Online Detective Services: Private Investigator Vs Net Detective

Is there such a thing as an online private detective? Some kind of Dick Tracy for the internet world? Can’t you see the smoky, dark exam room with the laptops scattered around?

If you google for things like internet detective or cyber investigator or online detective you will find tons of information about conducting private investigations for yourself but very little about live private detectives ready to track down online criminals . In reality, this is a brand new industry that is starting to form.

If you’re just trying to find someone, say an old high school friend, there are plenty of online services to help you with this task. As an example, NetDetective (which I’m not affiliated with) is probably one of the most popular sites. According to their website, NetDetective “allows you to find information you want to know about your doctor, boss, friends, neighbors, lovers, and even yourself.”

While this type of service is extremely helpful for the right uses, it doesn’t provide solutions for the second type: I need to find out, stop, or prove someone is doing bad things to me, my business, or my loved ones online. This is a horse of a completely different color now.

Let me give you an example. Recently we were contacted by a high profile individual who was being attacked by former partners and friends. The attacks were relentless, including social media (Facebook), anonymous blogs and blog comments, emails, etc. To the point that this individual was also concerned for physical safety, although this was not overtly threatened.

Unfortunately, people who are attacked in the internet world usually don’t get help from traditional lawyers and law enforcement agencies. Lawyers are very good at conducting litigation and taking any legal action as soon as they can prove someone is attacking their client. But how are they supposed to 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.

If the threat isn’t serious enough, conventional law enforcement probably won’t be able to help, as that really isn’t within their charter.

What should the customer do? For people working in this little specialty, they’ve received a number of calls from companies and individuals who are at their wits’ end because their online reputation has been attacked. They literally don’t know where to turn.

What individuals really need is an internet investigator or online detective who can help them gather the information they need and who can then refer them to appropriate legal or law enforcement resources.

So as you can see there is a very big difference between an online investigator and a service like NetDetective. Each has its own specialty and application.

Thanks to Chris Anderson, PhD

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