Is there such a thought as an online private detective? Some kind of Dick Tracy for the Internet world? Can’t you see the dark and smoky research room with laptops scattered everywhere?
If you Google things like internet detective, cyber investigator, or online detective, you will find tons of information on how to conduct private investigations yourself, but very little about live private investigators willing to track perpetrators online. In reality, this is a completely new industry that is beginning to take shape.
If you’re just trying to find someone, let’s say an old friend from high school, then there are tons of services online to help you accomplish that task. As an example, NetDetective (of which I have no affiliation), is probably one of the most popular sites. According to its website, NetDetective “allows you to discover the information you want to know about your doctor, boss, friends, neighbors, lover, and even yourself.”
While this type of service is extremely useful for the right applications, it does not offer solutions for the second type – I need to find, stop, or prove that someone is doing something wrong online for me, my business, or my loved ones. Now this is a horse of a completely different color.
Let me give you an example. We were recently contacted by a high profile person who was being attacked by former associates and friends. The attacks were relentless, including on social media (Facebook), anonymous blogs and blog comments, emails, etc. To the point that that person was also concerned about physical safety even though he was not being openly threatened.
Unfortunately, people who are attacked in the Internet world often do not receive help from traditional lawyers or law enforcement agencies. Lawyers are very good at litigating and taking all legal action once they can show that someone is attacking their client. But how will they do that when the online attacker is hidden by layers of security and masked IP addresses? Most law firms do not have the resources for such investigations.
Unless the threat is serious enough, conventional law enforcement probably can’t help, as this doesn’t really fall within their statutes.
What should the customer do? For people who work in this small specialty, they have received a series of calls from both companies and individuals who are puzzled that their online reputation is under attack. They literally don’t know where to turn.
What the person really needs is an Internet investigator or online detective to help them gather the necessary information and then can direct them to the appropriate legal or law enforcement resources.
So, as you can see, there is a big difference between an online investigator and a service like NetDetective. Each has its own specialty and application.