Social media has redefined the ways people around the globe communicate. It has also become a source of personal information used by marketers, researchers, and investigators. Both police and private investigators often use social media as a tool for tracking criminals. You may be curious about how this works and how easy it is.
Why You May Want To Find a Criminal
Using social media, you can determine a lot about someone’s whereabouts or lifestyle. These are some of the reasons you may turn to social media as part of an investigation:
- Looking for further evidence such as photos related to the crime.
- Wanting to find close associates to speak with.
- Trying to determine where a criminal is likely to be.
- Searching for links that could clarify other evidence.
- Speaking with the suspected perpetrator under another guise.
In other words, social media is a tool for investigation. The circumstances under which you may use it are very similar to reasons you would use any other investigative method.
How Easy Are Social Media Investigations?
The challenge of finding someone on social media varies depending on the criminal. Some make it very easy. They post photos related to their criminal activities and even describe what they did. A surprising number of people don’t realize that a lot of what they post is public and can be found by investigators and law enforcement.
For example, the Beau Dietl & Associates team has seen criminals post photos of cash they have stolen with captions explicitly describing it as such. Even more common are photos of people illegally using drugs.
In other cases, finding criminals on social media can be more challenging. Some are smart enough not to explicitly post information about their unlawful activities. However, social media can still be a valuable source of information on whereabouts. People frequently “check-in” at venues or post photos with location information.
Furthermore, social media investigations can unearth circumstantial evidence that can be helpful. For example, it may help to show that someone was in the area of crime or associates with other known perpetrators. Sometimes it is helpful simply to know more about the person.
Strategies for Tracking Criminals on Social Media
There are many ways to track someone using social media. Depending on what your current investigative goals are, your approach may vary. These are some of the most valuable techniques.
- Explore Profiles: Simply look at profiles associated with the suspected criminal. He or she may have posted information you can use as evidence in your investigation. You may also be able to discover other profiles under different or anonymous names. Tying these to your suspect may help you to gather more evidence.
- Use Tracking Tools: There are a plethora of tools you can use to gather significant information from social profiles. One of the simplest is using Google Reverse Image Search to find secret profiles, especially on Instagram. Other tools help with quickly gathering and organizing the metadata associated with social media accounts.
- Talk to Associates: Many social networks let you send messages to people. Through your investigation, you may be able to find associates who can help you learn more and track your suspect. The key to successfully talking with the suspect’s peers is to avoid spooking them. Find more on this below.
- Interview the Suspect: Similarly, in some cases, you may want to speak directly with the suspect. This can be risky but can also be very rewarding. Most criminals aren’t masterminds, and some may come out with useful information if you simply speak with them.
- Monitor for Activity: Track when certain profiles are most active and from where. Learning this information can help you to develop an understanding of your suspect’s actions which may be helpful in busting them later.
In short, social media has a lot of information that can be gathered and analyzed to help you learn more about a suspect. With the right tools and a little investigative know-how, it is easy to track someone.
When you want to speak with either the suspect or an associate, it is important to avoid spooking the person. If you are too clear about your intentions, no one is going to want to help you. Furthermore, most people know when they are getting played. So, it takes a very careful touch to make people feel comfortable enough to talk.
Turn To a Professional
Many private citizens decide to use social media investigations to help them find criminals who have wronged them. Although this can be tempting because social media is available to everyone, it may not be a good idea. First, you could spook the criminal and make future investigations harder. Second, you could find yourself in legal and even physical trouble.
Instead, turn to a professional private investigator to help you track criminals properly using social media. Our experience and insight help us to more effectively leverage social media and other tools.