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3 ways to check out your neighbors

Illustration file picture (REUTERS/Kacper Pempel/Files).

Illustration file picture (REUTERS/Kacper Pempel/Files).

You can live next to people for years and never get to know them. Who are they? What are they doing just beyond that picket fence? They may look normal enough, but are your children safe around them? Do they have a malevolent past?

Whatever your motivation, there are many safe and legal ways to check on your neighbors, and with perfect anonymity. Here are some simple ways to find public data, no private detective required.

1. Find out your neighbor’s name

Many of us can’t identify our neighbors by name. We’ve never been formally introduced.

Wonder no longer.

At the free and easy-to-use WhitePages site, you’ll have your neighbor’s name in seconds. Just enter the street address and you should be good to go. Tip in a tip: Is your home internet running slowly? Click here to see if your neighbors are stealing your internet connection.

With a WhitePages paid account, you can obtain more detailed reports, including mobile numbers, bankruptcy records, criminal records and other data. I know what you’re thinking: “All I need is my neighbor’s street address? Could I run this background check on anybody?” As long as you know where a person lives, yes, you can. Click here to perform a reverse address search now. If for some reason you strike out here, many county tax assessor sites provide homeowner information, too.

2. Run a check

We have to face the ugly truth: There are a lot of sex offenders out there. But unlike some other criminals, convicted sex offenders live very public lives. No matter where they go, sex offender registries keep track of them to ensure that neighbors and coworkers can be vigilant.

To find these offenders, you can use a free service like Family Watchdog. Just enter an address or a ZIP code and it generates an area map with markers that represent mapped and unmapped offenders in that vicinity. You can then click each marker to view the offender’s photo and profile. For a similar service, try the Dru Sjodin National Sex Offender Public Website to find convicted offenders in your area.

Tip in a tip: SpotCrime provides a map of an area and pinpoints where reported crimes took place. The information is gathered

from police records and news items, and it’s impressively comprehensive. Click here to see how much crime happens in your neighborhood.

3. Assess your neighbor’s neighborliness

NextDoor is gaining popularity, especially in neighborhoods where residents don’t know each other well. The website connects neighbors online to share news, events and recommendations. It's like a bulletin board for neighborhood chatter.

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Many people use this site to discuss local goings-on, like trash pickup, PTA updates and block parties. If your pet disappears, you can alert the whole area. More urgently, neighbors can warn each other about burglaries and vandalism.

Like all social media users, folks on NextDoor reveal a lot about their personalities. You will likely find your neighbors listed, and their interests, concerns and grievances should become apparent. Click here to learn how to see what the neighbors are talking about on NextDoor.

Bonus idea: Learn their politics

This only works for people who are financially involved in politics, but you can use the Federal Election Commission’s Advance Transaction Query by Individual Contributor to view political contributors in your neighborhood.

You can search by name, city, state and ZIP code to generate a list of contributors to local political committees. This should give you an idea of your neighborhood’s political landscape and what parties your neighbors might support. It might also help you avoid awkward conversations at backyard barbecues.

What other information can you legally find about people you know — or think you know? Be sure to listen to or download my podcasts, or click here to find them on your local radio station. You can listen to the Kim Komando Show on your phone, tablet or computer. From buying advice to digital life issues, click here for my free podcasts.

Learn about all the latest technology on the Kim Komando Show, the nation’s largest weekend radio talk show. Kim takes calls and dispenses advice on today’s digital lifestyle, from smartphones and tablets to online privacy and data hacks. For her daily tips, free newsletters and more, visit her website at Komando.com.

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