Whether you live in the country, city or suburbs, it's always a good idea to get to know your neighbors. But that doesn't mean you need to go door-to-door delivering home-baked cookies. These days, there are other ways to learn about the people who share your neighborhood with you. And you might be surprised by what you find.
More often than not, the people you pass each day on the sidewalk or wave to while getting the mail are friendly, good citizens. But every now and then, someone moves into the neighborhood who gives you a bad vibe.
If you'd like to know more about them, here's where to start.
1. Find out his or her name
Do you ever wonder who your neighbors really are? In the past, finding out where they work, or if they have criminal records meant you had to do a lot of snooping. You could ask other neighbors what they know, or get really nosy and ask the new neighbors directly.
Now, it's almost too easy to find a bit of information on your next-door neighbor. And all you need is their address.
Plug it into the WhitePages Reverse Address site and in seconds you can have their name and age.
Note: You do have to pay for a Whitepages Premium account for some of the detailed reports but you can at the very least get the names and ages of current and past residents of an address.
Plus, you can search for other people, not just your neighbors. If you know their address, you can type it in.
2. Are they a criminal?
Are you worried about registered sex offenders lurking in your vicinity? A free service like Family Watchdog can help you and your family identify possible danger areas in your neighborhood or places you visit.
Just enter an address or a ZIP code and the Family Watchdog will generate an area map with markers representing mapped and unmapped offenders around the vicinity. You can then click on each marker to view the offender's photo and profile.
For a similar service, you can also try the Dru Sjodin National Sex Offender Public Website to find convicted sex offenders around your area.
3. What kind of neighbor are they?
NextDoor is a social media site for neighborhoods. It aims to connect neighbors online to share news, events and recommendations, sort of a haven for all sorts of neighborhood chatter.
Here you can inform your neighbors about yard sales or items you're selling, see lost and found pets, neighborhood job opportunities and more importantly, neighborhood crime watching. If you want to keep an eye on who your neighbors are and what they're up to, Nextdoor is a good place to start.
Bonus: What politics do they support?
To view political contributors in your neighborhood, use the Federal Election Commission's "Advanced Transaction Query By Individual Contributor" tool.
You can search by name, city, state or 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.
What's the law?
When beginning the process of a background check, it's important to keep in mind that everyone has the right to a certain level of privacy. The Federal Trade Commission and the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau have guidelines that must be followed so that you don't get into trouble legally.