Private Investigator Michele Stuart visits Fraud Busting. We talk open source intelligence tools anyone can use to find someone and track their behavior. She’ll reveal her techniques for social engineering and how you can use 3 emotional hooks to get anyone to do anything for you. And what’s most interesting are the questions she WON’T answer….
Traci Brown: Michele, thank you so much for coming on Fraud Busting!
Michele Stuart: Oh my gosh, thank you so much for inviting me.
Traci Brown: Now, we both spoke, I think, at the ACFE Conference.
Michele Stuart: Yes.
Traci Brown: The Central Ohio Conference, and that’s the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners’ Conference. I did not get to listen to your talk, but I know it was super highly ranked. They couldn’t talk enough about you, so I was like, I have to get you on the podcast. Now, really your focus is open source intelligence, or at least a lot of what you help people with. You are a private investigator, aren’t you?
Michele Stuart: Yea. I’m a licensed private investigator.
Traci Brown: Okay. Okay. Cool. Let’s talk. I’m going to turn it over to you to do a better introduction that what I just did. Let us know who are you, what are you up to all day, most days?
Michele Stuart: This is when you always want to say, I like long walks on the beaches. I’m a Taurus.
Traci Brown: (Laughing).
Michele Stuart: My background is I’ve actually been doing investigations for 30 years, just to age myself right in front of you. The first 10 years of my career honestly was a lot of economic fraud and financial fraud investigations. Back then, if you remember, if our listeners remember, there was a lot of receiverships. There were a lot of savings and loans that were going into receivership. There were a lot of failures.
Traci Brown: Yea, in the 1980s.
Michele Stuart: It was back in the days when actually the RTC was still around. It was failing right at that point. So 10 years I did economic fraud and financial fraud investigations, but I got kind of tired of it, and 20 years ago I started watching the internet. The internet’s been around a lot longer than that, but I started watching how sources started developing. From then on, for about the last 20 years, I’ve been training open source intelligence, so utilizing informational sources off the internet to help identify associations, movement, location, anything else, but primarily what I work with is about, I want to say, 80% law enforcement, military intelligence, and 20% corporate sector.
Traci Brown: Wow. Okay. Because I have it in my notes that you teach classes that the public can’t come to.
Michele Stuart: Normally yes. I mean, there are times when the public classes that I teach are normally a digital safety online, and especially for predator grooming. I created a program with Homeland Security out of Pennsylvania called Kids Safety in the Digital Age. Those are my public ones when I’m teaching women how not to be cyber socked, domestic violence victims on how to try to hide their location or identity or just their personal information, and then kids safety.
Traci Brown: Wow. Okay, okay. I want to talk about the stuff that you can’t teach the public, at least for a minute, because why not? I assume you’re just training law enforcement when you do that? You’re talking about tracking movement from people and maybe even some behavior profiling online, and things like that? You don’t have to share all of it, but I’m just so curious. Can you fill us in a little bit on how our law enforcement is doing that now? Because it’s kind of like a moving target.
Michele Stuart: It is.
Traci Brown: With new things coming out. What do you think?
Michele Stuart: It’s anything really, any investigation. It could be human trafficking. It could be drug trafficking. It could be a fugitive to locate. It could be counterterrorism. You know this more so than anything, here we are right now on a podcast, people are technologically savvy. Now people are utilizing social media, and we always have those people. Oh my gosh, Traci, you know this. They verbal vomit. Even though they know somebody might be investigating them, or watching them, or anything, they cannot stay off social media. It’s the same thing with our phones, the movement of our phones. It’s just taking these sources and trying to identify where that individual is. Obviously for the purpose of an arrest, it could be identification of movement of a large criminal organizational. So, let’s say you have an identified pimp, and we’re trying to identify all the victims of that particular pimp or a larger atmosphere of human trafficking. Again, a lot of this predator grooming, a lot of this advertising for our victims, is via social media. So, this is a large part of what I train, and when it comes to the corporate fraud it is the same.
Traci Brown: Hang on. Hang on. Hang on one second. You used this word a couple of times. I let it go the first time. The second time, not letting it go. Predator grooming. Can you define that just a little bit?
Michele Stuart: Well predator grooming is how our children are being contacted by predators.
Traci Brown: Okay.
Michele Stuart: So predator grooming is very easy, something simplistically as asking them, how is their home life, and then all of a sudden they open up this tidal wave of how horrible something is in their home because they can feed into that emotional tie. They start presenting them with presents or giving them online points for gaming and so forth. Predator grooming is getting that child, or it can even be an adult, but we are talking really more so on children right now, it is getting that child to have a type of relationship with them and then grooming that and making it bigger and more subjective to their needs.
Traci Brown: Oh! So then, when you are working with law enforcement, what are you doing with them?
