What You Need to Know About Launching a Social Media Investigation
Trent Carlyle: Hello everyone and welcome to the July edition of ServeNow EDU. I’m Trent Carlyle, co-founder of Lawgical, the parent company of ServeNow and ServeManager, as well as PInow.
Today’s topic is one that you’re going to find extremely interesting and relevant regardless if you’re a process server or private investigator. Joseph Jones is our guest today and he’ll be discussing social media investigations from the perspective of a process server. I’ll introduce Joe momentarily. As a reminder, these webinars are recorded so you can watch this one and past ServeNow EDUs on servenow.com, YouTube and you can also subscribe in iTunes. This is sort of a part one in a two-part series on social media investigations. Next month, on August 25th, JJ Goulbourne, investigator with the Lawrence County Missouri Sheriff’s Office will be our guest and the title of his webinar is “Computer Investigations and Use of Social Media”. Make sure you go to ServeNow and register for that one.
As I mentioned, today’s guest is Joe Jones, Vice President of Bosco Legal. Joe is a licensed private investigator in the state of California and has certifications in open source intelligence. Joe’s father started Bosco in 1980. He grew up in the family business and now runs the firm with his brothers. Joseph has a degree in psychology from California Southern University, is a member of the California Association of Licensed Private Investigators, the California Association of Legal Support Professionals, and the National Association of Professional Process Servers. As well as the National Council of Investigation and Security Services, and has received specialized training for the military, various law enforcement agencies, and the nation’s top private intelligence firms. Joe is also a CALSPro certified processor and has served on multiple committees within that organization. Did I miss anything there on that bio there, Joe?
Joseph Jones: I’m thinking we might need to shorten that up a little bit next time.
Trent Carlyle: I think we could keep going, though.
Joseph Jones: Yeah.
Trent Carlyle: So in regards to Bosco, before we get started on the content of this presentation, is there anything that you’d like to tell us about in relation to the services that you offer, related to the content today, why you decided to offer that?
Joseph Jones: Yeah, I’ll speak to it for a quick second. So, we offer you know various attorney services, process serving, court filings, records retrieval, but we also do a lot of investigations and I am specifically over our process serving and investigations divisions and you know social media, the reason I wanted to do this one is social media has become such a huge part of our business on both sides, for the process serving and the investigations. And we’ll get some more into it. You know most of our clients are law firms, but we also do some work you know for other process servers of private investigators who don’t have the time or know-how to deal with some of these kinds of specialized areas.
Trent Carlyle: Well we have a lot of folks here today. We had almost 100 registered and I think it’s a topic that everyone is gonna appreciate and find very interesting, whether it’s just for general knowledge related to skip-tracing or maybe you want to offer this service directly to your clients or you can refer that business to an expert in the field.
I’ll let everyone know that you can certainly ask questions along the way. Joe will be sharing his screen and he will be presenting the content. I will be monitoring all the questions that are in GoToWebinar, so if you have a question along the way please feel free to ask a question in that questions widget and GoToWebinar, again, if you’ve been to a ServeNow EDU webinar in the past, this will be recorded. We’ll try to shoot you a link hopefully by tomorrow with the recorded content. Screengrabs you know any links to pertinent information et cetera so don’t feel like you need to hastily take notes and get everything down. That will be available to you hopefully within the next 24 hours or so. So with that said, Joe, I’m going to go ahead and turn it over to you.
Joseph Jones: Okay, awesome. So we’re gonna go through, do we have my screen up so everybody can see it?
Trent Carlyle: I see it, yep.
Joseph Jones: Okay, perfect. So we’re gonna go through a lot of different things. Some of the stuff that we’re going to be getting into may not apply to everybody, but certainly, you know as we go through this, you’re gonna learn a lot of things that will hopefully you know have helped you in what you’re doing.
