This was a guide that I had typed up for a different forum. I realize that there is a part that mentions finding information on family members of your target. Please use your own discretion and remember to not post any information gathered from a family member's social media account UNLESS they have been arrested as the perpetrator of the crime.
Welcome amateur and professional sleuths alike! Bark is here to teach you how to master the art of online investigations. I would claim to be proficient in doxing – the process of gathering and documenting information on people. Such a process is CRUCIAL for the beginnings of many investigations, especially for background checks, identity look-ups, missing person, and more. In this guide, we will go over how to: (1) Use Google effectively, (2) Use Pipl to do your investigating for you, and (3) Use Social Media to your advantage, (4) And Other Tricks!
This part of my tutorial is an adaptation of a previous tutorial that I’ve written for another forum.
My primary goal on those other forums was often finding up information on another user, so that is the precedent of the examples. The guide below does not only apply to forum users, but can also be used for searching real people!
"Mastering... Google?", you think, "Even my grandmother knows how to use a Google.".
And that is where you're wrong! Google is infinitely more complex than it seems!
With Google Search comes "Search Operators", that is, you can use special characters to narrow down results.
Below, I will give you the most common that I use when searching. [Brackets] just mean what I'm searching for.
1. "Quotations" can be used around keywords or phrases that you are looking for. For example, you are looking for users who live in Florida. Easily enough you can Google [<forum name> Florida], but by doing so, you will also receive results such as articles, events, etc, that happen in Florida, not just people who say they lived there. In order to narrow it down, you can instead search something like [<forum name> "I live in Florida"], which will generate results with posts of users who claim to live in Florida!
2. Site:www.example.com is another useful operator. By inputting a site name, such as [Site:www.example.com], you limit your results to only pages from that site. It’s useful, because it throws out sites that mention the forum where you are conducting your search, but aren't actually a part of that forum itself.
Pair this with the previous operator, and you can further narrow down results of users living in Florida by [Site:www.example.com "I live in Florida"]. This brings results of every mention of “I live in Florida” on example.com only. This is a great tool, especially if you are looking up only a certain person from a site that you know.
3. +/- is another operator I use frequently. + works exactly like quotations, making it so that results must include that word. - however excludes words from the searches. For example, if you're looking for users revealing their alternate accounts (often used for trolling or just simply changing usernames) on the forums, you can use [Site:www.example.com "My alts are" –altar, -halt]. The reason why I exclude those terms are, are that they have the word “alt” within their spellings. Without the -, you would end up having those words interfering with your results by listing search results that you simply don’t need. The purposes of these 3 steps are to narrow down information to exactly what you want to find.
Pipl.com is a very useful tool for online investigations. Like Google, Pipl is a search engine, but with a specialized use: to look up people by name and location. Pipl will often provide me with hits that I would have missed using Google, such as accounts that happen to feature the name of the person you are searching for (think: Deviantart. Many DA accounts include their name publicly).
Pipl is definitely the first site that I go to when starting up a preliminary investigation. Since it does so much of the sorting and sifting for you, you might have a foundation to build more information off of when you finally go to Google. Sometimes Google isn’t even needed if Pipl can quickly find me who I’m looking for.
If Pipl is so good, why did I bother teaching you how to Google first? Good question, inquisitive lad. The easiest reason I can muster is that Google is important. It is the most used search engine on the internet as of right now and has perhaps the largest amount of cached websites. Knowing how to use Google is the most vital bit of the tutorial that you can learn. Shortcuts like Pipl can be extremely helpful, but they are by no means perfect. As an investigator, you cannot just rely of shortcuts to get you through every task. If that were the case, there would be no investigators, because everyone would just be using Pipl. Google allows one to go beyond what Pipl can provide and bring light to new leads!
3. Social Media
This section was intentionally written as a guide for finding suspects who have skipped town for civil reasons (tax evasion, marriage dispute, etc), NOT criminal reasons. Please do not sleuth family members in accordance of a crime. It is against the TOS.
Facebook is the go-to social media site of our time. Just about everyone you probably know has one, so the chances of the person you’re looking for having one is pretty high. Facebook has a great search tool. You can search by name, which is just great. Furthermore, you can narrow searches by city, state, school, job, gender, marital status, and other neat ways. You know that your John Doe went to the University of Geniuses? Well, no reason to look at any other of the John Does of Facebook, narrow down the search. John Doe is married to Jane Doe? Perfect, narrow it down. Heck, it’s even possible to search a phone number in Facebook and see if that number is associated with any account on there.
Facebook is not only great for finding your own personal John Does, but it even allows you to see who John Doe’s parents, cousins, grandparents, siblings, and twice-removed creepy uncles are. Are you searching for a man who skipped town to avoid taxes? Contact his mother. She probably knows exactly where he’s hiding. It is a mother’s intuition after all.
Social media sites like Facebook aren’t just great because you can find profiles of John Does and John Doe’s mommas, but also because many social media accounts are interconnected. John Doe has a Facebook account, but according to his about page, he’s also linked a Twitter feed that is ripe with information. Perhaps he hasn’t linked any other social accounts though. What do you do then? Well take a gander at the URL. If his profile is something like JohnDoe1905, then you know what username he could possibly be using on other sites. Even though his Twitter account may not be linked, perhaps he also goes by JohnDoe1905 there, too. Perhaps even on other sites. The possibilities with social media are limitless.
If a website on a Google result is down, you can sometimes get lucky with the chance of having a cached version of the page hosted by Google themselves. The cached version is just a snapshot of the page you wanted to see, so links and images might be broken. To use this, just click the dropdown next to a link, which may list options such as “share” and “cached”.
Archive.org is another great website to utilize. With this site, you can use the Wayback Machine to see cached pages of a website as it was days, months, or even years ago. This is great if you’re trying to pry in on information that was recently taken down or on an account that no longer exists.
You can make Google searches on Google Maps to find locations relevant to your search terms. I did this before with PI offices and law groups to see the closest locations near me. One of these days I’ll get around to actually walking over to one of these offices and meeting the investigator inside, but for now, I’m fine with doing online searches.
I hope you enjoyed the tutorial. A lot of this stuff you may already know, but this is just what I typically do for the most part and it works.