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The value of big data in investigations: Insider tips to help crack the case

All About the Data

Recently, a U.S. government agency was conducting a fraud investigation. Usually, the lead investigator runs multiple, comprehensive reports and spends hours manually highlighting commonalities between suspects with the hope of uncovering a lead. And while this method may ultimately lead the investigator down the right path, the process requires substantial man hours to weed out false positives which can significantly delay an investigation.

Understandably frustrated with an inefficient process, the investigator turned to database technology. By inputting a few details and running a handful of searches, he quickly discovered a connection between two people previously not known to be associated. With a more than 20-year history, the two suspects had co-owned a business and shifted multiple properties and vehicles between them. With this new information, the investigator built a federal case against the individuals, demonstrating they were players in a larger fraud scheme. The case was cracked in a fraction of the time – thanks, in large part, to big data.

But it’s not just access to data that cracks cases—it’s knowing how to turn big data into the right data. Here are a few key tips for investigators on the best ways to leverage data in an investigation.

The future lies in new search technologies

Advancements in search technology are playing a major role in defining the future of investigations. Technology has become one of the most effective tools in an investigator’s arsenal. Law enforcement, bail agents, private investigators and detectives are quickly realizing the value real, actionable data can bring to their investigations. More and more they’re trusting technology when conducting deep investigations to find missing persons, locate and recover debt, and find bail fugitives faster and more cost-effectively.

With access to incredibly detailed data on a roughly 95% of the U.S. population, TransUnion systems use advanced linking algorithms to flag, scrub and manage enormous volumes of data. These systems enable investigators to wade through billions of public and proprietary records in just seconds, and to quickly establish patterns and identify interrelationships between individuals, their relatives and associates, businesses and locations. Detailed reports deliver available data points including addresses, aliases, phone numbers, emails, assets, employment, bankruptcies, liens, vehicles and other data—increasing the efficiency of investigations and saving valuable time.

Learn more about the formula behind TransUnion’s TLOxp solution in  our interactive data story

Addresses can tell you more than you might think

When it comes to uncovering fraud, understanding relationships is key. Investigators may not realize the wealth of information address data can provide. By researching people, associates or relatives of the subject, investigators can see not only who lives with the subject now, but who did in the past. Addresses help uncover connection points not just between the first degree family members—but between the search subject and relatives, associates, companies and more.

Beyond uncovering relationships, an address report can arm law enforcement with critical intelligence when attempting to apprehend a suspect—increasing the likelihood of successfully taking the subject into custody. This also paints a clearer picture of who else could be waiting on the other side of the door during a sting—protecting the safety of the public and themselves. By using driver’s license data, an address search can show all the individuals residing at a single address, and even provide the height, weight, ages and vehicles registered to the address. Use some of that data to find criminal records and you’ve got a pretty good idea of who you’re dealing with.

Phone number data helps dig deeper

Cell phone number data now enables investigators to gather deep insights about an individual, as well as their known or possible associates. Cell phone numbers often help uncover other addresses the subject was attached to, the cell carrier, and phone records showing other individuals who have used that phone number—delivering a more robust view compared to data derived from SSNs.

Recently, an investigator used phone number data to find the location of a key witness in a death penalty case in Texas. Literally, a matter of life and death, investigators used database search technology to find the witness’ phone number. Through a quick phone number search, the investigator uncovered the witness’ relatives and subsequently determined she’d moved to New Orleans, where he was able to connect with her.

Combining data can help connect the dots

By combining address and phone number records with other data, like employment and asset information, investigators and law enforcement can more fully understand behavioral and travel patterns and lifestyle routines, painting a more comprehensive picture of a suspect or scenario.

Additionally, license plate recognition (LPR) data can reveal a tremendous amount of information. A vehicle sighting search can connect a satellite image from Google MapsTM mapping service with the date and time of the vehicle sighting, helping to spot rate evasion and fraudulent insurance claims, or verify testimony, among other uses.

By leveraging big data in the right way, investigators and other law enforcement officials can act with greater certainty to quickly and efficiently crack cases.

The skip tracing abilities of Transunion’s TLOxp® solution is the fastest and most efficient way to uncover, locate and verify information on individuals and businesses. Used by insurance companies, investigators, law enforcement, process servers, bail agents and more, TLOxp can help pinpoint subject locations, verify identities, and uncover actionable intelligence in any type of case investigations from missing persons to fraud. With advanced tools and proprietary linking technology, TLOxp filters through billions of public and proprietary records to help you complete weeks or even months of legwork in seconds. Learn more about TLOxp or register for a free demo.

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