Costs of OSINT / Social Media Investigations in 2023 -SHADOW

A female OSINT Investigator working on a case

The Costs of OSINT (Open-Source Intelligence) / Social Media Investigations in 2023

The world of open-source intelligence (OSINT) investigations can seem complex, especially when trying to understand the costs involved and the factors influencing these costs. For example, you might be wondering about the process, the expertise required, the reliability of the information obtained, and, crucially, why you should invest your time and resources in an OSINT investigation. We’re here to help demystify the costs associated with OSINT investigations and offer insight into the unique factors that influence these costs.

We at Shadow Investigations have been in the intelligence and investigation fields for decades. Our experts have conducted countless successful OSINT investigations, helping individuals and businesses make informed decisions based on accurate and reliable data. Our wide-ranging experience and the trust placed in us by our clients make us an authority in this field, and we’re eager to share our knowledge with you.

By the end of this read, you’ll have a deeper understanding of OSINT investigations, their costs, and why they may be a worthwhile investment for you.

Understanding Open-Source Intelligence (OSINT)

Open-source intelligence, or OSINT, involves collecting data from publicly available sources in an intelligence context. Both private entities and government bodies widely adopt this practice and for good reason. The information in the public domain is vast and can offer valuable insights when correctly harnessed.

An OSINT investigation is more than just a casual internet search. It involves systematic planning, data gathering from multiple sources, analysis, and interpretation to draw meaningful and actionable intelligence. These sources could range from social media platforms, forums, websites, and blogs to databases, academic publications, and more.

While you might think of it as simply “looking up information online,” it’s essential to understand that the real value in an OSINT investigation lies in the skilled analysis and interpretation of that information. It’s about connecting the dots between seemingly unrelated pieces of data to create a complete and accurate picture. This analysis requires a deep understanding of the digital landscape, advanced research skills, and experience in intelligence analysis — expertise that professionals like us have spent years honing.

In the context of cost, it’s essential to realize that when paying for an OSINT investigation, you’re not just paying for the data. You’re also paying for the investigator’s expertise, time, and the sophisticated tools they use. Understanding this will help clarify why professional OSINT services have a cost associated with them, which we’ll delve deeper into in the following sections.

The Nuts and Bolts of OSINT Investigations

Now that you understand what OSINT entails let’s dive into the specifics. First, how does an OSINT investigation differ from a regular private investigation? And more importantly, when would an OSINT investigation be beneficial?

Traditional private investigations often involve physical surveillance, interviews, and similar methods to gather information. Conversely, an open-source intelligence (OSINT) investigation primarily focuses on gathering data from publicly accessible online sources. Moreover, in today’s digital age, an OSINT investigation can often uncover more pertinent information than traditional methods in a shorter period.

OSINT investigations are especially beneficial in a variety of scenarios. For instance, they’re helpful for due diligence investigations, background checks, fraud investigations, competitive intelligence, and much more. In essence, in any situation where you need detailed insights based on digital footprints, an OSINT investigation can provide immense value.

What makes an OSINT investigation stand out is the breadth and depth of its reach. An OSINT investigator doesn’t just ‘Google’ things; they use specialized tools and methodologies to delve into the depths of the internet, including databases and sources that are not readily accessible to the average user. Then, they apply their expertise to analyze this data, verify its authenticity, and draw actionable conclusions.

While this process is comprehensive, it’s time-consuming and requires specialized skills. Therefore, when considering the cost of an OSINT investigation, you must understand that you’re investing in this expertise and the detailed process that ensures accurate and valuable results.

In the next section, we will delve into the various factors influencing the cost of an OSINT investigation. But, again, transparency is vital, and we want you to have all the necessary information at your fingertips to make an informed decision.

Understanding the Costs for OSINT/Social Media Cases in 2023

The current OSINT/social media investigation rate is $125 per hour. The overall costs range from $500 to $1,000 for the most typical cases, $1,000 to $3,000 for more comprehensive investigations, and over $3,000 for highly complex cases.

The price of an OSINT investigation can vary widely, depending on the scope and complexity of the case, the time required to complete it, the resources used, and the level of expertise needed. The overall cost is easier to determine by understanding your specific needs. But we’ll give you a rough estimate based on our experience:

  • Most Typical Basic Cases: These are cases that require minimal resources and time, such as basic background checks or social media searches. Costs for these cases range from $500 to $1,000.
  • More Comprehensive Cases: These involve more advanced investigative techniques, larger volumes of data, and additional resources. The cost for such investigations ranges from $1,000 to $3,000.
  • High Complexity Cases: These are the most complex cases, often requiring specialized tools, access to exclusive databases, international resources, or complex data analysis. The cost of these investigations can exceed $3,000.

