With the recent media surrounding Manti Te’o being catfished (fooled) by a man posing as a woman he virtually dated for over 2 years without ever meeting, along with the growing popularity of the movie turned Television show Catfish, we decided to divulge a few tricks of how to stalk research someone online using a few free tools and some creativity. So have you found your soul mate online? Let’s see if we can make sure they are who they say they are so you too can avoid being catfished.
Social Media Profile or Instant Messenger Address
Does this person chat with you using a screen name other than their real name? For instance let’s say you use a chat client that allows for usernames (take AIM for example) and the person that you are chatting with has a screen name of SallySmith82. It’s very possible that this person might use the same name across all of his/her social media personas. This is what I like to call someone’s “PUB”, or “Personal Unaware Branding”.
A great way to take a deeper look into what this person’s social media footprint might be is to run his screen name or username through our free social media Username Search tool. You might find that his or her PUB links to an old MySpace profile where there could be pictures that differ from the ones you have seen. Let’s assume you are a man (don’t worry ladies, we know this also happens to you often) and SallySmith82 claims to be a 30-year old woman with a modeling career who is sending you some amazingly beautiful and almost risque pictures of herself. Imagine your surprise when you check out the MySpace profile and you find that SallySmith82 is not at all who she claims to be! Don’t panic! It is always possible that someone else could have the same name and has already claimed the profile; however, if the locations of both SallySmith82 match and you are seeing some completely different pictures, you might want to ask about the profile. Always continue to dig deeper because there could be several profiles across various sites that could all be the same person (or perhaps different personas this person has created).
Do they own a blog, website or domain?
So for another scenario we ‘ll check out one for the ladies this time. Let’s say you meet a very smooth young entrepreneur on Facebook that claims to own a bunch of websites that make him tons of money, and he even emails you with an address from one of his personal domains. I’ll use myself as an example here – if I am constantly emailing you from “firstname.lastname@example.org”, take a look at streko.com. You’ll find a personal blog with a little information about myself, but no pictures or anything personally identifiable. To make sure my name is actually “Michael” a simple thing to do would be to perform a search on the WHOIS information of the account – this can be done easily by using Domain Tools, http://whois.domaintools.com/streko.com. So this proves that I own the domain and my name is Michael Streko. It may even provide my mailing address as long as I didn’t mark it as private. But what you also want to check out is what I highlighted in red, the link that says that I own 4 other domains. So let’s say that I have been telling you I own hundreds of domains and they are a large network of all different kinds of sites that have to deal with shopping. You can purchase a full domain ownership report from Domain Tools, or for a quick (and much less reliable) search you can query Google for pages which may have already been indexed:
site:whois.domaintools.com/ “PERSONS NAME”
This might give you a rough idea of what’s out there, but for a truly accurate report you will have to purchase the report, which starts at about $49.
Just as someone’s Instant Messenger ID can be used to disclose a name, at times people will use their email address as their profile name on various social media sites. A great post on this topic can be found here on labnol.org – this gives you a good example of how to do a reverse name search using an email address and a few simple steps. If they are constantly emailing you with email@example.com, again you can use KnowEm’s Social Media username search and simply search for candygrrl85 and use the same techniques outlined above to see if you can find any Social Media profiles for that person.
Sometimes a person a using fake profile will slip up and make another Facebook account using that email address.
So if you’re speaking to Candygrrl85 via email and their Facebook vanity URL is different; i.e. http://facebook.com/KnowEm (KnowEm being the vanity URL), you can perform a simple email search on Facebook or any other social media site that allows you to search via email for members. With Facebook simply drop the email address into the search box.
Are they a criminal?
If you and your online friend decide to finally meet face to face, it might be a good idea to take a bit of a deeper look into this person’s background. Just about every state in the United States offers a free online offender search for convicted felons Simply go to Google and search for your states “Department of Corrections” or “DOC” website. As an example here is New Jersey’s DOC website which does everything from list present/past inmates, their crimes, their picture, and a list of wanted felons that have escaped.
This isn’t really a bonus tip, its more like common sense – search them! Google & Bing it up! Search their email addresses, vanity URL’s, instant messenger addresses and any other information you might have about them. The search engines are there for searching, so search away, you will be surprised about the information from one’s past which gets indexed.
To sum it up, catfishing has been going on for years and most likely will continue for quite some time to come. Years ago it was MySpace; spammers would take a picture of a pretty girl, create a fake profile, gain thousands of friends and then comment on all their profiles with an affiliate link to get a “Free $50 Macy’s Gift card”. Today there’s a new trend called catfishing – what will they think of tomorrow?
