by admin_lauth | Apr 26, 2019 | Corporate Investigations, Investigations, Resources, Tips & Facts, Workplace
What is a corporate crisis? While exact definitions may differ, a corporate crisis is generally defined as “an event, situation, or public initiative that threatens the company’s ability to effectively operate its business. A crisis can escalate into a disaster or long-term impediment to business growth if not handled with efficiency and sensitivity to all involved.” This is a large umbrella that encompasses many of the internal issues we associate with companies, including (but not limited to) fraud, theft, misconduct, and harassment of all kinds.
A majority of corporate crises fall into one of three categories: personnel, systemic, and contextual.
- A personnel crisis is an internal issue that is a direct result of an individual employee or a group of employees’ bad behavior. Theft by personnel is one of the most widely-reported crises in corporations throughout America. The scope of this problem can be as small as stealing office supplies all the way up to executive embezzlement. Sexual harassment is a type of personnel crisis receiving a welcomed new level of attention in corporations. In the age of the #MeToo movement, corporations are viewing their workforce very differently when it comes to identifying potential predators in their midst in the name of a “pound of cure.” Prudent steps taken when vetting potential hires and current employees has saved companies difficulties down the line, especially in legal fees and public relations.
- A systemic crisis refers to a major breakdown in operations negatively impacting business. A common example is food service corporations that receive a sudden influx of food poisoning complaints. Source of the outbreak may be traced back to how the supplier or distributor handled the food product, and suddenly, there’s a systemic crisis: A misstep in operations led to a large sum of incidents. Systemic problems manifest themselves in many forms, including external theft. Repeated theft, both in cyberspace and the real world, is often the result of insufficient security within a company. Consequently, the company incurs loss because they remain vulnerable. Companies who have chronic turnover due to employee misconduct may have flaws in their vetting system for potential employees. That is another example of a crucial operation where a breakdown occurs and erodes a company’s profits with labor hours to hire a new individual to fill a vacant position.
- A contextual crisis has exponential consequences for a business relative to its size. These are the types of crises that companies cannot anticipate, because they influence public perception of their brand based on real-life events. A major news story like a mass shooting, or a major criminal case, or a lawsuit, can negatively impact a brand even if that event is not directly associated with that company. These external events can drastically change a company’s internal operations, and can weigh heavy on employees at every level. Sexual harassment is another example of this type of crisis in motion. The media coverage regarding high-level Hollywood executives like Harvey Weinstein and his alleged history of abuse have executives in companies of all shapes and sizes revisiting their human resource policies and practices when it comes to addressing sexual misconduct in the workplace. Internal operations receive a major overhaul to the benefit of a healthier work environment for everyone.
When it comes to corporate crises, not all businesses will be able to afford specialized investigators to work in-house to resolve issues that arise. Even if they can afford these professionals, investigators employed by the company—regardless of the quality of their work—by definition cannot provide a truly objective solution to any problem. Because they’re employed by the corporation, they have a potential stake in the outcome of the investigation, whether that stake be real or perceived. Hiring an independent professional, like a licensed private investigator, to conduct an external investigation is the best way to ensure that the solution is objective. This is particularly important personnel crises, because terminating personnel based on an unbiased investigation is kerosene for a disgruntled employee that can manifest itself with many devastating consequences—most commonly wrongful termination lawsuits. Private investigators can assist in systemic crises as well, like the example of repeated thefts with regards to security. Private investigators who specialize in different kinds of risk assessment can identify a company’s vulnerabilities to thieves and scammers, and provide them with a game plan to improve their security.
If your business has encountered a corporate crisis, call Lauth Investigations International today for a free consultation. Learn how we can provide you with an objective solution to your corporate crisis. Call 317-951-1100, or learn more about our services here.
by admin_lauth | Mar 28, 2019 | Consumer Fraud, Cyber Crime, Cyber Investigations, Fraud, Personal Investigations, Phishing, Resources, Tips & Facts
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.
by admin_lauth | Feb 21, 2019 | Consumer Fraud, Cyber Crime, Cyber Investigations, Fraud, Phishing, Technology
Smartphones have become such an integral part of our everyday lives that many users joke their devices have become grafted to their hands. We use them to maintain contact in our work and personal lives, correspond through email and social media, and a bulk of Americans have made the transition to conducting their banking through the use of mobile applications. As developers continue their bottomless pursuit to create an app for everything, more and more of our real, flesh-and-blood lives are being stored on our phones: personal details, account numbers, passwords, and other sensitive information that could be misused if it fell into the wrong hands. That’s why smartphone users have to educate themselves on the specifics of a scam called “SIM card swapping.”
