If you’ve been the victim of an online scam, you may be wondering how to track down the scammer. Scammers are notoriously difficult to track down. In many cases, they will use burner email accounts and temporary phone numbers that can’t be traced back to them. They may also delete their social media profiles and other online footprints. However, there are still some steps you can take to try to track down a scammer.

Search engine research

Search engines that rely on types of algorithms to produce results, such as Google, Bing, and Yahoo, have revolutionized how people obtain information. While a single query may not yield results if it is not formatted correctly, using correct punctuation and brackets can help you find the exact information you are looking for. For example, if someone’s name is Robert Johnson and a user simply types the name into the search bar without quotation marks, then many results will be returned with Rob Johnson or Bob Jonson as well as other variations of the name. Instead, including quotation marks when searching for information that has a named individual gives you an exact result.

While most scammers will not give you their actual name, oftentimes scammers will reuse pseudonyms for different scams. By connecting their pseudonym, you can potentially connect them to multiple more frauds. In addition to searching for names, search for other identifying factors such as:

  • Email addresses
  • Phone numbers
  • Addresses
  • Business names

WHOIS domain search

A WHOIS domain search is a tool for locating the registration information for a website. This is done by using a WHOIS search engine to query the relevant database, which contains registration information for all existing domain names. A WHOIS search can be used to determine the registrant and other details of domain names that are currently registered or were registered in the past. A WHOIS search is often used by people who are attempting to identify the owner of a website or to see if a particular domain name is available (or has been taken already).

IP tracing

An IP address can be used to trace the location of the scammer if the IP address is not hidden using a VPN or other means. There are a variety of ways to obtain someone’s IP address. If you are communicating with someone through Gmail, you can find the IP address of the sender by clicking “show original” in the upper right-hand corner of the email. Occasionally the WHOIS will also have relevant IP information. Armed with the scammer’s IP address, search the IP address’s geolocation to determine the exact coordinates of the address.

Internet Archive: Wayback Machine

The Internet Archive Wayback Machine is a great way to view websites that are no longer operating or updated. Not all websites are archived, but many websites will provide captures of what the website looked like on a particular date and time. If the information on a website was removed or changed, you may still be able to access it.

Social media

Researching your subject online by using social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn can help you gain a greater understanding of your subject. Reading results carefully before jumping to conclusions is important. If multiple social media profiles related to different people return when searching for a name, you should investigate all of these until you find the one that is related to your search.

You will want to gather as much information as you can when finding someone online. Knowing their full name, nicknames, and place of residence will help you narrow down your search results. You should also try to find photographs of them for recognition and reverse image searching.

Public records

If you are lucky enough to find out the legal name of a scammer, you may be able to use public records to further identify them. Public records are documents and files kept by the government about its citizens, including birth records and property deeds. Searching public records can help you find information about a particular person, but it can be hard to know where to look. Before you begin your search, gather as much information as possible on the person whose records you wish to find. If you have a full name, an address or phone number, and date of birth or social security number, searching will be easier.

Hire a private investigator

Despite these tips, it may be beneficial to hire a private investigator to track down the scammer. Your private investigator will use these same tips, along with their own specialized knowledge, to make all attempts to reveal the identity of the scammer. Private investigators have specialized areas of expertise. When choosing a private investigator, make sure you’re working with someone who has experience in conducting online scam investigations.

Whether you’re doing your own research or recruiting the help of a private investigator, these tips will help you track down a scammer before they strike again.