How To Track Someone Down Using Online Sources

It used to be that if you wanted someone found, you would hire a private investigator and let them “work their sources”. Of course you can still do that but private investigators are expensive. If you are looking for someone, you can quite often find them on your own using the Internet.

A lot of people try their level best to avoid being online but truth be told, you end up online these days whether you like it or not. So if you are looking for someone, you just have to know the right online places to look.

Social Media

The first obvious port of call is obviously social media, in the form of Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Twitter is very limited in what they can tell you about a person (apart from their photo and location – if they enter that information). 

But Facebook and LinkedIn? Well, that’s a whole different ball-game because they are designed for people to reveal everything about themselves – and they do.

I have read books by former US Marshals involved in the Witness Protection Program who said that a lot of people in the program were eventually found by their enemies because they kept updating their social media pages!

Facebook

Whether or not the person you are looking for is on Facebook will depend on how old they are and how “into tech” they are. Generally speaking, those under 50 will most likely have a Facebook account. Anyone over 50….well, then it’s a tossup.

Finding the person will depend on things like :

  • how unique the person’s name is. Zachary Zucker is more likely to show up clearly than John Smith.
  • If they are still living in the same area where you saw them last. If they have a common name and have moved to the other side of the world, identifying them might be a problem.
  • If they have information on their profile that makes it obvious it is them – photos, former schools, former employers, etc.

Another thing to try (if you know it) is to see if their former school has an alumni Facebook group. Most schools have Facebook groups set up by former students who upload old class photos and talk about the old days. You might find the person there.

LinkedIn

If you strike out on Facebook, try LinkedIn next. I have had an incredible amount of luck with LinkedIn because it has become the one-stop place for anyone wanting to build a career. This means there will be photos of the person, their entire work history, location, schools, etc.

It can also be incredibly satisfying to look up the former school bullies and discover they are flipping burgers in Burger King or cleaning toilets!

Search Engines

If the person is not on social media, the next step is the search engine which more or less means Google.

Google can throw up a huge amount of information about people. Newspaper articles can be indexed on Google so maybe the person did something noteworthy that got them into the news?

Or maybe they committed a crime and went to prison, in which case the trial would have been covered? Then there are the obituaries which told me a friend was dead when he suddenly dropped off the radar one day. Finally, see if the person has their own website.

Here are some specialist search engines you could also try. Most will give you basic information with a nominal fee required to access more advanced information. But the basic information will cover things like names, addresses, relatives, and maybe phone numbers. 

The slightly annoying thing though is that many of these websites cover the US only.

Phone Books

Many countries now publish their phone directories online, making the days of getting bulky print books a relic of the past. A Google search of “phone book” + “your country” will bring up the directories. But when checking for this article, the site for US numbers was down. The British equivalents are BT and 192 Directory Enquiries.

Prison databases

If you discover from Google that they have gone to prison, or you just want to tick prison off the list, the next step is to look on the right databases.

In the UK, there is no actual database. Instead, you must email the Prison Service and request that they look for you. Then the prisoner has to consent to their location being given

However, in the US, forget about prisoner privacy! The Federal Bureau of Prisons maintains a database for federal inmates. And this website links to prisoner locator tools for every state in the US.

Local Newspaper Archives

One other thing you could try are local newspaper archives. Some newspapers allow search engines to index their stories, but many do not. Instead, they put their archives behind paywalls. Newspapers like the New York Times and Washington Post are notorious for this, as well as many smaller local community newspapers.

So see if newspapers in the region have archives, pay the nominal fee, and have a look around for the person you’re looking for. I have had success before so it’s worth it.

If All Else Fails – Follow The Friends & Relatives

Now don’t get me wrong. I don’t mean in a creepy stalker-ish way, hiding in the bushes with a long-range camera lens. What I mean is that if the person you seeking is not showing up – and you know their friends and relatives – look for them. If they are in touch with the person, you could find them that way.

This is probably the best bet if someone has changed their name due to marriage and you don’t know the new name. Look in the friends and relatives’ friends lists on social media – see if the person is there under a new name.

If you don’t know the relatives, go to ancestry.com . Enter the person you’re looking for then it will tell you their relatives’ details. It’s all public record so you’re not doing anything wrong.

