Cyber & Social media Investigations Private Detective Agency
Cybercrimes know no national borders. Criminals, victims, and technical infrastructure span multiple jurisdictions, bringing many challenges to investigations and prosecutions.
Close cooperation between public and private partners is therefore essential. Private Detective Agency, with its global reach, plays a vital role in building cross-sector partnerships and facilitating international law enforcement cooperation.
Today, the world is more digitally connected than ever before. Criminals use this online transformation to target weaknesses in online systems, networks, and infrastructure. There is a huge economic and social impact on governments, businesses, and individuals around the world. XXI century, the age when crime crosses all borders and is developing very quickly, simply name Cybercrime.
Investigations of blackmail, extortion, harassment, transferring money, data and identity theft, abuse... We protect clients from harassers and stop their behavior.
Phishing, ransomware, and data breaches are just a few examples of current cyber threats, while new types of cybercrime are emerging all the time. Cybercriminals are increasingly agile and organized – exploiting new technologies, adapting their attacks, and collaborating in new ways.
At Private Detective Agency, we coordinate law enforcement operations and provide secure platforms for data sharing, analysis, and training to reduce cyber threats. By increasing the capacity of our member countries to prevent, detect, investigate and disrupt cybercrime, we can help protect communities for a safer world.
Your online activity is possibly being watched, and by who is the question? Your online interactions have created many opportunities for criminals. These criminals take advantage of these opportunities, and they are on the rise. Anyone can be open to an attack. It doesn’t matter if you’re an individual, corporation, or small business, you can become a victim. In most cases, these perpetrators conceal their identities and attack you from areas you’d least expect them to.
A private Detective Agency can help expose these people. A private investigator has the proper system and computer forensics training to follow these digital footprints criminals use to track down cell phone numbers, IP addresses, social media accounts, email addresses, and even specific devices to perpetrate these crimes.
Types of cyber harassment
Using the internet to harass, intimidate or threaten someone repeatedly
Using the name or persona of an individual without consent
Someone will create a fictitious identity to start a relationship
Publishing someone’s personal information online so they’ll be harassed
Making a call to law enforcement to fake a dangerous scenario at the target’s location
Making unsolicited comments in an online community to provoke an emotion
Distributing private and sexually explicit images or videos without consent
Online interactions create opportunities for criminals, and these illegal activities are on the rise. Individuals, small businesses, and large corporations are open to these online attacks. In such cases, the perpetrators hide their identities, attacking you from the internet shadows. We can expose them.
Our proprietary system lets us follow the digital footprints to track down IP addresses, cell phone numbers, email addresses, social media accounts, and even specific devices used in these crimes. We can identify online harassers or extortionists with a high degree of success.
Cryptocurrency in Fraud Investigations
"Cash is king." Remember that phrase? It helped define how powerful cash can be in any transaction. It simplifies things. Cash could give you an advantage over someone who pays by check or credit card. Cash is also difficult to trace, making it easy to hide and difficult to quantify losses in cases of theft, embezzlement, and hidden assets. However, like all kings, they can be defeated, and the reign of cash could be coming to an end.
Consider the following scenarios:
A warehouse employee sells inventory for personal gain in exchange for cryptocurrency payments
A spouse decides to hide assets from divorce proceedings by purchasing cryptocurrency and making numerous transactions using the blockchain
An individual maintains cryptocurrency using an online wallet. The wallet is hacked, and they lose their property
Each of these scenarios requires a different investigative approach than traditional cash theft. Evidence such as deposit records, large bags of cash, and transfers to overseas accounts may not exist. Since a large amount of cryptocurrency can be stored on something as small as a flash drive, the digital asset may soon become the preferred method of doing business for most fraudsters.
It is also convenient for scammers to convert cryptocurrency back to cash as it is a relatively simple process. Online exchanges such as Binance and Coinbase allow users to sell their cryptocurrency for cash (and for a fee, of course).