Michele Stuart: I am training them on how to utilize these sources, how to properly search social media, how to be able to identify the correct social media or the correct technique into locating that. The thing about the internet, it is very fluid. It is constantly moving. That happens, obviously, with our sources too, so a source that we could have today that could be something fabulous in the sense of being able to run maybe locational data on Snapchat through the open map might be gone tomorrow. It is taking these sources, taking it to law enforcement. It is not even just law enforcement. Obviously, we met through the corporate emerging trends, so that corporate fraud, it’s the same thing. We’re utilizing those same sources. That is what I do. I train law enforcement. I train our corporate sector on how to utilize these sources that you and I can go to just by a click of our fingertips and finding that information that is needed.
Traci Brown: Oh, wow. So let’s get, let’s say, what would be something simple I might want to do? I don’t know. Find out what my husband is doing at any particular moment. Now he’s a super nice guy, no problems to report, unless maybe there are that I’m not finding because I don’t know your sources. How would I check up on him?
Michele Stuart: (Laughing).
Traci Brown: (Laughing).
Michele Stuart: What a question! Because you know everybody is like, oh my God, what is she going to say right?!
Traci Brown: I know. I’m so curious.
Michele Stuart: God, I hate those because domestics is one of the worst that I don’t like to work because there is so much emotional entanglement involved in that. There are so many levels of hurt because it’s not just you checking on your husband. Now, if you have kids, it’s just an enormous amount of a tangled web. When it gets to those things, I really hate them. But very easily the biggest way of any movement tracking is obviously our digital devices. I don’t want to say anything publicly in a sense because there are things that you can do. You can google this yourself, how to track someone’s cell phone. There are so many different avenues on that, but let’s get away from that tracking that individual.
Traci Brown: Okay. Fair enough.
Michele Stuart: Because I work with domestic violence, and that is like teaching a domestic violence individual, if they were to unfortunately hear this, how to find their person.
Traci Brown: Oh, okay.
Michele Stuart: I’m very careful. That’s why I don’t like to do a lot of public trainings, just in the sense that I always to consider who might be listening to a podcast or who might be listening to a video because we don’t know where that end source is. You know what I mean?
Traci Brown: Yea, yea.
Michele Stuart: I want to be real careful on that.
Traci Brown: Okay. Yea, yea. That is totally understood. What’s like your next best tip?
Michele Stuart: My next best tip. My next best tip is really understanding our social media privacy terms and conditions. The applications that you’re putting on your phone, that to me, in a public situation, is probably one of the most important things that I could drill into everybody’s mind. These are little miniature devices. They’re little miniature computers. All of those applications that we’re putting on our devices, whether it be onto our computers or onto our phone, has a certain amount of permissible purposes.
Traci Brown: Sure.
Michele Stuart: I know, Traci, you’ve seen it where somebody will just say, download and not read anything. It will give them all these privacy things, and they do it with the programmings and they do it with their applications. Boom, now there is a huge ton – I mean, look at TikTok. Oh my gosh, I could lecture you for days on TikTok. That is one of the biggest, most aggressive applications out there that is really taking a lot of information from our devices and not going to the correct individuals.
Traci Brown: You’re calling it aggressive.
Michele Stuart: Yes.
Traci Brown: Can you dive into that a little bit?
Michele Stuart: Well, anything aggressive to me is an application that is taking personalized information from you. I’m not just saying you’re IMEI number or your phone number that’s associated to it or maybe even your email address that you provided to be able to get into that. We’re looking at the ability to grab passwords, sometimes read text messages . . .
Traci Brown: Oh wow.
Michele Stuart: Incoming and outgoing, look at file folders. There is a flashlight app. One of the flashlight apps had a big whitepaper written about it, which it actually turned on, it had the ability to turn on your video, your audio, and your camera at any given time without the user’s knowledge or confirmation. So, you have these applications that people are putting on their phones, and they don’t realize the abundance of what you’ve just done, was put some purposes to your phone.
Traci Brown: Oh wow.
Michele Stuart: Think about this real quick. If you have something that is very invasive, an invasive application, and now you’re doing mobile banking, are you really in an encrypted situation? The application between you and your bank is, absolutely, right, but what you’ve done to your phone is you don’t how badly compromised that device is, and now all these passwords can be gathered, so you have to be very careful with what you’re doing.
Traci Brown: Okay. I’m just going to be real honest. I do not have a password on my phone because – I know! Hang on! – because I realized I use my phone all the time, just all the time for work, but I also don’t do Venmo or what’s the other one on there?
Michele Stuart: Cash App.
Traci Brown: Yea, I do that, but when I do my banking, I have one of these things, one of these fraud things, so I have a code that changes every minute. What app should I take off my phone that could possibly be compromising my bank account, or since I have the little key fob, does it matter?
