During the 2020 pandemic, people throughout the globe were struggling with detachment from their family, friends, and coworkers. In search of a connection with another human being, it should be no surprise that more than a few people would fall victim to online romance scams. However, in a shocking report by the Federal Trade Commission, losses due to romance scams increased by 50%. Romance scams have dominated the top position on the FTC’s list of fraud scams. More money is lost annually to romance scams than any other type of fraud in the United States. Since 2016, reports of romance scams have tripled, and the total dollar amounts lost have quadrupled. Given this alarming spike in numbers, it’s worth refreshing your knowledge on how these romance scams work and who is at risk for being a target.
Most are familiar with the timeline of an online romance scam. News stories and talk show segments about lonely people being “catfished” by online scammers are everywhere, and the number of these incidents appears to be on the rise. The reason for this rise in romance scams can be two-fold. To begin, the isolation of the pandemic in efforts to flatting the proverbial curve left many individuals with a desire to reach out and connect with another human being online. The internet is where romance scams thrive, and users who are attempting to scrape the bottom of the barrel of human interaction can be easy targets for criminals. In the same vein, following the COVID-19 restrictions that kept many Americans completely isolated from the outside world initiated an increase in internet usage. Without routine, in-person interactions with friends, family, and coworkers, individuals who were not habitual internet or social media users—or even internet literate—flocked to the world wide web in search of some form of human connection.
This perfect storm of circumstances created a perfect hunting ground for internet scammers to hook promising marks who could fill their virtual pocketbooks with cash and other assets. In the days before Facebook, online romance scams typically started on internet forums or in chatrooms. Now, scammers have fully adapted to the ways and language of social media. With Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat dominating the way we communicate, it’s easier than ever to bilk someone out of their hard-earned money in an online romance scam.
It is not a matter of if, but when these criminals will ask for money, and the longer you look at case studies for these online romance scams, the more colorful the reasons get. Sometimes the scammer claims they need funds to keep their phone or internet service connected—and therefore keep them connected to their mark. Sometimes the scammer will claim they need money to get out of a perilous situation so they can allegedly return to the United States and finally meet up with the mark in person. Regardless of the reason, there are almost always suspicious methods of getting this money to the scammer, such as wiring the money to another person whose name does not match the scammer’s persona. Or perhaps the money must be sent to a bank account in an unexpected part of the world.
Even more staggering is that the FTC’s data on the rise in online romance scams indicates that no age group is immune to these operations. The number of online romance scams went up in all age brackets of potential victims. In fact, according to the FTC, people between the ages of 20 and 29 saw the biggest increase in being targeted, while people 70 and older were reporting the highest losses in the neighborhood of $10,000. With so much at stake in online dating, it’s imperative that you know how to protect yourself from these scammers. Here are the FTC’s tips for avoiding online romance scams:
Never send money or gifts to someone you haven’t met in person – even if they send you money first.
Talk to someone you trust about this new love interest. It can be easy to miss things that don’t add up. So pay attention if your friends or family are concerned.
Take it slowly. Ask questions and look for inconsistent answers.
Try a reverse-image search of the profile pictures. If they’re associated with another name or with details that don’t match up, it’s a scam.
What are the most common signs of a cheating spouse? Some people think they have an instinct for these things—that they know their partner, and they know when something is not right—and can identify behaviors as suspicious when they are actually innocuous. In order to get crystal clear clarification on whether or not your partner or spouse is being unfaithful, you’ll need a seasoned private investigator.
One of the most famed tasks of private investigators in popular media is hiring a private investigator to find out if a spouse is cheating. Private investigators are famous for following spouses who are suspected of infidelity, documenting their movements, reviewing their financial records, and providing comprehensive reports for the client’s use in an subsequent legal action. However, not every suspicion of infidelity might be cause for hiring a private investigator. From the experts at Lauth Investigations International, here are the most common signs of a cheating spouse.
Decrease in affection or intimacy: Intimacy comes in many forms in a relationship, and they are not always sexual in nature. Each couple has their love languages and their personal ways of showing affection to one another. Significant decreases in these forms of affection and intimacy could be a sign that your partner is having these needs filled by another person. This could come in the form of either a physical or emotional affair.
