If you haven’t already, add digital assets to the list of things to look for in asset searches. In a world in which even modestly-trafficked internet domain names can change hands for tens of thousands of dollars, Delaware has become the first state to ensure families’ rights to access the digital assets of loved ones during incapacitation or after death.
The writeup is here.
We have long valued digital assets not only as stores of value, but as ways of finding out about people we investigate. These assets have value and people therefore have an interest in recording accurate information to make sure they retain ownership. Two of the most useful ways to track a person down via a digital record are:
1) Domain name registration
2) Email header information
Domain names in many cases can be tracked using a variety of registry databases, the most popular of which is Network Solutions’ Whois database, which you can see here. This doesn’t cover many domains with country suffixes outside the U.S., nor U.S. domains that end in .org, for instance. Still, it’s very useful.
One limitation is that domain-name holders can mask their ownership using proxies. But if they haven’t, owners often list home addresses, cell phone numbers and other internet addresses when they register a domain.
Email headers can be an accurate measure of where someone sent an email from. We recently figured out where a mysterious counterparty in a deal we were helping to negotiate was working, based on where his Yahoo! email account had sent a message from (his employer’s server).
The key mistake many people make about an email header is that you have to look at the original email. If A sends an email to B and B forwards that email to investigator C, then C will not be able to look at the information surrounding the A to B transmission. Instead, B needs to copy the header information and send that copy to C in the body of an email.
Figuring out how to read email headers is not rocket science, but there’s often a way to take a shortcut. Header analyzers such as this one can work wonders.