Amateur Sleuths Beware — The Internet is full of false “facts”

The Internet can be a real treasure trove of information but I must continually caution people that data found in this manner should be taken with a grain of salt. Often, our clients, who have begun with some do-it-yourself detective work on the computer, unknowingly sabotage our investigations by supplying us with "facts" (a misspelled name, an incorrect date of birth, a previous address at which the subject actually never lived) that are flat out bogus thus sending us off in the wrong direction. Information found on publicly available websites is often misleading, incorrect or terribly stale. At least once a week a client will come in with an assignment for our agency (a locate on a missing person, for example) and state proudly, "Well, I know he used to live at 123 Elm St." When I ask how they "know", they typically reply, "I found it on the Internet." At that point I put a big question mark next to that "fact" in my notes, since I have learned from experience that it may very well be a false lead.

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