So the first thing that we’re gonna go over is talking about deep web searches and how to conduct them. As a preface to that, especially if you’re working on the investigation side, one thing that you need to understand is that your internet browser grabs everything that you do. You know, especially if you’re using Google, which you should be, it tracks everything that you’re doing. So, when you’re working on investigations, you’re going to want to start with a clean browser that doesn’t have all of your previous searches in there, it doesn’t have a lot of the stuff about your personal information.
The first thing I’m gonna recommend doing is if you’re using something for investigations, you have a separate browser that you use. So, if your normal browser is Internet Explorer, download Chrome and use that just for your investigations or Firefox or whatever you’re going to use. And then once to get that new account established, you want to establish it with a different or a new email address which it takes two seconds to create, and then we’re gonna go in and we’re going to adjust some of our settings on your new search.
So, to get there, you just go up here at Google slash preferences. The first thing that we’re gonna do is we’re going to turn off the safe search and now this is something that you know on my personal computers I always have safe search on because I don’t want popping up, but when we’re talking about investigations you know a lot of time we’re dealing in with the underbelly of society and so we need to be able to access anything regardless of whether or not it’s safe and so that’s the first thing we’re gonna do. We’re going to turn off safe search. Then we’re going to change it so it says never show instant results. That’s a simple thing that we do because it makes it easier to find exactly what you’re looking for when Google isn’t trying to auto-populate and tell you hey this is what you should be searching for.
The other thing we’re going to do is we’re going to change our results to show 100 results per page and that’s just going to make it easier as you’re scrolling through and then the other thing that we’re going to want to do is, if you’re able to, some browsers allow it some browsers don’t but if possible you’re going to want to turn off location-based searching. One thing you may not understand is that Google always knows where you’re at and it will filter the searches that you do based on where you’re searching from.
So my office here is in Riverside, California. If I’m searching for you know Joe’s pizza, it’s gonna look for Joe’s pizza in Riverside even if I don’t tell it Riverside. So, if you can find a way to turn that off, that’s great.
So the next thing we’re gonna talk about doing is Boolean searching and as you know the internet and we’ll do a quick search here. Google is gonna give you as much as it can so we’re gonna search for me real quick. We’re gonna say Joseph Jones private investigator. Alright and so we search that we’re gonna go up here to the top and we’re gonna see that in less than a second it gave me almost a million and a half results. Now you as the investigator, you as the process server trying to track somebody down you don’t have the time or inclination to search through a million and a half results. So, one of the things that we do that is quite effective is we’re going to use quotations. You’ll see what I’m doing here is I’m putting in quotes the terms that I specifically want to search for and we’re going to do a plus sign here. So right now what I’m doing is I’m telling Google that I only want to see the term Joseph Jones in quotes so is one you know term and I want to see private investigator as one term. So doing that just dropped me down from a million and a half to one thousand three hundred and seventy so now I’ve got a little bit more manageable term to work with.
Some other things that we can do here is then what I’m going to show you if we replace this plus with an asterisk. So I guess first before I jump into that I’ll tell you that this will find anything on a web page where it has the term Joseph Jones and where it has the term private investigator anywhere on the page. So this next thing we’re going to do is we’re gonna put an asterisk there instead and that is going to filter us down to eight results. So now I’ve gone through the entire web all million and a half different results that could be associated and boiled it down to exactly what I’m looking for.
So here you know there’s my LinkedIn profile, some blog posts that I’ve done, my listing on CALSPro, some different speaking engagements I’ve done. So now we have exactly what you’re looking for. You know and Joseph Jones is like one of the most common names in the United States right so using those simple key terms we’ve been able to find exactly me. So this is totally invaluable. There’s a lot of training I’ve been to you know days and days of training just on the Boolean search logic, which you can google and you can find lots of good stuff but these ones that I showed you right here are really the ones that I use the most and find most effective. So once you put something in quotes that’s going to make sure that whatever it’s you know that it’s only looking for that specific term.