Michele Stuart: Well the key fob, what’s that doing is it’s actually changing your passwords for you, right. It’s doing that. What we have to look at is those applications, first of all, what kind of phone do you have? Do you have an Apple or do you have an Android?
Traci Brown: An Apple.
Michele Stuart: Okay. I’m a fan of Apple just because they do have a stricter type of security. Now, the one thing I’m going to say before I get slammed by somebody, is nothing is 100% secure. You’re going to have your Android lovers. You are going to have your Apple lovers. I tend to prefer Apple devices. When it comes to . . . Let’s look at Android real quick.
Traci Brown: Okay.
Michele Stuart: If you were to google “banking trojans” or “applications that have banking trojans” or “malware infections”, you’re going to see a high percentage of that really associated to the Android platform.
Traci Brown: Oh. Huh.
Michele Stuart: Where that comes across is because of the way that applications are regulated on those different type of platforms, how they’re vetted, right, so when it comes to an application, what application should you remove? I can’t really tell you exactly which one because applications can become infected with malware after being placed onto a phone also. Right.
Traci Brown: Oh, wow.
Michele Stuart: Because there might be something security wise within the application that has a compromise. But one of the big ones that we used to look at, and this is a few years back, and it is still running, is flashlight apps. Anything that’s very popular, that’s why I bring TikTok up. TikTok has been associated with the CCP, right, gone back with Chinese affiliation, and so I always give to people, I’ll say, well, who cares about the Chinese? They can have whatever they have on me. Here’s the problem with that. First of all, that’s not a very smart decision, but the problem with that, Traci, is that you and are in somebody’s else’s phone. I personally don’t want to have myself compromised. Look at the apps that have very large types, again, of permissible purposes, but then another point of this is and the contention that I have is, how do we know that the developers are telling us all the permissible purposes of an application?
Traci Brown: Well, the Chinese aren’t. I’ll tell you that.
Michele Stuart: On no, of course. Neither are the Russians.
Traci Brown: When we’re done, I’m taking TikTok off my phone. I’m just letting you know that right now.
Michele Stuart: Oh my gosh. I can send you so many things about TikTok.
Traci Brown: Well, you won’t have to because I’m taking it off my phone.
Michele Stuart: Okay. Good.
Traci Brown: Alright. Now when you’re doing human trafficking, maybe drugs, even like counterterrorism, I know you said you were doing that – hang on, I’ve got to get my camera. What’s my camera doing here?
Michele Stuart: Yea. You just went a little blurry on me.
Traci Brown: I know. Hang on. Here we go.
Michele Stuart: There you go.
Traci Brown: There.
Michele Stuart: There you go.
Traci Brown: I’m back. I’m back.
Michele Stuart: Magic tricks.
Traci Brown: Isn’t it. Alright. What are you doing with counterterrorism, drug stuff, human trafficking? Because there are some common threads to all of those, how are you researching, I guess, people who may be up to no good?
Michele Stuart: Okay. Let’s take counterterrorism off the table because that’s not something, again, that I’ll speak in a public forum.
Traci Brown: Okay. We’re not talking about that. I’m scratching it off the list.
Michele Stuart: Yea. Scratch that off.
Traci Brown: Okay.
Michele Stuart: But let’s look at anything to do with law enforcement investigations. Again, it’s taking, the ability of taking, let’s say all I have is your name. Or, even let’s just say this, let’s say I have an address from you from 20 years ago, or a phone number from you from 25 years ago, and that’s all I have.
Traci Brown: Okay.
Michele Stuart: Now, a lot of times you’ll hear somebody, and especially when we’re even doing corporate fraud investigations: This is all I have on the individual. It’s like a seven-year-old address or a seven-year-old email address. The fact of the matter is old is gold. I’ll say it all day long.
Traci Brown: Really?
Michele Stuart: I say it all my trainings. Old is gold. Because the world of the internet is an interconnecting system. It doesn’t matter how old something is, we can manipulate that into a search to give us current information. Like one of the sites that are out there, I could throw your name in it and, again, I want to be careful because I don’t want to have somebody do this to you, but I could throw your name in there or an address from where you grew up with your mom and dad, and I will have where you’re sitting right now within seconds.
Traci Brown: Really?
Michele Stuart: Yea. This is all open source. Anybody can utilize these sources. We have to learn as individuals too, again, on how we can control some of that digital footprint. But that digital footprint is out there. Let’s say, again, I’m looking at you. It doesn’t necessarily mean I’m looking at you. It could be anybody associated with you now, that allows me to see their footprints, that ties me back to you.
Traci Brown: Oh, so wow, so that really is connected. Because . . .
Michele Stuart: I’ll use myself as an example. In my class, if you haven’t seen it, the people who are watching this or listening to it, probably if they have seen me speak, I usually profile myself because I don’t like to put anybody else in danger.
Traci Brown: Okay.