What Reverse Image Search Is & How To Use It

Imagine for a moment that you are looking at a photo online. This could be a social media photo or an online dating photo. Or perhaps a photo from a news story? Looking at it, something doesn’t quite add up and you are suspicious. How do you check to see if the image is real?

Lots of online scam artists and identity thieves steal peoples photos and pass them off as themselves. So that good looking blonde woman you’re admiring on Tinder could actually be a big fat Russian guy in St Petersburg, hoping to get your bank account details. In this day and age, it pays to be safe, and there are a few online services to help you with it.

Google Images

Google is not the only mainstream search engine to offer reverse image search. Bing and Yandex both offer it too. But obviously, everybody’s first stop is going to be with the big G.

Let’s say you were swiping around on Tinder and you came across this rather dashing gentleman.

He claims his name is Luigi and is a billionaire Italian entrepreneur. But wait, doesn’t he look familiar? Didn’t you see him in a movie once? Or maybe he is the local pizza delivery guy?

Google Images has a feature where you can upload photos and see if you get any hits. Go to Google Images and click on the camera icon.

You then get two options – paste in the direct URL to the photo if it is online. Or if it is on your computer or mobile device, you can upload it directly to Google.

I clicked “Upload an image”, navigated to the photo in Windows Explorer, and it started uploading.

Right away, Google has identified “Luigi the billionaire Italian entrepreneur” as some lowlife fraud called “Hugh Jackman”, who is some kind of “actor”. Whew, close escape there! We all know what these actor types are like.

TinEye

TinEye is also another reverse image search engine and has a good reputation for getting the job done. For a price, they also scan images you give them and send you email alerts if those images appear online suddenly somewhere else. 

However, one big difference with TinEye is that they are not very good with peoples faces, even if those people are high up in Google search results, like Hugh the actor. Instead, TinEye focuses more on more general images such as artwork, proprietary images such as photography and designs, that kind of thing. If you are an artist looking to protect your work from online plagiarists, this may be your best solution.

Let’s say someone offered me this “unique just-painted” painting for sale but I have a sneaking suspicion it has not just been painted and might have been around for a while.

How well can TinEye do with this one? Let’s find out.

Right away, TinEye brings back over 13,000 results identifying it as “American Gothic”. A quick web search says it is by Grant Wood, and it is hanging in the Art Institute of Chicago. So another close call averted there.

Closing Thoughts

Reverse image search is not perfect. There are so many variables which can change a picture such as change of hair color, adding or subtracting glasses or facial hair, changing the tone of the picture quality, and so on. There are pictures of me online but reverse image search didn’t find a lot of them.

Police, lawyers, and private investigators will have better reverse image search tools available to them. But for ordinary Joe Public, we have to make do with what we have but this is something that is only going to improve with time.

How To Switch Between Multiple Instagram Accounts

It’s quite common for people to have multiple social media accounts. Perhaps they have a personal profile for friends and family, and one for business? In an era where private life and work life frequently threaten to overlap with one another online, it is sensible to separate the two wherever possible.

Or maybe you are a social media manager who is employed to look after multiple accounts? On a smartphone, logging in and out of accounts (as well as remembering the login details) is the height of tedium, especially if you have big fingers like me.

Instagram on the other hand makes it easier by allowing you to connect accounts to one another then switch between them with a couple of taps. Unfortunately, it only works on smartphones – for now.

How To Connect Multiple Instagram Accounts Together

My dog has his own Instagram account (what can I say, he’s a real diva). So I am going to connect his account to mine, so I can add photos much more easily.

Once you have logged into the first account, it’s time to hook up the second. So go to your profile and tap on the three vertical lines (the “hamburger menu”) at the top right hand side.

This slides the screen to the left and in the panel which now appears, scroll to the bottom and tap on Settings.

Now scroll all the way to the bottom until you see the Logins section. Tap on Add account.

You will now get the standard Instagram login screen. Sign into the second account.

If you go back to your profile page now, there is an arrow next to your name. Tap on that.

At the bottom of the screen, you will now see a menu with the connected account.