Alright, so the next thing we’re gonna jump into now is how to how to locate social media accounts for people that you’re looking for. Say you’ve got a skip trace that you’re you know that’s come through your door and you’re trying to you know track down this person, get some photos to help you with your surveillance or stakeout or whatever you’re doing.
Really the place that is best to start is with the database. You know databases are great because they can provide us a whole lot of information in a short period of time for not a lot of money. You know for two to 20 bucks, you can aggregate all kinds of information on somebody that might take you you know hours doing these kinds of you know Boolean searches to locate. So you know I wouldn’t go into databases too much but the things you know that are kind of our favorites are TLO, IRE, IDI core. There’s a whole bunch you know out there that you can use but those are a few that you know that you might want to look into.
The key with those is that we’re talking about locating social media accounts isn’t necessarily that they will find the accounts for you. Because my experience has been that none of them are very good at locating social media accounts, but it’ll give you leads in order to track those down typically by way of you know possible phone numbers and possible email addresses. And so I’m going to show you a quick tool that I love that we use to locate people’s Facebook accounts.
This works really well as a phone reverse search. I’m gonna pull up my phone here. I had some really weird person call me and leave me a message earlier today so I’m gonna punch in their phone number here and see who it belongs to. So right up here in the Facebook search bar, we’re just gonna go type in the number and see what pops up. Oh hey, Trenton. So here’s what we’ve got. When we punch it in, it’s going to show us that that phone number that we just punched in is associated with this individual’s profile. Which in this case, our creeper is Trent.
Yeah and one thing that’s really cool about the way this tool works is his phone number isn’t public so I’m gonna go here I’m going to show you. We go in we’re gonna look at contact information and he certainly has all of his you know work stuff here but you’re not gonna see his phone number here because his phone number isn’t public but Facebook has indexed that so that we can search it.
So that’s a really, really great tool if you’re trying to find somebody’s account especially if they’ve got a common name. You know if you just punch it in you could spend you know hours sorting through you know potential hits and where’s that’s pretty quick and it’s free. Use it all the time. We’ve had you know several times anytime we get a threatening call from somebody you know a case that we’re working on somebody’s made a threat that’s one of the first things I do because if we get hit with it if they have a Facebook and it’s linked to their cell phone I can immediately send a picture to my client say hey do you know who this person is you know and we can start our investigation there.
Another thing that we do when we’re trying to locate accounts and so so Facebook you know we’ve got a lot of different ways to search which we’ll get more into you know some of those search methods with Facebook later but one of the things that we’ve learned is that when it comes to social media accounts people will typically have the same username across multiple platforms right so you know if you’re you know you know hottiegirl22 on Facebook you’re probably going to have the same on Twitter, on Instagram, on Reddit whatever you’re using. So what we do is once we found one account so we’ve got facebook.com slash Trent Carlyle. So up here you can see this is Trent’s username and so I’m gonna go ahead and I’m gonna copy that and we’re gonna go back into our browser.
Trent Carlyle: I used that because hottiegirl22 is taken.
Joseph Jones: Yeah, yeah, yeah I know. I know Trent that was his first pick. Alright, so we’re gonna put in the username exactly how we found it, and then we’re going to put our quotes around it because we’re not interested in anything else except for that at this point. So I’m going to hit Trent Carlyle just like that. So the first thing that pops up here is Trent’s Twitter. And we also have a few posts there, we’ve got an Instagram account. We do have an orthopedic surgeon from Texas who happens to you know on this doctor’s platform use the same username, but as we scroll through here we find all kinds of different links to Trent, and most of them, because of the unique username, are going to be for him already confirmed. We don’t have to sort through every single you know Trent Carlyle in the United States. So that is a really solid like tool.