Michele Stuart: I take a phone number that I haven’t been associated to in 23 years. Just disconnected it. Never had anything to do with it. In less than five seconds, or the speed of the internet, you will have where I am sitting here talking to you right now.
Traci Brown: Oh my.
Michele Stuart: Because that’s how old infiltrates and stays really important to my investigation because of all that interconnectivity.
Traci Brown: Wow. Now, can you say what site that is, or do you need to leave that off too?
Michele Stuart: You can do . . . A lot of people know TruePeopleSearch. It’s just one. There are others that I like a lot more out there, but TruePeopleSearch is one of the ones that are out there that can help you and assist you in locating information on an individual. This is not only just on you. This is also going to be where it cascades or waterfalls into family relations, associational relations, old email addresses, physical addresses, phone numbers, etc.
Traci Brown: Oh wow, so they’ve got everything. Oh man. Very rarely am I speechless on this podcast, but I think you got me, Michele. Alright. Let’s talk about profiling. Because we had some notes, at least I have some notes from our talk. You were talking about how to profile people’s behaviors and how they act online and what that might lead to in the real world. You want to talk about that a little bit?
Michele Stuart: Okay. One of the things I talk about on behaviorism is that behavior outside the norm. If I’m looking for somebody, and this person is very active on Facebook or very active on Instagram or Twitter, and then all of a sudden, there is quiet. That’s behavior outside the norm. Something is associating that particular individual into being quiet. Either now they’re paranoid because they think they’re being watched, or they are maybe trying to trick us into believing that they’re not active anymore or maybe they’re moving or whatever the situation is. I look for that behavior that isn’t normal. My son, here is a perfect example.
Traci Brown: Okay.
Michele Stuart: When he was going to go to college, I used to watch his Twitter a lot. I was traveling and I pulled off. I got to a hotel late, late one night. I pulled out my computer, went to his Twitter account, and he was very proficient when he was in high school. He was always tweeting. Well that particular day, which was on a Friday night, no tweets that day. Now, in the mind of an 18-year-old kid, they’re going to think, well, mom and dad sees this, they’re going to think that nothing is going on, it’s a boring day in the neighborhood.
Traci Brown: Right.
Michele Stuart: Now, to me, that was a huge indicator that something was going on, that he wasn’t being truthful, which he wasn’t, and he was having a huge party, which I found out, not through him, but through friends, from that whole associational group of people, but that was behavior outside the norm. A lot of times if they do something, they think it makes us think something else, but it actually tunes me into something that shows me that they’re doing something that they shouldn’t be doing or they’re avoiding something. That’s what the behavior is.
Traci Brown: Wow. What’s the biggest thing that you found with using the behaviorism? Was it this party, or have you used it like in a fraud case or in another kind of case that you have worked on?
Michele Stuart: Oh my gosh, I’ve done it in fraud cases. One of the ones that I always laugh about was a case, and this is several years ago. First of all, there are three things, three emotions that people can be manipulated by.
Traci Brown: Okay.
Michele Stuart: Number one, and this should be something that all of us understand. It is used in all kinds of . . . look at . . . ISIS will use this. It’s fear. Fear is the number one denominator. You could do anything to anybody if you make them afraid of you or the situation.
Traci Brown: Yea.
Michele Stuart: The second one is love and compassion. People want to help people. Normally people are kind, and they do want to assist. The third is greed and curiosity. Those are the really big three emotions that allow us, and especially in investigations, to kind of skill ourselves. There was a tax attorney years ago, owned a lot of money, and so he started running. Well, he didn’t really have the conversation of why he had to uproot his wife because he had ripped off a lot of people. Right. So, they end up moving. I think he had to finally tell her what was going on because they moved several times. But during this move, they were changing their names.
Traci Brown: Oh.
Michele Stuart: It took me a few months of chasing down leads, and on her, because she wasn’t as paranoid as he was. He didn’t want to go to prison. She just wanted to just keep living her life. So, throughout all these little leads that I had. I can’t remember because, like I said, it was years ago. But there was this one thing that I found, and it was part of her middle name that was being used. So let’s say, hypothetically, Elizabeth, and she was using Liz.
Traci Brown: Okay.
Michele Stuart: So, I ended up tracking this particular woman, this name, down, and I thought that I had the right person, so what I did is I worked on one of those three things. The first thing that I knew that I was going to go after was greed and curiosity. I went after her in the sense that I just gave a phone call. I said that I was with a company and that I was sending out a package to her, but I was really confused because I don’t think I have the right person.
Traci Brown: So you’re social engineering right now.
