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  • Dean Smith

Case Studies: Social Media as an Investigative Tool Cannot be Ignored

We have found that the best way to investigate any situation is to use a combination of old-school techniques and the wonderful world of the internet. And even though many situations require actual footwork like canvassing and interviews, nothing will reveal more about a subject’s life than what they post on social media. Take a look at the case studies featured below from the article “Sleuthing Social Sites” by Hal Humphreys of Pursuit Magazine. Case Studies: The Criminal Choir Boy – Humphreys, lead investigator of [FIND] Investigations, was hired to investigate a man involved a high-stakes lawsuit. His family painted the picture of a choir boy (literally) and a good, straight-edged kid who had never used drugs…and the neighbors would probably have corroborated that story. Not to mention, investigators who knock on doors are sometimes seen as outsiders and suspicious. However, the man’s social media accounts told a much different story. Humphreys spoke of his online presence, noting that “Photos and comments about the subject painted a complete different picture of his personality and habits. The mythological choir boy image didn’t stand up well against a photograph of the youth proudly puffing a blunt.” Humphreys also identified potential witnesses, interests, activities, and other social media profiles depicting his illegal lifestyle choices. Skip Tracing Via Twitter – Humphreys had been hired to locate a young woman who had left the scene of a motor vehicle accident. Attorneys and the sheriff’s office gave up trying to contact her after numerous unreturned phone calls and subpoena services at her last known address. Databases identified that she had still been reporting her father’s address (even though the sheriff’s office didn’t find her there). Humphreys took to the internet and found the 20-something-year-old’s social media accounts and developed that she took a liking to posting her whereabouts and travel plans on Twitter. She had traveled to Cozumel, Isla Mujeres, and Los Angeles. Luckily, her poor decision making and lack of judgment led her to post her actual physical address. The client served the subpoena at her address in California two days after. Saving the Client on Travel Expenses – Here at ICU, we are huge supporters of saving our clients money whenever possible. And we’ve learned, just like Humphreys, that performing your due diligence before getting out in the field is imperative; because we all know, time is money! Humphreys wrote, “One case promised to take us to exotic, sunny locales to perform clandestine shenanigans for fun and profit. Unfortunately, we were able to pull together enough information using databases, law enforcement sources, and a healthy dose of Facebook revelations to convince our client not to do business with this subject.” Investigators have a multitude of valuable tools that cater to each individual situation. We just so happen to hold ourselves to the standard that every single investigation needs to be properly prepared according to its circumstances. New technology should not be replacing sending investigators out in the field, but it surely should supplement the efforts. Source

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