“Top Ten” Steps to Take Before Your Company Uses Social Media in Investigations & Anti-Fraud Efforts

A television news reporter contacted me the other day requesting an interview on the usage of social media in investigations. During the interview, I told her that the usage of social media tools in anti-fraud and investigative efforts is booming! However, she then asked me about the training and education programs for investigators using these tools?

While using social media to gather information is all the rage…given the questions I am routinely asked about the proper usage of these tools, it occurred to me that training and education in this area clearly hasn’t kept pace. Everyone wants to use it but very few companies have laid the proper foundation for it – leading us to suggest the “top ten” steps companies should take before instructing their personnel to use social media in investigations. This is not an exhaustive list, by any means, but are important considerations for starters. Have you:

1)    Evaluated training provided to investigative personnel? Does it include proper techniques for the use of social media in investigations? How thorough and detailed is it? Does your training program reflect current investigative best practices, trends and legal opinions on the admissibility of evidence obtained through the use of social media tools?

2)    Implemented proper document, evidentiary handling and chain of custody methodologies to ensure evidence collected is secure, isn’t spoiled and can be used later when needed?

3)    Defined online privacy, explained that not all information found online is publically available and considered privacy issues associated with the use of social media in investigations.

4)    Discussed the use of using pretext online to gain access to an individual’s social media information which may otherwise be restricted and not open to the public?

5)    Explained the potential financial ramifications (liability) for attempting to circumvent a consumer’s social media privacy settings through deceit or pretext?

6)    Emphasized to your investigators, claims and anti-fraud personnel that information which appears online in social media apps isn’t always what it appears to be at first glance?

7)    Considered that it’s necessary to treat information obtained as a lead only – to be confirmed, validated or verified through other, more traditional, investigative techniques?

8)    Considered that there are no universal rules for the acceptability of using social media tools in all investigations – as cases and circumstances are unique. Case facts, risk, exposure and investigative technique are important considerations in each case.

9)    Considered how this evidence, and your company’s information gathering techniques, may play out in front of a jury? In a criminal trial? In a civil trial? The Good, The Bad and The Ugly all come out in a deposition!

10) Vetted your use of Social Media in Investigations program with in-house or staff counsel and revisited case specifics with them as they arise? Especially in line with #’s 5 & 8?