What is SMS?
For many telephone, internet, and smart device developers, SMS (short message service) text messaging is the cornerstone of their services. As of 2010, it was the most utilized service provided by communication companies with 3.5 billion users. It became a vital tool in direct marketing campaigns and remains one of the most popular forms of communication in younger users. Because of the ubiquity of smartphones, many companies that require a two-step authentication process for their users’ security implement SMS as a secure means of accessing information. For example, you attempt to log in to your bank account, correctly entering your username and secure password. It’s not uncommon for banking apps to prompt a second form of verification, so the app tells you it will now be sending a four-digit verification code to your phone that you must enter on the app to confirm that you are who you say you are. The code is sent to your phone via SMS. Once this information is transmitted over SMS, users are often derelict in deleting that information from their devices. This is where users are vulnerable to the scam.
How SIM swap scams work
Smartphone users who have lost their phone or who have been the victim of a theft often have the ability to call their mobile provider and provide their secure information in order to have the provider remotely wipe the SIM card and have that information transferred to another phone. Thieves in search of secure information will use tools like phishing mail campaigns, posing as legitimate companies like insurance and credit card companies to get the victim to willingly hand over identifying information such as date of birth, address, and phone number. Once they have enough identifying information, they will call the victim’s mobile provider and pose as a customer. They claim they’ve lost their phone or their phone was stolen from them. Then, using the victim’s identifying information, they will request that the mobile provider remotely wipe their old SIM card and rewrite it to the SIM card in their new device. Just like that, the thief has any and all information that has ever been transmitted via SMS text. This leaves accounts, email inboxes, and secure information vulnerable to fraud. “A high proportion of banking customers now have mobile phone numbers linked with their accounts,” fraud prevention consultant, Emma Mohan-Satta, told Digital Trends, “and so this attack is becoming common in some regions where this attack was not previously so common. Unlike mobile malware, SIM fraud attacks are usually aimed at profitable victims who have been specifically targeted through successful social engineering.”
Who is vulnerable?
Anyone who uses their smartphone as part of a two-step authentication is vulnerable to a SIM card swap scam. Once the thief has their hands on your personal information, they can devastate you in minutes by performing bank transfers, rerouting mail, and making purchases in your name. If the SIM card contained any compromising information, such as lewd photos or inappropriate communication with another person, the perpetrators can use that information to blackmail a victim into paying a tidy sum in exchange for the return of the compromising data. A victim named Tina told Motherboard, “This just happened to me over the weekend. I lost service late Saturday night and assumed it was an issue with my always buggy iPhone. Then on Sunday morning my husband got a text from T-Mobile saying that a line on our phone plan had been cancelled (mine) and i soon discovered that $1200 had wired out of my bank account to someone in [redacted] with my same last name.”
While the cost to a single individual can be devastating, a sophisticated thief can do even more to topple a business like a house of cards. It’s common practice for some types of employers to issue their employees a company cell phone to facilitate business, and in this day and age, that almost certainly means a smart phone. Correspondence between coworkers, appointments, account numbers, and sensitive company information can be exposed and exploited for gain. Companies that carry high financial sums in their accounts can be ruined before they even realize there’s a problem.
How to protect yourself
Dependence on smart phones to facilitate two-step authentication plagues many users throughout the country who enjoy the convenience of verifying their identity through SMS. Luckily, tech sites like Motherboard recommend a few ways you can protect your identity and your monies.
Beef up account security
Many major cell phone service providers are developing new methods of two-step authentication in light of the rise of SIM card swap scams. Many offer their customers the option to set up a secure PIN for their account, completely separate from the login information used to access their account. The PIN is used as a primary verification feature specifically for when customers call into the support center for SIM card-related issues. Previously, many providers opted for a security question for this type of authentication, but the answers to these security questions can often be found on a victim’s social media, such as, “Which high school did you attend?” This way, the PIN is never transmitted through SMS text messaging, and no personal information from a social media profile can be used against them.
Don’t link your number to your online accounts
Once a thief has access to your account, they can easily reset your password and other authentication methods, making it very difficult to quash the problem. Instead of linking your mobile cell phone to your accounts, you can choose a different sort of number, such as a Google Voice number.
Many individuals and companies bypass security measures for a number of reasons, such as lack of time, interest, or the mere belief that they could never be the victim of a SIM card swapping scam. The reality is that it can happen to anyone, and there’s no shortage of victims for scammers. Users who practice their due-diligence can build a security to block them out. When the scammer hits this wall, they simply move on to the next target. Educate yourself and ensure that target isn’t you.