Questionable cell phone and internet use: Everyone is entitled to their privacy, but within a relationship, there must be a level of transparency and communication that inspires trust. If your partner or spouse is being secretive with their phone and internet habits, it is possible its because they have something to hide. Affairs do not have to be physical. Individuals can conduct illicit relationships over the internet and through text messaging. A constant clearing of the browser history may also be cause for alarm.
Drastic changes in appearance and hygiene: It’s not uncommon for cheaters to suddenly undergo drastic changes to their physical appearance when they are having an affair. Sure, one haircut does not mean your spouse or partner is cheating on you, but changes in hair, wardrobe, and workout routine all at the same time may be a red flag as well. In the case of physical affairs, cheaters are known to cover their tracks by increasing the frequency of bathing and opting for strong perfumes and colognes to cover unexplainable odors.
Increased working hours: “Working late” is by far one of the most common excuses for cheating spouses that exists. Partners and spouses use the cover of longer working hours because it is a convenient reason to be absent from the home or from the phone, and their significant other will likely not question their absence because they are earning a living.
If only one of these signs is present in the relationship, there could be a simple explanation. In the case of secretive device use—it’s possible your spouse or partner is planning some kind of surprise; maybe a gift, a party, or a vacation. A decrease in intimacy could be a sign of depression or illness. However, if you or someone you love is experiencing two or more of these most common signs of a cheating spouse, it may be time to call a private investigator and get the answers you need.
Life is difficult enough without embarking on a mission to expose your spouse’s cheating ways. We all have jobs, families, and hobbies that we’d much rather devote time to instead of playing junior private detective. If you suspect your spouse is cheating, it’s time to hire a private investigator. Private investigators have diverse experience in surveillance and field operations and know the sophisticated methodology behind following a person without being noticed. Because they will be a stranger to your family, this dramatically increases the likelihood your spouse will never know they’re being followed. Infidelity investigations are unique in the sense that if the client in question is the subject’s spouse, the client can give a private investigator access to documents that they might not otherwise be able to locate, such as specific bank records or sealed court documents. Private investigators can photograph or record your spouse or partner’s infidelity, compile the evidence along with additional relevant information, and even serve as an expert witness in any legal proceedings that occur as a result of the conclusion of the investigation.
If you are experiencing two or more of these most common signs of a cheating spouse, call Lauth Investigations International today for a free quote on our infidelity investigation services. We are staffed by former military and law enforcement and carry a glowing A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau. Call 317-951-1100 or visit us online at www.lauthinvestigations.com.
No reasonable person would disagree that law enforcement have a difficult job. In addition to often being dangerous, lack of funding often leaves many jurisdictions without the right amount of trained professionals or resources to conduct criminal investigations efficiently or successfully. Under the most forgiving of perceptions, law enforcement professionals make mistakes. Hiring another investigative professional, such as a private investigator to conduct a simultaneous investigation can be a way for victims of crimes to ensure that multiple professionals from diverse disciplines have eyes on their case. Hiring a private investigator to conduct a concurrent investigation with law enforcement can be one of the best ways to cover all of the bases in a myriad of investigation types.
It is easy for investigators and other law enforcement professionals to make human errors that can have exponential consequences for criminal justice investigations. Even in the most serious of cases such as sexual assault or homicide, important details can be missed due to bias, lack of manpower, and resources. After the initiation of a police report, victims and their families can go weeks without answers due to those aforementioned roadblocks. This is why many victims and families find it prudent to hire a private investigator to do due diligence in a simultaneous investigation with police.
One type of investigation where this practice is common is in missing person cases. Even if a person is reported as missing by a friend or family member, it might not be the top priority of investigating law enforcement. Sometimes there are violent crimes that must take precedence, or maybe the missing person is someone who the police assume has disappeared of their own volition. In the case of missing person investigations, time is of the essence, and the more time that passes without pursuit of leads, the sooner the trail goes cold. If law enforcement does not immediately follow up, vital information will be lost. That is why hiring a private investigator to conduct a simultaneous investigation is the route many families of missing persons to take. Private missing person investigators can hop on a missing person’s trail while it’s still hot—speaking to witnesses, checking security footage, and notifying proper authorities before the person makes it out of the state. Even if the missing person does cross state lines, as long as a private investigator is licensed to practice in that state, private missing person investigators are free to follow leads from state to state without restriction of jurisdiction.
