Facebook: The PI Friend

Letters from a Private Investigator III

Facebook: The Private Investigator Friend

Facebook can be a very good friend to a private investigator or anyone that wants to do their own investigations IF you know a couple of  tricks.

It took our private investigators quite while to work out how to really squeeze Facebook.  Perhaps you are like me – at first I just could not find people.

Well it was easy enough to find people I was not looking for. BUT the problem for a private investigator with Facebook is there are many many privacy settings.

Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, all the new social media sites, are  playing a bigger and bigger role for private investigators, and there is no bigger site around at the moment  than Facebook.

With 800 million active Facebook users, it’s more common for someone to be on Facebook than not. Social media sites such as Facebook offer a massive amount of information that might be relevant to a private investigator including an asset investigation or a business or personal background check.

In fact just last week I had a client that asked me to get pictures of someone’s family and also find her work history. My client wanted surveillance but I suggested first I just use some “magic” private investigator tools. Approaching it this way we could reduce the amount of surveillance needed and therefore make it less expensive for the client. Within an hour or so through some Facebook tricks I had all the pictures she was after along with the target’s curriculum vitae. This was then verified with the minimum surveillance needed.

As i said one of the big challenges for private investigators (or anyone for that matter) to find somebody on Facebook is all the privacy settings that people use so that they can not be found. But there are ways around that, which we will go into below.

Here are four ways to find somebody on Facebook:

Facebook Search

The obvious place for a private investigator to start is Facebook’s own search feature. Here you can search by the person’s name, school or company. You must have an active account in order to access this feature. In order to find a person on Facebook, the person you are looking must not have their privacy settings turned on so that the person can be looked up by name or contact info.

Email Address

For most social networks, Facebook included, you can find somebody by typing in an email address. So even if a user profile has been set up under a completely false name, a private investigator can still find the person by typing his or her email address into the Facebook search engine.

Site Operator

The big secret about Facebook that perhaps not everyone knows is that even if privacy settings are set any comments a person makes become public.

So what you can do is use the site operator in Google. This will search all pages that have been indexed by Google. If you include site: in your query, Google will restrict your search results to the site or domain you specify.

So, for example, lets say a private investigator is looking for Tom Cruise, you would type “site:www.facebook.com Tom Cruise.”

Search Friends, Family and Colleagues

You can of course control your own privacy settings, but not other people’s. Facebook even has its own family search, where a private investigator can search by family last name. If friends, family or colleagues don’t change some privacy settings, you may be able to find the person by looking through the friend lists of friends, colleagues, family and coworkers.

So What Next?

If you have found the person’s profile, well done.

But the person may have set their privacy settings so you can not look at the person’s wall or pictures.

Don’t give up. Think like a private investigator. We have found that people often leave their friend lists open, which can help you find other information.

Indonesia Private Investigation Agency (IPIA) along with our sister agency  Bali Eye Private Investigation Agency (BEPIA) are fully registered Private Investigation Agencies offering private detective and private investigator services to the Private and Business sectors throughout Indonesia and South East Asia.


About the Author

IPIA's Director of Investigations is an Indonesian national with a Diploma in PI work (with distinction) from the UK and an Australian Government accredited Certificate in Investigative Services. She has worked on over 400 cases for private and business clients.