The sheer amount of information available on social media platforms is staggering. Over 81% of Americans have a social media profile of some kind, from the photo sharing platform Instagram to the professional networking community LinkedIn.
An analysis of a subject's social media presence can tell you about their opinions, character, location, and habits. A dive into hidden profiles on niche, less well-publicized sites and forums can reveal their desires, ideas, even secrets.
Investigators are skilled at collecting and analyzing social media posts and profiles for all sorts of evidence. Whatever it is you need to know about someone's activities, social media investigations can provide a wealth of evidence.
What is a Social Media Investigation?
A social media investigation is an in depth, intensive analysis of a subject's social media presence across all platforms, both hidden and public, for the purposes of revealing their character and trustworthiness, as well as to gather evidence for illegal, unethical, or immoral behavior.
While social media investigations are extremely broad in scope, it’s important to know that if the investigation is being conducted as part of the hiring process then it's subject to the Fair Credit Reporting Act. For this reason it’s important that any social media background check or investigation for employment purposes is done by professionals.
There are good reasons to use a 3rd party (like Trustify) for social media checks. For example: if your company is exposed to information that indicates a candidate is a member of a protected class (such as race, disability status, etc.) and you later chose not to hire that candidate, you could be sued for discrimination, regardless of the reason that you chose to not to hire them. Trustify’s network of investigators removes information about protected classes from reports, limiting your liability.
Aside from employment checks, social media investigations are useful for almost any investigation into a subject's background. Common purposes include:
- Searching for supporting evidence in child custody and child support cases.
- Criminal prosecution support.
- Getting evidence of cyberbullying/cyberstalking.
- Finding defamatory statements and linking them to the defendant.
- Finding identity thieves in identity theft investigations.
- Identity verification and background checks (personal, employment, business, financial, etc.)
- Lost person and runaway investigations.
- Finding evidence in marriage/divorce proceedings to support raising or lowering alimony investigations.
- Identifying and catching catfishers and online dating scammers.
- Gathering evidence in stalking and harassment investigations.
Who Are Social Media Investigations For?
Social media investigations are for anyone who wants to look into a subject's background for whatever reason.
They are particularly effective at finding information that might not be reflected in a subject's criminal record that might be damaging from a PR standpoint (for instance, if someone were running for office), or in situations where someone may not have the ability to run a traditional background check.
Social media investigations have also been used successfully by clients who have met someone online and wish to verify their identity on many occasions. Trustify has successfully caught hundreds of catfishers quickly and inexpensively this way.
What is the Social Media Investigation Process?
Starting a social media investigation with Trustify is fast and simple. Here’s how the process works:
1. Request a Consultation. Submit your case online or by phone to schedule your consultation. We'll ask for the details we need to get your case matched with an investigator and provide cost estimates.
2. Consultation with a Private Investigator. A licensed private investigator will contact you to talk to you about the purpose and goals of the investigation, and to collect any relevant information about your case. The private investigator may ask you things like:
- What are your goals and expectations for the investigation?
- Who is the subject of the investigation and what is your relationship to them?
- What contact information, social media handles, and usernames, etc. do you have for the subject? (Private investigators can often get started with as little as a name or email address, but the more information you have the better.)
- Do you intend to use the findings of the investigation as evidence in court?
3. Investigation in Progress. Once you’ve discussed your case with your investigator, they’ll begin your investigation with a comprehensive search and analysis of all social media accounts associated with the purpose of the investigation.
Investigation methods include the use of sophisticated software tools to search for relevant posts, photos, videos, online profiles, metadata, information on linked accounts, etc., as well as to monitor the social media activities of the subject. Investigators may also create online identities and use them to communicate with subjects in order to determine their real identities and to gather evidence.
4. Case Updates and Final Report: Your investigator will keep you informed of any important developments during all stages of the investigation. You’ll also be provided with a written report summarizing all findings at the investigation’s conclusion.
If the report is for employment purposes, investigators will take care to redact information about protected classes to protect you from potential lawsuits.
What an Investigator Will Not Do
Investigators will not break the law or act unethically at any time during an investigation. Investigators will not, for example, attempt to access data or records restricted by federal or state law, nor will they hack into any accounts or databases.