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Important Role Social Media Plays in Online Investigations

Social media networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and Foursquare have large amounts of information that are publicly accessible and fair game for a private investigator.

Facebook alone has over one billions users. Twitter boasts over 575 million users with LinkedIn weighing in at more than 200 million users. Chances are high that your subject has a social media fingerprint, of sorts; therefore, social media networks can be a powerful tool used in a wide-range of investigations.

Just note that a popular social network in one part of the world might hear crickets somewhere else, so do your homework.

If the profile you’re searching for is publicly accessible on the Internet, then this is where you are likely to find the most current information on the target of your investigation. Here you will have access to photos, conversations and profile information.

There are numerous types of cases where social media can be used as an important tool for investigations and can be used to support criminal and civil cases.

Uncover Insurance Fraud

Private investigators use social networking sites, like Facebook, as evidence of a false claim made to insurance companies.

They are looking at the claimant’s comments and photos to search for potential incongruities with statements made to the insurance company.

Perhaps the claimant has reported having an injury that prevents them from doing strenuous activities, yet they have posted photos of a marathon that they recently participated in.

Claimants may also be receiving disability payments due to a reported inability to work; however, the claimant may be regularly checking in to an undeclared job on Foursquare or tweeting about different work projects on Twitter.

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A husband claims to be at a friend’s house, yet when his wife calls the friend her husband isn’t there. He regularly comes home late and his excuses lack conviction. He has also suddenly become very subconscious about his appearance and has joined the gym.

These red flags prompt his wife to hire a private investigator to determine whether her husband is having an affair.

The investigator finds that the husband’s status on Facebook is listed as being single, which prompts further investigation. Accepting a friend request and subsequently arranging a date with a busty blond can be incriminating and support a case of infidelity.

Expose Intellectual Property Theft

A company may find counterfeits of their product on the market and hire a private investigator to determine who is producing and purchasing the counterfeits.

The private investigator may join a Facebook group where an administrator has set up shop to sell their counterfeits to members of the group. The private investigator can pose as a potential buyer and determine the identity of the seller, as well as their contact information, which may prompt a purchase and subsequent legal action against the seller and/or their manufacturer.

Background Checks

A private investigator can be hired to conduct background checks as part of an employer’s pre-screening process. They can be hiring for litigation purposes to attack a witness’s credibility or to refute the testimony they provided. A PI can also be hired as part of due diligence when determining whether to purchase a business.

Some additional reasons that private investigators use social media include investigating company policy violations, identity fraud and theft, stalking and harassment and identify verification, to name a few.

When hiring a private investigator make sure they have extensive experience using social media as a research tool since being able to effectively use social networking sites is a skill that is developed over time.

Photo Source: Flickr & Flickr

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