Every business—from the mom-and-pop shop to corporate America—will encounter some form of crisis during their operation. Crises come in all shapes and sizes, including employee malingering, internal theft, brand protection, and a myriad of lawsuits that could bring an established business to its knees. When disaster strikes, it is the reflex of most companies to handle the matter internally, often delaying important investigative measures out of uncertainty, ignorance on how to proceed, or both. While an internal investigation allows a company to control available information and minimize any consequences, an independent external investigation conducted by a private investigator is the best course when it comes to finding a comprehensive solution to any corporate crisis. The important thing to remember is you cannot wait when a crisis arises, and hiring a private investigator should be one of the first items on your to-do list.
Independent private investigatiors provide the best solutions from the onset of the investigation. Investigators too often run into roadblocks during investigations because they are working from a narrative and timeline that has already been established by an internal party. When you have a qualified and objective investigator handling the investigation from the beginning, it lays a solid foundation that will lead to credible leads, proper gathering of evidence, and quality conversations with potential witnesses.
During a fact-finding process, internal investigators may not have considered all angles and left many leads unexplored. Potential witnesses within the workforce need to be interviewed and their statements recorded, but an internal investigator—usually a Human Resources representative or upper management employee—may not have the qualifications. Any witness testimony may be tainted because the investigator is not properly trained in interview and rapport. Witness statements could also be false or inconsistent because they fear reprisal from an internal investigator who may have clout when it comes to the employee’s future at that business. When a private investigator is retained weeks after the onset of the investigation, witness’s memories may be inaccurate or even non-existent. In some cases, an employee may have already left the company, or changed addresses. This results in more investigative measures required to locate that employee, which costs money and labor hours to the investigator.
Witness statements are valuable, but not so much as hard evidence that cannot be interpreted for a particular spin. One common example is surveillance footage. An internal investigator may think to pull surveillance footage from a single camera near the site of the incident or crisis, but the investigator may not pull surveillance footage from other cameras that could contain valuable information. Most companies invest in security systems that recycles surveillance tape after a short period of time, sometimes as little as five days. Once an independent private investigator is retained, valuable footage is gone, and other fact-finding measures will be necessary—again, more time and money at the cost to the company.
It is possible for an internal investigation to play out smoothly—at least at first glance. Even if the internal investigator is well-qualified to conduct the investigation, there will always be the question of objectivity when dealing with an internal investigation. A successful investigation that concludes with the termination of an employee who was found to be at fault for the crisis or incident has the potential to result in legal action. In this example, it would be a wrongful-termination suit. When argued in a court of law, it’s easy for the terminated employee to cast doubt on their former employer by citing the investigation into their wrongdoing was conducted by an internal employee with a direct stake in the outcome. When a private investigator handles the investigation from beginning to end, there will never be a question of objectivity, because a private investigator’s task is to find the truth—not manufacture a solution that will mollify their client.
When your company encounters a crisis, do not hesitate to retain a private investigator to find a solution. The time and resources spent on an internal investigation may all be in vain when the chips are down. To protect your business and its profits, take immediate action when a corporate crisis arrives by retaining a private investigator that will provide you with the expertise and objectivity for a successful solution.
If your business has encountered a corporate crisis, call Lauth Investigations International today for a free consultation. Call 317-951-1100 or find us online at www.lauthinveststg.wpengine.com
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.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of 2010, there were over 34,7000 licensed private investigators operating throughout the United States. The Bureau projects by 2020, the figure will increase twenty percent—resulting in almost 42,000 PIs. Though they may be great in number, you may never spot one, because private investigators have a unique set of skills allowing them to blend in with all walks of society.
When the average person thinks of a private investigator, it often evokes a handful of stereotyped images. Sherlock Holmes is one of the most famous private investigators in the global lexicon—even if he is fictional. In the United States, the film noire genre gave average citizens a staple look for PIs; long, tan trench coats, matching fedora hats, toting cameras with obnoxiously long lenses. More contemporary private sleuths are often thought of as being clad in all black and wearing dark sunglasses. Because these images have permeated American culture, a private investigator fitting any of these descriptions can instantly have their covers blown. With a surge in surveillance culture and the ubiquity of technology and social media, private investigators in the 21st century must modify their investigative methods to adapt to a world where everyone is watching.
