A recent Inc. Magazine article (July 2012 issue) illustrates the importance of being diligent at on-line reputation management as a business owner. The article explains how Veritas Prep was attacked by libelous claims about its services. Although the company CEO used a variety of tactics to end the assault, one thing not mentioned in the article is the use of a private investigator to conduct counter surveillance against the perpetrator. In this instance, Veritas knew who was behind the damaging claims about its company. This would have made the surveillance easier. In some instances, however, a private investigator will also need to conduct an electronic skip tracing investigation to track down the owner of an account. As a business owner, here’s what you should do to protect your brand and reputation:
Though the following book may not be useful for all readers, it is something that both the Californian private investigator and clients (especially attorneys) should read. It is written by David Queen, a tenured federal prosecutor, defense attorney, and licensed private investigator. The book’s legal focus makes it very useful guide for assured due diligence in investigative cases. Investigators and clients residing outside of California can benefit from this text by using it as a reference when subcontracting or when an investigation shifts to California legal statute. As a reference book, it can certain assure that the investigator handling a case is operating within the rule of law.
Thought we'd share a valuable article about digital scams! Here is an outtake that summarizes the content (click on quote):
“Understanding criminals’ mindsets and being aware of how they try to take advantage of consumers can help ensure that we use our devices the way they were intended – to enhance our lives, not jeopardize them.”
We hope our clients, especially our domestic and small business investigation clients, will find the article useful this forthcoming holiday season.
Want us to help reduce employee theft or find stolen property? Give us a call: 214.914.0801.
by Craig Engstrom*
You may need a professional investigator for a variety of reasons:
But where do you find a quality private investigator? The answer to this question is not simple. Evidence suggests that more people are turning to internet search engines to find businesses (2008, “Dial I for internet”). This is also true in the profession of private investigating.
Searching “[name of city] private investigator” through Google, Yahoo, or Bing can quickly generate a list of companies, but then you have to decide which companies to call or hire. If you’re not unlike most people, it is likely you will rely on the boxed advertisements or the top listed companies provided by the “search spiders.” While these may be good private investigation companies, sometimes they are not.
To assist you in making your search results work for you, here are two things to keep in mind:
800 numbers or vague links can be trouble. Among the listed and advertised local companies, there will be nationwide companies with a toll free number and generic website. The business model for these companies is to contract a case with you and then to locate a private investigator in the area where you need an investigation. While this may be a good model for florists and hotels, when it comes to legal matters, it is best to go straight to the company that will provide you with needed services. First, the “nationwide” companies have to charge you more because they will then subcontract to the local company. They may try to find the lowest-priced investigator. Why should you pay $85 per hour for a $50-per-hour investigator? It is not the money that is really at issue–a quality investigation is. Second, with the nationwide company you may not get direct access to the field investigator. This means that if you happen to have intelligence that will assist the investigation, it may not reach the field investigator in time. Similarly, the field investigator cannot contact you with field reports and give you timely updates. If you know that the target of the investigation is not doing much, you can direct the investigator to do it at another time (saving you money). In other words, you have less financial control of the investigation.
Advertised or top listed companies are spending more money on advertising. A good business person is not always a good private investigator, and a good private investigator is not always a good business person. By simply relying on top listed or companies advertising with “Adwords,” you may simply be hiring a good business person who pays a lot of money to web optimization companies. These companies can employ great investigators, but not always. You should contact several companies and be diligent and ask the right questions.
Keep in mind that the higher advertising expenses a company has, the more likely they’ll charge higher hourly rates.
The first thing you should look for when you click to a company’s website is their license number. It is the law in most states that private investigators display their license numbers. If the company does not follow this law, will they follow others?