Michele Stuart: Yes. Yes. Like I said, this was years ago, so let me preface this. I worked on that, that part of her greed, and finally I said, well, okay, I’m going to go ahead and let you go. I’m so sorry I bothered you. And she was like, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait just a second. And she goes, well, what is it? I said, I don’t know. I don’t really see what’s in the package. I just know it’s an insured package. She’s like, alright, but don’t tell anybody, don’t tell my husband, that’s me. That’s how I ended up finding her. It was working on a behavior. I knew she wanted something because her behavior before was she spent a lot of money. Her husband, who was bringing in a lot of money illegally, she was spending it as fast really as he was making it, so I knew she probably still had that same behavior. Sure enough, I went after that greed and curiosity and that’s how I identified that I had the right person. Then I once I identified that it was her, then I’m able to use all these open sources, find the social media that she now had under that name, turn it over to law enforcement where we now had the capability of utilizing court-ordered warrants, search warrants, and so forth. But yea, that was just an example, again, of how to utilize someone’s behavior, knowing that she was a shopper and then following the little cookie trail until I thought I had found somebody, and I was able to verify it was her.
Traci Brown: Oh wow. That’s crazy. How else have you used these tools? You’ve been at this a long time. Like what are some of the bigger cases you’ve worked on, bigger stories that you have to tell? I know there are some of them that you probably can’t tell.
Michele Stuart: Yea.
Traci Brown: But some of them, you can, or you can get close to some cool information.
Michele Stuart: Well, here’s the thing with me. I’m kind of the puzzle maker or the puzzle piece person. If I work a full case, it’s going to be usually for insurance fraud investigations, or if I’m doing a government case, which that is going to be off our table, but I would say probably one of the most fun I did in the sense of having just one little piece of information and then takin it through, multiplying it through multiple identities. I had an individual that was supposedly hurt and had a multimillion-dollar insurance claim. On his main Facebook, he was always in bed and unable to do anything, the boo-hooing. But then, I found through going through his open public one – The one thing I always say is do not friend people. I think that is a very, very gray source. If you’re conducting an investigation on somebody, you use what we can see publicly because if it goes to trial, we want to make sure that we have not stepped over that line of privacy.
Traci Brown: Oh, wow.
Michele Stuart: So, I saw a nickname somebody called him, just going through that open public one. I ran that nickname. I did a Google search on the nickname and sure enough I found a username. Now, to me, a username is the social security number of the internet. If you call me and you give me somebody’s social security number, what’s good with that? Obviously, our databases.
Traci Brown: Oh, yea.
Michele Stuart: Yea. If it’s being sold in the dark web, maybe I can grab it, but primarily the username is really going to be the most important tool for me. I end up finding his nickname and then a username associated to that nickname. Then I ran with that. When I did that, I ended up finding, because he would trick his username into, let’s say, bigboy123, then he would have big_boy123, bigboy_123, _bigboy123. Do you see what he’s doing? He’s changing one little piece of that username, but they were all him. So then I ended up finding two or three Facebook accounts that he was – oh my gosh, it was so funny, it was like two weeks the before trial, he had hiked this huge volcano and skied down it. What is it when they do one ski?
Traci Brown: Mono ski or snowboarding?
Michele Stuart: Snowboarding.
Traci Brown: Okay.
Michele Stuart: Can you tell I’ve never done it?
Traci Brown: Yea. I know.
Michele Stuart: He snowboarded. He was an extreme athlete. Snowboarded, took this huge leap off this big rock, landed. They had all these videos, but right before he left for that, he made sure that he took a video of him in bed, sick, and not able to move on his real Facebook. I was able to find all of these multiple social media accounts under his nicknames and other usernames, and they were him. They were videos of him. His girlfriend was in it. His friends were in it. It ended up being this great case. It was awesome.
Traci Brown: Oh my gosh, so then was it like a Workers’ Compensation type of case, or . . . ?
Michele Stuart: Personal injury. He was in an accident. He definitely was in an accident. But it wasn’t anything that probably would have given him more than a sore neck the next day. There was very minimal damage. He claimed that being that he was young, he was in his mid-20s, his attorney was claiming that the boy would never live up to his ability to make maybe the money that he could have because now he was bedridden. The thing on that too was before the snowboarding, two weeks before that, he was in the hospital with a broken arm because he did extreme mountain biking where they bike on those really narrow trails.
Traci Brown: Yea, single track.
Michele Stuart: So, he had fallen over the mountain. I mean, he was banged up. His face was scratched up, his legs, everything, he had a broken arm. Again, this was all on his other social media.
Traci Brown: Oh, man. Now . . .
Michele Stuart: But he made sure when he took that video that day, or photograph, the blanket was pulled way up on his neck because he was so bruised up. Yea.
Traci Brown: Wow.
Michele Stuart: Yea.
Traci Brown: What percentage of your cases are the kind where you’re – I don’t know – this guy is sitting out somewhere, sending people out, following people, versus just seeing what’s online? Have you seen that? What’s your percentage now and have you seen that shift over time? Tell me about that.
