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Tuesday
Jul032012

[FIND] Expertise - 5 research tools you probably never considered...

From the files of Nashville private investigator, Thomas H. Humphreys:

Here's a brief list of open source resources you need to know about. If you're an investigator and you ever need to find someone or information about someone, check out these free tools.

 

 

5. BING - Seriously, don't stop at GOOGLE. Click on over to www.bing.com/social and see what you find there. Bing can find mentions in Facebook and Twitter. Google, not so much. We used this to track a reluctant witness. She was 23 years old, reticent, and addicted to twitter. She actually tweeted flight number and arrival time at BNA. 

4. You Tube - Did you know you can search right there at www.youtube.com? We've used this to locate video evidence in insurance fraud cases, domestic cases, and to find embarrassing video of our friends. Refute that.

3. Tineye - Found a picture and you want to know whence it came? www.tineye.com You can find out how many places the same image shows up online. Also, you can (on occasion) use Exif metadata to tell where and when a picture was taken. Okay, so number 3 is actually a two-fer. Any time you find a photo on line, strip it for information. 

2. GIS Searches - Most counties have some degree of geographic information system in place by now. If you can find the gateway to your county's GIS system, use it. Maps, aerial photos, tax records, deeds, zoning informaiton, etc. etc. all for free all on line. It may take a little bit of snooping to find your county's GIS portal, but hey - that's what we do. Isn't it? 

1. Wedding Channel - This little gem is right at the top of my list for under appreciated resources. I have to give full credit to Cynthia Hetherington over at The Hetherington Group for this one. If you're trying to locate a skip or a witness, www.weddingchannel.com is a brilliant angel for intelligence. If your subject has registered for wedding presents at Target, Kohl's, Macey's, etc. etc. they will very likely be here at www.weddingchanel.com. Check it out.

Here at [FIND] Investigations we try to stay on top of useful tools. The list above is based on our research over the past several years. The number one pic comes directly from an ACFE sponsored seminar we attended while at the 23rd Annual ACFE Fraud Conference. For more information on how to fully exploit open source intelligence, you should probably check out Cynthia Hetherington. She is a librarian and a PI, lethal combination. 

Thursday
Jun212012

ACFE Fraud Conference - Midweek Update II

As usual, I am totally impressed with the fantastic folks over at the ACFE. This year's conference was the perfect balance of informative, entertaining, and enjoyable.

Informative - the breakout sessions offered so many options, it was hard to choose. I settled on a mix of computer science and litigation courses. The highlight for me was Paraben Corporation's presentation on electronic evidence recovery. I'm saving up my dollars to buy their program for forensic analysis of cell phones and mobile devices. My other favorite class was a litigation preparation course. Great information and tips for expert witnesses. I tweeted a number of times during that class. From Daubert to fact summary witnesses, the course offered a number of great suggestions.

Of the keynote speakers, my absolute favorite was Diana Henriques, NYTimes reporter, obsessive researcher, and fantastic speaker. You must pick up her new book about Bernie Madoff, The Wizard of Lies.

I also really enjoyed the last keynote speaker, Mark Whitacre. I was completely sucked into his story (on which the movie The Informant is based). He's smart, engaging, and funny.

I'll put up a Midweek Update later today. Cynthia Hetherington is about to start her class.

Until then...

Wednesday
Jun202012

ACFE Fraud conference - Mid Week Update

I broke a promise. It was unintentional. You see, I'd vowed to blog every day at the 23rd Annual ACFE Fraud Conference. Unfortuately, I made my hotel reservations a little later than usual. The rooms at the convention site, Gaylord Palms, were sold out for the first four nights. I opted for the Caribe Royal, the alternate hotel suggested by the good folks at Gaylord.

Caribe Royal was disappointing. $10/day for internet access, shuttles that run every 15 minutes (except most hours), and a staff that has never even heard the name Dale Carnegie. Internet, after paying $70 for the week long package, never worked. One brief period on Monday morning the internet fired up, other than that...nada. Shuttle service did not run when advertised, resulting in $20 cap fares each way to Gaylord Palms, $40 each way to City Walk. I walked into the lobby to inquire about the internet outage (absence) and talked to the lady behind the counter. She said, "you'll have to call tech support" (which is outsourced to someplace where English is - maybe - a second language, at best). This was 6:00 am. As I turned to go back to my room and call India, the lady behind the counter said, "Next time, don't forget your shoes."

I won't.

Anyway, I have been effectively sans internet for the past four days. Thus, the excessive tweeting. I'll post about the conference tomorrow morning.

Until then

Wednesday
Jun132012

23rd Annual ACFE Fraud Conference - Orlando

[FIND] investigations has been noticably absent from this space for about a month, but that's due to some exciting news that we hope to announce next month. Stay tuned.

In the mean time, we will be posting from the ACFE 23rd Annual Fraud Conference in Orlando next week. Nashville private investiagtor, Thomas H. Humphreys, will be attending several classes next week and will have at least once daily updates, if not more.

 

 

Wednesday
May302012

[FIND] Expertise - Librarian/Investigator/Salander

Forget what you think you know about librarians. Sure, there are some bespectacled, hair-up-in-a-bun nerdy types still out there, holdovers from the days of Dewey Decimal and card catalogs. But today's hard-core researchers are as likely to sport tattoos and piercings as a group of brainy Suicide Girls, and they are not to be trifled with or in any way underestimated. (Think Lisbeth Salander.)

In a story in the winter 2009 edition of American Libraries titled "The Bunheads are Dead," Ken Haycock and Carla Garner thoroughly dispel the myth of stodgy shushers. Today's librarian is an information analyst, a freedom of information and protection of privacy officer, an information broker. They are highly trained, badass researchers and they likely hold at least a master's degree in library and information sciences (MLIS). 

According to Haycock and Garner, the MLIS students, "...learn higher-order analytical skills for assessing community information needs (whether for a municipality or in the private sector), developing collections of resources to meet those needs, designing programs and services to exploit those resources, and assessing the effectiveness and impact of implemented services." They are, in short, the people you need to access, analyze, and understand information. 

A professional investigator, like a librarian, should be comfortable with in-depth research techniques. Not only should they have access to public records database services, which are necessary, but they should be on a first name basis with the staff at various public offices. They should have the Tax Assessor's phone number on speed dial, have a person in the Planning and Zoning Office, and know the lady at the front desk at the Register of Deeds.
 
And when they have to research in an unfamiliar jusrisdiction, they must have a working knowledge of the process. It's much easier to get information from someone if they think you know the ropes. Your professional investigator will maintain contacts with other professionals in the information industry as well—corporate librarians, investigative journalists, reference librarians, etc.
 
Lisbeth Salander, the fictional bedragoned badass, offers a fantastic example of how this work should be done: Skill, resources, and contacts. Kow how, know where, and know who.
 
Like a librarian, Salander and your professional investigator don't have to know everything, they just have to have an analytical mind, access to resources, and know people who can find/exploit the things they can't.
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