When FaceBook first came out my first thought was “Oh Boy, another wanna be MySpace site” and I never gave it much thought after that. Until, that is, I became a P.I. I then found myself trying to find more and more ways to ID my Subject’s and FaceBook as well MySpace and Twitter became a target of interest for me.
Let me preface this article first with some information on the legalities of searching on the internet. First I must be clear; I am not an attorney; I do not pretend to be an attorney; my fees are substantially lower than any attorney; and this should in no way be construed, taken as, or believed to be legal advice.
With that said I will begin with the fact that in many, if not all, States it is against the law to gain evidence through coercion or deceit. I strongly recommend that you steer away from tactics such as creating fake FB accounts, or other accounts, to try to get people to ‘friend’ you so you can gather information that may be used as evidence. It becomes a very slippery slope and can lead into huge problems down the road including evidence dismissal, legal action by the subject and/or other parties, and discrediting you as an expert witness in the court room.
I often get asked by clients, fellow P.I.’s etc. how were you able to find a photo of the subject? I usually reply with something such as “I guess I just get lucky once in a while”. Well, now is your chance to learn a little bit about “luck”.
Given my focus on surveillance I do a lot of skip tracing and locating of subjects who don’t always want to be found. My biggest use of the social sites is finding out what town or city they may live in but the biggest bang for me is getting a photo so I can ID the subject once I do find them.
Now I need to be honest; Luck only has a small part of getting this information. I mostly find it because I am such a geek I have spent years trying to find more and more better ways to utilize the Google search engine. As a part time, hobbyist, web application Developer I find Google useful for many things. As a P.I. I find it a necessary tool many times to find information that leads me to my subject.
Let’s get into the meat of the discussion now. Many people start out looking on FaceBook for someone’s FB account. I start out with Google looking for their FB account; or their MySpace account; or their Twitter account. These techniques work for all social network sites and can be used for many other applications not just hunting down your subject. As you read through this try to find other ways you can apply these search techniques in life. You might even find something that will impress friends, family and even your kids with.
The first thing I do is a site search on Google. A site search searches for your search word or phrase on a specific site. This search conducts a search for me by first and last name on FaceBook.
John Morris site:www.facebook.com
Try typing that into Google and see what juicy info you can find on me. You will probably notice that it came up with about a gazillion pages. No, I am not that popular, I just have a very common name. We also searched a very wide spectrum. This search will go through www.facebook.com and look for anything with John or anything with Morris in it. Now we can narrow it a bit, let’s try this.
“John Morris” site:www.facebook.com
Adding the quotes makes Google search for the phrase John Morris as one word. So this will bring up all FaceBook public pages that have John Morris in it.
Here are a couple of things to keep in mind. If Google cannot match or does not come up with enough matches it will improvise on its own. This also only searches those PUBLIC pages on FaceBook. If someone has their profile blocked you will not get any results for them as the Google Bots can only see what is seen by the public. UNLESS, and here is where the LUCK comes in to play, their profile page was unblocked at one time and the Google bot hit it, leaving it in a cache on Google. Then you might get lucky and see a small photo and get a glimpse of some info on the person. Thi sis still Public as it is in Google and available to everyone.
I can narrow my search even further if I want to get more specific.
“John Morris” Colorado site:www.facebook.com
This searches for all public pages with John Morris as one word and with Colorado in it. I can further narrow it by adding towns, employers, spouse names, children names, etc. The usage is almost unlimited. Here are some other examples.
“John Morris” “Denver Colorado” site:www.facebook.com
“John Morris” Denver Colorado site:www.facebook.com
“John Morris” EVCO Investigations site:www.facebook.com
Give it a go with your own name, business, city, and other social sites such as MySpace etc. Try it on friends and family, people you know you will know when you find them. This is good practice, and will help you understand the many ways to work with Google. I also suggest you be logged into FaceBook too, otherwise you may not get to see their page. Many times now FaceBook does not allow you to even see a public page if you are not logged in first. I must stress make sure you use the exact Google query. Follow your search phrase and criteria with site:www.sitename.com if you do not have the www in their it may not work right. If you do not have the site or the colon or the .com it will not work correctly either.
Now let’s move on to other Google essential search tools to help us further drill down on our subject on social sites. The next big one I use is the exclusion command. It is simply a minus sign – I will demonstrate this with MySpace and again we will search for me.
“john morris” site:www.myspace.com
This search brings up a lot of MySpace pages. One had the word (TJ) in it when I ran it. If I know that TJ is not my guy I can simply add –TJ to the search and any pages with TJ in it will not show up.
“john morris” -TJ site:www.myspace.com
This is extremely useful when you have a subject that has a name similar to or the same as someone famous. Or if you keep running into pages for another person named the same as your subject and always has his wife’s name and you know it is not your guy. You can simply exclude the wife’s name and it will display all of those pages without her name.
Moving on, let’s talk about Synonyms and Google. A very cool search tool is ~ using this search tool allows you to see pages with a specific word or words that mean the same as the specific word. Or, it’s Synonyms.
“john morris” ~amusement site:www.myspace.com
When you do the search with just “john morris” it will come up with many sites. Some say entertainment on it. By using the Synonym search for amusement it shows only pages with amusement or a Synonym of amusement which entertainment is. How can you use this you might ask? How about if know what the subject does for as living but there are many different ways to say it? Or perhaps their name can be used differently. Try this search on Google.
“morris” ~richard site:www.myspace.com
This brings up Richard, Rich and Dick. All are Synonyms for the name Richard. This is good to use with names in other languages too.
To be OR not to be, that is the question. Or is OR what we need? Here is another good tool for Google. The OR command lets you look for all possible pages with one word OR another word. So I am looking for John Morris or Joan Morris.
joan OR john morris site:www.facebook.com
Can you find information from a document someone has written and placed on the internet? Would a resume be helpful in finding someone? Try the file type search.
“john morris” resume filetype:doc
This searches for all sites on the internet with John Morris and with Resume and is a .doc document. You can use .doc .xls .ppt .pdf .txt you name it you can search for it.
There are oh so many things you can do and if allowed I could sit for hours and hours, probably days typing up tips on using Google. So remember, before drudging through FaceBook or MySpace or any other social site you might try letting Google do the hard work for you.
~ John L. Morris
A Northern Colorado, licensed and insured, Greeley Private Investigator
Call today for your 100% FREE Private Investigator Consultation (970) 673-5719
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