Michele Stuart: You know, 99% of my cases are computer based. If I have insurance companies that need surveillance, I normally have two or three guys, I’ll have them put out there. But honestly, for me, everybody knows that my skillset is computers, and so that’s 99% of my work. I don’t really see that shift so much. I think it might have shifted a little bit more so during 2020 because people were stuck at home working, so they weren’t out doing, going to the grocery store as much, going out, doing their activities where there was a lot of video that would have been done or surveillance during that point. That was kind of taken away, and mine increased because people were now online more so. Think about it. Oh my gosh, look at the percentage of Amazon, the accounts, the movement, the purchasing.
Traci Brown: Oh yea.
Michele Stuart: You had Amazon, you had food delivery services, you had telemedicine that shot up through the roof. Everything became very central based on our computers and our online type of personalities and activities, compared more so to those around.
Traci Brown: So you almost had more info on all of us during the pandemic than ever before.
Michele Stuart: It did. It became a lot more active, not that the work became more active, because now you had people who weren’t working anymore either, so you had this whole waterfall effect. Now I stay busy. I’m blessed. But you did see some of that drop off because now you had corporations that didn’t have the staff capability of following through on a lot of that stuff, but my guess, definitely was more picked up in the sense of trying to figure out what people were doing because of what they were doing online.
Traci Brown: Wow. Okay. Let’s talk social engineering. You’re good at it. Social engineering is just creating a response out of people, just using your intelligence and wits and social skills. What’s the most interesting time that you’ve used it to get a piece of information from people? Was it this, I have a package thing, or was it something else?
Michele Stuart: Well, you know, gosh there is so much. My first 10 years was really a lot about social engineering because we didn’t have data systems. We didn’t have the sources that we have today. A lot of our investigations was really done by social engineering. Social engineering for me as an investigator has changed drastically in the sense that social engineering now is looking at training corporations on how people utilize that information that our listeners, like you, put out on yourselves, and how we turn that into something that we can now utilize to either get into their corporations. Think about this, I talk about social engineering now on a different level because COVID has created a huge fear sector. Regardless of if you believe in COVID or if you don’t believe in COVID, everybody knows that it exists, but whatever your status is and your beliefs on it, I can say a company with let’s say 100 employees, even though every single person has been told not to click links, you can shoot something their way with COVID cure, new COVID vaccinations, or the new variant – let’s really scare people, right – and somebody’s going to click a link. Now that’s considered social engineering, right, but think about this, because I know you have one, I have one, LinkedIn. I tell everybody, I don’t know why anybody has one. I actually had to create a LinkedIn for one of my contracts. I never had one. I still don’t really want to add to LinkedIn because what that does, it is a stepping stone to get information, not only about you, but now to drop your name and to try to get more information either about somebody you work with or a corporation you work with. There are a lot of sources that are out there that provide, especially marketable data or scraping sites, that now provide individual’s names, their email addresses, their phone numbers, their job positionings, that gives us an abundance of data now for somebody who is skilled at social engineering to utilize that information, now to further that position where they are trying to go, for the information they’re trying to collect.
Traci Brown: Yea, yea, for sure. Now, have you ever done social engineering where you end up sneaking into a business or something like that and seeing how open they really are?
Michele Stuart: Oh yea. I think one of the funniest ones, instead of doing a business, because I don’t want to get a company in trouble.
Traci Brown: Okay, fair enough.
Michele Stuart: Because I’ve been hired by companies to see if I can enter into their building and I have. I don’t want to say how I’ve done it because then somebody else will do it.
Traci Brown: Okay. Yea, yea.
Michele Stuart: But I’ll give you a personal one that I thought was pretty funny.
Traci Brown: Okay.
Michele Stuart: Again, there is behavior that we’re going to do with this, right, for the social engineering. So, when Phoenix had their first Super Bowl in town, there was a particular bar, a restaurant that was having a private Super Bowl party with the players. Me and my two friends, they wanted to go, and they’re like, Michele, will you try to get us in?
Traci Brown: (Laughing).
Michele Stuart: You know, because I’m that person. I’m like, yea, let’s do this, let’s try. So, we pull up, and first thing, there is a line, I mean, around the building. It’s like hours long. So, I walk up to the door man. I don’t even remember what I said, to tell you the truth, and I got us in. Everybody is screaming and booing us, and blah, blah, blah, right, but we were getting into the restaurant and – oh, that’s what I did – I said, I don’t really care about the NFL, I don’t care about the players, I don’t care about the party, I just wanted to get into the restaurant. I know everybody else is here for the bar. The bar and the restaurant are connected so there really wasn’t a way for them just to stop people going into the bar because the private party was in the back of the bar.
Traci Brown: Got it.