We believe in complete transparency and provide you with a detailed cost breakdown before we start the investigation. These costs include fees for our services, charges for additional resources we might need, and an estimate of the time it’ll take. We also detail any potential additional costs that might arise during the investigation.

Rates$125 Hourly
Overall Typical Costs:
Basic Cases$500 to $1,000
Comprehensive Cases$1,000 to $3,000
High Complexity Cases$3,000+
Current OSINT / Social Media Investigation Rates -Shadow Investigations Ltd

Factors Influencing the Cost of OSINT Investigations

Navigating the financial aspect of OSINT investigations can be daunting, especially when you need more clarification about the factors at play. We understand this, and that’s why this section clarifies what influences the cost of an OSINT investigation.

An OSINT investigation’s cost can vary widely, mainly because no two cases are identical. They can be as diverse as the people and organizations they involve. However, understanding the key factors that drive the cost will empower you to make a more informed decision.

  1. The Case’s Complexity: This is the primary determinant of the cost. A straightforward case with a single subject and clearly defined objectives will cost less than a multifaceted investigation involving several subjects or requiring comprehensive data analysis.
  2. Time and Resources: The more time and resources an investigation requires, the higher the cost. These include the hours spent on data gathering, analysis, report compilation, and the use of specialized software and tools.
  3. Expertise Required: OSINT is a professional field that requires a strong understanding of digital platforms, investigative methodologies, and data analysis. The level of expertise your case requires can influence the cost.
  4. Location and Jurisdiction: While you can conduct most open-source intelligence (OSINT) investigations remotely, some cases require knowledge of local languages or laws, potentially impacting the cost.
  5. Reporting Needs: The complexity and detail required in the final report can also affect the cost. A high-level summary will be less expensive than a comprehensive, detailed report.
  6. Urgency: If your investigation requires expedited results, it may involve working after hours or dedicating more resources to your case, which can increase the cost.

While the initial quote might give you an estimate, additional costs may arise as the investigation progresses, depending on the findings and the investigation’s direction. The company you choose to work with should be transparent and communicate any potential changes in cost beforehand.

In the next section, we will address common queries you might have regarding the cost and process of OSINT investigations.

Addressing Common Concerns

As we delve deeper into the world of OSINT investigations, it’s natural for you to have questions or concerns. You’re not alone – we have had numerous clients just like you who were initially hesitant or unsure. Here, we address some of the most common queries we encounter:

  • “Will the cost be worth the results?” – This is perhaps the most common concern we hear. The value of an OSINT investigation extends beyond mere cost calculations. The insights you gain can help prevent significant financial, reputational, or even emotional damage. It’s not just about the information you get but about the potentially disastrous situations you can avoid.
  • “What if I don’t get the information I need?” – Our team at Shadow Investigations is skilled and experienced. While we can’t guarantee that every investigation will yield specific desired results, we assure you that we will leave no stone unturned in our pursuit of information. If the information is out there, we have the best chance of finding it.
  • “Why can’t I just do it myself or use free online tools?” – OSINT investigations require specialized skills, tools, and experience to ensure accuracy, thoroughness, and legality. While you may find some information via simple online searches, the real value comes from interpreting and connecting that data to provide actionable insights. It’s not just about finding information; it’s about making sense of it.
  • “What assurances do I have that you’ll maintain my privacy?” – We prioritize your privacy and confidentiality above all else. We conduct all our investigations within the boundaries of law and ethical guidelines. You can be confident that your information and the investigation results will remain confidential.
  • “What if the investigation takes longer than anticipated?” – We understand that time can be of the essence. While we strive to provide accurate time estimates at the outset, some investigations can take longer due to their complexity or the nature of the information sought. We maintain open communication with you about the case’s progress to manage expectations and ensure transparency.
  • “Can I customize the investigation to my specific needs?” – Absolutely. Every investigation is unique, and we tailor our approach based on your specific requirements. This approach also means the cost can be flexible, depending on the scope of your case.

Our primary goal is to support you and provide valuable, actionable intelligence. We’re here to help you navigate these concerns and answer any other questions.

