Are You Being Catfished? Simple Steps to Research Someone

February 7, 2013 · Filed Under Identity Theft, Online Reputation Management · 5 Comments 

Don't Worry Manti, There Are Plenty Of Other Catfish In The SeaWith 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?

I blurred out my old apartment number, so please do not send fan mail there.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 “michael@streko.com”, 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.

Email Address

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 candygrrl85@yahoo.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.

Bonus Tip!

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:

You may (or may not) already have a Google+ Vanity URL!

June 1, 2012 · Filed Under Brand and Trademark Protection, KnowEm News · 5 Comments 

At KnowEm we’ve been trying for a while now to see if Google has opened up a way for anyone to grab a vanity URL from Google+.  After searching around Google and some other blogs and publications this morning it appears that you cannot claim a vanity URL just yet; however, if you had selected a vanity URL for your old Google Profile those have been grandfathered in to point to your current Google+  profile (here is an example of my own:  http://www.google.com/profiles/streko).

Google Plus LogoThe interesting part is that it appears Google may have been removing a lot of those original Google Profile vanity URLs from accounts which represent known brand or trademarked terms.  I personally knew of several Google Profile accounts that had trademarked terms in the URL that have since disappeared from search results (using the method that is described below).  Is this possibly because they are gearing up for another big midnight name claim like the Great Facebook Land Rush of Ought Nine?

So from reading around the interweb it appears that originally they were rolling this out and matching it to YouTube channels for the inevitable tighter integration of Youtube and Google+.  All of the reports that we found which contained links to possibly claim a vanity URL now simply return 404s or just redirect to your Google+ profile page.

As reported by TNW back in March, Google has already announced they are going to be launching a 3rd party commenting system and vanity URLs – the former perhaps requiring the latter, so the question remains when will they roll the new features out?  We’re not sure.  I have reached out to Google and asked if they have any response as to why we are able to see some users with old Google Profile vanity URLs and some without, and I’ll update this post as soon as I hear a response.  So if you’re not already be sure to follow us on twitter (@KnowEm) so you will be alerted to when this is launched in full.

Until then, you may or may not already have a username URL.  As far as we can tell it all depends if you created a Google Profile vanity URL when that product was still active.  To see if you do have one simply check out:

http://www.google.com/profiles/<Enter either your Gmail address before the @ OR the custom URL you created with Google Profiles here>

If it forwards you directly to your Google+ profile then you are good to go!  Do you have a vanity URL? Have you figured out a way to create a vanity URL besides using a 3rd party service like we have previously posted about?  Let us know in the comment box below.

So what does this mean for business, trademarks and intellectual property? A lot. This is going to be a whole new can of worms just like the aforementioned Facebook claim. Large and small companies alike that originally thought networks like Twitter and Facebook were “just fads” and never attempted to claim their brand names in social media now have all kinds of headaches trying to retrieve them (in case you’re one of them, contact us and we can help).

For example, we don’t know if these two profiles are actually verified by the social media brands they claim to be, but here are two examples of names we have already found claimed: http://www.google.com/profiles/facebook and
http://www.google.com/profiles/delicious.  Can you find any others?

At KnowEm we look forward to a big name claiming rush like this one might become in order to ensure our clients’ Intellectual Property is immediately secured.  Until then, if you want to learn more about how you can protect your brand, trademark  or IP portfolio, check out our Enterprise Services.

 

KnowEm Introduces the “Essential Package”

January 31, 2012 · Filed Under Announcements, KnowEm News, Social Media · 3 Comments 

KnowEm gets requests all the time from individuals to small businesses that ask “We really don’t think we need a presence on 100 or more social media sites, are there any smaller packages that you offer?” Well today KnowEm is proud to announce the new “Essential Package”, a selection of the 25 most popular social media sites.  You can see the exact offering of sites on the purchase page by clicking the link underneath the package information.

We feel this package offers great value at a more introductory level price for individuals and SMBs interested in getting involved with just the most essential and popular social networks.  The new package is a complete one-button turnkey solution for not only reserving your name, but also completing all the profile information, images and links required to create a full presence on the top 25 social media sites.

KnowEm has identified this list of 25 essential social networks via several different metrics — page rank, compete score, alexa traffic rankings and media mentions.  All profile creation orders are still completed 100% manually by our U.S.-based in-house staff, so just like all our other plans you can rest assured your data and information is safe with us.

So from the small business owner just getting their feet wet in social media to the new parent that wants to be sure their child’s name is reserved and waiting for them when they want to start tweeting, we have the package for you.

In addition, KnowEm is currently working with a few other companies to develop custom packages for their client base.  Keep your eye out for these other new packages launching within the next few weeks!