The Insider’s Guide to Social Network Investigations

TweetDeck. Statigram. Tumblr. Pinterest. These may all look like words that are missing a few crucial letters, but online, they are digital gold mines for investigators. These social networks are full of personal information, seemingly small details describing every day experiences and, essentially, bread crumbs that often lead examiners to case-breaking motives, deception or direct evidence pertaining to a fraud investigation.

Cynthia Hetherington, CFE, president of Hetherington Group, led the Pre-Conference session, “Incorporating the New Social Media in Fraud Examinations” at the 25th Annual ACFE Global Fraud Conference and told a packed ballroom of fraud fighters how to monitor the more than 600 social media sites online today.

“I believe in redundancy,” Hetherington said. “The more websites I can use to track social media information, the better my investigations are.” From Topsy to Instagram, the social media networks list runs long, but below are some free sites that could end up breaking your next case.

  • Twitter: use keyword and advanced searches.

  • TweetDeck: monitor multiple Twitter searches and timelines in real time. Also use to market your business (see more below).

  • Statigram: search Instagram accounts to find information and locations of where photos are taken.

Hetherington also touched on how she uses social media networks like Twitter to get new business for her small, boutique firm in New Jersey. By creating a column on TweetDeck (a site that curates Twitter mentions in real time) and only searching the term “SEC investigates,” she is able to read news as it breaks about any content that features that term. She then discovers companies that are being investigated by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), reaches out to their corporate security officer and offers her company’s services. This makes for an easy way to build your prospects, and the best part is its all free.

Another valuable source of information is open-source intelligence (OSINT). OSINT is a plethora of information found through multi-media. Investigators can use it to search public and private databases, websites and Internet resources like or

So even if you can’t remember how to spell the names of social media networks like Statigram, Tumblr, Tweettunnel or Hootsuite, you now know a little bit about how to use them to aid in your next investigation.

You can find more coverage from the ACFE Global Fraud Conference at