The downside is that pesky paper trail that scammers try to avoid. However, there is nothing stopping someone from selling their crypto assets to other individuals for cash.
Cryptocurrency is here, and so are the inevitable scams in the crypto world. Thanks to blockchain technology, cryptocurrency is a foregone conclusion. There are more than 4,000 cryptocurrencies available and while most have little or no value, some like Bitcoin and Ethereum are gaining traction as a means of diversifying one's investments. As the US dollar continues to lose value, more and more people are turning to cryptocurrency to combat the effects of inflation.
Blockchain technology uses a decentralized system where information is stored over an encrypted peer-to-peer network. This allows cryptocurrency transactions to take place in a secure environment and in a pseudo-anonymous manner.
Although all transactions on the public blockchain are recorded and openly shared, there is no real personal information. Combining this with the fact that cryptocurrency is still relatively new and not widely accepted makes it an attractive option for fraudsters.
Let's remember why cash has always been so popular with fraudsters, organized crime, and money laundering. Other methods such as check payments, credit cards, wire transfers, and even money orders leave a paper trail for investigators.
Enter cryptocurrency. Intangible assets are given value by people, not governments. In a decentralized blockchain, there is no bank, no opening bank accounts, no signature cards, and no federal banking laws and regulations. There is no such thing as "know your customer" with cryptocurrencies. Because blockchain is not a bank, anyone can transact with cryptocurrencies on the open blockchain for free, 24/7, worldwide.
Cryptocurrency is not without its flaws. If the blockchain is decentralized and unregulated, it means that no one guarantees that your digital assets will not be lost. A cryptocurrency is owned by whoever owns the private key (think: super annoyingly difficult password) associated with it. If you lose the private key, you lose the asset. There are many horror stories online about people losing millions of dollars in Bitcoin or Ethereum because they lost their private keys. Storing cryptocurrency in an online wallet can help, but it can also make it vulnerable to cyber-attacks.
Although money remains difficult to trace, it is also regulated and tangible. Would anyone believe that it is more difficult to hide $50,000 in cash or one Bitcoin? Both have the same general value, but vastly different methods of storage and maintenance.
While there is enormous interest in the uses of cryptocurrency and NFTs, the potential gains also come with considerable risks that can lead to the permanent loss of assets. From a cybercriminal’s point of view, the thriving cryptocurrency environment provides a plethora of opportunities to steal assets, what with its many users and platform vulnerabilities. Cybercriminals take advantage of the fact that cryptocurrency transactions are irreversible and that many cryptocurrencies and NFT users do not have sufficient knowledge and experience to navigate the unregulated terrain safely.
It is therefore incumbent upon cryptocurrency and NFT users to arm themselves with the requisite information to ensure that they transact only with legitimate parties through official channels. Consistently observing cyber hygiene practices is also crucial to keeping threats in check. NFT trading platforms and cryptocurrency service providers, on the other hand, have a long way to go insofar as establishing scam-proof channels for their users. Indeed, the provision of secure channels for safe transactions should not stay in the realm of the ideal. Rather, it must be an ongoing endeavor that takes time to establish. Ultimately, the complex nature of blockchain requires concerted efforts from all stakeholders — the cybersecurity community included — so that assets are kept safe from individuals and groups with ill intent.
How to protect yourself from cryptocurrency scams
All this has a silver lining. Although it sounds complicated, the general methodology is the same. Follow the money.
Forensic accountants and fraud investigators can apply their current knowledge and experience with blockchain and forensic accounting knowledge to continue to find answers in these investigations.
The art of cryptocurrency tracking can help in situations such as:
Fraud and corruption
Cash may still be king, but the potential impact of cryptocurrencies on the future cannot be ignored. It's best to be prepared.
Cyber Harassment and Online Extortion
Are you being harassed or blackmailed online? We can help you fight back. Individuals, small businesses, and large corporations are open to all sorts of online attacks. People set up fake social media or email accounts, pretending to be you, to spread lies or doctored photos and videos in order to embarrass you, spoil your reputation or hurt your business.
