These days it appears as though there are detective agencies springing up all over the country but don’t be fooled! A little digging shows that many of these companies are not based in this country at all. One is in Germany with another operating out of Asia for example. These type of companies are popping up all over the place. They all list an enormous range of services and claim to be local but once you get to the actual contact stage, you find yourself with no local number to call or even worse, no number whatsoever, only an email contact form.
I contacted one such company (in Germany) to see what the story was. I posed as a prospective client wanting surveillance services. I was quoted an absolutely exorbitant amount of money which I pretended was agreeable just to keep things going. I then pushed to meet “my investigator” to discuss my case which is quite a reasonable request, one would have thought considering that I could be parting with large sums of money according to their quote, but beside the point, it would be not unusual to want to meet the person who will be undertaking my investigation, would it? Of course, as there was no representation in the Czech Republic for me to actually meet with, I was told after some dancing around that “it wasn’t allowed” which led me to directly ask if the company actually had representation in this country. The individual hung up on me.
Another who seems to be based everywhere from the Cook Islands, to India to Prague and actually owns in excess of 400 websites as it seems they have been buying up domain names like (country)privateinvestigators.com to cover every conceivable geographical location.
I do not wish to waste any more of my time checking out these companies, I feel that the picture is clear.
Be aware that these companies exist and it is wise to do a little due diligence yourself and ensure that your investigation agency is a local one, with local knowledge and contacts and all of the other elements that a good investigator needs to do a good job. Do not be fooled by companies who claim they have teams of investigators all running around internationally, when in reality there are very few who employ lots of full time investigators. The reason is due to the fact that it is much more efficient and cost effective to have people who work as required as the skills needed differ from job to job. It is normal to have a core range of services that are offered and concentrate on those and it is in these areas that expertise will have been developed. Websites that are offering reams and reams of services are simply trying to cast their net wide and will doubtfully have any experience or expertise in many of the services they offer (if any at all.) This may also indicate that their primary concern is with your cash and not with the business of investigation or quality of work produced but this is pure speculation.
So before you rush in, check that the website is in the native tongue of the country it purports to be from, that you are able to speak with your investigator should you wish to and that there is a local contact number for you to call. As a detective, I am happy to meet/chat with my clients about their cases. Why wouldn’t I be? I am working on your behalf, I have nothing to hide from you. We are on the same side! If you come across a company where this is difficult, think again, you may be talking to someone in India who has no real investigative ability or experience in the Czech Republic at all.…
HACKING, CRACKING & INTERNET SECURITY
A commonly asked question is can you get me the password for Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo...? The answer to the question is yes I can and due to the frequency that this question is asked I thought that it is a topic that needed discussing. In order to protect oneself online, there are some simple measures that you can take, however many people do not seek to protect themselves very well at all.
Firewalls and Anti-Virus software will go some way towards protecting you and I think, lead people into a false sense of security. But these developers are in a constant circle of one up-man-ship with those who have the ability to bypass such systems. It is really a question of who is in the lead today? Or right at this minute? Do you pay attention to how often your anti virus has to update itself? If set up correctly, it does it constantly. What does that tell you?
There is more than one way to skin a cat and the area of internet security becomes more and more complex as weaknesses are exploited in hardware that we all use to connect to the outside world. Routers, ports, servers and so on are all things we use every day but many of do not even know what these things are.
A computer is the one piece of equipment that people buy that they do not know how to operate properly. You wouldn't try to use your home entertainment system without correct installation and several manuals to guide you through how it all works and fits together and yet people are willing to risk their personal and information and expose themselves to all kinds of risk because they do not take the time to do a little reading to understand what their computer is actually doing and how the information they send in emails gets from A to B.
Now, the simple truth is that if someone wants to get in to your computer they probably can, if they know what they are doing but this level of hacking is normally targeted at an individual for a reason because it is complicated and time consuming and so generally the average Joe is not likely to experience a hack of this calibre from a determined hacker but even with that said, it is simply not wise to assume that because you think that no one wants to get into your system specifically, you are safe from the whole range of attack that falls underneath this level of infiltration.
It is a very common mis-conception that Mac computers are immune to infiltration by a third party and this leads to an incorrect sense of security as I can tell you that it is an absolute fallacy. Mac computers are still computers connected to the same servers and routers that PC's are and although PC computers are much more easy to attack, Macs are certainly not immune.