Close, But Not Too Close
Even in a world where individuals often have their eyes glued to a screen, it is easier than ever for a private investigator to have their cover blown while in the field. Rise in the saturation of crime coverage in both local and national media has citizens paying attention to their surroundings more than ever, especially when walking to and from their vehicles, and when developing a home security system. Despite concerns about the proverbial “Big Brother,” invading human privacy, the U.S. began to appreciate surveillance technology as a nation after a CCTV camera captured the perpetrators behind the Boston Marathon bombing in the summer of 2013. Law enforcement investigating the tragedy were able to identify Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev in a crowd of thousands, tracking every move they made until the fateful moment when they planted the two homemade pressure-cooker bombs killing three people and injuring hundreds more.
In 2018, the nation saw a rise in law enforcement agencies utilizing drones in their investigations, leading to a new wave of outrage and concern over the violation of privacy and spying. As of December 6th, over 900 law enforcement agencies were reported to use drones in their casework. This heightened awareness in the American population has forced private investigators to redefine their standards for proximity to a subject. Of course, a PI must be close enough to properly observe the subject, and despite their benefits, long camera lenses outside of large events inundated with press can just as likely be the aspect that blows a private investigator’s cover. Being too close to a subject can provoke them to confront the investigator and compromise the entire investigation. This obliterates future opportunities for surveillance and collection of evidence, as the subject will be on high-alert.
Do Your Homework
Prior to a stake-out or any form of field surveillance, private investigators must conduct extensive research about the area in order to move fluidly and avoid detection. Study of local businesses and restaurants can inform a private investigator what the public will be doing in the area, and increase their chances of successfully blending in with a crowd. In order to keep a low profile, PIs must place themselves in the mindset of a local. Places like coffee shops, restaurants, or shopping malls can be ideal places for surveillance, as there are built-in explanations for a person sitting or milling about without purpose for extended periods of time. In situations where this is not the case, it’s important for the investigator to have a method for making themselves appear occupied to cover their presence in an area. Luckily, a person staring at their phone for large blocks of time will raise no alarms with the subject or anyone else. Books, laptops, or accompaniment by an associate for “lunch” are also tried-and-true covers. Many private investigation periodicals recommend conducting as much online research as possible prior to surveillance in order to limit exposure. This means searching public databases, combing news articles, and scraping social media to arm oneself with as much information as possible.
Blending in is the name of the game when you’re a private investigator.
As mentioned above, everyday citizens are more hypervigilant than ever. Subjects with a history in the criminal justice system or with law enforcement will be even more so. As such, the concept of tailing a subject is becoming less effective, resulting in the private investigator “getting made” by their target. Subjects will recognize the same face after multiple sightings, even if it is in a crowd, and strange vehicles parked in the same location for hours at a time are sure to draw suspicion. This is where thorough research with a private investigator’s client can become invaluable. Reconnaissance at the hands of a client can provide the investigator with information allowing them to be more inconspicuous when following a subject from location to location. For example, a spouse suspicious of infidelity can provide the private investigator with their spouse’s daily schedule—what time they wake up, their morning routine, addresses for their employment, frequent lunch locations, extra-curricular activities, the addresses of friends’ homes, the list goes on and on.
Even the most catlike of private investigators will have their covers blown from time to time. That’s why it’s imperative to have a bulletproof cover story. If they’ve done their research, private investigators can be ready with a plausible reason for being in the area, such as house-hunting, shopping, or just being plain lost and in need of direction. These quick explanations will cause a subject to lower their guard and reconsider their suspicion. Just as is the case with any deception, too many details pierce the veil. Being caught with surveillance equipment like cameras or microphones will also require explanation, but in a culture saturated with technology, this can also be easily explained. Camera drawing too much attention? Not if you’re a professional photographer on assignment. Microphone too conspicuous? It’s no longer a stretch to believe the average citizen is a fledgling podcaster or filmmaker recording “foley” or “walla” noise for their project.
