I have found that a common perception of a private investigator is that all that we do is sit in cars, follow people, take pictures of cheating spouses, smoke cigars and wear trench coats.
This could not be further from the truth. With a new wave of younger private investigators, new technology, and a new way in which society is connected via the internet, private investigators can gather information in a way that is way outside of the box in terms of societal perception and traditional investigative activities.
I am an intelligence analyst by training. I spent four years at Mercyhurst University studying the art of Open Source Intelligence Collection. In addition, I have, and currently do work with hackers on collecting intelligence for major national and international clients. This experience has given me a different perspective on how I conduct private investigations. Below I will share 5 ways in which I as a private investigator can operate outside of the traditional investigation box.
How Do Private Investigators Follow People
1) Develop Patters of Life
Not only can I and my associates follow somebody around in a car, I can also follow somebody around virtually using GPS meta-data from social media posts. In addition, using the power of the internet, I can develop what an individual’s patterns of life may be based on the information that they freely share with the public via the web. Based off of public data, I can tell when an individual wakes up, where they go to grab their coffee, when they get to work, who they hate at work, why they hate that person at work, the style of English they use (which denotes other in-depth identifiers), who their close associates are, the state of their mental condition, what they are looking forward too, what they ate for dinner, and when they go to sleep.
This could not have been done 20 years ago. Dare I say even 10 years ago?
2) Find you in the Spreadsheet
You are a prudent person. You have taken the time to make everything private. I congratulate you. You have done more than 90% of people I know. However, one small problem remains. Using the power of advanced Google searching, I am able to find spreadsheets, Word documents, PDF’s, PowerPoints and other documents where your information exists. In fact, you didn’t even have to post it. It could have been posted by a former school administrator, colleague at work, friend, Roman or Countryman.
If I can’t find someone in the internet’s public square, I will find them in the spreadsheet.
(For more info, please see the NSA’s publication “Untangling the Web”)
3) Use Your Email Against You
This might seem simple. EVERYONE searches by email. However, I take a different approach to emails. I liken it to Miranda rights, with a twist; “anything you post on the internet can and will be used against you when I investigate.” Instead of just searching your email, I might just take off the @gmail.com piece and assume that your email username is the same username that you use all across the web. Guess how many times I have been right?
4) Help Someone Disappear
So, it appears that someone can find anything using public data, right? Well, as a private investigator, I can help someone disappear from the internet, and increase their privacy by hunting down the various places that they exist online. In fact, helping an individual encrypt their emails, computers, internet browsing and phone calls are all out of the box services that I as a private investigator provide. Hunting information can be used to either target an individual, or to help someone become a more private citizen.
5) Be a ‘Cyber-Witness’ Against Cyber Bullies
Just happens to kids, right? Wrong. Cyber Bullying appears to be a worldwide epidemic. In the past someone would be lucky to get a print-screen capture of the activities of a Cyber Bully. Not anymore. When a client comes to me with a concern over Cyber-Bullying, I have technology that can index and archive every single word, pictures, post, destructive comment, email, or other malicious thing said online. The best part is, all of the information is indexed with an MD5 hash fingerprint; and it’s all done silently, and without the Cyber Bullies knowledge.
Being armed with that kind of information when going to a school administrator, supervisor, lawyer, or law enforcement agency is powerful for a client, and is definitely outside the norm of what society thinks that a private investigator might do.
Being a Private Investigator is an awesome job that is a great service to the people that need help in some of life’s most difficult situations. I take great pride in doing my job professionally, ethically, and in getting the results that my clients deserve. If you need a Private Investigator that lives ‘outside of the box’, feel free to drop me a note at: firstname.lastname@example.org