial information and previous addresses. The service is highly useful for looking up a long-lost friend or family member or to check the background of a new neighbor. Intelius isn’t restricted to just the browser, either, since downloading the smartphone app can allow for the searching of people on the go.
Specializing in multi-layered information gathering, Intelius is a fine source for discovering all sorts of data on distant family members, new neighbors or even suspicious individuals that might be trying to offer a deal that is too good to be true. All search functions are available in the web browser, although the reports themselves can be downloaded for further review. The service should be commended for its dedicated smartphone support too, which gives users that are out and about an app that not only provides the same results on a smaller screen but also has the added benefit of revealing a caller’s hidden identity by matching the number with a profile in the database.
Intelius offers a dizzying amount of search options, which is both good and bad at the same time. It’s a huge benefit for more hardcore data miners and businesses that specialize in marketing, but someone entering the site for the first time will definitely find it confusing. For starters, there are two search bars featured on the main page, the first is what Intelius terms “People Search” while the other is “Reverse Phone Lookup”.
People searching returns the most basic of credentials such as the subject’s full name, alias, phone number, past and present addresses, and date of birth. Strangely, if you wish to learn about someone’s Facebook or Twitter presence then you must run a separate report aptly called “Social Network Search”. This is also true of investigating property records, too, which also has its own specific search.
Performing a background check – which is a different category from People Search – provides more detailed results, including the results of each specific search option (such as the target’s social media pages and property information) in addition to extra info such as the subject’s family tree, relatives, education and workplace. The report itself is well-presented and easy to comprehend; there is even a map that pinpoints all of the locations that the person has lived at on a map.
Interestingly, someone’s criminal record can be sought both independently or as part of the background check. However, performing a dedicated criminal record search promises better results as it covers both national and state-specific reports. The results also show the type and date of the offense, the name and location of the court, and even the outcome of the case – which is a rare detail that very few search services provide.
On the other hand, financial results are only displayed exclusively as part of a background check. This includes a limited amount of data concerning bankruptcy or liens, but other kinds of possessions or credit scores aren’t shown.
Intelius offers all the necessary search options for finding or identifying someone. For a basic search there are four alternatives: name, phone number, email, and address, all of which yield satisfying results. Interestingly, the same information is part of advanced searches too. For example, it is possible to collate your subject’s social media accounts by entering their name and state of residence. When faced with multiple results for the same keywords, Intelius handily uses visual clues to explain how much information is available in a given report, which is very useful when trying to pick the right one.
Ease of Use
Navigating the site could be confusing at first due to the numerous search types that are presented. Since completing a People Search brings up different – and often times fewer – results when compared to a background check or criminal record, understanding the boundaries and options might take a while for someone new to information gathering sites. The search menus are a little segmented, and sometimes you’ll be asked to fill out more than one bracket to initiate the process so you will need to already know a few things about the subject to get any results. The advantage of having Intelius available for smartphones means that there is a user interface that is more convenient and manageable in the app version.
One of the biggest issues when using Intelius to check on someone is that the report system is essentially a shot in the dark. Despite the ability to initiate a free search, the system still asks for payment upfront to actually read the results. Furthermore, there’s never full assurance that, if you do pay, you’ll be reaching good quality information; only vague indications are given, suggesting merely that some level of personal records have been found but not that the information you are looking for is definitely going to be revealed after opening your wallet. For this reason it’s quite possible that you’ll end up with outdated or incorrect information and there is no chance for a refund.
Security & Privacy
The site prides itself on the fact that it provides industry standard protection for its users, as shown by the valid security certificate. Every page that involves data transmission or personal information is covered by 128-bit encryption, which is considered to be strong enough to defend against most hacking attempts. On top of privacy protection Intelius also offers additional identity protection, but this comes for a price. By activating the identity theft shield for $19.95 per month, the service promises to report everyone who checks your credit score and gives access to fraud resolution experts and to a special identity recovery kit.
It’s worth mentioning that there is the option to remove your profile from Intelius’s database, which will stop it from appearing in other people’s searches but won’t erase it from the official records that it had originally been gathered from. This opt out page can be found in the helpdesk section and the staff will hide it within seven days after using the site’s own search engine to look the report up.
Intelius utilizes a rather questionable pricing structure, with each search type having a different price tag. Searching for basic information on someone is the cheapest, costing only $0.95, but if you also want to learn about the subject’s social media presence then you’ll need to pay for the People Search Plus option for a one-time fee of $6.95. However, a full-fledged background check costs $39.95 while taking a look at the results of a custom criminal record search will make your wallet lighter to the tune of $49.95.
Paying for each individual report separately is nothing out of ordinary but the price of an in-depth report is very high, which is why Intelius offers monthly membership as a viable model. Subscribing to Intelius Plus is $19.95 per month but in exchange you’ll enjoy unlimited access to basic search results done by name, address, email or phone number, though note that this does exclude background checks and criminal records which must still be paid for on a per-report basis.
However, Intelius.com tries to pull a fast one on unsuspecting users by locking them into an unwanted trial with every purchase. Even if you choose the one-time $0.95 basic report, you’ll still be forced to accept an agreement in order to complete the transaction which automatically starts a seven-day Intelius Plus trial membership. After this initial period ends the company deducts the first month of service from your credit card and even if you manage to opt out in time you’ll be still charged a $7.95 cancellation fee.
Contrary to the A+ rating boasted on the pricing page, Intelius only received an A from the Better Business Bureau. While this is still positive, it’s worth considering their customer review rating, which is overwhelmingly negative and includes numerous complaints about the business. As for the actual on-site customer support, the only options are to call the helpdesk or send them a ticket request, though the FAQ section may hold additional answers for your problem. The site maintains an active social media presence on Facebook and Twitter, where they typically post relevant articles from other sources as well as inform visitors of new features.
Intelius is something of a hit and miss service, as all of its strong points come with a downside. The multi-layered search options give users a choice between simple and complex report types, but at the same time the segmented nature of the menu system could be confusing for first-timers. The identity shield is an extremely useful tool for people who are sensitive about their credit status being checked by others or just want an added safety net against frauds, but the feature demands a separate subscription.
And in fact it’s the pricing model of Intelius that is most baffling of all. First of all, the different reports all cost different fees, though that can at least be substituted with a premium subscription. However, paying for even a one-time purchase automatically starts a trial period, which not only threatens to deduct a month of unwanted membership if you’re not careful but even cancelling this trial also costs money. In the end, testing the waters with a free search won’t hurt, but make sure to be certain of the information you want when it comes to committing yourself in order to make the most of your purchase.