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March 22, 2014

The primary rule to always remember is this: If you can find them, they can find you.

The secondary rule is: Assume the government is watching and retaining every byte of information you send or receive on the Internet; because they probably are!

The advent of the Internet has spawned a large class of keyboard snoops who imagine themselves super sleuths because they know how to use Google, WhoIs, and how to cross reference. They are forever 'digging up dirt' on people and, all the while, failing to realize the decimation of another's character through the distribution of false information found on the web can inadvertently lead to serious litigation problems.

Most of us, of course, are not that nefarious. We simply want to know who we're dealing with, particularly when financial transactions are foreseen.

While a large body of public information about individuals is available online, the rule of thumb to follow is this: Such information should be used for our protection, not as a vent for our aggression.

Keep in mind that if you can find them, they can find you.

I've been in the marketing business for about 30 years, specializing in information marketing. I've learned one of the easiest ways to discover or verify someone's real name without asking them outright is to send them a small donation or make a transation via PayPal. The receipt will usually disclose the recipient's name. You may then ask that person to confirm his/her real name. The donation should be small enough not to break your bank but large enough that the recipient will accept it.

If the recipient is using a d/b/a/ (doing business as), you may need to do a bit of cross referencing with the state in which the person resides to see if the d/b/a is a corporation and, if so, to find the identities of the principle officers.

Once the person's name is obtained, the next step is to determine his/her address.

If you know the municipality or zip code in which the person lives, his/her address can usually be acquired by accessing any one of a number of websites that offer free public information, such as After you type in the person's name, city, and state, their street address will appear.

What if you don't know the person's locale?

If you don't know the person's locale, you can ask them to send you an e-mail. With few exceptions (such as using proxy accounts) an identifying IP address will be included in the e-mail's header. Headers frequently include more than one IP address as the message moves through various switches. The last IP address in the header is nearly always the location (city and state) of the sender. While spammers have learned to use fake IP addresses, most people are not even aware that their e-mail's divulge such information.

Send yourself an e-mail and test it.

Once you determine a person's address you may also cross reference the person's neighbors. Say, for example, you want to know the name of the person who lives next door to apartment 1A. You simply type in the same address, changing the A to B and discover the neighbors who live in apartment 1B are Chinese (or whatever).

Abusing public information is simply not smart.

Some bad guys may abuse such information to attack the character of an 'enemy.' They may, for example, send a letter to an enemy's neighbors with accusations of racism, perversion, etc. That strategy can easily backfire, particularly if the victim has lived at the same address for decades and is well known in the neighborhood.

It is virtually impossible to send mail without mailing trace amounts of your DNA, not that a government agency would normally bother investigating such an odious mailing to that extent. However, if such hate mail inadvertently contributes to a suicide, murder, or some other crime that draws the prying eyes of law enforcement, the sender may find the ploy adamantly stupid. Even if the sender convinces a trusted -- but gullible -- friend to do their bidding for them, they may discover their trusted friend will quickly turn into a government informant.

Furthermore, if such hate mail lands in the mailbox of a household with children present, it may prompt an investigation.

Again, information should be used for your protection, not as a vent for your aggression.

Again, again, keep in mind that if you can find them, they can find you.

There are several ways of fooling the system by creating a decoy identity that makes snoopers believe you live somewhere you don't. That is a topic we may discuss in a future post. In the meantime be aware that, while information may be public, abusive use of that information may have serious legal ramifications. Such information should be used for your protection, not as a vent for your aggression. The last thing you need is the FBI or NSA singling you out for surveillance.


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