Hiring a private investigator to conduct a concurrent investigation may sound redundant, but it is one of the only ways victims and their families can ensure all possible leads are being exhausted in their cases. Sometimes professional bias or ineptitude will prevent a law enforcement investigator from following a lead, convinced that their own theory of the crime is correct. Not only does this have devastating effects in the case of missing persons, but this can lead to a brick wall in investigations of all types including corporate investigations where massive financial losses may be incurred, or in domestic and private investigations where a person’s life may ultimately be at stake. Hiring a private investigator also ensures that decisions about your case can be made quickly without the binds of bureaucratic red tape. In order to follow the law, law enforcement officers typically must follow a chain of command before taking specific action. Private investigators typically work for themselves and can exercise independent judgement on when and where to make a move in a case. In this way, private investigators can exercise the autonomy necessary to ensure that time is never lost in a case.
If you have need of a private investigator to investigate a criminal matter with a concurrent investigation, reach out to Lauth Investigations International today for a free quote on our investigative services. Call 317-951-1100 or visit us online at www.lauthinvestigations.com.
One of the most critical decisions we make in life is who to legally bind ourselves to in matrimony—not only because of the vows we make to each other, but also because the legal union in most states means entitling the other person to half of your assets. There is an unexpected trend of private investigators—especially female private investigators—in countries where arranged marriage is woven into the fabric of culture. Many families seek to control familial relations and extensions for many reasons, like politics, financials, business consolidation, and status. As recently as 2017, arranged marriage accounted for 55% of marriages throughout the globe, leaving traditional marriage in the minority. This creates a niche market for private investigators to properly vet potential spouses in countries like India, China, Pakistan, Japan, and Israel to name a few.
Even though arranged marriage is not a major part of Western
culture, that doesn’t mean that engaged individuals in the United States
shouldn’t do their due-diligence when it comes to their life mate. When it
comes to your assets, you should expect facts, not fiction. That’s why hiring a
private investigator to perform a background check on your intended can save a
great deal of heartache and financial distress. Even a basic background check
from a private investigator can unearth risk factors. Private investigators
will pull criminal history, litigation history, credit history, and history of
residence to corroborate proposed facts about your romantic partner. It’s true
that there are many “people finder” databases on the internet that claim their
results are accurate and worth the cost of purchasing the report, and therefore
an individual could conduct a background check themselves. However, private
investigators must comply with specific security protocol and licensing in
order to have access to verified databases on par with certain law enforcement
agencies. This means that the quality of data entry comes with a much higher
degree of accuracy, and will be updated regularly with regards to both public
and private records. “People finder” databases cannot guarantee 100% accuracy, which
may lead to additional misinformation, especially with regards to criminal and
Private investigators also have years of experience that contextualize
available information on a subject. For example, residence history is
traditionally part of a basic background check. If the subject has a long
history of moving between jurisdictions, or from state-to-state in short
periods of time, a private investigator might examine this information—and based
on context—determine that the subject has a history of transience, which could
indicate a lack of reliability or a flight risk. If a subject’s credit history
is consistently poor, that would be a financial red flag that might disqualify
a subject as a spouse.
Private investigators bring valuable contexts to background
investigations that empower individuals to make critical decisions in their private
or corporate life. When two people get married, they often conduct other litmus
tests in order to determine long-term cohabitation, such as blood tests for
their health, or pre-marital counseling to determine their level of preparation.
Background checks are just another measure for you to ensure that your life and
your livelihood are protected.
Being a responsible consumer in the year 2019 means educating yourself—not just on the products and services—but of the ways scammers and thieves exploit consumer behavior for their own financial gain. As technology advances with the convenience of SMS text messaging as a security feature, financial applications that put your finances at your fingertips, and the tangled world wide web, consumer fraud scams will only continue to mutate and evolve. Here are five of the most common types of consumer fraud scams to avoid in 2019.