Michele Stuart: So, by getting us into the restaurant, it got us into the bar. So, now we get into the bar. I’m like, okay, this is what we’re going to do. I need to figure out who some of the guards are. I don’t want to hit the front guard. I don’t want to hit the back guard because those are heavily guarded areas. I look for the weak link. I find out the first guard’s name. I’m talking to him and chatting him up. I’m like, oh my gosh, we’re just here for the restaurant. This must suck. You’ve got so many people. What’s your name? Hey, I’ll get you a beer after you get off work. I get his name, because now I’m going to drop his name to the next guard.
Traci Brown: Okay.
Michele Stuart: And so, I’m doing this, and I’m getting the guard’s names. So, I finally find the guard that I’m going to utilize as my weak point.
Traci Brown: That you’re going to hustle. Okay.
Michele Stuart: So, I walk up to him. Now I have his name. I’m like, hey – I’ll just throw names – Bob at the front door told me to come back and talk to you. Because you had to have a private . . .
Traci Brown: Like a ticket?
Michele Stuart: A ticket almost to get into this party, right, an invitation. So, I’m dropping the door man’s name. I drop the second guy’s name. I’m talking to him and you can see he’s listening to me, but this is what I did. There is a guy across the first enveloped in swag, right, and he’s on his phone. He’s a football player. I start yelling, Tony! His name isn’t Tony, right, and I’m like, Tony! This guy turns around and looks at me, like what? I’m like Baby, he won’t let me in. I talked to Bob at the front door. I said, you left and you took the invitation with you, and I don’t know what you want me to do, but I’m late because of you. This guy was perfect. He walked up and he goes, oh my God, I’ve been on the phone for the last half hour trying to figure out where you were. He goes, Dave, she’s with me. Dave opens up the gate and lets us right through. Because with Dave, I got him to hesitate on telling me to leave because I knew other people’s names, and then thankfully the guy behind just went with me and just like, oh my God, I’ve been on the phone for a half an hour trying to find you. Boom, we were into the private party.
Traci Brown: Oh my gosh. Too good. So if that guy hadn’t gone along with you, what was plan B?
Michele Stuart: I think I would have gotten past Dave. I had Dave where he was like, oh, you know, I don’t know. I’m like, Dave, I don’t know what to tell you. I go, if you want me to go grab my boyfriend in there, I’ll go grab him, and I’ll come right back to you. So I had Dave to the point where I think I would have had him where he would just unbelted, but I just did a notch up and I decided to start screaming at this guy name – unnamed – Tony.
Traci Brown: Well, I’m trying to figure out what I could have done. I’m going to pose a scenario to you.
Michele Stuart: Okay.
Traci Brown: Let me know what I should have done. I was at a very, very nice hotel in downtown Louisville, Kentucky. There is a bridge across it that you have to walk across to get to the rooms because I was speaking, or you had to go way around and outside and all this crap. The elevators were packed, and the hotel wasn’t staffed well except for in the one spot where they turned this bridge area, which was a bar as well, into a private party. There’s one security guy out there. You know how it is, when you’re done speaking, you’re tired. You just want to get to your room and pack your bag or whatever you do. I did my best to talk my way into that area just to walk across. No luck. What would you have done?
Michele Stuart: Okay. Me, I would have actually acted like I was having an asthma attack and that I needed to get to my inhaler that was in my room. I would have just said, have somebody walk me, I promise you, I don’t want to be in this party. I need to get to my room. I can’t breathe. Can you please get somebody, I don’t care if it’s a waitress, walk me through. That’s what I would have done.
Traci Brown: Wow. So you would have faked a disease? Okay.
Michele Stuart: Not a disease, because that makes me sound like a monster.
Traci Brown: (Laughing).
Michele Stuart: I just couldn’t breathe very well. Yea, that’s what I would have done, something like that.
Traci Brown: Okay, so . . .
Michele Stuart: Remember what I told you? Three emotions. Love and compassion is what I would have went after on that.
Traci Brown: You would have went after love and compassion on that. If you had been . . . I can think of a couple more that I don’t want to talk about right now, but how would you have used fear?
Michele Stuart: Fear, I don’t like to use in this sense because you don’t know how the other person is going to react.
Traci Brown: Okay.
Michele Stuart: If it would have been something where, hey, I just got a phone call because I’m looking at love and compassion again, something’s wrong with somebody that I dearly love or something, that can cause a fear motivation or a love, compassion motivation. But fear, to me, is a scary thing to try to enact in somebody because you don’t know how that person can deal with fear.
Traci Brown: Got it.
Michele Stuart: You see what I’m saying? So now, that person could have reacted wrongly, and now you have a massive situation on your hand that shouldn’t be a situation. Fear, I don’t like to use unless I’m in a very controlled situation. It’s usually going to be on the law enforcement or government side, and even then, I don’t even like to do it because you don’t know how somebody else reacts to fear.