To give an idea of the realm of possibility, it would take someone who knew what they were doing about 5 minutes to remotely access a computer on the other side of the world and start recording ALL the activity taking place on that machine and delivering in secretly back to the hacker without the user having any idea that they were being watched. It is even possible to melt the hard drive if one was so maliciously inclined. The owner could even search through the applications and processes running on their system and STILL never know that there was someone there. Hackers constantly develop encryption tools that are renewed so frequently the anti virus programs can not keep up with them and its that encryption that keeps them undetectable on the computers system.
So what can you do? Well this topic is so vast that is simply not possible to cover here. Its down to you. It's YOUR responsibility to protect yourself and if you don't, then that is a decision you should make with a lot of thought.
There are many things you can do to make things more tricky for a hacker. I am amazed and the range of freely available tools that are sitting there online for you to use but so few people actually bother to use them! I recommend you do yourself a favour and spend sometime educating yourself as to how your computer and the internet actually work. How does it connect to the outside world and by doing this you will start to understand it's vulnerabilities. Type "Internet Security Tools" into Google and with a little poking about you will soon uncover plenty of little tweaks that will go a long way to keeping your computer safe. There are a lot of companies like AVG or Norton that offer Internet Security Packages. I do not recommend these as all they are is a collection of generic tools that are in widespread use and hackers know how to get through them. Find your own tools, make you own tool box and you will, after a while see what works for you and what doesn't.
Think about your IP address that is sent out over the internet screaming "I'm over here!!" to all and sundry everytime you send an email. Consider how your information is travelling from A to B (what IS that box in the corner with flashing lights on doing? Then where does it go and via what and where. How does that information actually leave my computer. An average computer can have up to 65,535 ports and thats a normal figure! That's a lot of entrances and exits! A hacker can spoof their computer so your router thinks their computer is actually yours so how do you prevent them being able to do that in the first place?
Yes I know it all seems like a lot of work but as I said before, it is probably the only piece of high tech equipment that you own that you don't really know what it does. So go and find out. You may thank yourself for it later...
COST & EXPECTATIONS OF SURVEILLANCE
Because we understand that our clients do not have infinite resources we like to work out a realistic budget with them. In this way the client keeps control of the cost of the operation and feels more comfortable.
However it does happen that the client dictates at what times he wishes a surveillance to take place, in the mistaken belief that if we do an hour here and an hour there, this will be more cost effective. The truth is that often, this is not the best way in which to operate. Surveillance does need a good chunk of time thrown at it, normally a minimum of ten hours, this is why we normally take a deposit for this amount.
We need to be there well before any movement occurs to cover ourselves if something happens earlier than expected (which it often does) and then of course, to stay with it to get results. By setting aside one time period instead of several small ones, we can focus on a day/time when the action is most likely rather than a hit and miss approach which of course ends up being more costly in the end.
Surveillance is an excellent way to get results but it does mean spending money, but as I mentioned before, this cost can be controlled. It is wise to take our advice as to the best approach for any operation as we will seek the most cost effective manner in which to undertake your case.
Expectations of surveillance vary wildly and it should be remembered that we are not able to work magic! We can only respond to the environment and the situations before us. We simply can not get hold of information that simply isn't even there or follow someone who is not there anymore.
Some people have trouble understanding that we can not break into peoples houses or into buildings and the like but we do have a wealth of experience and also technology to assist us in ways that prospective clients are probably not aware of.
As a client you need to have a realistic expectation as to what we will be able to do for you, understand the likely results you will gain from us and an idea of how much it is likely to cost. You are not only paying for our professional experience and the use of our technology but for our time. If we go on a surveillance and nothing happens, you will still be charged!
We are always happy to answer your enquiries which may raise more questions which again, we will be happy to answer for you. The more information you give us, the more we can give you, making for a good working relationship with a reasonable idea as to the outcome.
Sadly there has been a rise in the amount of thefts that take place in the workplace over recent years.
The real estate business seems to be one of the industries that seems to present good opportunities for someone willing to steal from their employers and fortunately this is a very easy issue to overcome.
I have come across (one case in particular) where the employee had stolen over a million krones over a period of a few years. We were able to pinpoint the employee responsible in quite a short period of time; and, confronted with our concrete evidence, the employee found that they were not in a position to argue.
In these times of economic difficulty it may seem like a worthwhile thing to do, from the employee's point of view, however employers are not getting more savvy in their employee integrity checks and covert employee monitoring. I have seen a rise in such enquiries grow significantly in the last couple of years.
It really is worth investing in the truth if you suspect that you employees may be acting in an illegal manner because from my experience, you will save yourself a lot of money in the long term.
CAN I WORK FOR YOU?
