Social media as investigations tool

It's all about reading the signs

As we've discussed before, employee fraud happens in almost every company sooner or later. It may be as minor as the employee who takes a few office supplies home every couple of weeks, or it may be as significant as embezzlement of hundreds of thousands of dollars by a long-time, trusted employee.

When we're called in to investigate a corporate fraud case, the management team or senior leadership often tells us that it took them by surprise. "We had no idea it was so extensive and was going on for so long," they say. "And now we think that more than one of our employees was involved. We don't want to accuse anyone until and unless we have evidence. How can we get the evidence we need - and make sure we're focusing on the bad actors without demoralizing the rest of the employees?"

This is where social media can be particularly helpful.

Many, if not most, of your employees are using social media channels: Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn, Snapchat, Twitch, Twitter - just about everyone is leaving a digital footprint behind them. And while thorough corporate fraud investigations involve a strategic approach using all kinds of data sources, social media can be a good place for investigators to start mapping out an anatomy of malfeasance.


  • Employees making minimum wage may post photos of shopping sprees or expensive cars
  • Pictures of luxury vacations
  • Status updates or tweets referring to a 'dumb' or 'idiotic' employer who isn't noticing their theft or bad behaviour
  • YouTube videos showing fraudulent activities
  • Pictures showing a group of employees engaged in an activity together that may have been funded by their joint fraud

You might be surprised at what they make public

It seems hard to believe, but some employees aren't shy about publicly posting evidence of their fraudulent or criminal behaviour: We've seen YouTube videos of employees vandalizing employer property or stealing from their workplace; we've seen postings on Instagram like "Bob, Sheila and I on our 5-star vacation - paid for by our jerk boss!" And of course this is in addition to employees posting videos/images of them engaged in physically-strenuous activities when they are supposed to be on sick leave.

How does it fit into the larger investigations process?

This infographic from JDSupra shows how social media analysis fits in to a corporate investigation from the outset.

Infographic from Profile Investigations showing steps in a corporate investigation involving social media analysis