Senior Associate, Blackpeak
During a recent asset search project, the individual we were looking for initially appeared invisible online. We knew the individual used to be a director of a company, but his name no longer appeared on their website. But, with a little snooping and a bit of luck, we had a physical address (and more) in just a few hours. What did we do to find the information?
Here are three tips that should breathe new life into your search for low-profile individuals:
- Archived websites
Archived websites are often a goldmine for finding historical information about an individual or company. Once you have found a website that could be a lead, run it through archival sites such as Archive.org or Archive.is, and cross your fingers. Google’s cached pages may sometimes yield results as well.
These archival sites will show you previous versions of a website before content on it is altered or removed. On Archive.is, you can also request for a website to be archived preemptively. You will often find personal email addresses and physical addresses that could be pivotal leads in your investigation. Once a personal email address is found, other techniques below will almost certainly come in handy.
- Website domain registers (WHOIS)
These registers contain contact information for the owner, operator and manager of a web domain. These days, most large multinational corporations mask or sensitize this information for privacy reasons. Having said that, many smaller personal or business websites tend not to mask this information. There are many WHOIS lookup services, but one of the most useful and versatile is View DNS (viewdns.info), which contains a multitude of search functions. The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers also has a WHOIS lookup function, but this generally only works for .com top-level domains (whois.icann.org).
You will often find phone numbers and even the legal entities behind a domain through such searches. This information should hopefully accelerate your online investigation and narrow your search for your target individual.
- Email address searches
If you have an email address, you could start with a “quotation mark” Boolean search. You should also run the email address through people search websites such as Pipl.com, which often throws up social media profiles linked to an email address. Don’t forget to conduct a reverse search for any domains registered to an email address through View DNS.
These three tips appear simple and straightforward (especially to veteran investigators), but they may just provide you that one valuable lead to find a low-profile individual. Happy sleuthing!