How to Identify AOL Members
By Julie Posey


America Online provides Internet Access to over 64 million people
throughout the world. One of AOL's key features and selling points is to
guarantee the privacy of it's members making the identity of an AOL member
a difficult task to trace at times. Each account comes with the ability to
create up to seven different screen names at once and these can be deleted
and replaced within seconds.

One thing that I'm always asked by other investigators and the media is how
I'm able to identify an AOL member in a chat room, instant message, e-mail
or other area on the Internet. It's all real simple if you know where to look.

There are five questions that I ask myself when I'm attempting to identify
an AOL member:

1. Are they really using AOL?
Look at the e-mail headers closely. It may look like they are sending mail
through the AOL server but in reality they are using a TCP/IP connection to
gain access to AOL. AOL offers members a discount if they bring their own
Internet Service Provider - ISP. If this is the case, you need to trace the
IP address to see who their ISP actually is.

There is also a free chat program called AOL Instant Messenger that is free
to anyone who would like to sign up and download it. If you receive an
instant message, you will usually see a dialog box that asks you if you
would like to respond to the person. If the person is using AOL Instant
Messenger, you will get a message saying that an "Internet user" would like
to contact you. If the person is using AOL, you will get a message saying
that an "AOL Member" would like to contact you.

If they are using AOL Instant Messenger, check their Internet Protocol - IP
address to find out where they are geographically located. If you are
working with a specific individual, make sure that you check the IP address
every time there is contact. I've gotten information about place of
employment that would have otherwise been overlooked had I not traced that
IP address.

2. Does the AOL Member have a Web page?
AOL Members will often put absolutely nothing in their profiles that could
identify them but will have plenty of valuable information on a Web page.
You can search AOL Web pages by screen name or key words at:

If you do happen to find a Web page that contains a name of an individual
or company, make sure that you check Network Solutions to see if they have
a domain name registered as well. You can do that at

3. Does the AOL Member have any ads placed online?
It continues to amaze me how many people will attempt to do something
illegal in one area of the Internet and then in another area they will have
an ad trying to sell something that is packed with personal information.
They simply don't know that the two will ever be connected. One real slick
guy had posted 263 articles in newsgroups soliciting children as young as
six years old and also had an ad in the classifieds trying to sell his
home. He included every possible piece of information that an " Internet
Tracker" such as my self would ever need to know. He even included a photo
of himself standing in front of the home right under the house number.
Here's are links where you can search for online ads by screen name or
e-mail address:

Search classified ads at
Search personal ads at

4. Is the AOL Member using the same screen name for a login ID
somewhere else?

More often than not, I'm finding that most people will use the same login
name for multiple accounts or they will use their AOL address to sign up
for additional accounts. Try searching the most popular instant messenger
providers to see if the person you are trying to identify is using the same
ID elsewhere. That can help you find more personal information because
again, they don't realize that it can be tracked. Here are some places to
search by name, screen name or user ID:
Search Yahoo! Profiles by User ID or Real Name

Search ICQ Members by e-mail address or real name

Search the Usenet Newsgroups


5. Has the AOL Member signed any quest books or put other information

You can go to some of the major search engines such as Altavista, Google,
Webcrawler and others to search by real name or e-mail address. I've made
this process real simple by using the program WebFerret. It will search
multiple search engines simultaneously and give you a list of results in a
matter of seconds. They also have EmailFerret which is beneficial when
searching for an e-mail address when you have a person's real name.
You can download these and other tools at

I hope this information has been helpful. Visit one of my Web sites to
learn more about tracking information about people on the Internet.

Copyright: 2000, Julie Posey.
All Rights Reserved.