According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Financial Fraud Unit, mortgage fraud exploits a consumer’s fear of losing their home to make a quick buck. Mortgage fraud schemes come in many forms, including but not limited to equity skimming, loan modifications, and foreclosure rescue schemes. The perpetrators behind these schemes are often former real estate professionals who use their intimate knowledge of mortgages to swindle homeowners in distress. Real estate agents who are currently employed can exploit their authority to bolster the validity of their scheme. The FBI and FTC advise that consumers should be wary of any unsolicited phone calls, emails, regarding their home finances, and never sign any paperwork or documentation that they do not fully comprehend.
Debit Card Fraud
Debit card fraud occurs when an individual’s debit card information is obtained to make fraudulent purchases. Debit card fraud is one of the most difficult schemes to avoid in day-to-day life, because so many Americans have gradually transitioned from carrying cash to carrying only their debit card as means of legal tender. Anyone with access to the debit card’s information—including the businesses and vendors we trust every day—can pull this information to commit a fraud. Unfortunately, the only recourse consumers have in protecting themselves is to avoid letting their card ever leave their sight, and to keep a watchful eye on their accounts and report any suspicious activity.
Perhaps one of the most despicable types of consumer fraud is charity fraud. Scammers set up shell organizations to receive donations that do not go to those in need, but rather line the scammer’s pockets. Frauds of these type spike significantly during the holidays and in the wake of natural disasters in order to exploit humankind’s benevolence. The name of the game with charities is research. Any charity worth its salt is going to stand up to a great deal of due-diligence and fact-finding. Part of being a responsible consumer is knowing where your money is going.
Winning the lottery is a dream of many Americans, with fantasies of kicking back and never having to put in another hard day’s work for the rest of their lives. Despite the wide range of demographics with these dreams, lottery fraud scams usually effect senior citizens in the United States. The scam usually begins with a letter or email letting the individual know they have won. The correspondence usually includes details about fees that are involved with receiving their winnings. The FTC warns that individuals who have won a legitimate lottery prize of any kind should never have to pay a fee to collect their winnings, and consumers should be suspect of any unsolicited correspondence stating as such. Consumers should also be advised that United States law does not support the sale and transference of international lottery tickets, so any correspondence from international lotteries is most certainly a scam.
Studies by Javelin Strategy & Research conducted over the last seven years indicate that in 2017, there were as many as 16.7 million Americans impacted by identity fraud, with $16.8 million in stolen funds and assets. Identity theft can be committed for a number of reasons. Perpetrators can steal an individual’s information with the purpose of starting over again under a different name, or to escape their creditors. Most commonly, however, identity fraud is simply committed with the explicit purpose of stealing money from American consumers. Once a scammer has an individual’s identifying information, like dates of birth, Social Security numbers, and their mother’s maiden name, they can use that data to make fraudulent purchases in the victim’s name, withdraw funds from their bank accounts, and destroy their credit, leaving them financially arrested. The aftermath of identity fraud is devastating and can cause shockwaves across decades with exponential consequences.
If you have been the victim of a consumer fraud scam, contact a private investigator today to learn how their unique set of skills and professional autonomy can help you locate the scammer in your midst. Call Lauth Investigations International today for a free consultation (317-951-1100) and a simple solution to your consumer crisis.
Carie McMichael is the Media and Communications Specialist for Lauth Investigations International. She regularly writes on investigation, fraud, and missing persons topics. For more information, please visit our website.
The growing awareness of sexual abuse in the media has the public on high alert in all walks of life—a steady stream of investigations into allegations of sexual misconduct within religious communities, sport teams and franchises, civil service, and the workplace to name a few. It seems like every week the news cycle is dominated by another story in which a religious leader is denounced following allegations of sexual abuse against minor members of congregation. Investigations into United States Olympic teams have the parents of minor athletes with their ears to the ground, as the horror of Larry Nassar’s crimes continue to shake out in civil court. Leaders within these communities are educating themselves on how the power structure of these institutions leaves minors vulnerable and in many cases are depending on the services of independent private investigators to conduct unbiased, thorough investigations.
