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What do investigators look for on social media?

White collar crime investigations often turn to the Internet. But it's not all about looking for electronic paper trails, bank statements or email messages about money transfers. Those things are important, to be sure, but investigators also turn to something many people use every single day: social media.

That's right. Investigators are out there actively scrolling through Facebook posts, Linked-In connections, Twitter posts and Instagram photos. And they're doing it to see if they can find any evidence.

People spend their money

First off, one industry professional put it this way: "People don't steal money to save it."

It'd be harder to track if they stashed it all away and never touched it, but that's not usually how it goes. Investigators know that people are going to feel tempted to make purchases, and some of those are potentially very large. Those purchases may also show that someone is getting more money than he or she should, perhaps through fraud.

People love to brag

The next key point is that people enjoy bragging about what they own. This is true of anyone, not just those who get involved in criminal activity. They use the internet as a way to show off what they have.

That means different things in different situations, but there are often pictures of expensive assets. A new house by the beach. A dream vacation to Italy. A jewel necklace that costs more than some people's homes. When people have these types of things, they're very proud, and they want to show them off.

What they look for

Investigators often look for things that seem a bit illogical and out of the norm. They could be red flags.

For instance, maybe there's a man who works in accounting, making $100,000 every year. The cost of living is pretty high in New York, and a lot of his peers don't even own cars. $100,000 isn't as much as it sounds like these days.

Even so, he floods Instagram with pictures of himself and his new Lamborghini. He posts pictures of it on the road, in front of his house and parked in front of great upstate vacation spots. He brags about how much it cost.

This isn't always evidence of fraud. It doesn't prove anything. Maybe the man saved up every spare cent he had for 10 years to buy that car. However, it's still potentially a red flag and it's the type of thing that can tip investigators off or strengthen their suspicions.

Electronic evidence

It's important for those who have gotten accused of any criminal activity to be aware of how this works to be very careful about what they put online. It can have an impact on a criminal case.

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