The Nosy Neighbor’s Guide to Finding Out Things About People

In every apartment, duplex, and house I have lived in for the past nearly 18 years, I’ve always had that one neighbor. The neighbor who knows everything about everyone on the block.

I love this neighbor.

My favorite of all time was Mike who lived across the street when my husband and I bought an old Victorian built in 1880. Mike knew everything about everybody.

Mike knew everything about everybody because his wife refused to allow smoking inside their house.

So Mike smoked on the front porch. Mike smoked a lot.

He knew who lived in each house. He knew their comings and goings. He sniffed out unfamiliar vehicles in two seconds flat.

Mike knew when to expect front porch lights to turn on every night. He knew the routine of the mail carrier. He even memorized the bark schedule for all the dogs on the block.

Mike knew everything.

We didn’t need a neighborhood watch team in our neighborhood because Mike was our eyes and our ears 24/7. He had a home office so he was home all the time.

I’m telling you, Mike was a gem. If anything out of the ordinary, anything unusual happened while we were away, we heard about it from Mike as soon as we pulled into the driveway.

We have had a “Mike” in every place we have lived, but none hold a candle to chain-smoker Mike across the street.

Without Mike in our current neighborhood, we settle for a home alarm, video surveillance, and alert neighbors. We get by.

We can all take a lesson or two from Mike. Nothing compares to old school observation. But we don’t all have home offices or the luxury of constant front porch sitting (though this has been a goal of mine for quite some time now, minus the cigarettes).

So what can we do as nosy neighbors besides front porch sitting and our keen observations?

In 2019, there’s a heck of a lot we can do. The best approach is a combination of the following:

  • Search for your target on social media. Social media does not just equal Facebook. It also includes Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube, Tumblr, Reddit, Pinterest, and others.

  • Google your target. Don’t just skim through page 1 results either. Dig deeper. Use awesome Google hacks, Boolean operators, search tips, and tricks when you search.

  • Don’t discount what some paid online search options can tell you, but take their information with a grain of salt. It is often outdated or outright wrong. (Note: My trusted colleague, Brian Willingham, wrote up a great blog about Intelius, Spokeo, and BeenVerified. Check it out here).

  • Talk to other neighbors. You’ll be amazed at what neighbors know and what they are willing to share.

  • Take a trip to your local courthouse and check out what records are available online. You can find so much information about a person from public records such as marriage, divorce, property, will, probate, judgment, deed, lien, tax, and civil lawsuit records.

  • Determine if your target has a professional license by checking with the Secretary of State business licensing office.

  • Fact check everything your target tells you.

  • If you find yourself observing what you guess could be illegal activity at a neighbor’s house, take notes. Write down days, times, vehicle descriptions, license plate numbers, physical descriptions of people coming and going, suspicious activities, etc. Then call your local police department and give them a copy of your notes.

Don’t be a boring neighbor. Be a Mike.