This commercial sums it up … just because it’s on the internet, doesn’t make it true:
The second video in our three part series demonstrates how to do a simple username search on KnowEm for your brand, product or personal username on the over 600 Social Networks we currently monitor in our database.
Since our inception, KnowEm has always offered a free search for the availability of your brand or username on hundreds of Social Media sites. As we’ve grown, so has our database of social networks, and today we’re proud to announce that has reached over 600!
We think it’s pretty easy to use – just enter a potential username (this has to be a name without spaces or punctuation, since it is often used as a vanity URL on the social websites, such as http://twitter.com/knowem) and click “Check It“. The initial overview results page will show where your name is available on 25 of the most popular networks, and by clicking on the “Check Over 500 More Social Networks” button you can continue on to search the entire KnowEm database of 600 sites by category, for free. When your name is found available on a site, we also offer the link to register it on that particular social network.
Do you know who it is you’re actually following on Twitter? Facebook? MySpace? Due to the recent explosion of interest in Twitter, thanks in no small part to Ashton (@aplusk) and Oprah (@oprah), celebrities and regular folk are flocking to Twitter. But how do you know if the person you’re following is actually a celebrity, and not just regular folk? You can’t, and Twitter is still very quiet about any plans to stop Twitterjacking: the act of impersonating someone else on Twitter.
The biggest concern with your brand identity in Online Reputation Management and Social Media used to be just giving your brand a good name. But what happens if someone steals your brand name? Do you think they’re going to be as concerned with your reputation? The need for businesses to secure their brand name on every possible venue has never been greater.
Knowem co-founder Mike Streko was recently interviewed by Fox News in a report about Twitterjacking: “Unless you start spending money to put out press releases saying that’s not your profile or jump through hoops to contact Twitter, it never works out well.”
The truth is, it’s almost impossible to get your brand name or username back once it’s been taken. Unlike when someone takes yourbrandname.com, there is no universal naming authority for social media profiles. As a brand owner, you’re basically at the mercy of the site owner. Or, since there are hundreds (if not thousands) of social media websites thriving today, you would have to appeal your case to every individual site owner to get your brand name profile back.
Lately I’ve noticed a lot of people are asking this question about the KnowEm Username Check service. KnowEm was recently reviewed by a columnist in the Washington Post (he did a good job; the article is worth reading), and several users’ responses to the article raise this very question.
Some people commented that social media sites like Twitter, Facebook and MySpace are a waste of time — “a huge time sink“. Some actual business owners posted that they have never created an account on any of these sites and never will. Many others stated they have never heard of most of the websites, and don’t understand the point behind them.
That’s where KnowEm comes in. Just because you don’t know every social media site doesn’t mean you can’t or don’t want to protect your brand name on it. You probably never heard of Twitter a year ago, but today there’s a mad race for every company to secure their @BrandName on Twitter. And for good reason; you don’t want someone else to get it first (by the way, you can also visit @knowem on Twitter).
Unless you’ve got an internet marketing staff working with you, you may not think you can keep up to date on all 120 sites which we register you with. That’s OK, because the important point to remember is that with KnowEm you are reserving your brand name, protecting it from someone else registering it. It’s not going anywhere. When you’re ready to start working with a different site, it will be there waiting for you. Convenient, isn’t it? That’s what our service is all about 😉
It’s been a couple of extremely hectic and busy days since we launched on Monday morning. Our press release got some great exposure, and some really great bloggers wrote some outstanding reviews about our site. I was interviewed by Loren Baker of Search Engine Journal (thanks, Loren!), and we made the home page of KillerStartups (don’t be too shy to vote for us!). By the end of the day on Monday we were in top popular spots on both Alexa and Delicious. But the traffic really picked up yesterday when Josh at Cnet did a write up on us – and then we hit the home page of Digg!
We scrambled to handle the server load – even though we knew from past launches, especially with CheckUserNames (the original site before we called it KnowEm), that server traffic will spike with a popular story. What we didn’t expect was the traffic that achieving the #1 spot on Digg would send to the server – the database was handling hundreds of concurrent connections every second! We had some intermittent outages for about 5 to 10 minutes, but I was able to quickly adjust the server configuration to handle the massive traffic.
