Be your very own fraud investigator: use the web to find out who you're really dealing with

How to use the web to find out who you're really dealing with

Intelligence gathering is no longer just for James Bond types. Anyone with an Internet connection can uncover potential fraud using just a few simple Internet tools. Here's how.

Most people only skim the surface of what the web's most popular search engine can do. Click on “Google Images,” for example, to find photos of people you are dealing with to double-check their identity. Click on “Google Groups” to find mentions of your subject among the thousands of discussion groups on the Internet.

Punch in an address, click on “satellite,” and you get a regularly updated satellite photo of the neighbourhood. Perfect for determining if an address actually exists, or if the warehouse someone claims to own is actually an empty lot.

This website is part of the “invisible web”–featuring links to thousands of searchable databases, focused primarily on Canada and the United States, whose contents are not accessible through a simple Google search. Doing business with someone who claims to be a certified management accountant? Log onto Searchsystems, select the province, and click on the CMA link to search the CMA database to ensure they really are.

Just because a website has been taken down does not mean it's gone for good. Many of those old web pages can be accessed via's Wayback Machine. After 9/11, for instance, investigators looking for terrorist links could find old al-Qaida websites by punching the group's old English-language home page into the archives. And fraud investigators can look up old company websites that may contain embarrassing information.