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Internet research and investigations

The fast-moving pace of internet technology means fraudsters always have to be one step ahead of internet investigations agencies like Blackhawk in order to survive. Otherwise they would not attempt to pull off their pyramid-selling and Ponzi investment scams, siphon off confidential business information from their rival’s or employer’s IT system or doctor accounts. But rest assured, wherever they go, they will leave some kind of online footprint.

And it’s finding that type of evidence, often gained after sifting through hundreds of thousands of emails, computer files (hidden, “deleted” or carelessly left in plain sight) and internet search histories that can mean “time’s up” for the fraudster.

How do I know where to look for incriminating evidence?

The trick is knowing how and where to look and this is where Blackhawk can help. Unlike most internet investigations agencies, which outsource their IT search work, we run a joint venture with a specialist digital forensic company, meaning you meet the specialists at the outset and work directly with them throughout.

A typical internet investigations scenario is checking out a potential new supplier or customer. Their website may look squeaky clean, slick and professional, backed up by well-produced office stationary and business cards. But appearances can be deceptive and you have decided to take the due diligence route before committing money, time and resources.

We have all heard of fly-by-night online fraudsters who dupe people with flash sites, adverts, branding, even a fully-staffed office. Then, when the scheme is rumbled, the website goes offline and the whole outfit disappears overnight.

How can I check a website is ‘honest’?

But you can do a lot yourself to check online bona fides. When was the site launched? Who owns it? Where’s it based? Is it being discussed by trusted websites in the same sector and are they linking to it? Simple questions that can tear away the gloss and reveal a shady operation hidden beneath.

Many people trade on sites such as Ebay, which allows Blackhawk to help clients check up on their pedigree and customer satisfaction ratings. Even here stringent measures by such successful sites to protect the public from fraudsters are not 100% guarantees of a trader’s honesty. Blackhawk can also test and verify whether a trader is breaching copyrights, trademarks or offering counterfeit goods for sale.

How do you do a website ‘audit’?

Another way we can help you is through our website audit service when a client is buying another business. Websites today invariably play a crucial role in a company’s business strategy and sales. We at Blackhawk can dig up a site’s Google history to check if it has received or is likely to receive a Google penalty for poor web practices. This could mean losing all important keyword rankings and traffic in Google search results, something that can sometimes take years to rectify.

One word of warning. The common belief is that the internet puts us all on the same level playing field. We can all do our research, we think we are all “experts”. But the pace of technology is so fast. The beauty of calling on internet investigations agencies like Blackhawk is our constantly updated specialist knowledge. We go well beyond simple online searches, and we won’t stop checking until we have a full profile on which you can make a sound judgement.

For more details on internet investigations issues and background checks, or to arrange a free consultation, please call us on +44 (0)20 8108 9317.

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