It’s a common dilemma for financial crime investigators first starting a new case: there may be any number of angles to pursue, but where to start? How to boil down a sea of information to obtain the most valuable leads?

Fortunately, there are a host of open source online tools that can support investigators in the crucial first steps of an investigation, beyond the usual sweeps of search engines and databases.

Below are four resources to assist with finding connections that might not be initially obvious, quickly searching across multiple social media outlets, finding out who’s behind a web presence, and more.

As with all online open sources, these tools each have their own limitations, so users must always employ their own discretion in accessing these tools and validating and interpreting any results obtained.

Cluuz – A search engine with connection-mapping enhancements

At first blush, Cluuz seems to be yet another search engine, but input a search term and its distinctions from other search tools become obvious. A search on Cluuz will return not only a list of results and links, but accompany those with top entities and terms linked to your search, relationship maps of related entities, images and tag clouds from sites in the results, and more. This can be useful to quickly ferret out associations and connections to an investigative target.

Social Mention – For searching across multiple social media sites

Trawling social media outlets for intelligence can be a worthwhile investigative activity, but the sheer number of social media sites can also make this a time-consuming affair. Social Mention can assist by searching across sites like Twitter, Facebook, Youtube and nearly 100 others simultaneously. The search tool also includes some analytics that can show a search term’s prevalence on social sites, and keywords and users connected to it. Due to the sheer number of sites it’s scanning, the results of searches can be overwhelming, so creativity and precision in search terms is recommended.

MarketVisual – Find and map relationships between individuals, companies and legal entities

A tool that allows you to search for an individual, business or other entity and see a visual map of connected businesses, related companies, and other associations. The mapping function not only shows webs of connections, but provides some details on the nature of those connections. It can be very useful to quickly identify the leadership and employees of a company, for example. Search results for individuals tend to be somewhat hit-or-miss, and results for companies more robust.

WhoIs – Identify registrant and ownership details for websites

One of the many look-up tools available online, WhoIs allows users to enter a site URL and receive a host of information that can help identify the website’s owner. This includes the registrar name, location and usually contact information, and servers associated with the site. It can also be used to find other sites registered by an investigative subject. WhoIs can also be searched using company names or IP addresses, if the site is unknown.

Have questions or suggestions for other open-source tools for financial crime investigations? Share them in the ACFCS member forums!