Commitment to Privacy, Security, and Confidentiality

One key factor distinguishing a professional OSINT investigation from a simple online search is the level of privacy, security, and confidentiality that comes with it. At Shadow Investigations, we understand that you might have concerns about how we handle the information we collect during an investigation. We don’t take your trust lightly.

Privacy is a cornerstone of our investigative process. You can rest assured that we strictly adhere to all applicable privacy laws and regulations during our investigations such as the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FOIPPA) and Personal Information Protection Act (PIPA). Furthermore, we obtain every piece of information we collect through legal and ethical means. As a result, you’ll never have to worry about the integrity of the investigation process or the legality of the information we provide.

When it comes to security, we employ industry-leading practices and technologies. The data we gather is securely stored and protected from unauthorized access, ensuring that sensitive information is not compromised. In addition, we implement stringent controls to ensure that only authorized personnel have access to investigation data.

Confidentiality is just as critical. The results of your OSINT investigation are your property, and we safeguard that information with the highest level of discretion, realizing that some investigations can involve sensitive subjects or situations. All our reports are confidential, and we will not share your information or findings with any third party without your express consent.

These measures are not only about protecting you and your information but also about ensuring the accuracy and reliability of the investigation results. These safeguards are necessary for the data gathered to be at risk, which can compromise the investigation’s quality and usefulness.

Therefore, when considering the cost of an open-source intelligence (OSINT) investigation, remember that you’re also investing in peace of mind, knowing we’ll handle your case with the utmost care, discretion, and professionalism.

Customized OSINT Services to Meet Your Needs

Understanding that no two investigations are alike, we at Shadow Investigations take a highly personalized approach to every case. As a result, the cost of an OSINT investigation isn’t a one-size-fits-all affair. Instead, your unique needs and goals, which determine the specific requirements of each case, largely influence it.

Considering the investment required for an OSINT investigation, it’s important to note that we always tailor our approach to suit your specific requirements. For example, are you trying to vet a potential business partner? Are you looking to protect your company’s intellectual property? Or you may be trying to locate a person of interest. Whatever your needs, we customize our investigation strategy accordingly, ensuring we deliver the most valuable and relevant insights to you.

When we begin an investigation, we start with a comprehensive consultation process. We listen to you, understand your needs, concerns, and expectations. We then strategize an investigation plan that caters specifically to the scope of your case. This plan ensures that you’re only investing in services that are relevant and beneficial to you.

For instance, if your case involves international components, we may need to incorporate global databases and resources, which may affect the cost. Alternatively, suppose you’re dealing with a time-sensitive situation. In that case, we need to expedite the process, which could also influence the overall cost.

This customization extends not just to the investigation process but also to the way we present our findings. We can provide detailed written reports, visual representations, or even verbal briefings depending on your preference. We aim to deliver our insights in a way that makes it easy for you to understand and use them.

Why Acting Now May Be Critical

Information is dynamic—it changes every second, every minute, every day. The digital landscape and the people, businesses, and factors you may need to investigate are constantly evolving. The information available today may be gone tomorrow, replaced with new data, or perhaps not accessible at all. In the realm of OSINT, time is of the essence.

If you delay an OSINT investigation, you risk missing critical information. This delay could lead to uninformed or ill-informed decisions with significant consequences. Whether it’s a business decision that affects your competitive edge, a personal matter that requires clarity, or a safety issue that needs immediate attention, waiting could escalate the situation or let opportunities slip away.

You’re investing in timely and actionable intelligence that could be pivotal for your situation. However, the cost of inaction far outweighs the cost of an OSINT investigation. It could mean losing out on vital information, missing opportunities, or dealing with unfavorable outcomes because of the need for more information.

At Shadow Investigations, we’re ready to help you navigate the complex landscape of OSINT. We’re here to ensure that the intelligence you receive is timely, accurate, and valuable. Remember, the goal isn’t just to inform—it’s to empower.

Can you afford to wait? Or is the cost of inaction too high? The choice, as always, is yours.

For a complimentary, obligation-free consultation, please get in touch with us at, or fill out our contact form below with your preferred contact method and a brief overview of what you would like assistance with. We keep all information confidential and only use contact information to respond to inquiries.

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About the Author

Photograph of Janet Helm, the Co-Founder and current Managing Director of Shadow Investigations Ltd.