Here is an alternative to search engines:
Begin with the yellow pages. Not to sound old fashioned, but there are reasons to still consider the yellow pages when searching for a private investigations company. You can even do this search online (www.yellowpages.com). While the same issues as above apply, the value of yellow pages is that it is a great selection mechanism. Consider the yellow pages as a reference book. The number of companies listed in the yellow pages is likely already to be sufficient for you to have an opportunity to find a quality investigator who can meet your investigative needs. While it may take a minute longer to look in the yellow pages than to do a Google search, you will save time because all of the search results are already filtered for you. You also know one thing for sure: companies in the yellow pages have been around a while. Each year hundreds of new private investigations companies start and just as many go out of business. A new company can immediately begin showing up in internet search results, but a company in the yellow pages has had to be around for at least a year. If your investigation is likely to extend over a period of time, it is best to go with a company with tenure.
Nothing, of course, will be able to assist you more than your own due diligence. Hiring a professional investigator can be the smart thing to do. Hiring a quality investigator should take you some time. Your decision should not be made by an internet search engine.
Dial I for internet. (2008, May 24). The Economist. Retrieved June 18, 2008 from http://www.economist.com
*Craig Engstrom is an assistant professor at Elmhurst College. His research focuses on the business of private, professional investigations. He provides public relations and consulting services to private investigators in order to increase the legitimacy of the profession and to assist consumers in making well-informed decisions.
Selling personal items and services online can be a way to earn a few extra bucks. However, the dangers of advertising and selling expensive items online or in traditional print classifieds became all too apparent recently. James Sanders advertised a 1.07-carat diamond ring with an asking price of $1,050. He arranged for a couple to come to his home to look at the ring, and hopefully purchase it. During the transaction, James and his wife were ambushed by four people. By the end of the altercation, James had been shot. Click here for full story.
In recent months spousal infidelity has been a popular topic in the media. Sandra Bullock is just the latest celebrity, among many, who has felt the pain caused when a loved one does not act in accordance to the expectations of a relationship. Discovery Health Channel is about to air a series on the topic starting on April 4, 2010 on the topic (9:00 pm ET/PT), followed by the network premiere of The Secret Life of Tiger Woods: A Dateline Special (10:00 pm ET/PT).
There are already several helpful blogs and news articles that can help you learn how to detect if your spouse or partner is cheating on you. One of the most thorough articles detailing helpful hints and signs is Cathy Meyer’s article on About.com:
To summarize, here is what you ought to be looking for:
But what can you do once you’re convinced or have the intuition that your loved one is floundering? Hiring a private investigator can be a great investment, both personally and financially. Here’s the deal: even in no-fault states that do not weigh infidelity into alimony or child support awards, it is unlikely that a judge would be unbiased by the emotional toll infidelity has caused to another. The benefits can come in various minor decisions that have major outcomes.
In states, such as Georgia, where infidelity does matter, the value of a surveillance conducted by a private investigator can yield financial gain for the offended party. Personally, you always gain when you have important information that can clear your conscious, prove you’ve been “right all along,” and help you make a decision regarding whether to stay in a relationship and seek counseling, or move on to better things.
Regardless of what you may want to obtain from an investigation into your spouse’s or partner’s infidelity, here are some practical things you can do before hiring an investigator, which will both increase the outcome of success of the investigation and decrease some of the overall costs incurred.
If you have additional questions regarding the content of this posting or feel you’d like to speak with someone regarding a potential cheating spouse/partner, please feel free to call me personally 214.914.0801.
Tom Cruise is being sued for $5 million dollars because he hired the wrong private investigator (PI). According to court documents, published by Radaronline, Cruise is being sued by Michael David Sapir, a magazine editor, who believes Cruise hired Anthony Pellicano to illegally wiretap his phone. Pellicano, a former high-profile Los Angeles private investigator, is currently serving a 15-year federal prison sentence for illegal wiretapping and conspiracy to commit wiretapping.
Whether Cruise and his attorney, who is also mentioned in the suit, knew Pellicano tapped the phone is irrelevant. They could still be in hot water. Nevertheless, Pellicano should have known that he could not record any conversation, in person or over the phone, without every participant’s knowledge and consent. In California, along with twelve other states, one must haveall-party consent before recording a conversation (even in person!). If Cruise did request such activities, Pellicano should have told Cruise he would not do it. In short, Pellicano should have stayed committed to his state association’s professional ethics and California and federal statutes.