Someone pretends to be a friend to prompt you to share private, personal information or photos then threatens to share them with the world unless you pay a ransom. Someone harasses you online so much you block them, only to see them create a new account and resume the harassment all over again. In such cases, the perpetrators hide their identities, attacking from a position of secrecy. We can expose them.
Social networks and social media, such as Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, and Instagram, are some of the most popular services on the web with hundreds of millions of users. Public information that people share on these sites can be of value to anyone interested in investigating people of interest through open, public sources. A social media investigation looks at social media posts, status updates, photos, and individual conversations. You may need a social media investigation for a court case, a custody case, or as part of a background investigation.
During a social media investigation, the investigator will search for key terms and positions relevant to the objectives of the investigation. In most cases, high-powered software will be used to search, monitor, and set up alerts for new posts and account creations according to the investigation needs.
The content individuals disseminate on social media can make or break careers, swing stock prices, and kick off legal investigations. Private Detective Agency uses new technology to scan social media data and uncover an individual's public online identity, providing a more robust picture of their reputation.
Private Detective Agency artificial intelligence social media reporting involves scanning social media posts going back years and analyzing all derogatory content. All data gathered is reviewed and compiled by an investigator into a custom report based on client-selected “social media red flags,” and each report meets industry security and compliance standards.
Social media due diligence has become a critical component of investigations for clients engaging in various business activities including M&A transactions, board of director selection, and lawsuits. Private Detective Agency frequently uncovers evidence of discriminatory, violent, sexual, and illegal behavior on social media, helping clients avoid unsuitable hires and pinpoint alarming behavior of employees.
Consider this: a personal injury claim could be disproven by careful analysis of social media activity. The buyer in an M&A transaction could decide against a purchase based on negative experiences shared on social media by dissatisfied employees. Or, an employee could share confidential business information on social media and thereby lose trust and possibly revenue.
Private Detective Agency new technology can scan all public social media profile posts on platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, including posts a user favors. With so much noise on social media, using AI makes it faster and easier to find gems in the treasure trove of potential intelligence.
Social media data is otherwise difficult to uncover, but thanks to artificial intelligence Private Detective Agency investigations are now generated faster with a larger quantity of accurate, public data than traditional investigations. By reducing the number of hours it takes our investigators to comb through content, that time is instead better spent on verifying the data and compiling it into useful reports.
Our hybrid approach of human and technology insight, poring through hundreds of pages of content from the subject’s public profiles, as well as content that includes a name and affiliation match, can be completed with the quickest and most accurate reporting.
How can a private investigator identify a perpetrator?
Attackers come from a position of secrecy. They will harass, blackmail, or even bully you and operate from the internet’s shadows to conceal their identities. Fortunately for you and the private investigator, they always leave a digital footprint. A private investigator is a forensic expert in knowing how to find them. We will work with you to track down IP addresses and domains that were used to commit harassment or extortion. They will also be able to determine the crime’s source.
Dealing with harassment or even extortion strains your mental health and is challenging at best to deal with. A private investigator can cross-reference IP addresses to find out. All evidence they find will be documented for use in an investigation with law enforcement or a court case.
Harassment is a serious issue. While not all cases require an investigation, it does help to keep track of as much information as possible in case it becomes an issue. Use a VPN to hide your IP address and don’t save or post any personal information online. Be careful who you accept as a “friend” on social media and do your best not to share certain types of images. The internet has a lot of great stuff to see, but underneath the surface are some dark elements waiting to pounce on an unsuspecting person.
Can new technology uncover social media content that is private or behind a paywall?
Private Detective Agency tools gather social media content that is available on public profiles. We respect the policies of social media platforms allowing users to create content that is private or behind a paywall. If the client is willing to pay for content behind a paywall, we will work with them to access that content.
Will the subject be notified of the AI social media screening?