Trent Carlyle: And I’ll say another thing. The images that pulled up are pretty timely because there’s a picture in there that must’ve been from my Instagram, but a couple of the girls in the office and I, we went to an SEO talk last week and I think I took an Instagram picture of it. Well actually, that looks like Kelsey had me tagged and that may be but this was like a week ago. So that means that’s a pretty timely result when you’re looking at the Google Image Search.
Joseph Jones: Yeah definitely, and that that’s the thing that you know databases aren’t gonna get you right like there is no way for a database to aggregate all the information and to make it real time whereas you know searching directly with Google is you know very much real time.
Alright, so the other thing that we’re going to talk about on locating accounts is going to have to do with once you locate one account you’re going to go through and scour the account to see what kind of other you know information you can find. You know typically one of the first places we go if we’re having a hard time finding somebody’s accounts you know whether they have a common name or they have a lot of security stuff setup is we’re gonna go to their friends and we’re gonna find you know whatever friend that has maybe an unusual name. So this one right here you know Pam Troxel. Well, what I’m gonna do is I’m gonna go and I’m gonna find other accounts for Pam Troxel on you know Twitter, Instagram, Reddit, you know whatever platforms were looking at. Find her account and then look at her friends and see if I can find Trent as one of her friends or contacts or whatever you’re going to call it on that platform.
So that’s a really great way to you know to locate accounts for people especially when you’re having a hard time and can’t find him with some of the more basic stuff you know. Another thing that we’ll touch on next has to do with going through and reading the comments to be able to establish family relationships and how they tie into their friends.
Alright, so now the next section that we’re going to talk about here is how to find non-public information.
Trent Carlyle: Before we get too far to get a breath for a second but there were a couple of questions kind of the same question back in the first section there that we talked about we’re just looking at the quotes in search the plus and the asterisk. A couple people asked what the differentiator was between the plus and the asterisk and I guess from what I know is that Google will take a look at you know what you have in quotes and then the asterisk will tell it to find the pages that have what you have in quotes and then followed by in that same page. So I guess if you put if you did just Jones asterisk private investigator it wouldn’t find pages that had private investigator before Joseph Jones. Is that accurate or do you have it different?
Joseph Jones: Yes, so it’s pretty simple. So the plus sign is going to mean I want those two terms on the same page. And the asterisk means I want those two terms on the same page within fifteen words of each other. So you know for example, in this case, it was relevant because there could be lots of news articles for like the you know they’re there’s lots of famous people with the name Joseph Jones where it could have you know a different you know private investigator reference there. Whereas with that asterisk, it’s saying I want these two terms within fifteen words of each other. So it makes it you know more of a concrete hit that’s going to be something you’re interested in reading.
Trent Carlyle: Then we have another question about Facebook. Can a person on Facebook track who’s looking at their profile?
Joseph Jones: So there used to be apps and my understanding is that there’s currently no way. However, if you are continually looking at somebody’s Facebook page, it is going to alert them that you might be somebody that they know. So, I definitely recommend you don’t do any kind of social media investigations or you know even if we’re not talking a deep investigation like a locate using your own personal account. It’s a bad idea. So even though they might not be able to you know have an app that will show me you know hey this person has viewed it so many times, it could certainly pop up.
And one of the things about social media is these platforms, they change constantly. So, while right now there’s not an app that can do it, that doesn’t mean tomorrow somebody’s not going to develop an app that can do it.
Trent Carlyle: The only one that I’m familiar with that kind of tells you who’s looking at your profile is LinkedIn, but they build that in on purpose because they want to kind of tease you to signing up for their premium subscription there.
Joseph Jones: Right. Right, cool. Well and that that actually leads right into kind of my next section about. Was that all of the questions?
Trent Carlyle: Um, yeah for now you got them all.
Joseph Jones: So that leads me right into my next section about how to find non-public information. So, one of the first things you’re going to want to do is create a decoy account. Right, so this is going to be you know you’re going to want one for each platform, but this is going to be social media profile that has none of your personal information, is not tied to your email address, it is untraceable back to you. This is important for a few reasons. I mean obviously the first is you don’t want people having your personal information you know if somehow they’re able to, but if you were sending out friend requests and things like that you can you can have an alter-ego to use.