Traci Brown: Wow. Okay. Oh, that’s a good tip. Let’s get into just the last thing here. Maybe specific sites or ways people can look people up that you’re comfortable saying, because I know there are a lot of reasons why you wouldn’t, because we’ve got TruePeopleSearch. Any other ways that people should be watching people? Changes in behavior on Facebook, anything else people need to be looking for?
Michele Stuart: One of the things that I always tell everybody, when you’re trying to do any type of research, whether it be on an individual, or it could be a corporation, it could be an organization, it could be a political campaign, really Google is your friend. Now, Google, to me, I will step back because somebody out there will say, you don’t necessarily like Google. I use Google, but I also protect myself because Google, again, is a very large aggregator of our data and our activity. One of the things that I would say, instead of just going strictly to a source, because one thing about sources too is I can tell you something today and it’s gone tomorrow, right, so I’d rather give you this technique. Learn proper Google searching. There are things called Google dorking and Boolean search capability. There are numerous ways that you can get more specific result patterning for your individual, and it’s by Google dorking. Here is just a quick example. If a was going to run my site, instead of running MicheleStuart, because if you run MicheleStuart, all you’ve done is tell Google, I need every Michele, I need every Stuart. If I run a phone number, an email address, or a name, always quote that search, because now what you’re doing specifically is saying, I really want Michele Stuart. I don’t want all Michele’s, I don’t want all the Stuarts. I specifically need Michele Stuart. Another thing that a lot of people don’t think about, and I talk about this in my classes all the time, is weak links. What I mean by that is if we’re looking at a pyramid, if we do a pyramid, and you have kids on this side, you have let’s say senior citizens, Grandma and Grandpa over here, and mom and dad on the bottom. Who’s the weak link?
Traci Brown: Probably Grandma.
Michele Stuart: Almost all the time.
Traci Brown: Yea. Grandma.
Michele Stuart: Kids.
Traci Brown: Kids?
Michele Stuart: Kids are always the weak link because first of all kids are now being pushed into technology when they’re in grade school with no understanding of permissible purposes or privacy settings or anything like that. A lot of teachers don’t even know what the crap they’re doing when it comes to that. Kids become that weak link. Identifying children, unfortunately, becomes a huge part of investigations because if you can find out that the individual that we’re looking at, let’s say we have an individual who is a fraudster, we’re not sure where that person lives. We have a zip code. If I go in and I put in 85044, it’s a Phoenix zip code, and I put in “plus high schools”, I know your daughter’s name. I can take your daughter, run it through those high schools, and now, all of a sudden, I find out she plays softball. Now, I go to the school’s website and I have the sporting schedule. If you’re a very active mom and involved with your kids, where are you going to be?
Traci Brown: At the basketball game.
Michele Stuart: Yea, or the softball game or the soccer game. It’s little things like that. Understanding little pieces of how everything’s connected and how we can utilize that in our searches. That is probably the most phenomenal thing because the sources, like TruePeople and all these other sites, they come and go. The fact of learning and understanding the analytics of how we can manipulate our Google searches is what now is a better search capability in a lot of situations. Because it’s the same thing on how to find the social media accounts as doing a site index. Example, “Michele Stuart”, so Michele, one L, Stuart, S-t-u-a-r-t, so “Michele Stuart” site: Twitter. What I’m doing is I’m telling Google, I only want you to search Twitter. I don’t want . . .
Traci Brown: Oh wow. Okay.
Michele Stuart: Now it’s going to give you people by the name of Michele Stuart, give you the usernames, and then people who are talking about Michele Stuart. If I’m trying to break a phone number, right, or trying to maybe associate that phone number to movement or associations. I had a drug case. The drug dealer, I could not find his Twitter account, so what I did, I did “480” – I’m making this up – 555 1212” site: Twitter.com. That all has to touch. I didn’t find his own Twitter account, but his friend said, “Hey, if anybody’s looking for some bars, some Xanax, hit my bro up with his cell phone.” Now I had a personal connection to the drug dealer.
Traci Brown: Oh man. Oh wow.
Michele Stuart: It is those little tricks that are, to me, sometimes more important than the true source of one site.
Traci Brown: Oh wow. You know what, Michele, you are just, like I said, not many people have made me – no one has made me speechless on my own podcast, but you! People who want to get a hold of you, because you do a lot of keynotes and a lot of private trainings and a lot of investigation, how do they find you?
Michele Stuart: Easy. My email is Michele – with one L – because a lot of people spell my name wrong. It’s Michele@Jaginvestigations.com. My Twitter handle is MsJagInv like investigation, so it’s MsJagInv. Those are the two easiest ways to get a hold of me.
Traci Brown: Oh cool. Alright. You’re going to hear from some people, because I tell you, no one’s going to go unfound with you around. Thank you so much for coming on.
Michele Stuart: Oh my gosh, thanks for inviting me!
Traci Brown: Oh yea. Love it.