The Internet, is a great place to begin a search for information, but there are pitfalls you always need to be aware of:
First, your client has probably completed an Internet search. It's too easy not too. Although you may find social media posts, links to stories posted, or other information, chances are it is not going to be new information. As a private investigator you are responsible for finding facts. Not all information found on the Internet is considered to be factual.
Second, you need to verify dates of information you find. The Internet stores information for years. Information posted two years ago that may contain a name or address can be dated. If you are looking to locate someone, it does provide a starting point, but you will need to verify the information you find to ensure it is up-to-date and accurate.
Third, much of the information you may find on the Internet may not be correct. Shocking right?! Depending on the subject of your investigation information may have been posted that is intentionally misleading. Further, you need to ensure it is the right person, right location, or right anything! Drive by a location - you may find it is a vacant lot, or mail drop, or it doesn't exist. Ans, there is nothing more embarrassing than providing results of an Internet search about an individual only to learn it is the wrong John or Jane Doe.
Fourth, you are a professional private investigator. You need to obtain, verify, and verify again any information you intend to provide as factual information. One good method is to verify any information you find by locating two additional, non-linked sources that points to the same information. Some call this the "Intelligence Triangle". NO, that does not mean finding the information on three different websites. Various websites obtain information from the same sources so you can find the same information in several locations, but it will probably be from the same source. (If you use a paid online information source for your information - read the disclaimers. The information you pay for is not verified or considered accurate by itself.)
Fifth, you are being paid for your expertise, which includes good old fashioned investigative work. Interviews, surveillance, and obtaining court or other public records still remain as your primary, tried and true, investigative methods. Don't shortcut your investigation relying solely on information you have obtained from the Internet.
Again, the Internet can be a great source for information to assist you in starting your investigation. As you can see in the pitfalls above, verification of any information is critical. You either observe it first hand, verify via unrelated and reliable sources, which requires great investigative work. If you provide the information to your client, make sure it is accurate, and factual.
Pro PI staff
Experienced professionals and trainers.