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Social Media Skip Tracing Techniques Used to Find Missing Teen

Reviewed for accuracy by Joseph Jones on September 14, 2022

(Story shared with permission, but names have been changed to protect privacy)

Recently a teenage girl went missing overnight, law enforcement couldn’t help and the only lead was an Instagram message from an unknown account. 

Jane, the mother of the missing teen Kylie, remembers the morning that she made the frightening discovery that her daughter was nowhere to be found. Frantic calls to family members and to her daughter’s cell phone number lead nowhere. Fearing the worst, Jane reached out to law enforcement to report her 14-year-old daughter missing.

While police were investigating the disappearance, Jane received an Instagram message from an unknown account informing her that her daughter, Kylie, had run away from home. While this message was the first lead in the investigation, law enforcement investigators were unsure if the message was true and furthermore did not have the skills or resources to determine if the Instagram account the message originated from was real or to who it actually belonged. While law enforcement wanted to help, they were stuck.

According to former FBI agent and criminology professor, Dr. Bryanna Fox, the first 48 hours are critical because that’s when investigators have the best chance of following up on leads.  As 48 hours had passed since Jane last saw and heard from her daughter, she decided to hire the Social Media Investigators of Bosco Legal Services to see if anything could be done.

Bosco Legal Services Inc. is a leading USA-based firm that specializes in social media investigations and finding difficult-to-locate individuals. With staff consisting of some of the nation’s top cyber investigators, former FBI agents, and police detectives, Jane thought Bosco would be a good fit for her case. After a discussion about the facts of the case, the social media components of the case, and the cooperation of the police, Bosco decided to take on the case. 

Within a few hours, the team was able to use their social media skip tracing expertise to compile a list of social media accounts for the missing girl and cross referenced that information with other data obtained. It was determined that the unknown Instagram account was a FINSTA (fake Instagram account often used by teens for non-nefarious purposes) for one of the missing girl’s friends. Using this information along with the other known facts of the case, the social media analysts were able to obtain photos of both girls and a general geographical location of where the missing teen was likely to be staying.

Armed with this information, Bosco immediately sent a covert field agent to scout the area and advance on the case. The area in question was quickly identified as a tough neighborhood, and neighbors were not eager to cooperate. The experienced agent however was able to use his years of experience in persuasion and information extraction to find a neighbor who confirmed seeing both girls the day before and indicated the apartment building where they were believed to be. With the assistance of law enforcement, the girl was recovered shortly thereafter. Within 24 hours of taking on the case, Bosco was able to reunite this distraught mother with her child.

With social media becoming such an integrated part of daily life, it is important that investigations bridge together traditional methods and new investigative tools that can examine social media leads. With over three decades of experience, Bosco Legal Services uses a wide range of resources effectively and efficiently to help answer tricky questions and solve otherwise unsolvable cases. To learn more about fake accounts and what you can do about them, check out our article on tracking down fake social media accounts.