Of course, Tom Cruise is not expected to know what is legal and ethical. Neither are you. But so that you don’t find yourself in a similar legal situation as Cruise, or have your evidence become inadmissible in court, you had better hire a high quality PI. So how do you know if your PI is good for you? Here are a few questions you can ask to get a better sense if she or he is a qualified professional:
1. Are you licensed and insured? While licensing varies by state, most require a minimum three years investigative experience, annual continuing education, and up to million-dollar insurance policies. If an investigator says she or he is licensed and insured, verify this with your state’s regulatory agency. Here are a list of some state agencies:
§ New York
§ Check other states
2. What are your areas of specialization and background? While most investigative agencies will do just about anything, from finding a lost pet to investigating workplace deaths, some are more qualified than others to do different investigations. If you need surveillance work, hire a company that specializes in surveillance. If you need electronic countermeasures, hire a company that has the training and equipment. You want someone to feel motivated about your case. If your needs don’t match the investigator’s business, your case may not receive priority. A good private investigator will admit to his or her limitations and inform you about his experience and background. Most importantly, an investigator working in his or her area of knowledge is likely to know all of the rules and legal procedures that apply–he or she will not jeopardize your case.
3. Can I see your contract? The first time you see an investigator’s agreement for services should not be when you’re signing it. A high quality investigator will let you see his or her agreement in advance. You are entitled to know your rights and obligations before your first meeting. This information could save you and your investigator time and money. Some investigators even keep a contract on their website so you can look at it any time. Look at the contract, does it appear professional? If this legal document is not important to the investigator, then don’t expect other legal documents will be either.
4. How do you deliver your reports, what do they look like? You can learn a lot about the way investigators do their reports. This is the product you will receive at the conclusion of an investigation. An investigator that provides proof of all services rendered, in various formats (e.g. video and print), likely takes their work seriously.
5. Are you available 24-7? Believe it or not, some investigative agencies maintain banker’s hours. It is important to know that if something urgent comes up you can reach somebody with the company any time of day, any day of the week. Then try it out. Call the agency late at night and see what happens. While this question may not allow you to know if the investigator is being ethical, you’ll know at least if she or he was being honest about phone access.
Other questions you may want to ask, depending on your personal situation, are “How many clients do you serve at once?”; “How many field investigators work for you?”; “What are your success rates?”; “How much is your retainer?”; “How do charges appear on my credit card?”; “What was the outcome of your last case?”; “Are their additional charges for court appearance fees?”
Of course, these questions are just general guidelines. While they are likely to be help you appear as a knowledgeable consumer, they do not guarantee success. Do your homework. Search to see if the company you are about to hire has outstanding claims with the Better Business Bureau or other consumer groups. But most importantly, go to your state’s regulatory agency (links above) and verify that his or her license is active. In many states, they list any disciplinary actions taken against an agency. Tom Cruise should have known better than to trust a private investigator who said he was willing to use, as Pellicano claimed, “unorthodox methods.”
Equipment is important
Covert Investigations uses Gen-3 military grade night vision on all night surveillance. See a demo at:
Gen-3 equipment gives you facial recognition from long distances in the middle of the night and with little to no light.
The Gen-3 equipment is not to be confused with the inadequate night shot feature that comes standard with all video cameras. That video when produced only gives silhouetted images and is useless for evidence purposes.
If you have an assignment at night and you want quality identifiable evidence please call me or search a company that has similar equipment.
If an agency says they have Gen-3 equipment demand it be used and refuse to pay for the assignment if the it is not used. Covert Investigations will never bill a client for failure on our part.
Your evidence is important to your case. Be sure your Investigator has that equipment.
Observations & Interviews, a blog by Chet Engstrom
Chet Engstrom is owner of Covert Investigations Services, a private investigations firm located in Lewisville, Texas (DFW area). Texas license number: C10745.
4101 McEwen, Dallas, TX, 75244