I am asked this question a lot and the answer, most of the time is sadly, no.
I was fortunate to enter this field and be trained by some very high level people who had the time and resource to guide me through the early stages until I became competent in my own right.
These days I do not have the time to train someone up in this way and therefore would only consider applications from those with previous experience in the field.
I do not work alone. I do call upon others with very specialized backgrounds who assist me as and when necessary. All I need to do is brief them on the job and they are immediately ready to go.
A good example is mobile surveillance. That is a surveillance involving cars rather than one undertaken on foot. I was taught to do this by an instructor that trained the Police in the Thames Valley area in the UK, many years ago. As vehicle surveillance is very dangerous and involves a huge amount of skill even when speed is not involved, not only does one have to employ advanced driving techniques that must have been taught by a professional, but it is also necessary to keep up a running commentary to others involved in the surveillance using a particular language that leaves no room for misunderstanding and therefore errors. This is the ultimate in multitasking as your attention can not be focussed on just one thing but must be on many things and all at the same level and that level must be high enough to never endanger the lives of others.
Even on foot, following someone is not easy and those who are not professionals tend to stand in the wrong place, in the worng position at the wrong time and thus their cover is blown straight away.
Surveillance is always considered the most "exciting" part of being a Private Eye and indeed it can be. Especially when working on high level cases but it is in fact a very difficult thing to do that involves a lot of skill built up through experience.
It is simply not possible to sit and watch someone and think they will not see you! Our expertise lies in the ability to position ourselves with minimum visabilty while being able to maintain a direct "eyes on" position at all times. Including if we have to move for one reason or another. This all takes planning in advance.
We will go and have a good look around well before the job is to take place to ensure we know where everyone is and where we will move and how ensuring the minimum of error whilst on the job.
It should be remembered that surveillance is entirely dependent on the person(s) we are observing. If they move, we move. If they do not leave the house, we stay. I often get asked how long the job will take and this, of course, is a difficult question to answer for these reasons. As an example, if I am working on a fidelity case and the target and "other" leave the premises and walk down the road, this alone is no evidence at all. The target could say 100 different reasons as to what they were doing. We need incriminating activity as evidence and I need the target to take such action that I can document. I can not walk up and ask them to kiss while I take a picture! So the surveillance question of how long will it take is the same question as how long is a piece of string.
To be as accommodating to our clients as we can, we normally work out budget limits etc before we commence the job. Surveillance is an excellent tool and yealds the correct information 90% of the time so its worth the time and effort.
ANOTHER SUCCESSFUL TRACE
One of the most pleasing aspects of my work is when I am asked to trace a missing family member.
I was asked if I was able to perform a a trace for an individual who had managed to lose track of his brother and hadn't seen him for more than 25 years.
It took me 3 days to come up with 3 possible leads, one of which was the correct person. My client flew to the UK and is now building a relationship and catching up on those lost years.
There are many reasons why people go missing but sometimes, like in this case, it just sort of happens.
Both parties were very happy to see each other especially as there had been new and young additions to the family.
I always like these type of cases as the do represent a challenge and often with a joyous outcome.
HOW DO WE UNDERTAKE A CASE?
Each case that is presented to us is different from the last although many follow a similar theme.
It should be noted that the reason people approach us is because they wish to use our expertise and yet it is often difficult for me to find out from the client what it is they want!
Why is this? Well, our clients have normally spent some time thinking about their case and how they want it solved but the issue here is that they do not know the techniques, systems or know the capabilities we have in what area.
When approaching a Detective with your case, the best way is to tell the Detective clearly what you wish the result to be. For example: I need photographs of my cheating husband or I wish to prove my employee is stealing from me or I need to know where this car goes every day; and we will work out how its done.
What often happens is my client will start to tell me how they wish me to do something, which they can not really do without knowing the tools we have at our disposal! The reason you employ us is because we know and understand how to do it better than you! Which is why you came to us, so when you contact us we will ask you for relevant information as we see fit but we will also ask you for the full and truthful "back story" to the case. The reason for this is so we can have a complete understanding of the case as sometimes opportunities arise we can take advantage of if we have certain information. We may not know what that information will be or when we may use it in the course of your case or indeed if we will use it at all, however by having the whole accurate picture, you end up with a whole and accurate result. So please be as comprehensive as possible and of course always honest..or you could end up putting your own investigation in jeopardy if your hired investigator either doesn't know something or has inaccurate information.
What we do is confidential by nature and we are not easily shocked. Trust me, we have heard every story imaginable! So be honest and complete with us please.