A quick search on my social media networks would tell you where I work, who my family members are, where I went to college and who my 5 year-old claims to be her “boyfriend.” Yes, social media is full of seemingly useless information like cat memes and time-lapse cooking videos. But, what if all of those small, meaningless pieces of information added up to something bigger? According to Diana Ngo, those “crumbs” can each or all lead to that competitive edge you need when working on a fraud examination. “Social media gives me that competitive edge in investigations,” Ngo said. “It gives you a crumb that you can follow.”
Ngo is an Associate Director at Blackpeak Group, where she manages complex reputational and investigative enhanced due diligence projects. She also led the breakout session today titled, “Using Social Media for Investigative Purposes” where she highlighted the following ways you can use social media in your investigations:
- Source of wealth research for on-boarding clients
- Asset identification research for asset-seizing court orders
- Whistleblower investigations for employees having undisclosed interests via family members
- Investigating misrepresented personal or business relationships
According to Ngo, law enforcement uses social media for 80 percent of its investigations. While there may seem like an endless list of sites to consider, she highlighted the top areas of coverage to pay specific attention to:
- WeChat: China’s Facebook. Best for finding sources. Pro Tip: You can use keyword searches for all public accounts.
- Weibo: China’s Twitter. Pro Tip: Look at followers of a person and the people they follow for connections.
- Instagram: A photo-sharing network. Fastest-growing application with most active users 18-29 years old. It is extremely popular in the Philippines and Singapore. Pro Tip: Every single photo has a timeline, so you can build timelines around posts.
- Facebook: Members have the most active internet users. Pay close attention to the privacy settings: they are complicated and change frequently. Pro Tip: Use their strong search engine. You can search down to “men who went to the UCLA, live in New York and work at Deloitte.”
- LinkedIn: Professional networking site. Made up of more males than females, people of higher incomes and higher education levels. Pro Tip: You can change the settings on your account to search anonymously.
Ngo reminded attendees to not solely rely on the information you find while scrolling and searching. According to Ngo, you still have to confirm everything you find because social media is managed by individuals. And those individuals, like us, want to represent themselves in the best way possible online. I mean, no one is going to post a video of themselves with piles of jewels and brag about a crime they committed, right?