The power of desktop investigation
A successful investigation is not just about the results, but how it is efficiently and accurately done. Just like any other project, an investigation begins with planning to understand the scope and activities that need to be undertaken.
The important component of planning is desktop investigation. In simplest forms, desktop investigation uses digital access to obtain basic information about a subject.
The desktop investigation is the starting point for the majority of investigative inquiries. Investigators use this opportunity to obtain as much information as possible. Based on our experience, the desktop investigation is very useful, especially when the subject or evidence is located in a geographically spread out area, lives in a remote place, or is located abroad. This can save costs, human resources and time, by eliminating the need to travel to various places.
In certain cases, the desktop investigation is sufficient to resolve a matter. In other cases, desktop inquiries uncover critical and detailed bits of information that need further perusal.
Do not overlook the document study
There are several activities we do during our desktop investigation. Studying documents related to the investigation is one of them.
Based on our experience, most investigators see this activity as merely supplementary. This might be because investigation activities are often centered on acquiring evidence on the ground, or hunting down a subject. Document studies, in fact, maybe a helpful source of information to successfully acquire evidence. Based on document analysis, we may determine whether or not a field investigation is warranted.
An interesting story that we conducted involving an alleged environmental violation might serve as an illustration of how significant document study is. The allegation of environmental violation was brought up by an organization against a company through a research publication that is accessible to the public. Prior to going into the field, our investigators downloaded and thoroughly reviewed the report. According to the document, the report was written without doing any meaningful investigation and relying mainly on satellite photos. No credible data were presented, such as field photographs or interviews with local residents or associated parties.
Based on these findings, we determined that a field investigation was not required since the subject never visited the claimed research site, hence there was no evidence that could be gathered and validated in the field.
Document study is also very beneficial for conducting asset tracing. Examine the subject’s credit history, for example. This approach is very useful for investigators in determining asset ownership and the location of assets being tracked. Without studying credit records, investigators would have a harder time determining the actual ownership and locations of the assets in the field, resulting in a more costly field investigation.
Collecting data through social media searches
Moreover, the desktop investigation may involve a search of social media platforms. Social media is a treasure trove of information that investigators may collect, particularly in cases involving the skip tracing approach.
The search for missing people suspected of being fraudsters may serve as a good illustration of this. Our investigative team began a search for the subject’s location using information obtained from local government agencies.
The data contains the most recent residence and first names of the subject’s parents. However, our team raised doubts about the recorded residential address after receiving information from local officials and neighbors that the subject and his family had been gone for an extended period of time. The team came to a deadlock.
In the absence of physical evidence, the team started searching on social media using information gleaned from interviews with associated parties. Indeed, no social media profiles matching the subject’s name were discovered. However, more searches revealed social media profiles associated with the subject’s family.
The investigation was then narrowed down to images of one person with the subject’s closest family connection. After investigating several social media accounts associated with the subject’s family, the search eventually led to an account operated by a business. The user shared a photo of an event attended by several of the subject’s relatives, including the subject’s closest person. Finally, a photograph of the subject was discovered in one of the social media postings from a company 200 km from the subject’s first location.
Furthermore, the team concluded that the subject was affiliated with the business. Our team later corresponded with the company and acquired confirmation that the subject was still employed there at the time. From the correspondence, the team managed to get the subject’s address and contact number.
From a few of these cases, it is clear that desktop investigations can help make investigations more efficient in terms of cost and time, as well as successfully locating evidence or narrowing down investigations.