Of course, I couldn’t talk about our success without talking about the number of Twitterers who really helped us out by retweeting the stories. It was a pleasure and an honor to see the likes of @chrisbrogan, @the_gman, @mashable, @briansolis, @BrentCsutoras and everyone else for retweeting us and talking about our service.
I would especially like to thank all the customers of our automated signup service that have sent orders in, and are continuing to do so at a great pace! We’ve got more than enough resources to handle everyone’s order, and many have already been completed. While we predicted there might be a 1 to 5 business day turnaround on orders, we have been able to keep that within the 1 to 3 day range so far.
I’d like to extend one more thank you to the hundreds of users who are creating user profiles on KnowEm. We’ve got some pretty big plans for our user community, so register and secure your username now while we’re just starting out before someone else gets it.
April 21, 2009 · Filed Under Announcements, KnowEm News · Comments Off on New Website Protects Usernames From Social Media Identity Theft
KnowEm.com (http://knowem.com) launched a new web service today which monitors hundreds of popular websites for social media identity theft. By entering a username, which can be a brand name, internet identity, or vanity URL, KnowEm.com allows you to instantly monitor the availability of that username on over 120 popular social media websites such as Twitter, MySpace and Digg.
“Social Media identity theft is the modern form of domain name squatting,” says KnowEm co-founder, Barry Wise. “10 years ago it was a race to get CompanyName.com. Today it’s a race to secure a brand name on sites such as Twitter, which is quickly becoming an amazing tool for both brand transparency and customer service.”
A quick check today revealed that some of the biggest brands in the world have still not secured their account name to protect their brand from identity theft. For example, Google (NASDAQ:GOOG), Pepsi (NYSE:PEP), Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT), Exxon (NYSE:XOM) and Citigroup (NYSE:C) still show that dozens, and in some cases over 80%, of popular social media websites still list their brand names as available account names.
It’s not just major media brand names that have dropped the ball — many celebrities have not secured their online identity either. Ashton Kutcher and Oprah Winfrey’s recent exposure on the popular new microblogging service Twitter.com has shown that celebrities are taking interest in using social media as a vehicle for PR and communication. But as of today their Twitter screen names, @aplusk and @oprah, are still both available on almost 90% of other websites on KnowEm.com’s list.
“The time is coming when online reputation management is critical even for normal citizens. You would be surprised how many companies are now using Google to see what a prospective hire has about them on the internet,” says Knowem co-founder, Michael Streko. “It is just too risky to let your name fall into the hands of someone else.”
KnowEm not only monitors to see if your username is available on 120 sites, it also offers a commercial service which will register your brand or username for you. For $64.95 you can secure your identity on over 120 different social media websites. For an additional $9.95 per month, they will also continue to monitor new websites and register your username on them as soon as they launch.
Welcome to Knowem.com – originally known as “CheckUsernames.com”.
We still have the same team working on the site, same code and same great ideas. We just felt a little boxed in with using the CheckUsernames.com domain. We have a lot of plans for this site and we are happy to announce our first two large improvements / updates.
We launched CheckUsernames.com 2 days after Jon Sikes took down the original site (UsernameCheck.com), we spoke to Jon and he was impressed with what we had done, so he listed our site first on his clones list page. At that time we checked over 80 different sites for user name availability. We shortly after pushed the number up to 104 – Now we are happy to announce we monitor a grand total of 120 different sites.
Unlike some of the competition that has came out we do not kick false positives or negatives and actually give a damn about the site and what we are trying to do with it. (not just slap pictures of ourselves on the homepage for a quick ego boost)
Now onto the good stuff, the new premium services that we are offering.
Sign up done on all 120 sites.
Yes, that’s right, we can sign you up on all 120 sites.
We launched this feature into a private beta on Monday April 13th to some of our friends in the SEM/SEO industry and the response we got was tremendous! So we are now officially releasing it to the general public. Starting at the low cost of $69.95 our team will actually sign you up and create accounts on social networks. We are not automating this process because we do not want to violate any of the terms of service of the sites that are being signed up for.
Subscription Sign up Service
While doing research and getting emails from hundreds of site owners we have compiled a list of over 2000 sites that allow you to have a profile and a user name. For a low monthly fee of $50 (per user name) we will sign you up for a minimum of 10 new sites a month. To learn more about this service check out our FAQ our signup for our subscription service – its what we are most excited about.
So that is what we have been up to, we have some more stuff in the works, but we can’t talk about it yet 🙂
The Knowem.com Team
Knowem.com / CheckUsernames.com
Often imitated, never duplicated.