Private Detective Agency adheres to all legal requirements and industry standards when performing all investigations. In the case of AI social media screenings, we are not required to notify the subject.
Our experts know how to follow the digital footprints to track down IP addresses, cell phone numbers, email addresses, social media accounts, and even specific devices used in these crimes. We can identify online harassers or extortionists with a high degree of success, arming you with the evidence you need to confront the harasser, seek a restraining order or possibly even press charges.
The Metaverse Fraud Question: What Are the Risks?
The metaverse term encompasses the many different ways in which we could potentially communicate socially in the “cyber world”. From VR headsets to avatars and wearable NFTs, the metaverse sees the combination of new technologies such as blockchain technology, virtual reality, and augmented reality brought together in a new environment that is more interactive than the traditional 2D web we have traditionally been exposed to.
For certain people, the idea is that all this will be in a fully decentralized version of the internet where the platforms and apps are developed and owned by users/players themselves. But when Facebook announced its name change to Meta, skepticism about the new concept began to emerge, with high-profile figures in tech and finance expressing their opinions on social media, often commenting on the ownership aspect of web 3D.
However, new technologies are often coupled with high levels of risk, so we decided to take a look at the “metaverse” and the components within it – and what ways fraudsters are looking at exploiting this new online universe.
Examples of Metaverse Fraud Work?
Any organization that offers crypto-based services, as well as individuals who choose to venture into the metaverse and the wider crypto-adjacent ecosystem, are met with various risks.
There are a series of schemes and techniques already employed as well as soon-to-be employed in metaverse-adjacent sectors, and experts anticipate new methods unique to these platforms to also appear.
Account takeover (ATO) attacks
Fraudsters will use traditional methods such as phishing attacks to gain access to accounts and rinse them of either currency or NFTs held by the account.
Fraudsters might look to set up multiple accounts on a certain metaverse platform to launder illegally acquired money or look to abuse promotions. One example scenario could see a fraudster buying an NFT from another account that they also control using dirty money, with the aim of withdrawing once sold to an honest user.
Crypto is notorious for its transparency, due to the blockchain’s open-record information. However, once a transaction is made, it can be nearly impossible to reverse. This works against some consumer expectations, especially compared to offline transactions.
Influencer and affiliate fraud
One renowned instance of crypto influencer fraud saw celebrities such as Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos have their Twitter accounts hacked as part of a fake giveaway. A similar thing could be seen in future metaverse promotions.
Fake reviews can massively damage brand reputation when these new platforms need to remain transparent to their communities in order to succeed, keep their token price stable, and have loyal users. For instance, a targeted bad review attack via bots can easily scare consumers away and cause a drop in token price.
The unregulated nature of NFTs and crypto gives room for scam projects to appear on major marketplaces as well as issues surrounding copyright and intellectual property. For instance, Vice has already covered some from late 2021, such as an NFT project developer who disappeared with $2.7 million.
Well, email data breaches are a global problem. As technology continues to become more accessible, metaverse platforms need to ensure the protection of their users’ data or risk losing consumer trust.
Ecommerce related fraud
Handling online goods, even in a digital format, gives room for typical scenarios seen in the eCommerce sector such as chargebacks, friendly fraud, refunds, and other settlement disputes.
Lack of regulation
For both users and companies, the lack of compliance and regulation legislation in place at the moment allows room for damaging circumstances.
Volatility and market manipulation
Users often trade tokens without actually engaging with the platform itself to make money – and such risks as aggressive market manipulation, rug pulls and honeypots are something to be wary of for all involved.
Virtual world fraud
It is worth noting that many of the issues mentioned above have been about since before crypto even existed, in virtual worlds such as The Sims, World of Warcraft, and Second Life. So, there is an argument that the gaming companies that are involved in the space should be somewhat prepared.
