Searching High and Low


There are many ways to confirm someone’s residence during an investigation. Now depending on local laws, some of these methods could be illegal, so always verify beforehand. In order to find Intel that will confirm a suspect resides at the alleged address, an investigator will sometimes examine letters in the mailbox, look at trash in garbage cans or just wait around for the resident to appear. In some situations they may even have a neighbor or local mail carrier confirm residence, but that is only if anonymity is not a concern. Now the aforementioned ‘low-tech’ methods of confirming residence are usable, but let us explore a couple of high-tech methods as well.

Our first high-tech method requires a WiFi enabled device, e.g., smart phone, tablet or a laptop. Once parked in front of the suspected residence, open your WiFi device’s Wireless & Network settings. A screen similar to the one pictured below should be viewable, revealing a list of available networks. Each network is represented by an SSID aka network name. Some SSID’s are gibberish, but many will be customized by the owner. So if you were sitting outside my house and searched for a WiFi network you may see ‘The HiTech PI’ (example only), along with a strength indicator, which is an added bonus because the closer you get to that residence the more confirmation you will have. As you can also see I have a neighbor by the name of Wesley and another Madison, both true. I have seen many people use good indicators like “Holmes House” or “Craigs Cave”.

The great thing about using SSID as confirmation is that it is in real-time. You know that the resident has current internet service at the address that is broadcasting the signal.

Another high-tech method used to locate/confirm residence are location based social networking platforms such as Foursquare and Gowalla. Along the same lines of network names, are user created ‘venues’ or places with their own names incorporated in them. For example my friend’s home may be a venue called “Joe Smith’s Garage”, which usually lists an exact address or cross street. Even though it may only list a cross street, since these are GPS enabled apps, the marker on the venue map is often an accurate GPS placement. The Foursquare method can be utilized when you are in the area of the suspected residence, or alternatively, venues may be searched at http://www.foursquare.com, where they can be narrowed by city and zip.

Keep following those virtual breadcrumbs. ~ The Hi-Tech P.I.

One thought on “Searching High and Low

  1. The trash thing is interesting…since P.I and cops face different restrictions on using what they find there…did a 10 page paper last semester for Criminology class on a pile of trash someone dumped across street from my house…and have found a couple sloppy P.I.s in the neighborhood perusing the airwaves for SSID etc. some interesting differences in legality there also…

    As to Foursquare and its ilk…wouldn’t touch it…why tell folks where you are…or aren’t…? Unwise practice. But as you say…good for the prowling P.I.

    I once traced a pirated copy of some Microsoft software in use by a student at our local community college all the way back to the desk of the collaborator in a bank in the former USSR……a fun search.

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