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  • Dean Smith

This is What We Do…Every Single Day

We found an article that pretty much sums up what we do on a daily basis to build an internet profile report for our clients. Not only does this illustrate perfectly how we build the bigger picture for you, but it also demonstrates the rewards (and potential harm) that social media has in our daily lives.

Joe Stephenson of PropertyCasualty360 tells the story of his walk around CalTech campus located in Pasadena, California where he stumbled upon a college ID on the ground. With limited time to try to locate the ID’s owner, and realizing that the ID actually belonged to a student at another local college, he figured he could conduct a little search to try and develop an address so he could politely drop the lost ID in the mail and it would find its way home in the student’s mailbox.

But what Joe Stephenson found was not what he was expecting. This girl’s entire life was plastered all over the internet.

“Mind you, this is a very bright and intelligent young woman, but like most her age she lacks a clear understanding of how the internet can be used – and this is from someone who has been essentially raised during this technological age. Good for those of us fighting evil but bad, very bad, when evil is searching for a target,” proclaims Stephenson.

By conducting one quick Google search on his PHONE (no utilization of databases or paid sites), using the only information that he knew about her (her name, the college she attends, and her picture), Joe uncovered the following information about the unsuspecting student:

Her studies: projected graduation year, her approximate age, what she studied, who her professor was, where she would likely be on campus, and more photos. He knew her aspirations, future projects, and read a technical paper she wrote. Ok…some basic research, but a bunch of new avenues to explore.

After that quick Google search which uncovered some unique photos of the student, Stephenson took to the Images tab in Google and found:

She likes yoga (he was able to see where and what time), she likes beer, prefers dogs over cats, prefers a specific airline, she is from a city in Northern California, she was the editor of her high school yearbook in said city, she lived locally, and she owned a Prius and/or a Honda (both license plates were pictured in a photo). She had just returned from a trip to Australia this past July (specifically in Sydney, Australia on July 5th). She also included a picture of her drivers license in one of the photos she posted!

Stephenson said, “California is one of the strictest states regarding the disclosure of DMV data and PII (Personally Identifiable Information) and this young woman is giving it away to everyone! I didn’t have a specific physical address, but I did have her name, date of birth, driver’s license number, school information, vehicle info, hometown and high school. Finding her mother’s maiden name would only have been a few more clicks away and then I’m making my own Visa cards! Skip going to her home and breaking in and risk getting caught – this guy just became an identity thief!”

We apply these techniques to our claims investigations every day. And as scary as it may be, there are people out there who don’t realize how dangerous it may be to post their personal information online and on social media…but they do it anyway (good for us). If the information is out there, we will find it!

Stephenson could not have wrapped this article up with a better statement: “Take what you want from this research example, but do not ignore the importance of using the internet or making it a mandatory resource during investigations.”

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