Looking for Someone? Web site can help

Sacramento Business Journal, Melanie Turner, July 18, 2008

A 20-year-old Sacramento company doubled its staff this year as it grows in a crowded market of online companies offering people-search services and criminal background checks.

Confi-Chek Inc. operates PeopleFinders.com, a Web site that offers paid searches for people, businesses, criminal histories and other public records. The site generated more than $30 million in revenue last year, and the company is on track for $40 million this year, said Bryce Lane, president and chief operations officer for PeopleFinders.com and a former executive at Classmates.com.

Confi-Chek aims to grow at more than 40 percent a year — and several products in the works might help it get there by next year.

The first of those is CriminalSearches.com, which went live today. The free site helps consumers conduct criminal background checks. Like other people-finder sites, this one culls data from public records and makes it available in one place. Users can search by name, age, location or offense category, and can find criminal histories including sex-related offenses, other violent crimes and theft.

A neighborhood watch feature pinpoints where someone with a criminal record is living. And e-mail alerts are available for people wanting to track an individual’s criminal activity. Sex offender searches can include photos and physical descriptions.

The company expects CriminalSearches.com to generate advertising dollars.

“We want to be the one-stop shop for criminal data,” Lane said. “We think this is pretty pioneering.”

At PeopleFinders.com, revenue is mostly generated by search charges. Consumers pay $17.95 to $49.95 for different levels of criminal background reports. Customers also pay for people and business searches.

Customers of CriminalSearches.com will now get similar criminal-related data for free, Lane said.

Rob Miller, who founded Confi-Chek in 1988, formerly worked for Intel Corp. in Folsom as a corporate investigator. He helped design security protocols to protect Intel’s intellectual property, Lane said. After he left Intel, he sold data to other professional investigators, and in the past 10 years, he’s sold data directly to consumers.

Confi-Chek claims to be one of the largest owners of public records data, with billions of records that span the past 40 years.

Paul Stephens, director of policy and advocacy at the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse in San Diego, said there are “quite a few sites” that acquire public records, aggregate them and deliver them in a convenient format.

“One of the problems with these sites is they deliver a tremendous amount of raw data, but a lot of that data may not belong to that person that you’re searching,” Stephens said. “You always have to be very careful when you utilize an online search to make sure that you’re getting accurate information,” he said.

Stephens said PeopleFinders.com site is “fairly well-known.” Other big players are ChoicePoint and LexisNexis.

“I would find it difficult to believe that they have more information than those entities,” Stephens said of the Sacramento company.

PeopleFinders.com should also not be confused with PeopleFinder.com, which is operated by Bellevue-based Intelius Inc.

But Lane said PeopleFinders.com has “significantly more data” than Intelius. “They have a competitive service, but they don’t have near the level of data that we have.”

He also said ChoicePoint (NYSE: CPS) and LexisNexis mainly focus on business professionals.

Lane is hoping his company will mirror Classmates.com’s evolution. When he worked for Classmates.com, the company had trouble drawing people to the site. It partnered with PeopleFinders.com to boost traffic. In the arrangement, visitors who struck out on Classmates.com could access the people-finding Web site to take another shot at finding an old friend.

Classmates.com grew from $1 million to $80 million in revenue, Lane said. United Online Inc. (Nasdaq: UNTD) acquired Classmates in 2004 for $128 million.

Lane hopes Confi-Chek will grow like Classmates.com and be purchased or become publicly traded.

PeopleFinders.com employs 43 people, up from about 20 early last year and less than a handful five years ago. The company is hiring one to two employees a month and expects to outgrow its current two downtown locations, which total 12,800 square feet, in about a year.

This article was taken from http://sacramento.bizjournals.com/sacramento/stories/2008/07/21/story9.html

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