How To Find Information on a Group
on cultic groups can be challenging.
These groups take many forms.
Some are nothing more than a loose knit group of like-minded
individuals, while others may be corporations, nonprofit organization,
or religious groups.
first step in any investigation is to gather and organize the
information you already have. Begin
by gathering all the information you have and then discreetly contacting
those you know who may have additional information.
Contact friends, relatives, anyone you can think of who knows the
member of the group, but be careful not to set off needless �alarm
bells� in your loved one. In
the initial stage of your investigation collect as much original source
material as possible, including any books, pamphlets, audiotapes, or
tracts put out by the group.
For some groups the sale of books and
audiotapes is a main source of funding.
Audiotapes can be useful in identifying the true nature of a
group and its beliefs. Pamphlets
can be found in the library, grocery store bulletin board, or handed out
at shows and fairs. If you
find a group member handing them out on the street, you can gather
information by talking to the person handing out the literature. The best approach is to show some interest, but not too much
belief in the message. Most
group members are used to people treating them like they are odd.
If you show up suddenly and swallow what they say hook, line, and
sinker, they will think you are odd or the police, depending on the
level of paranoia the group exhibits.
Don�t give them your real name even if they ask for
Review the pamphlets with a fine tooth comb.
Look for references to other groups or enemies.
Whom do they hate? Contact
this group and you may find a wealth of information.
Examine how well the group�s material is printed: desktop
publishing or old typewriter, offset printed or copied at the library.
These things will help you determine how well funded a group may
be, if it is funded at all. If
it is possible to order back issues of the group�s newsletter, get as
many issues as possible. You
may see a change in the quality of content and printing that could
indicate the group has progressed from a small, individually run, poorly
funded group into a larger better funded one.
The pamphlet may show an address or phone number that can be
checked out. If the group
lists addresses for affiliates in other states, these may be checked out
to determine if they are run out of actual offices or someone�s home.
This can be important in establishing links between different
The overwhelming majority of cultic groups today
are nonprofit organizations. The
Internal Revenue Service grants nonprofit status and investigates
organizations are required to file yearly tax returns known as an IRS
Form 990. Copies of these
returns are available to the public.
Your request for these should be sent to the Internal Revenue
Service, Ogden Service Center, P.O. Box 8941, Stop 6716, Ogden, UT
If you locate property the group uses to house
members, you can try contacting the local police to ask if they have
ever been called to the house for any complaints.
They may have responded because neighbors felt the group was up
to no good or a parent of another member showed up and had to be removed
from the property by the police. If
the police confirm that other parents or relatives have been to the
property, ask for their names. If
the police don�t want to give you names, ask if they will contact the
other persons with your name and phone number.
Such individuals may be valuable resources.
location or locations of the group.
It may be one or more, but more specifically, try to locate the
headquarters, if possible. Visually
inspect the group members, paying attention to their age, type of
clothing, their health, etc. Visit
neighbors in the area and find out who will talk.
Try and get information about the group�s activities,
schedules, and so on. Are the grounds and building(s) well kept?
Such observations may help you better understand your loved
one�s perceptions of the group.
If you are not in a position to
monitor the group visually, try and find out information from local
groups, such as churches, police, schools, health clinics, Chambers of
Commerce. Try to find names
of ex-members you may contact.
The Internet has become an
invaluable tool for today�s investigator.
The cult�s original source material will usually indicate if
the group has a web page. If
the original source material does not list a home page, try using some
of the major search engines, such as SavvySearch http://rampal.cs.colostate.edu.
SavvySearch will conduct a parallel search of twenty-four major
search engines simultaneously. Check the web page to identify leaders and the doctrine of
Newsgroups are topical forums that allow many people to
post messages about things that interest them.
You can find Newsgroups about mind control, extremists groups,
and recovery from cults. You
can search through more than 30,000 Newsgroups at the Liszt�s Usenet
If you have the E-mail addresses used by members, you can monitor
their messages to Newsgroups by searching the DejaNews Directory at http://www.dejanews.com/.
DejaNews archives the messages from 30,000 Newsgroups for the
last two years. Once you
locate all of the messages posted by a group member, click on a message
and then click on the member�s E-mail address and you will get a
complete breakdown of all the messages by Newsgroup.
You will be able to see how many messages the member posts to
each different Newsgroup. By
examining the number of posts in the different Newsgroups, you may be
able to determine what is important to the group member.
It can also help you spot instances where the group may be trying
to infiltrate other groups or attract like-minded individuals to their
Consider the following web sites as starting points
for your research:
Consider the following web sites to learn more about destructive
cults and coercive persuasion:
The following books will teach you investigative techniques and
strategies for learning more about the group you are
Get The Facts on Anyone, 2nd
Ed., Prentice Hall, 1995
Lesko�s Info Power III, Visible Ink Press, 1996.
(This is a great all-in-one directory.
It is also available on disk or CD-Rom)
The Reporter�s Handbook: An
Investigators Guide to Documents and Techniques, Investigative Reporters
and Editors, Inc. 3rd Ed. 1996.
NetSpy: How You Can Access
The Facts and Cover Your Tracks Using The Internet and Online Services,
Wolf New Media, 1996.
Investigator�s Guide to Sources of
Information, Office of Special Investigations, General Account Office,
1997. (Order free from GAO. Call
#OSI-97-2.) The text of this manual is available online at the GAO web
site. Check out chapter
five, The Investigators� Guide to the Internet: http://www.gao.gov/special.
Zilliox, Larry & Kahaner, Larry.
How To Investigate
Destructive Cults and Underground Groups. An Investigator�s Manual.
Kane Associates International, Inc., 1990