Now, before you go create a you know a decoy account and start friending people, you’ve got to make sure that you understand a couple things. First, depending on this person’s involvement with the case, you might not be able to legally send them a friend request. So, if somebody is represented by an attorney and involved in a legal case, you can’t reach out to them in any way, shape or form to try and establish contact. And while there’s no real precedent set yet, there’s quite a bit of opinions that have been written by you know different bar associations and things that essentially say yeah you can’t do that. So, before you create a decoy account and start using it, you’ve got to understand that.
The other thing is if you are using fake photos on your decoy accounts, you’ve got to make sure that those photos weren’t taken in the United States. There has been you know and it’s mostly just talk I’ve never heard of anybody actually getting prosecuted, but there has been talk about if you use somebody else’s image that they’ve put on the internet and used it as your own, that could be tantamount to identity theft. You know whereas people outside the United States really would have no you know recourse if that happened.
You know again it really probably isn’t a big deal but something to at least consider. And you know we have a lot of different decoy accounts that do different things, so in this case, I switched to one of my female accounts that we use. You know this particular one I don’t use a whole lot but we do have kind of an established timeline here where we’ve got some posts and things that we’ve done. We get some friends established so when we send out you know those requests that we’ve got some back history on our account so it doesn’t look like we’re coming you know out of left field.
Another tip as far as this is concerned is if you have a target subject that you’re trying to friend request. So, let’s say we’ve got a complaint that you’re trying to serve and you’re trying to get some more information out of their social media. That person likely isn’t represented by counsel, so you’re probably okay to send them some kind of a friend request because they don’t have any protections. But you go through their account you see all right this person you know they were born in LA, they went to UCLA, they you know like these bands, whatever. So you can go through your account and you can change your personal information to be the same as there’s. You know I live in LA, I went to UCLA, you know we like the same bands, so when you send that friend request and they give your profile a quick look you know they go I must know this person, you know I’ll go ahead and accept them. Certainly, it doesn’t work all the time but it works a heck of a lot of the time.
Now the other thing to do when you are doing that is before you friend them you can go and find out who some of their friends are and do the same thing with their friend. So that way you have you know when they send their friend request, it’ll show you’re already friends with three of the same people which increases your probability that they’re gonna accept that friend request. Now another thing to keep in mind as far as that’s concerned – if you’ve got a subject that you can’t send you know a friend request to, one thing to keep in mind is that you are not barred from making friends with their friends. And a lot of times friends of friends have a little bit deeper level of access than you know just somebody off of the street. So, another thing to keep in mind there.
Alright, so decoy accounts for being careful. Okay, so now there is a really cool tool that I’m gonna teach you guys about. I’m not going to show you the tool because the guy who came up with it he put a lot of work into it and I want you to go to his website. And so this is the website, Intel Techniques. This tool we’re going to use it is free that he’ll give to you if you do a training with him and sign up for his thing. It’s a very, very neat tool. Here’s the website. If you were interested in you know learning more about open source searching, which is what OSINT stands for and you know other social media type stuff, you know he’s got some really great trainings available. It’s pretty reasonable if you’re you know going to be doing them pretty often. So this is his website you can go through, but basically what this tool does is it allows us to search within Facebook for things that are aren’t necessarily tagged as private, but that don’t show up on their information.
So I found this individual’s Facebook profile as an example. I have no idea who she is. She’s not tied to any of my investigations so I thought it’d be a good example. And so this is Karen and let’s say we’re trying to track Karen down, we’re trying to learn more about her, we want to you know serve her, we want to do some surveillance on her. So, we find her Facebook profile here. We’re gonna scroll through here and there’s really as we go through you know there’s a post from January where she was posting about you know chicken and then everything else is like from 2013. You know there’s really not a whole lot of usable information on here. So, what we’re gonna do is we’re gonna use this tool, which if you go and you do Michael’s trainings, he teaches you how to do some of it and how to do some shortcuts. So we’re going to use this tool to search within Facebook to find other stuff you know that isn’t on her profile. So the first thing that we’re gonna do here is we’re going to look for photos that she has been tagged in.
