I go way beyond Facebook, Vine and Twitter. Just like Sherlock Holmes, I never underestimate the importance of a seemingly random fact. Because they can lead me to digital traces that people often don’t delete – whether it’s the ID thief caught through his Instagram food porn or the ‘off the grid’ women I found through her pug meetup group.
I also use this method in my private life: For example, I was recently trying to track down an old friend who had moved to another country with no trace of an address, company name or phone number. Just when I thought I had hit a wall, I saw a Soup Dragons video on YouTube, and it hit me: He had always been super passionate about early 90s rock bands.
I remembered that he used to say that the lyrics (‘I could have sworn that you were an angel. . . but now I know that you are the devil’) made him think of me – which was mildly disturbing due to the fact that a) this kind of implies I’m a total bitch and b) most of the women in the video were transsexuals.
After searching through a few similar bands I but eventually tracked him down via a comment he left under another random video. This eventually led me to an email address, and cocktail hour!
With the vast amount of sites out there every search is different, and really depends on how much/what type of information I have to start with.
In general I usually begin with a Pipl search to go through the Deep Web and social media sites. Depending on what I come up with, I branch out. I may look on Amazon or Goodreads for an avid reader, or a bodybuilding forum for a guy who hits the gym every day. If someone is active on the Internet dating scene (which will be the subject of a much more detailed post later), I may search there.
Here are just a few sources that allow me to get one more snippet of information, and help to piece together the puzzle:
1. Meetup groups – Used to plan get togethers covering everything from chihuahua halloween parties to civil war re-enactments.
2. Goodreads – Find out what books they are reading and recommending – and possibly access their blog. I’ve found that many people who delete their main blog but forget to take down the ‘secondary’ sites on Amazon and/or Goodreads.
3. Amazon – Even non-readers love to post product reviews
4. YouTube – I look for their channel (or, if they haven’t posted videos it may be possible to find comments they have left).
5. LinkedIn – I’ve found that many businesspeople who stay off social media still have LinkedIn pages to look professional – even if they aren’t that active on the site.
6. Yoname – This engine searches across a number of unconventional sites like Xanga,Vox and LiveJournal. . . which can be helpful when picking up older blogs.
7. Classmates – Meant to help people connect with old school friends and plan reunions, but also useful for private investigators.
8. MyLife – This site is great for figuring out where someone is originally from (helpful if you need to track down a birth certificate, etc.), as well as finding addresses and possible family members.
9. Flixster – Site that helps me track down serious movie buffs.
10. Ancestry.com– Even if the person in question hasn’t filled out their family tree, someone in the family may have.