In cases where there are allegations of abuse, there is an immediate division between the survivor and the alleged predator. Many of the parties involved will immediately fall on one side or the other. Employers, colleagues, and public relations representatives in the alleged abuser’s life will begin a rash of character defenses, claiming that there’s no way an individual as friendly/respected/admired as them could be capable of such disgusting actions. Parents and loved ones in the survivor’s life will rally in support as they attempt to take on not just their abuser, but potentially an entire institution as well. All of the parties directly involved have a stake in the outcome of the investigation. Institutions that are suspicious of predatory behavior in their ranks often prefer to handle the investigation in-house, using their own investigators in the form of management, attorneys, or employees in another supervisory capacity to do the fact-finding. Not only can the qualifications of these individuals range across a spectrum of investigative prowess, but because they are employed by the employer of the abuser, they likely will have some sort of bias as an investigator. This is why it’s so important to hire an independent, third party private investigator from the onset of any allegations of abuse. Like any unimpeachable structure, the integrity starts at the foundation, with thorough fact-finding by an experienced, qualified investigator. Ethically, a private investigator’s only loyalty is to the truth, and without any stake in the outcome of an investigation, their findings can withstand a higher level of scrutiny than an investigator employed by the abuser’s corporation or institution.
The most qualified private investigators for sexual abuse investigations have a wide array of experiences in multiple areas of criminal justice. Unlike the resumes of corporation and institutional employees, they will have likely majored in an area of criminal justice, have worked law enforcement, have been retained by either the prosecution or defense to assist in a case, and have an intimate knowledge of criminal procedures and investigative methods. Independent private investigators have to be able to work multiple angles in an abuse investigation, vetting every statement by survivors and witnesses, as well as doing thorough fact-finding on the alleged abuser in the form of an extensive background check, with special focus on their work history and criminal record. This kind of comprehensive groundwork lays a strong foundation for any litigation that might take place following the solution of the investigation. And because the private investigator is an objective third-party, the case will have integrity in a court of law.
Another specialty of a seasoned private investigator is surveillance and undercover operations. An investigator who is able to move through a crowd completely unnoticed, melting into the background while they keep an eye on the subject. Sometimes it’s just a matter of looking like you belong, and surveilling the subject from a short distance, or keeping a digital eye on the subject in the form of a camera or tracking device. Regardless, subjects behave most naturally when they do not know they are being watched. Hiding in plain sight, private investigators are able to document an abuser’s movements, correspondence, associates, and schedule to establish means and opportunity with regard to the allegations. Private investigators specializing in undercover operations have an advantage when interviewing witnesses and subjects, building a rapport that allows them to open up to the investigator. This form of subterfuge is often crucial in abuse investigations, particularly if the allegations have not yet become public knowledge. This time is valuable to an undercover operative, because when there are abuse allegations in an institution, there is often a circumventing culture of silence within it. Employees and associates are instructed not to speak to press or law enforcement regarding the allegations, there has not been need for any sort of legal gag order, and these potential witnesses will have their guard down. Private investigators and their field investigators can garner credible leads, leading to a more comprehensive, thorough investigation.
There have been many institutions, particularly in the Catholic faith, that have been accused of what has been characterized as a “cup and ball” routine in which supervisory entities will transfer employees or members of clergy accused of sexual abuse to remote branches of their network, often in different jurisdictions, to prevent law enforcement and investigators from doing their due-diligence. Private investigators are given an autonomy that is free from bureaucratic or jurisdictional chains. They can follow leads to track down multiple witnesses and can track an abuser’s movements—all across state lines.
Regardless of an alleged abuser’s reputation or status, allegations of abuse must always be handled with due-diligence and a sense of urgency. Corporations and institutions have it only in their own interest to eliminate potential predators in their ranks. The cost to retain a private investigator to conduct a thorough, objective investigation is a small fraction of the potential cost to these entities in the form of lawsuits that result from an investigation, usually on the part of survivors who were vindicated in their accounts of trauma and betrayal on behalf of mentors and leaders in their lives. Retaining the services of a qualified private investigator can go a long way to bringing predators to justice and preventing potential ruin of institutions that otherwise provide a great service for individuals in communities across America.
Carie McMichael is the Communication and Media Specialist for Lauth Investigations International. For more information, please visit our website.