As is the case with many professions, media and culture have defined the role of private investigator as one for a man, which often leaves women out of the conversation. However, it could be argued female private investigators have a much better chance of remaining undetected in surveillance. While social code continues to grow and develop, women are often socialized to diminish themselves—to listen, not speak. Follow instead of lead. Men are socialized to be forward and confident in the interest of being some kind of alpha, while women are known to be better at reading a room, picking up on behavioral cues that might inform their investigation, and their perceived gentility improves their chances of a subject or witness trusting and opening up to them. These aspects of our society are the same ones preventing citizens from suspending disbelief when a woman is accused of a violent crime. A woman would never do that. This allows a female private investigator to conduct field surveillance with more freedom.
Technology has spiked over the last 25 years at astronomical proportions, and our population’s socialization has changed dramatically since the invention of social media. While this may have hampered private investigators in their work, the proper tools, flexible strategies, and an analytical mind can get the job done. Whatever a private investigator’s method for remaining inconspicuous in the field, there is no doubt that as society changes, so must their methodology.
Why Private Investigators Have an Advantage Over Police
For months, the family of 5-year-old Lucas Hernandez wondered if they would ever have answers in his mysterious disappearance. On the day he disappeared, he was left in the care of his father’s girlfriend, Emily Glass. In the missing persons report, Glass told investigators on February 17th, 2018, she saw Lucas playing in his room around three in the afternoon. She then took a shower and fell asleep. When she awoke around six in the evening, Lucas was nowhere to be found.
Law enforcement in Wichita investigated for months, unearthing no credible leads into Lucas’ disappearance. Months later, on May 24th, locals were shocked after a private investigator blew the case wide open by informing law enforcement Emily Glass had led them to the decomposing remains of little Lucas under a nearby bridge. Why would Glass, after dealing with law enforcement for months, only then break her silence regarding her knowledge of the little boy’s body? The answer is as simple as this: Private investigators have advantages law enforcement do not when it comes to conducting concurrent independent investigations in criminal and missing persons cases.
So how is a private investigator’s approach different from the approach of a local, state, or federal law enforcement agency? The first thing to consider is the caseload of most law enforcement agencies. From the moment an initial report is made, in both criminal and missing persons cases, law enforcement have the meticulous and overwhelming task of gathering evidence to build a case that will secure justice on behalf of the victims and the state. Crime scenes need to be mined for evidence by medical examiners and crime scene technicians. Detectives and other investigators need to canvass witnesses—sometimes dozens of people—in the area who might have seen or heard something. Now imagine the workload of one case multiplied by 40 or 50 times. An audit conducted in Portland Oregon in 2007 reviewed law enforcement data from Portland itself, and nine other surrounding cities, to conclude the average caseload for a detective in Portland was a median of 54. This is compared to a 5-year average of 56 cases. Knowing statistics like these are similar in law enforcement agencies all across the country, it’s easy to see how the progress of cases might slow to a crawl. Agencies are overwhelmed, and this is where private investigators have the advantage. Private investigators may only handle one or two cases at a time, giving them their full focus and attention. Wichita law enforcement might have faced similar challenges of an overwhelming caseload when it came to investigating Lucas Hernandez’s disappearance. An article released by the Wichita Eagle in mid-December of 2017 revealed, as of publication, there were still ten homicides from the year 2017 remaining unsolved as the new year approached.
Another compelling advantage for private investigators might initially sound like a disadvantage: Private investigators have no powers of arrest. It seems counter-intuitive that a private investigator may use the same tools as law enforcement, ask the same questions, and may even come to the same conclusion as law enforcement without the ability to arrest a suspect for the crime. However, the case of Hernandez showcased exactly why a private investigator—and their inability to arrest—broke the case wide open. Jim Murray of Star Investigations told KMBC News in Kansas, “We’re less of a threat sometimes to people that we’re talking to because we have no powers of arrest,” said Jim. “We can’t arrest them.” This could explain why Emily Glass finally led a private investigator to Lucas’s body, because she knew they could not put handcuffs on her in that moment.
Unfortunately, family members and locals will never have the truth about what happened to Lucas. In the wake of the private investigator’s discovery, autopsy reports were found to be inconsistent with what Glass told both police and the PI, but before the People could build a case against her, Glass was found dead from an apparent suicide. However, were it not for the efforts of the private investigator, Lucas’s father may never have had answers in his son’s disappearance.
Carie McMichael is the Communications and Media Specialist for Lauth Investigations International, writing about investigative topics such as missing persons and corporate investigations. To learn more about what we do, please visit our website.
