Tracing & Tracking People In Newsgroups
An Investigative Goldmine!
Compiled By Ralph Thomas


There are literally tens of thousands of newgroups which is basically the web's public bulletin board and discussion group services. There are many private type newsgroups which can be set up with advanced HTML coding for any web site but the major world-wide newsgroup system is called Usenet.Usenet is world-wide in scope and is basically an online discussion system with sortings for each newsgroup by subject.

Deja offers a very powerful search tool that locates both individual newsgroups and individual postings within newsgroups. That is, you can search for newsgroups by key word topics and you can search for postings made by individuals with their name input. This can be done at the following web site:


Deja Usenet Search Engine


We will go into this in more detail about searching in a second but let us first cover how usenet groups are organized so you will get an idea of exactly what these discussion groups are and how you can use them. A couple of the most popular Usenet newsgroups in the private investigative and law enforcement trades are:


alt.private.investigator is a Usenet newsgroup for private investigators with discussions on relevant topics of interest to the trade. is a Usenet newsgroup with discussions about law-enforcement. You will find hundreds, if not thousands of postings in these newsgroups. Note the these news groups start with the letters "alt.". What does this mean? Newsgroups are sorted by subject content so they can be easier to find. Here are the major top catagories:



 alt. (alternative)
Anything-goes type discussions covering every conceivable topic from aliens to Zen.

news. (news)
Information regarding the Usenet news network and software, including news servers and newsreaders.

rec. (recreation)
Discussions about arts, games, hobbies, music, sports, etc. If it's recreational, it's being discussed here.

biz. (business)
Discussions about business products and services, including product debuts, upgrades, enhancements and reviews.

comp. (computers)
Discussions about hardware, software, languages, systems - you name it. Also, valuable consumer advice.

k12. (k through 12)
Education discussions covering such topics as using technology, curriculum and classroom-to-classroom projects.

soc. (society)
Discussions of social issues and cultures around the world, as well as a place to socialize.

humanities. (humanities)
Literature, fine arts and other humanities, for both professionals and amateurs.

misc. (miscellaneous)
Miscellaneous discussions covering such diverse topics as employment, children, health and consumer issues.

talk. (talk)
Discussions and debates about current issues and more.

Pure- and applied-sciences discussions for both professionals and laymen.

Discussions specifically about a country or a U.S. state.


Deja currently has about 45,000 discussion forums archived, including alt.*, soc.*, and talk.* newsgroups. They also carry a wide variety of local discussion forums such as uk.* (United Kingdom groups), relcom.* (Russian language groups), and discussion forums formed on What this means is that you can input a person's name and search across all Usenet newsgroups for any and all postings made by and/or about that person. Here is a sample search on Bill Gates. Note that the search gives you the date of the search, the subject heading of the search, the forum in which the search is posted and the author of the post.


AS you can easily see, this search can be very valuable in just about any type of investigation rather it be a background check or a trace or any other type of investigation. Anything that has been posted by or about your subject or business will come up. Not only that, your chances of finding something are quite good because usenet newsgroups are in very wide use. Aside from actual postings by and about your subject, you also learn the newsgroups a subject is reading which in-turn gives you an idea of his or her interests. You'll also have times and dates which gives you information on when and how often you subject is online. People who write TO your subject in newsgroups often have other knowledge about them so that's another investigative lead to a real person. Note that the search above returned 9,553 matches. Wow! You got more data on opinions on Bill Gates than one could ever read!

The Search feature of the's Usenet Discussion Service homepage ( allows you to do a simple search of the archives. To Search, type a few keywords in the search input field, click Search and you will be taken to a Search Results page containing forums and messages that match your search query. To narrow your search from the results page, choose a few of the forums we find for you and click Narrow your Search. The search will be run again but only in those forums.

You also have some control over which of the databases the search will read with the discussion and archive drop-down menus. Here's how they work:

Discussion (default is recent)

recent Search messages posted in the last 60 days.
past Search message more than 60 days old.
all Search all messages

Archive (default is standard archive)

We've separated the job, adult and for sale forums from the rest of our archive to make it easier to find what you need without getting a lot of stuff you don't in the mix.

complete Search the entire archive (includes all segments).
standard Search everything except adult, jobs and for sale messages.
adult These messages are suitable only for adult readers; many contain explicit sexual content.
jobs Search messages related to job openings (such as resumes and messages from recruiters).
for sale Search messages advertising merchandise for sale.

Note: Because of the huge volume and diversity of messages in our archive, they can't guarantee that all unwanted messages will be eliminated from your search. For help with advanced search options, take a look at our Search Language help page. While "question format" searches will not yield results at this time, they have an immense number of Discussions, Ratings and Communities in the database that cover a wide variety of topics and searching for just about anything will bring up results. You'll also find the option to do a Power Search straight off the's Usenet Discussion Service Homepage.