How Private Investigators Use the Internet to Track Down People

By November 22, 2017Private Investigator

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The Internet has made it easier for all of us to stay connected, to procure goods and services, and to obtain information. With many transactions being made online, it only takes a few simple steps to track down a person of interest for a private investigator. Here’s how they do it:

Social Media

Armed with a first and last name, social media and social networking sites are some of the first places a private investigator might start an online investigation. Facebook is usually one of the first stops – with 79% of American Internet users registered, odds are whoever you might be looking for is on it. It’s free and all information is publicly available, which makes it a great starting point.

You can also perform more detailed searches: you are not only restricted to using someone’s name, but you can narrow your search down by adding identifying details such as location or group, like the person’s graduating class. In order to perform a more thorough search, it’s best to look at all the major social networking sites: this includes places like Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram to name a few.

Should a person have been careful enough to lock down or hide their social media profiles, it is still possible to obtain information on them – legally – from their relatives, neighbors, or friends who may not have their security settings set as high. Private investigators are able to collect a list of names of persons close to the one they’re looking for and still be able to use the search function on that particular social network in order to gain the information they’re looking for.

Search Engines

You may not know it, but you leave little bits of your identity online whenever you sign up for membership at a website, post a comment at a forum, or perform an online transaction. A private investigator only needs to properly utilize the search engines in order to find these little bits and piece them together for a more complete picture.

While Google dominates the search engine field, private investigators go a step further and use a combination of all other search engines available in order to collate the possible results. This means going to Bing, Yahoo, AOL, and Duck Duck Go for information, all of which may provide different results for the same search parameters. They also access meta search engines such as Dogpile or WebCrawler, which sends queries to a variety of search engines – sort of a search engine for search engines, which is a great way of finding someone.

Data Fusion

Most of the information we use on the web is included in a database, and private investigators have access to many detailed databases that combine both easily accessible public records as well as less easily accessed non-public records. These databases require payment for access, but may contain vital information about a person’s identity, including their known addresses, landline and cellular phone numbers, records from the DMV, details of home ownership, and even voting records. It costs as little as $10 to get a report done on someone with all the information included above.

The digital footprint an individual leaves online makes it almost as easy to track as shadowing a person in real life. A resourceful private investigator has all the tools available to make searching for someone online a relatively easy task. However, their knowledge of the law allows them to work within its boundaries without labeling them as stalkers that engage in illegal activities.