By Cynthia Hetherington, Hetherington Group
Cynthia Hetherington has more than 15 years of experience in research, investigations and corporate intelligence. She is a consultant for Thomson Reuters and the founder of Hetherington Group, a consulting, publishing and training firm focusing on intelligence, security and investigations. Visit Cynthia on Twitter.
Using the auction Web sites for buying and selling goods can be a fun and cost effective way to get rid of your junk, or buy someone else’s. However these services can also be very helpful for online investigators.
For example, If you are trying to locate the person behind a pseudo anonymous posting on a blog, or in a forum, use eBay. Chances are the suspect has used the same user handle, or nickname, in innocuous places like eBay, never considering for a minute that you would search for them there.
You will be able to see, at the least where they ship from, which can seriously narrow down your search by geography. Also, it is possible to learn much about their behavior, in viewing what they purchase or sell online. Finally, they might have an old email address in their profile, which was the original login for eBay when it started in 1995.
The online auction site eBay.com has been on the Web for more than a decade and is the owner of its merchant system Paypal.com. Very lengthy, detailed logs are maintained for each transaction in the event that records and identities need to be subpoenaed. For the casual surfer, learning how to dissect these tools for information can make your case.