So I guess here first I’ll show you what is you know on her profile. This is really the only photo here that is of any use. So I’m gonna do photos of tagged. So we’re gonna drag this screen over here now. So I used this tool and so now I have more photos that she didn’t post but somebody else posted and tagged her in. So this one we already know about. This one is especially interesting because we see Karen in this photo but it was posted by Ashworth Vision Clinic where she was tagged in. So now we have two things. One we have another picture of her to help us with her surveillance and let’s say you know her original you know photo was of a cat, so we still don’t know what she looks like. But using this tool, we now have this photo where we’ve got a photo of her and what does this look like? This looks like a Christmas card from a business that was posted by Ashworth Vision Clinic. So now we have a really good lead that Karen probably works at the Ashworth Vision Clinic.
Now we’ll go kinda to this next one here and see. Alright, so she was tagged in it as a you know as one of these little girls. Obviously she’s not the little girl. These are likely granddaughters or something along those lines and so we’re gonna close that. And then the last one I’ll show you here is kind of cool because when we go and we look at it you know that’s obviously not her, but she says, “This is for you, Mom” and then tags Karen in that post. So we know now that this is Karen’s daughter, so if we’re you know if we’re trying to track her down you know now we know who her daughter is, we can use that as another lead to aid us in our investigation.
Let’s see, the next thing we’re going to do here is photo comments. So this is another really neat one. Drag this. So this is going to be any photos that Karen has commented on, on Facebook, on other peoples’ pages. So this will not show up anywhere on her timeline, but it’s going to scour all of Facebook anytime she’s made a comment. Which can be very invaluable when you’re trying to learn you know more information about a subject.
You know we can go through, I guess frankly we could go through and we could, let me close that nastiness. One of the things you have to be aware of you know a lot of times when you’re doing investigations, you’re dealing with the underbelly of society and because of that you’re spending all your time looking at their pages you’re going to get ads for all kinds of nasty stuff, because it thinks that’s the kind of person you are. So anyways a little tip there.
Alright, so this one we can go through and click on this and we can see all right this one says great picture. We don’t care that she thinks it was a great picture. Let me bring that thing that is closed. Let’s see. There is one here that I wanted to show you guys that I found. See if I have it. Alright, so I’m not gonna go through and find it but as I was scrolling through these in preparation for this I found one of these photos she had made a comment to somebody on one of their photos hey you know great photo I can’t wait to see you next week when I come and visit.
So in that circumstance, if you’re trying to track somebody down to get them served or to do surveillance and you’re having a heck of a time figuring out where they’re at, you can you know, you can now use that to maybe track down that person, you know show up at their house to get you know surveillance done or getting documents served. We’ve used that hundreds of times you know as we’re dealing with you know evasive people. We won’t you know sit on their house for 20 hours, we’ll just figure out you know where they go to church, where they go to their you know association meetings, where their you know kids play soccer and so there’s a wealth of information there.
And then the last thing that I’ll show you that is really neat. Display it. Right, so this one’s pretty neat, because this one will help you learn a lot about people. So this is going to be photos that have been liked by Karen. So Karen has gone through, she’s read one of these things and she said wow that’s something that you know I like. So in this one, you know she put a thing about the Bible so she’s obviously religious. Let’s see, oh yeah, so she really likes Bush, she doesn’t like Obama. You know, so you can go through and learn tons and tons about people based on this which wouldn’t show up anywhere else if you were searching for it. And you know, this is going to be especially useful if you’re doing an actual social media investigation where you are trying to establish you know what their character is, what kinds of things they are involved with and so it can be really an invaluable tool. Are there any questions on that portion?
