Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Internet Mining Investigation Top 10 (And 4 Is a Must)

Nothing Humble About These Beginnings

When I started in the private investigation business, we had the Internet but not the Internet we all know about and use today. The Internet back then, and back then was about 15 years ago, was primarily the America Online community. Email was starting to replace snail-mail as the communication of choice and rightfully so; immediate communication of letters and attachments, the way we would all do business would be changed forever. Soon after, with the birth of MySpace and Facebook in 2003, so to would change human socialization, forever!

Although MySpace jumped out of the gate quickly, they soon faded away to the "new kid in school", Facebook - no pun intended, okay, some pun intended. Facebook, although not without controversy, was started by a Harvard University student, Mark Zuckerberg; primarily as a way for college students to socialize. Since that time, Facebook's growth has been staggering and has gone from one active user in 2004, to 1.2 billion active users in 2013. The social media journey and other incidentals could take up this whole article and then some but we're here to discuss how this and other online social repositories affect the day-to-day claims investigation, to include the Internet Mining Investigation.

Serving the Insurance Community

In my role, I frequently travel with our sales staff or jump on a web-presentation and present to groups of claims handlers, risk managers, underwriters, even receptionists. No matter who it is, when they hear Internet Mining Investigation or Social Media, they all want to be in the room. Although I would like to believe they are all there to see me, I'm realistic, I know it's the topic that captivates these people. When I start to show the audience what is actually available online, the mood quickly becomes that of concern and the smart phones come out as people start erasing information or revising they're privacy settings.

The questions I find myself answering are:

    When do we assign an Internet Mining Investigation?
    How do I know what the best case would be to use an Internet Mining Investigation?
    What do I do with the information once I get it?
    Should I do surveillance first or the Internet Mining Investigation first?

With those questions and more in mind, I created a Top 10 List of things you and your investigative vendor can do to improve your results on each Internet Mining Investigation. Remember, the key to success in any investigation is the methodology used and the consistency in which the methodology is used. Trying to obtain all available information on someone by hopping from site to site with no game-plan is like trying to weed your grass blindfolded, you may get a weed here and there but take your blindfold off and you will see you missed more than you pulled and you ruined the grass in the process.

Internet Mining Investigation: Top 10 List

1. The Early Bird Gets the Worm - This old adage can't be more relevant and applicable to an Internet Mining Investigation. The earlier or sooner in the claim, the better the likelihood you'll get some good information. This is based on the fact that even in soft fraud cases, which accounts for the majority of the fraud, once the claimant discusses the case with a friend, a lawyer, a co-worker, etc. hey will most likely be coached to take down all social media that could be incriminating.

2. The More Info the Better - The person performing the Internet Mining Investigation should be armed with all available information, such as, addresses, phone numbers, email addresses (personal emails are great), etc.

3. Use All Indicators - As discussed above, you can never be too sure you are investigating the right person, so why not use all of the information available to confirm you're correct? The problem with doing this manually is people can get lazy and begin assuming they have the right claimant, that's when mistakes are made.

4. Do Not Friend Your Claimant and Do Not Lie to Gain Access to Their Account - Is it criminal to do so, no. But you expose yourself and your company to 'high visibility' lawsuits because you are, in most cases, in direct violation of the "Terms of Use" of the website. It won't be long until a major insurance company is dragged into the media for doing something like this. Create policies for your office and your vendors that clearly defines your company's position on privacy and make sure it is acknowledged by all of your employees and vendors, failure to do so could create an action for negligence.

5. Always Check the Spouse and Children - Your claimant may be all set and have his social media sites locked-up but is the spouses and children? Most times they're not and the same privacy policies apply, if they're public they're fair game. You can learn about the families routines, when they are together, what they do, etc. This can be tremendous to get surveillance started off on the right foot.

6. Red-Flags Still Apply - Use your red-flags and any claim you would assign for surveillance, get an Internet Mining Investigation completed. If the buzz around work is the claimant is out fishing during the day, check the Internet. The Internet Mining Investigation could reveal where and when the claimant is going. The technology may have changed; however, the process or methodology still remains the same.

7. Never Too Old - Please don't discount based on age. The positive results may be less but they're there, I assure you. Before my grandfather passed-away, he was on the Internet daily, posting photos, talking with the kids, even doing his taxes. If you think your claimant is too old to use the Internet, you could be wrong.

8. Understand the Criteria Available to Search for Each Site - On Facebook, you can search by phone, email, name, location, and school. On Flickr, just email and name. Keep this in mind when searching and make sure you are using the best data available to ensure the best results.

9. Cast a Broad Net - As stated above, make sure you are searching all available resources. We looked at a competitors "Social Profile" and saw they found an old MySpace account and a "possible" Twitter account. They missed the Holy Grail, the Facebook page. They missed the Facebook page because they didn't search for it correctly; they took a short cut and just tried Google, not realizing, Facebook has a little used privacy setting that doesn't allow Google to crawl their site if the user checks it off. The bigger issue is they missed 12 unique blog sites because they didn't know the sites existed. A search of 5, 10, even 30 sites just isn't enough, it has to be at least 90 to 100 sites that are checked. I'm not saying that will get everything but they give links to other common or "sister" sites who share users.

10. The Report is the Investigation - Make sure your Internet Mining Investigation report or your vendors report leaves nothing to be speculated and at the very least, contains the URL, the website name, and snippets from the sites. Your ability or inability to properly catalog the evidence could determine whether or not you have evidence or a wasted opportunity.

Our proprietary TIG Internet Mining Investigation platform and integrated data model will assist you in accurately assessing online activity and making sure it's consistent with your subject. Our TIG Internet Mining Investigation proprietary algorithms have been developed to understand the profile of what would be considered "normal" online behavior or determine if mined information has likely been fabricated. Diving into the "deep-web" or "dark-web", social networks, blogs, various online databases, and our own proprietary software, we are able to apply a "confidence-level" to each subject, thereby ensuring their online identity is not fraudulent.