4 Ways to Kickstart Your Cyber Sleuthing Career

If the NSA can sit in on your World of Warcraft game, imagine what kind of dirt they can dig up on your Internet searches. But you don’t have to be a top-security government official to also dig things up on someone through the Internet. What used to require countless hours of your precious time browsing through old files can now be accessed instantly on the Internet. Follow these tips to get yourself promoted to a top-notch Internet sleuth.


1) Put Search Engines To The Test

A mainstream search engine like Google, Bing or Yahoo can compile a wide breadth of information about a person sourced from online posts from blogs, social media accounts, and photo albums. But type in someone’s name, and you’ll get a different relevancy and results order from each search engine. By comparing the results of a couple different search engines, you’ll be able to more efficiently comb through what pages apply to the person you are searching.

Just keep in mind that search engines simply pull together search results. You’re in charge of interpreting them. So keep in mind that if you are looking for a Michael Smith, you may have to click and scroll through pages of results to double-check that you’ve found the right Mike.

2) Look To Big Brother

Sure, government departments may be accessing and manipulating your data, but they also provide plenty of information to the public. You just have to know where to look. For finding general public records including marriage licenses, birth and death records, and census data, take advantage of county, state and federal websites like State and National archives.

To find emails and addresses, use city directories (or of course, the White Pages). You can also use sites that compile this information on an individual, including current addresses and criminal records, into one comprehensive report. For a monthly membership fee, sites like Instant Check mate scan available public data for as many people as you like.

3) Think Outside the Box

Brainstorm all possible special interests, hobbies or associations an individual may have that would appear online. Do you know their place of employment or their work trade? You can contact the company directly or look for interest groups or forums for professional associations that the person might be a member of. If you know an individual’s religious affiliation, you could search religious establishments in the region the person resides, or try reviewing online religious archives like the American Jewish Archives.

4) Take It To The Grave

It may not be the first place you’d think to look, but obituaries can be quite helpful in locating a long lost friend or relative. While the person you’re searching for may not be the one eliciting an obituary, its list of surviving relatives can confirm whether or not you have located the correct person. The write-up might also list a region in which that person is currently residing. To further refine a search, scan obituary archives across multiple search platforms.

Newspaper archives and genealogy sites, such as Ancestry.com or Family Search, can provide obituaries and death records. Also, if you know the name of the individual’s family member, include that name in a search. Or if you know the individual’s occupation or past residential address, you’ll be able to pare down results from people with the same name. The more information you provide, the more likely it is that you’ll find results.

Ready… Set… Sleuth!

Conducting online research without knowing where to start is like perusing the aisles of a food superstore: There’s plenty to choose from, probably more than you’ll ever need, but you still can’t find what you’re looking for. With these tips, you can figure out how to narrow down your search methods and hone your cyber sleuthing skills.

Author Bio: 

Ariana Cox is a graphic designer, artist and special-interest blogger. She contributes to many blogs, especially for topics related to online research. She was born in LA but is trying to make it work in the Big Apple.

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