Carie McMichael is the Communication and Media Specialist for Lauth Investigations International. For more information on investigation topics, missing persons, and corporate solutions, please visit our website.
by admin_lauth | Nov 2, 2018 | Resources, Technology, Threat & Violence, Threat Violence Assessment Evergreen, Tips & Facts
Active Shooter Training in the Workplace
So far this year, there have been 297 mass shootings
in the United States. Seeing as how November 1st
is the 305th
day in the calendar year, it would appear that the spike in active shooter events in recent years will not slow down any time soon. While schools redefine their safety protocols and implement programs that prepare students for these events, employers throughout the United States are also beginning to understand the importance of preparing their workforce for an active shooter event.
The year of 2017 broke the record for the most mass-shooting deaths every recorded—112 deaths
, well exceeding the amount in any other year in recorded history. In 2018, the Bureau of Labor Statistics
published a report that showed another spike in workplace homicides. According to them, there were 83 workplace homicides in 2015, a number that skyrocketed to 500 for the year of 2018 alone. A terrifying 79% of those cases were the result of an active shooter. As a result, the desire for employee active shooter training has never been higher, with NPR
reporting that as of 2016, 75-80% of employers are seeking qualified active shooter training to protect their workforce.
The Department of Homeland Security
has a myriad of resources on their website for dealing with active shooters. One of them is a pocket-card that outlines the characteristics of an active shooter event, “Victims are selected at random. The event is unpredictable and evolves quickly. Law enforcement is usually required to end an active shooter situation.” Active shooters may fire at random, using no discernible criteria for their victims, but that arbitration should not be misunderstood. Perpetrators are deliberate, focused, and simultaneously detached from their task, creating a fatal perfect storm.
The Department of Homeland Security also have their own guidelines to how private citizens should react during an active shooter event: Run—hide—fight
At the onset of an active shooter event, individuals should immediately identify an escape route, most likely a fire exit. While keeping their hands visible, they should leave their belongings behind and run to safety as quick as possible, assisting others if needed.
Once they’ve reached safety (or if escape is impossible) the Department of Homeland Security recommends hiding immediately in a location out of the shooter’s line of sight. Individuals should block the door or manner of entry into their hiding spot and silence their cell phones and pagers. Sit very quietly and wait for first-responders to find you.
The Department of Homeland Security lists this option as an absolute last resort in the event of an active shooter in the workplace. Your life should be in immediate danger, and you should be well-positioned to act with physical aggression and incapacitate the shooter.
Many third-party security companies also endorse the methods of Homeland Security, but there are others that take a different approach. Laurence Barton, a workplace violence expert, recommends employers seek training programs that promote a culture of safety and preparedness—not fear. In lieu of careful research regarding active shooter training, many employers opt for the simple, cost-effective route by showing employees the prolific training video produced by the city of Houston, which features graphic depictions of employees being shot. “When some companies have created these videos that show blood and guts—that’s not in any way the kind of learning that stays with people. In fact, it repulses them…employees get scared,” Barton says, “I just don’t believe scaring people is the way to teach them. It just promotes anxiety.” Aric Mutchnick, the president of a risk management firm called the Experior Group
, agrees with Barton, “Cops or military guys like to have it very realistic because they think the more real it is, the more they can find out. That is true if you’re a tactical team, but you can’t apply tactical training to a civilian population.” Mutchnick points out that the equal distribution of choice laid down by the Department of Homeland Security—run, hide, or fight—is not only dangerous, but unrealistic, “It should be 90 percent run, 8 percent hide until you can run
, and then as for fight, really? Are you kidding? I don’t know how you would even train on that.” Companies like Experior Group also recommend that a base knowledge of firearms should also be part of the training, not so employees can operate firearms, but so their knowledge can inform their escape. Civilians who are ignorant of basic firearm operations can easily be paralyzed by fear because they are uncertain of a weapons range or magazine size. This gives an active shooter ample opportunity to change their position and reload without fear of retaliation.
Frozen with fear—it’s something we can all relate to. After all, many working people today are not acclimated to the viable, potential threat of an active shooter in the workplace. Aggressive, hyper-realistic training can compound the anxiety triggered by the increased probability of being involved in an active shooter event. That’s why Barton and other like-minded professionals epitomize on a feeling of safety, with straightforward and honest training that will leave any employee feeling prepared. “The chief learning officer has a huge opportunity to lead a discussion about workplace safety. [Employees] are yearning to be informed about how the world is changing and how threats get processed at work…You want to have a subject matter expert who works with law enforcement and can speak the language of all employees.”
