The rise in social networking activity among the world’s citizens is helping private investigators quickly root out fraud insurance claims, check bogus backgrounds, undertake good due diligence on companies and check for missing debt payments.
Facebook and Twitter are experiencing massive growth in active users, amount of time spent on the networks and influence among users. Twitter is the fastest growing social network, with its fastest growing demographic in the 55-64 age range. Facebook is launching new initiatives in search and advertising to bring in more users and brands. Between these leaders, Google Plus, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Instagram and others, these social networks are providing new search capabilities for international investigation companies to uncover individuals via these sites.
Facebook’s Graph Search has expanded so much in recent months since its early 2013 launch that it’s now become a useful tool for PIs everywhere. Graph Search utilizes more social dynamics in the overall search now, helping PIs to tie together user’s social connections with various searches. Depending on the looseness of a Facebook user’s account settings, anyone searching for the target can find photos, locations, work entities and much more. It’s a goldmine of information for PIs.
Here’s a nifty comparison by The Atlantic Wire between the recently uncovered search tool from the NSA called XKeyscore and Facebook’s Graph Search. It shows that using different targeting methods, these two search tools are remarkably similar in approach and execution.
So what’s the best way for private investigators to seek out their targets using social media? Well it helps to be on social media first. Here’s a quick checklist:
1. Set up profiles on Twitter and Facebook: You’ll need personal profiles, but seek to set up a phony profile. No need to draw attention to your name and occupation. Creating a social entity to use across networks should serve fine for your online sleuthing. Keep in mind that Facebook has safeguards against using fake accounts. At last count, Facebook mentioned about 85 million phony accounts.
2. Populate the sites: Once active, populate the sites with common pics and info that are relatively untraceable. Be generic in your descriptions: think to post inoffensive and bland status updates to throw off the Facebook privacy watchdogs. In doing this, you’ll create longevity and sustainability for your FB profile.
3. Start Your Searches: Using Twitter and Facebook search tools, narrow down your searches to your client demands. Are you looking for a guy who has posted injury claims with an insurance company, but whose Facebook status shows that he’s otherwise enjoying himself without injury? Use search terms for the city, town, co-workers you’re able to locate and activities the target might be involved in (bowling leagues, professional groups, etc.). Following the digital trail should be able to give you a clean look at the target’s posted activities.
4. Act normally on social networks: As you draw nearer, re-tweet a post or two on Twitter, or “Like” the target’s status. As you get to be closer on social networks, you’ll have a better chance of determining the target’s daily routines, and perhaps a good chance of bringing a summons or court order to the client.
5. De-activate profiles: Remember to clean up your own profiles after particular jobs. It doesn’t make sense to have a lingering Facebook or Twitter profile out on the web after a certain job is complete.
Image used with permission via Flickr user Esocialmediashop.