Online & Social Media Investigations

Staying Safe Online: Free Links & Resources

Edward Ajaeb


It’s important to be safe when interacting with strangers online. Whether it’s online dating, business transactions, or conducting your own self due diligence, digital identities can be tricky to navigate. Thankfully, there are a few free and easy-to-use resources for quickly spotting potentially fraudulent characters online.

Keep in mind that these are free tools and have limitations. You should always use your own best judgment when interacting with people online. When in doubt, consult a professional private investigator or cyber expert to conduct thorough due diligence.

Reverse Image Search Sites

Reverse image searching is a process where you can search for an image across the web, similar to how you would search for text or keywords. Instead of searching for a phrase, you can upload a picture and the search engine will search the web for any other instances of that exact photo. This is useful if you suspect that someone is using a “fake” profile photo or pretending to be someone they’re not. You can use a photo sent to you by someone to conduct a reverse image search to see if the photo is associated with any other online accounts, profiles, or websites. However, it’s important to note that not every image on the web is indexed, so it’s not uncommon to find zero results.

Username Search Sites

It is common for people to use the same username across multiple online sites and services. Oftentimes, a person may have the same username on Twitter as they use for Instagram, and so on. This makes it fairly easy to locate additional profiles belonging to a person if you have one or a few possible usernames. 

Below are some sites which provide easy search functions to scan dozens of sites for accounts matching a particular username. These sites will search common social media and online networking sites for any instances where a username you enter is “taken,” meaning that there is an active account with that username on that particular platform. These sites will scan services such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, TikTok, as well as a few common dating websites.

Pro Tip: Use more than one (or all) of the above username search websites for best results.

Biographical Information

Social media and online profiles aren’t the only ways of researching someone’s legitimacy online. Even without social media accounts, a person may still have digital footprints elsewhere on the internet. Try searching his or her name along with their employer, school, or other notable details in Google. For example: “Ryan Jones, ABC Services” might locate the person’s bio on their employer’s website. “Kevin Smith, American University” might reveal if they were mentioned on an academic honor roll or participated in an athletic program.

What if a person has no social media?

Just because someone may not have any social media accounts of their own does not necessarily mean they are a fraud. There are several legitimate reasons why someone may choose not to have social media – their job, personal life, valuing privacy, not tech-savvy, etc. While statistically it is certainly out of the norm for someone to have absolutely no online presence, it’s important to consider a variety of factors, both positive and negative. Ultimately, you should use your best judgment when interacting with anybody, whether online or not. When in doubt, consult a professional private investigator or cyber expert to conduct thorough due diligence on an individual.

Disclaimer: Nighthawk Strategies LLC makes no warranty or endorsements as to the services, links, products, and suggestions referenced on this page. These third-party services are provided “as-is” for informational purposes only. We do not control the content on these third-party websites and accept no liability for your use of any third-party services. Nothing on this page should be interpreted to suggest any legal, professional, or personal advice.