Social media has become an integral part of everyday business practices and people's lives. Performing a social media investigation prior to starting every case, can be helpful for many reasons. These include checking references, developing behavioral patterns, locating individuals, skip tracing, and even for use in civil law investigations.
Below are several tips that Investigators can utilize to maximize the wealth of information that is available through social media platforms.
1. Use Google And Bing to Your Advantage
Your search engine is the first place to start. You can discover a plethora of information by doing a little online searching; you might be surprised at what you uncover.
You can also use a reverse image search. This type of search may reveal critical data, such as personal blogs, dating profiles, employers, and other helpful information. It’s important to mention that you should not solely depend on this approach since there are scammers who use people's pictures to create false profiles and identities.
2. Go Ahead and Browse Social Media
After an initial search on Google or Bing, you will be able to collect further information from the data on social media accounts. These accounts provide information regarding the subject's interests, lifestyle, and location. Many social media users leave much of their personal information public, which many Private Investigators find especially useful when determining behavioral patterns and gathering additional information on subjects.
When a subject uses privacy settings effectively, one may still find posted information on Instagram or Facebook. Facebook has a graph setting that might uncover gems since people are often tagged in other users’ photos. Many professionals such as potential employers, debt collectors, divorce attorneys, and insurance investigators have been able to gain valuable information about a subject's lifestyle and character simply by stumbling upon photos on Instagram, Facebook, or Snapchat.
Investigators also look at social media accounts that are not as personal, such as Pinterest. It’s not likely that people will post personal and revealing information, but these sites can still provide information about their interests and location.
3. Check out Friends' Accounts
You may find that some people allow friends of friends to see private information. Sometimes, friends with public profiles, may comment on photos, posts, status updates, or location check-ins from friends with private accounts.
Keep in mind that a study revealed that almost 50% of social media users accept friend requests from strangers, so that’s something to consider. If you decide to go that route, remember that many social networks do not allow fake profiles.
4. Don't Forget to Take Screenshots
Everyone knows that social media posts can be embarrassing at times, so a subject could remove certain content at a later time. That’s why savvy Investigators file away these posts through a handy screenshot. Be sure to include relevant data about the posts in your file and make sure you note when the screen shot was taken for further record.
Further Your Investigative Education and Training
Before you begin checking out those social media sites, furthering your investigative training can help. Modern technology has changed the way many Private Investigators conduct their work, and if you’re not familiar with these innovations, taking a course to learn more is a smart investment.
National Investigative Training Academy, Inc. (NITA) helps our students learn about the latest tools and technologies available for today’s Private Investigators. We offer courses in a convenient online format that are State-and-Board approved. Our Investigative Training courses teach you about the essential skills needed to conduct surveillance, write reports, and more. Find out about advancing your professional development by contacting the NITA at 1-800-730-NITA or completing our contact form.