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Tips From an Expert Private Investigator on How to Maintain Your Online Privacy

Your check-ins at the bar you go to for happy hour. The pics your family tags you in at the wedding you attended. Your phone number and date of birth. The places you've traveled.

The stuff you put on social media is a gold mine for people who track other people down.

Judi Sheeks has been a private investigator and skip tracer for over two decades. She has tracked people down all over the world. Now, she's written the book on her successes and how to avoid getting tracked down. The book, How The *Bleep* Did You Find Me, is available on Amazon. It's a quick, fun read, and it's an important guide book on how you can be found — and how to protect your privacy.

As it says on the back cover,

You have unknowingly been helping private investigators (and others) track your every move. This is your "How NOT To" manual helping you take back your privacy.

For those not familiar with the term, a skip tracer is someone who looks for someone who has "skipped town." It is a valuable skill in the credit and collections industry, in private investigations, and in the legal world, where tracking down an important witness or a party to a legal proceeding is often vital to the case.

In an interview, Judi described how she got so good at it, saying: "I was genetically born to do this. If you've ever had a jealous ex girlfriend, you know that a woman is gonna be like a dog with a bone finding this stuff out." Her father owned a very successful collection agency in Colorado, and she got her start tracking down people who owed money.

She says that many of her targets are found with a simple search engine inquiry using the information people share voluntarily:

That's the very first thing that I do, I Google them. Then I'm going to find out if they're going to have a Facebook account, and nine times out of ten they're not smart enough to make their Facebook postings private, or friends only, which means I can get everything on them. If they are smart enough to make it viewable by friends only, I'll do my 7 Degrees of Kevin Bacon game. I had one Facebook friend, it turns out I was looking for his sister. I sent her a friend request, she blew me off, so I canceled that and sent a friend request to her brother, who was enamored of my pictures. The minute I was friends with him, I got all the pictures of her wedding, the town she was in, a picture of their new house. Called the attorney and got her subpoenaed. He and I are still friends, and he has no clue that I'm the one that turned her in to the attorney and got her served. I have some Facebook friends from back in the day so that I would have their pictures back when I was serving people myself. I have Facebook friends that I served with papers, and they still haven't made the connection.