One thing that employers often overlook when considering active shooter training programs is a company that curtails the training to their individual brick and mortar location. As part of what they call “red ball drills,” Experior Group will evaluate the property to identify the specific issues that might present during an active shooter event. “The problems of a commercial building are not the problems of a hospital or a school,” Mutchnick says. “Run, hide, fight is s giant blanket they throw over the problem as a response, but it doesn’t deal with any site-specific issues.” All training dispensed by Experior Group is tailor-made for the culture and physical context of any business. When these issues have been identified, the instructor can direct employees the best manner of exit, should they have that option.
The last thing to consider when choosing an active shooter training program is the credibility behind the operations. Some of the most prolific risk management and security companies are headed by former members of law enforcement or the military. This experience with weapons and chaos not only validates the content for many employers, but also leaves employees empowered with credible knowledge. However, former navy seals and swat team leaders are not the only option when it comes to the instructor. Lauren Perry, the vice president of operations for Trident Shield, often addresses training groups. Her specific style and feminine touch opens the dialogue in any room, allowing individuals who might not respond to an aggressive, alpha males to remain engaged in the training, retaining the information that might one day save their lives.
Many employers often grapple with the cost of active shooter training for their employees. With many training programs averaging in the realm of thousands of dollars, employers often question whether or not active shooter training is even necessary. The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 says, “Employers have the responsibility to provide a safe and healthful workplace that is free from serious recognized hazards.” The rise of active shooter events in the United States is most certainly recognized, with every event further inflaming the political world and conversations surrounding gun control. Given the statistics we’ve seen here, it appears as though it’s not a matter of if an active shooter even will occur, but when
Carie McMichael is the Communication and Media Specialist for Lauth Investigations International. She regularly writes on private investigation and missing persons topics. For more information, please visit our website.
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by admin_lauth | Sep 20, 2018 | Corporate Investigations, Criminal Investigation, Forensics
Surveillance capitalism has multiplied the number of eyes on us at all times. Ubiquity of security cameras, traffic cameras, and cell phones with cameras have made it possible for law enforcement to track a suspect’s movements for entire city blocks. And that’s not counting the omnipresent eye of social media, where photo and geo tags can assist law enforcement and private investigators with locating suspects, witnesses, and collect information about a location without having to leave the comfort of their offices in what is now called a “geosocial investigation.”
Before the age of geo-data on social media, employees who called off work on Friday to enjoy a three-day weekend in Atlantic City had no fears of being discovered on Monday by a nosy employer who checked their social media. When social media was in its formative years, a private investigator would be lucky to be scraping the social media of a subject who was indiscriminate about what they chose to post on their Myspace page. Nowadays, employees have to be more cautious regarding posts about their out-of-work activities than ever, with many employees maintaining two Facebook pages—a work Facebook populated by posts that would not offend the most fastidious human resource employee, and a personal Facebook where employees reveal themselves, warts and all, with no regard for who might see the pages. Now, the new reality of surveillance capitalism has changed the world of third-party investigations forever with the assistance of geosocial investigations.
Geosocial investigations are a subset of social media investigations, where the focus of the research centers around a place, rather than a single individual. After all, if you fraudulently submit an FMLA claim that prevents you from working, you’d be very careful not to post any pictures of yourself enjoying vigorous activities, like yard work or hiking. However, if you’re in a group of individuals—all with smartphones and social media profiles of their own—it’s nearly impossible to prevent all pictures of yourself from seeing the light of the internet. This newfound culture of hypervigilance and surveillance may sound like it’s harder for law enforcement and private investigators to squeeze blood from the stone of social media, but where individuals might be protective of their own information online, their friends and relatives may not.
Deriving information on a subject from the social media profiles of their friends and family is a major tenant of geosocial investigations. Exposure online is not limited to pictures. Social media widgets that allow users to check in at specific locations, or add geotags to the photos they post, are also exposing malingering employees during internal investigations. Law enforcement can use this technology to search for social media posts geotagged at the time of an auto-accident in order to locate witnesses. By the same token, they can use it to identify people who are posting in restricted areas where civilians are not allowed. The effect of this technology allows a private investigator to “crowdsource” the information, saving themselves hours of tracking down witnesses and interviewing them.
Geo-social investigations are just one consequence of the world’s newfound surveillance capitalism. As the technology continues to mature and become more sophisticated, social media will continue to expose criminals and malingerers. Employers will see a rise in the exposure of employees abusing FMLA claims. Former employees violating non-compete agreements will be exposed before they have a chance to get a new business venture off the ground. Law enforcement and private investigators will be able to crowdsource investigations with the use of geo-social data.
Carie McMichael is the Media and Communications Specialist for Lauth Investigations International. For more information please visit our website.