Trent Carlyle: There is. I will ask the question when our first day that will include a link to the Intel Techniques dot com website. Definitely encourage you all to check out what they have to offer. Joe showed me real-time the other day when we’re kind of doing a run through of pretty much everything that he showed you guys, saw the interface and how it works and just how quickly you can pull up all these things that Joe referenced, photos they’re tagged in and photos they comment on. I think that’s when we came across that photo of a gal had taken a picture of herself and the subject here responded and said oh I’ll see you in a couple weeks, whatever. So really, really powerful stuff.
But the question is I think it sort of relates to what you just walked us through, but the question is any suggestions for profile that is locked down? I’m assuming you know as private as you can make it on Facebook, where you can’t see any data. Does a tool like this help with that?
Joseph Jones: If you’re trying to secure your own account?
Trent Carlyle: Well, no. They’re looking for a person who’s pretty much made everything private on Facebook, you know. Can’t be tagged in photos.
Joseph Jones: Yeah, so this is the tool you want. Because what the person when they set their security settings what they can control is what they post goes out there. So you can say you know I’m posting this photo but I don’t want anybody to see it. But you can’t control what other people are posting you know and tagging you on.
You know what, there is a way to do it but you have to be super hyper vigilant with it and most people don’t. And also you know things like you know commenting on posts and you know liking things. Those settings as far as I’m aware, people can’t you know stop that becoming public information because it’s not stored on their account, it is stored on the other person’s account. So the only way to get rid of that is to delete your account. So this tool is perfect for that.
Trent Carlyle: Yeah, that’s the only question.
Joseph Jones: Okay, great. You know it’s important to recognize anytime you’re dealing in one of these kinds of cases, you know when you’re doing the social media, there is no one size-fits-all solution and there’s nothing that works you know 100% of the time. One of the reasons we’ve become you know very well known for what we do is because we’ve been doing this so long and we’ve learned all kind of the ins and outs and there’s about a hundred different things you can do but you know in a 45-minute session, this is the best tool that I could give you for that kind of thing.
Alright so we’ve got just a few minutes left here, so what I’m gonna talk about now deals in social media, actual social media investigations. So a lot of what we’ve talked about here can be utilized you know for a lot of different purposes. You know trying to track somebody down, just trying to generate some leads for you know your locate, your surveillance whatever. But when you’re talking about a social media investigation which I’m going to define that is something where you’re looking for content relevant to a case that you’re gonna send to an attorney, there’s a lot more that you need to do than just finding something and you know printing it off of the internet or you know sending them a link to.
When we’re working on investigations and you know surveillance is something we do a fair amount of, but one of the things that we’ve found that has been a lot better for our clients is doing social media investigations where instead of you know going and doing 100 hours of surveillance to you know watch them you know doing jumping jacks in the front yard, we’re gonna go onto their social media accounts and find where they’re posting you know themselves going out and doing the jumping jacks in the front yard.
And we find it super-efficient because a. it’s a lot less time, so it allows our clients to do more investigation when they usually might not have the budget for a lot of surveillance and we’re able to access information that they otherwise wouldn’t be able to get. You know surveillance is not going to tell you what the person had for breakfast, but their social media accounts probably are. You know not that we even care about what they’re eating for breakfast, but you get the idea. So, the key is when you’re doing social media investigations, a. you have to learn how to find the information. It’s not always simple. You know sometimes you know if you have a profile like Trent’s where he has everything public you know maybe it’s going to be easy, but you’ve got to learn the techniques to really get in and find everything that’s out there.
