Social Media Investigations

Jan 10, 2013

Most private investigator agencies provide for a “social networking search” or a “social networking background” of some sort. Usually this is done through a Google search of the person’s name, and some of the more well-known platforms (such as Facebook and Myspace) come up at the top of the list and are ‘searched’. This type of “social networking check” usually takes less than an hour.

For cases involving delicate family law matters, potential fraud, or an insurance defense case with tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of dollars of potential exposure, this is clearly insufficient.

API’s Advanced Cyber Profiling Division provides the answer to this potential problem. By delivering a more complete online profile to the attorney, API provides a useful tool to help limit your liability.

Beginning with a public record search as a precursor to an online profile may not seem to be intuitive, but the information discovered in such a search often proves to be invaluable, both on its own and combined with other online sources. Prior accidents, injuries, and arrests all help to form a direction toward other sources of data. Patterns begin to emerge and help to provide a better foundation as to the person’s background.

When people hear the term ‘Social Networking Site’ people generally think of Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Myspace or – places on the internet where there are obvious interactions, or are popular, trendy and well-known. Sites that are lesser-known, that have fallen out of the limelight, are older are often overlooked, or simply have not yet gained popularity may contain incredibly valuable information for mining more sources of data.

The term “comprehensive search” in the domain of the Cyber Profile means that the full, complete data discovered will be provided. Instead of a screenshot of the front page of Myspace, for example, we provide the entire public profile view in a format that is acceptable in court.

Not everyone has a large “footprint” on the internet. Where the college student with a prolific interest in video gaming with his friends may have profiles all over the internet, others may have only one or two sites they prefer to visit- and they may use a means of communication that is not readily (or legally) available to the private investigator. A recent study this past summer has revealed that 75% of homeless people utilize at least one social networking site; even such a tiny “footprint” may help provide a direction for further investigations, such as surveillance, asset searches or witness and missing person locates. The sheer number of smartphones, hotspots and free wifi at local coffee shops and other businesses means the possibility of an online presence is greater than ever.

Cyber profiling requires attention to detail, but can provide immensely useful data. There is no “quick social networking search” with a Cyber profile. Each site often provides a small lead that carries the investigator to the next resource. Although it is not a “quick fix,” the data that is uncovered may help resolve a case and save tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of dollars in the long run.