With over 1.69 billion Facebook users globally and just over 11.2 million of those members being Australians, it’s not hard to see how much power and pull social media has over us as a community. It’s changed the way we communicate and interact the way we advertise and market, and with the recent addition of Facebook Marketplace, it’s changed the way we buy and sell goods and services. It’s changed many industries for the better, including the Private Investigation industry.
With more and more profiles being created every day, more and more identities and pieces of content/information is being poured onto the web, it’s changed the way we investigate, research, skip trace and even find information and evidence for upcoming trials.
But how can your Law Firm or Private Investigative team use Social Media to your advantage? The truth is, there is a multitude of ways that you can use social media to your advantage, but today, we’ll be taking a deep dive into 3 ways social media can help you and your team in your investigations.
Profile Searches + Friend Lists
Social media profiles can give you a lot of information, such as location by town or city, facial ID, list of contacts/associates (via their friend list). However, when someone isn’t wanting to be found or located, you would think they’d delete their social media profiles, right? Surprisingly, no. Over the years we’ve found that some people don’t disengage with social media, even if they’re not wanting to be found. Now, we believe this would be for a range of reasons.
Perhaps it’s because they hadn’t thought about it, or because they don’t use it enough to be one of their first considerations. But the biggest factor is that it’s a free medium of communication (as long as you have wi-fi). As long as you have an internet connection, Facebook can give you, either way, many individuals maintain their profile in order to maintain communication with the necessary people. Contrary to this, some keep their profile, but change their name and biography, meaning that they still maintain a presence for com, but just under a different alias. Under these circumstances, if you have access, you can search for them on someone else’s friend list. If you’ve been given the name of someone that you need to locate, you could always ask for a list of their known associates to see if they’re still friends on Facebook. This may lead you to a profile with a different name but a recognizable profile picture, or maybe even a profile with a different name but no profile picture. Both are leads, and both can further provide information and assist your investigations. The most important thing to do is act quickly before the person disengages from social media entirely so you can still find as much information as possible.
Images + Activity
Every day, 95 million photos are uploaded to Instagram. Some of these are harmless, most of them are of food (let’s be real) but some of these uploads may be made by people you’re investigating. An image or status update can reveal a multitude of things, and it’s important that if you find someone’s profile that you utilize these to the advantage of your case. You would be surprised at how frequently people (who don’t want to be found) post photos of themselves and their whereabouts – some of which going to the extent of tagging their location in their posts. In the past, we’ve located individuals who have posted their address and location on social media, whilst others have posted photos of local cafes, parks, and other places. It often takes a bit of research, but you can often find someone’s location based on where they’ve been.
Think Outside the Box
Although the most prominent social media platforms are Facebook and Instagram, there is a multitude of social media platforms that people will use to be in contact with others. So, you may have to go deeper than just a Facebook, Instagram, or Google search. Some platforms to consider are Pinterest, Twitter, Tumblr, Reddit, Viber, WhatsApp, Tik Tok, YouTube, LinkedIn, or WeChat. When trying to remain a bit more undercover, it’s not uncommon for people to utilize these different platforms for their methods of communication. So, if you’re unable to find someone, then it might be time to search outside the box.
If you’re a private investigator, social media can be a useful tool, however, we strongly recommend that you only utilize social media (for these purposes) if you have the correct licensing and authority to do so, as it can be considered stalking and therefore illegal.
In an age where social media has become one of our greatest destinations for information and content, albeit fact or fiction, private investigators need to adapt and use it as a tool.