The other thing is you have to extract the metadata out of those posts, so you can prove who, when, where, and why. You know so for anybody attending this seminar, I could in five minutes create a profile that looks like it’s your profile and I could start making terrorist threats on. And then, you know then that’s going to create you know a problem for you, right, because the FBI or whoever it is, they’re gonna start tracking it down. But one of the things that they’re gonna do is they’re gonna look you know who created that account, when they create it and that’s where the metadata comes into play. And so if you jump the gun and say hey look at all this we found, then you can’t really prove you know who posted it and it’s lot more in-depth than that, but that gives you you know an idea of why you’ve got to pull out the metadata.
Also, it’s very easy for somebody to delete a post. So if you just have a print screen of something and you know you try to present that as evidence in court, then you’re gonna come up with a piece of paper and they could say well who posted that, when did they post it, can you prove it wasn’t photoshopped? You know, let’s go online right now and look at it, well I don’t see it there, you know, who made that up? Whereas when you’re you know extracting the metadata and forensically preserving those, then you’re going to be able to you know actually use it in court.
We don’t have enough time to go into that right now into all the facets of how that works. And there’s a lot of software out there, there’s a lot of methods that you can do to do that, but keep in mind all of these things are really expensive. So unless you’re ready to become certified and you know pay for you know thousands of dollars for training and databases, it might be best you know to tell the client hey I found something that looks you know like it might be relevant to your case, but you’re gonna need an expert to go in and grab it all. And that is something that we can do to help. Like I said, most of our clients are law firms, but we do work with other investigators, other process servers who need help in this area and don’t have the time, the means or the knowledge to you know to do these kind of things themselves.
I guess one last thing that probably should have gone on the other section, but there is contrary to you know popular belief, there is no way at least that I know of and I’ve done a heck of a lot of training and spent a lot of time doing it. There’s no way to find posts that have been deleted. Once it is gone from a social media profile, it’s gone. Unless you have already forensically preserved it.
There are some methods that we use if we think somebody has a high probability of deleting stuff to grab it real time as they post it. But once it’s gone, it’s gone, so you know unless you have active monitoring on somebody’s account, which we do on our cases you know if we have a case going we’ll leave you know active monitoring. And I just had one actually like last week where the person posted something while we were in the middle of our investigation that was absolutely detrimental to their case. They deleted it about two minutes later, but because we had active collection up, we grabbed it as soon as they posted it. And so now they’re gonna pay you know dearly for that. But there’s no way you know if I had just seen it and then said oh I should go grab that you know and then come back an hour later and it was gone, we would have been out of luck.
So anyways I think we’re at about the 45-minute mark now, so I don’t know, is there any other questions on that?
Trent Carlyle: I don’t see any questions right now, but we’ll start to wrap it up and if any questions come through, I’ll definitely take a look at those. But I want to thank you, Joe. I think this is a good place to stop. I think this has been very valuable, especially in the context of the process server. I’m looking for a little bit more intel and want to be more efficient for my job, want to be smarter, versus than just sitting out there and waiting hours and hours and hours for the subject to show up.
There’s so much information you can you know get about what people do, where they go, what their patterns are, where they work, who they’re friends with. Major advantages there you know for service of process, investigations, et cetera. You want to take it to the next level, certainly look at some of the resources that Joe is providing us and contact him as well. And Joe, do you want to go ahead and give out your e-mail if people want to get ahold of you?
Joseph Jones: Yeah, yeah. It’s just firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m sure Trent can put it with the materials at the end. Certainly, you know if you’re getting stuck on something and you have a question, I’d be you know happy to help. If you’re trying to you know get deeper into this on your own, let me know, we can give you some resources. Or if you’re looking to outsource this kind of work to somebody else, we could certainly help with that as well.
Trent Carlyle: Joe, this has been great, amazing content. Thank you so much for being here today, for supporting process serving, investigation industry and also the ServeNow EDU initiative. As a reminder to the folks that are out there, this will be available on serve-now.com probably in the next day or so. You’ll also be able to find it on Youtube, ITunes and Joe, thanks again, we really appreciate it.
Joseph Jones: Alright, you’re welcome.