In recent months, many Americans have been receiving calls from parts of the country they have never heard from before. They wonder to themselves, “Who could possibly be calling me from Bristol, Rhode Island? I don’t know anyone in Bristol.” They accept the call, and a voice will tell them that an agent with their firm has reviewed their case file, discovering that they hundreds of dollars in credit card debt, and must pay it all immediately, or else face a smattering of other fees for failure to pay. Fraught with the anxiety of their credit score tanking, they address an envelope to the P.O. box where the voice instructs them to send a check for the full amount. Before they place that envelope in the mail, hopefully they’ll realize they’ve just received a robocall.
They’re almost commonplace nowadays, regarded as more of a nuisance rather than a crime. Strange numbers automatically dial out to phone customers across the country, claiming they’ve won a free cruise or asking for donations to a fraudulent cause. However, many Americans are still not certain about what robocalls are, or the fact that most kinds are illegal.
Robocalls are just one of the latest tools in committing consumer fraud over the phone. There is a great deal of legislation distinguishing which types of robocalls are legal. Conventionally they permit robocalls that convey important and/or emergency information, about things like school closures or natural disasters. With the rise of robocalls at the beginning of the millennium, the National Do Not Call Registry was established so that consumers could place themselves on a list in order to avoid them. However, legitimate telemarketing firms are still allowed to contact you over the phone for legal business, as long as your number is not listed on the Do Not Call registry, and you have not formally opted out of receiving phone communication from the business. Indiana law specifically requires that all prerecorded messages that bot calls are famous for must be introduced by a live operator, as well as providing an address where the caller can be reached.
These types restrictions have forced the “robo-callers” to evolve and adapt. Conventional methods of blocking robocalls have been successful in nearly extinguishing the presence of calls to landlines. With smartphones only growing in use throughout the country, the technology designed to stop robocalls has not yet been perfected for them. The good news is that consumers (like the one receiving robo-debt-collection-calls) are never without resolve when it comes to harassing calls from a number claiming to be a collection agency.
Regardless of whom the robocall claims to represent, there is no legal obligation to speak to anyone over the phone. In the event that the call is legitimate, it is perfectly legal to communicate through your personal or business legal representation. If the call is legitimate, the lawyer can represent your interests and review your options with you. If you are without representation, you can also retain the services of a private investigator to ensure that the call is legitimate. The internet provides the ability to perform a reverse-lookup of suspicious or unfamiliar phone number, but most websites require that you pay for the search results, and after you pay, it might turn out that the information is inaccurate. The professional services of a private investigator allow them access to specific tools that provide accurate information to verify the legitimacy of the robocall. Bearing in mind that there is no agency sanctioned to harass you via telephone, consumers who sign up for the National Do Not Call Registry might find this is an imperfect solution. It will merely put you on a no-contact list required to be observed by all accredited, registered businesses. Although there might be a decrease in unsolicited calls, it still does not prevent illegitimate businesses to contact you with robocalls.
The best recommendation that the Federal Trade Commission has made to consumers who are the victim of robocalls on their smartphones is downloading a third-party mobile app that uses both the hardware and the software of a smartphone to block robocalls from plaguing your mobile device,” “Call blocking apps let you create blacklists – lists of numbers to block from calling your cell phone. Many of these apps also create their own blacklist databases from numbers that have received significant consumer complaints. They also let you create whitelists – numbers to allow – that are broader than just your personal contacts.” This process has so far proven very effective. As users utilize the application, it builds a stronger wall that keeps unwanted robocalls out.
The days of telemarketers who always call during dinner are long gone. Now robots are doing the dialing work. As technology advances, Americans feel more and more paranoid about ways the criminal element might have access to their money. Robocalls have only made it simpler to manipulate vulnerable consumers into parting with their hard-earned income. The Federal Trade Commission is attempting to evolve even faster than scammers, developing technology similar to apps like RoboKiller and Nomorbo that can keep robocall schemes at arm’s length. Professionals like lawyers and private investigators are invaluable sources when validating the legitimacy of a robocall a consumer fears might be legitimate. The most important resource, however, is an informed consumer. Vigilance and skepticism are the first line of defense when dealing with robocall consumer fraud.