If you have any more accounts to connect to, keep going. I am not aware of any limits imposed by Instagram on account linking.

That is basically it. One further thing to mention is that when you now post photos, you have the option of posting the picture to multiple accounts all at once, which is a real neat time saver.

How To Make Your Own Custom Google Maps

There are many reasons why you may want to make your own custom maps. Perhaps you have a wishlist of places you want to visit? Maybe you are tracking a serial killer around the country? Or you are compiling where all the best burger joints are in your particular area

Whatever the reason, you can make your own custom maps on Google Maps very easily. It is literally a case of sticking a pin in it.

Starting Your Own Custom Map In Google

On the desktop version of Google Maps, open the left-hand side pane and select “Your Places”. Make sure to be logged into your Google account to save everything you do from now on.

Now click “Maps”.

At the bottom of the left-hand pane, you will now see “Create Map”. Select that.

Now your new map will open up.

First, start by clicking “Untitled map” and giving it a name and description.

Now in the search box, search for the location you want to add to your map. Let’s go to Paris as an example. A map of Paris will appear along with an information box.

Click “Add to map” and a pin will fall on the location, adding it to your custom map.

If you decide you don’t like the look of the pin, you can change it slightly. There are different colors and different icon designs to choose from. Just click the first little icon on the bottom-right which is the “Style” icon.

Select which color and icon you want for your pin and it will update automatically.

You’ll now see the location saved in the information box and if you click on it, the map will jump, taking you directly there.

Now repeat the process and add your other locations. I’ve put my big grand tour of Europe on it.

Sharing Your Map With Others

When it is finished, you may want to show it to people. So first click “Preview”.

This now shows what your map will look like in “View-Only Mode”. Notice your pins showing on the map.

To share it with others, click “Share” in the top left hand corner and you will be given four options. 

Whichever one you choose, you are likely to be told that the permissions need to be changed from private to public. So click the provided link to make the map public, which brings up this box.

Click “Change” and choose what level of public access you want to grant.

The status will now change and you can share the link provided at the top with whomever you want.

Firefox Monitor Tells You When Your Login Details Have Been Compromised

After years of using Google Chrome, I finally decided to go back to a more privacy-focused browser, Mozilla Firefox.

Firefox takes privacy very seriously.  You can choose between three different levels of “content blocking” which covers everything from trackers, cookies, cryptominers, and fingerprinters. 

But Firefox has now introduced something called Firefox Monitor, which tells you if your email addresses have been caught up in a hacking incident. It pulls its information from HaveIBeenPwned which keeps track of all compromised login details.

Sign Up For Firefox Monitor

The nice thing about Firefox Monitor is that it is a “set it and forget it” deal. Once you have entered and verified your email addresses, Firefox Monitor will keep tabs on those email addresses 24/7. As soon as one or more of those addresses pop up in a hacking incident, you will be notified.

You need to sign up for Firefox Monitor with your Firefox account. If you use the Firefox browser, this account would be the one you sync all of your browser settings with. But you can also add other email addresses later.

After signing up, you will then see your dashboard and right away, I see with horror that my main email address has been compromised 14 times.

Clicking on more about this breach will give you extra details but the bottom line is that you need to log into these accounts right now, and either change the password or shut the account down completely.

You can’t ignore them, especially if you make the bad habit of using the same username and password for each account. Having the details to one will give them access to everything which is not good.

So now it is a case of going directly to these websites, logging in (hoping the hacker has not changed the password) and changing the details. If you are not using that account anymore, then you should consider just closing it down completely.

A slightly annoying thing is that it doesn’t give you direct links to the affected sites or links to be able to deactivate the account. You have to type in the address yourself. If it is only a few sites, it’s no big deal, but if someone is a victim of hundreds of hacking attacks, typing in each individual URL can get real tedious really fast.

Further down the dashboard page, you can add other email addresses you want to monitor. There doesn’t seem to be any limit to the number of addresses you can add and Firefox Monitor is totally free. So why not add all of them?

Sometimes it can take quite some time for a hacked company to come clean and admit what has happened. So Firefox Monitor can only report publicly available information. This is why it is good common sense to change your account passwords regularly (say, every three months).