New tech brings opportunistic bad actors, the most famous possibly being a digital token inspired by the Netflix series Squid Game that was pitched as a play-to-earn metaverse game. $SQUID turned out to be a complete scam and lost all of its value almost instantly, with the developers running away with all funds.
What Is Metaverse Fraud?
Although the metaverse is this brand new concept, cryptocurrencies and blockchains have been around for a long enough time that we know many of the issues surrounding it. The metaverse might have plans to expand beyond blockchain but at the core seems to be this technology which, unfortunately, fraudsters have found to be incredibly useful to utilize in order to launder money, steal identities, and conduct scams. Due to a lack of KYC measures on certain platforms, combined with minimal regulatory measures, fraudsters can test out new methods and, to some extent, enjoy risk-free attempts to defraud both companies and users.
Blockchain-based transaction crime hit a record high in 2021, a staggering $7.8 billion, and with the constant threat of hacks as well, there is undoubtedly some level of risk to the many metaverses.
What Tools Can Stop Metaverse Fraud?
It’s not going to be easy, it is never. Fraud prevention is a constant battle and fraudsters will no doubt look at platforms as rife with new opportunities to expose weakness, try new methods, and ultimately scam businesses and people.
There are certain things that platforms can do pre-launch to sure up defenses and block out fraudsters before they get the opportunity to test the new frontier. Here are a few.
Fraudsters aren’t fluking their way through scams; they’re calculated criminals analyzing industries by testing methods with different businesses to see what might work and often even sharing information with others.
Information often gets caught up in silos and, for risk/fraud managers, this is a nightmare because they need a complete view of company information in order to spot connections between risky customers.
A lack of communication and transparency between teams can lead to big gaps in knowledge which can impact revenue, security, and the efficiency of decision-making.
We would recommend not only testing different types of solutions that can help create a full 360-degree view of the business but also making use of machine learning, which can support the organization of data and automate easier decisions.
Machine learning combined with a test environment can enable companies to investigate historical data and suggest new rules before implementing them.
To ensure complete protection, an operation must be transparent and enable full access to its risk team or the company they are outsourcing its anti-fraud efforts.
Having models and rulesets for each stage of a user’s journey (account opening, login, transactions, etc.) with an easy-to-use GUI can massively reduce the risk of missing information.
Machine learning is just one aspect of a sophisticated risk management product stack that will help metaverse platforms to protect their business and users.
On top of this should be other solutions that complement the machine learning algorithm. Often, providers will give an overall risk score that can be used to automatically accept or reject someone onboarding, logging in, or transacting.
For some platforms, Blackbox AI will be the chosen route, as it handles the majority of decisions without any human input. However, for earlier stage launches, Whitebox AI can be more useful to minimize the customer insult rate.
This is because Whitebox ML provides full transparency in why a decision or a score has been reached, and thus humans reading the results can pick and choose the parts of the analysis that are most relevant to the situation at hand.
Browser and device fingerprinting
In short, being able to identify someone’s device configuration can help spot emulators, virtual machines, and bots.
Unseen devices should be another indicator of potential risk, although it is worth noting that certain metaverses will be available on multiple devices – which again can cause customer insult rates if you rely on this alone.
With more hardware being used, including VR headsets, computers, and mobile phones, knowing the customer’s devices, location, and setup can be a really easy way to spot misalignments and potential risks.
Yet, there’s a lot of excitement, a lot of money, and a lot of opportunities for metaverse/web 3D companies to become dominant players, make a lot of money, and completely change the way we socialize.
But in its early days, it’s vital for these platforms to focus on their risk management practices as much as they do on new features. Otherwise, the general public will quickly lose trust – and thus, interest.
Using the experiences of industries that have grown immensely in recent years, such as esports, gaming, and crypto should help these companies understand the typical risks that come with new technologies that accept alternative payment methods.
If you would like to learn more about our Caber or Social Media Investigation please feel free to contact us today!
Private Detective Agency™
Swiss Security Solutions LLC
CH-8050 Zürich, Switzerland