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Center of Excellence Column: Investigating Fake Profiles with OSINT

This week, in our Center of Excellence Column, we’re revealing threat actors who hide behind phony social media accounts with OSINT techniques. To demonstrate the use in practice, we share a real case study involving a scammer conducted entirely in our standalone OSINT solution, SL Crimewall.

So, let’s go to the investigation!

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Disclaimer: We have changed all the names in the original situation for privacy reasons.

Introducing the Suspect

Our case starts with the social media account of Adrian Smith, a suspected X (formerly Twitter) scammer. According to the available data, Adrian has used his social channels to promote the sale of stolen information. Based on the nature of his activities, there’s a strong chance that the initial profile is fake. Hence, our primary goal is straightforward:

  • To identify if Adrian Smith’s page is real.
  • If the account is fake, to uncover the scammer's real name, location, and social media profiles.

Checking the Account Name and Alias

First thing, we checked the suspect’s social media profile, and unsurprisingly, it was closed. Typically, this would be a considerable obstacle for many people. But luckily, OSINT techniques help overcome such hurdles.

Even if a profile is private, we can access three crucial pieces of information—a name, an alias, and a photo. Immediately, something caught our attention: the name displayed on the account was Adrian Smith; however, the alias was p.rothman.

Since the suspect’s account was private, we could only use an alias and a profile photo in further research

Using Facial Recognition to Find the Second Account

Our next step involved using Adrian’s name and photo to search through social media platforms. For this, used the [Twitter] Search by Face and Name from Search Object transform to handle the process efficiently. This method used the profile picture we extracted from the private account as input.

Facial recognition gave us a second closed account registered to Adrian Smith. At this point, the connection between Adrian and p.rothman became very intriguing. Luckily, our search gave us many leads to expand our inquiry.

ML-driven facial recognition transforms helped us locate a secondary social media account

Analyzing Tagged Photos

Next, we focused on the photos from the second Adrian Smith profile we found. To expand our search, we used the Get Photos Tagged In method and extracted all the pictures the suspect was tagged in.

The results were quite surprising. We got a new face with a tag, leading to a new account— Peter Rothman. It looked like we identified the alias p.rothman we found initially. So, at this point, we needed to verify if the suspect’s name was Adrian or Peter.

We extracted all the photos the suspect was tagged in, which revealed a new account in the tags

Conducting a Second Round of Facial Recognition

To dig deeper, we focused on the tagged Peter Rothman account from the previous step. We ran another round of facial recognition with the [Twitter] Search by Face and Name from Search Object transform. Without it, linking the profiles would be incredibly difficult.

The results showed that Peter Rothman was indeed a real person. In a twist, however, the photos on Adrian’s and Peter’s accounts showed the same individual, but the pictures differed. With this information, we were ready to finalize the investigation.

Thanks to the facial recognition transform, we could confirm that all accounts belonged to Peter Rothman

Verifying the Suspect’s Name and Phone Numbers

For our final step, we put everything together—information from the first two accounts registered to Adrian Smith and the third profile, which belonged to Peter Rothman, along with the photos. Then, we used our final transform: [SL ISE] Search Person, which helps uncover associated online accounts, aliases, and more.

So, after the Internet-wide search for our suspect, we finally had concrete evidence that Adrian Smith was a fake identity used by Peter Rothman. In addition, SL ISE gave us two phone numbers registered in Peter’s name.

SL ISE matched the data we found with the suspect’s digital footprint, which revealed his identity

Summary

So, a quick recap:

  • We started with a fake social media account registered to Adrian Smith.
  • Next, we extracted Adrian’s profile picture, which revealed an alias in the URL, Peter Rothman.
  • Using facial recognition transforms, we uncovered a second social media profile registered to Adrian Smith.
  • When we looked at Adrian’s tagged photos, we found the real account of our suspect—Peter Rothman.
  • After the second round of facial recognition search (this time on Peter Rothman’s profile), we learned that all the accounts we investigated had different photos of the same person.
  • Finally, we used the [SL ISE] Search transform to match the information fragments to Peter Rothman’s digital footprint.

Our investigation allowed us to deanonymize a social media scammer using OSINT tools to analyze his fake profiles. Following Peter's breadcrumb trail throughout his accounts, we uncovered two phone numbers he owned and verified his real name.

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Want to learn more about how to identify fake profiles and deanonymize criminals? Schedule a free personalized demo with one of our OSINT experts and see how to resolve your cases faster and more efficiently.
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