Sunday, October 30, 2005

Your comments please...

Until now, readers have not been able to comment on this blog. As of today, that's changed. So, feel free to comment, offer suggestions, or tell us how we can be of better service to you.

It's often a team effort when we work with our clients on a tough case. This blog can be a team effort, too.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Comprehensive Background Checks

A general background check can be performed in two minutes and cost as little as fifty bucks. With that you could get a person's date of birth, Social Security Number (At Sherlock Investigations, we only give out a person's SSN on a need-to-know basis.), address history, relatives, associates and neighbors.

Locating a person's place of employment costs quite a bit more, because of what we have to do to get that information. (Sometimes we have to follow a person to work.) Also, marriage and divorce records cost more. In New York, for example, they're virtually unobtainable. In Massachusetts they're public record in the County Courthouse.

When the FBI conducts a background check on a job applicant, it'll take up to eight months, and cost the government thousands of dollars. Sometimes our clients want this type of background investigation for $500!

At the very minimum, a background check should verify that the person is who they say they are. Of course, it can, and often should, offer much, much more.

Criminal background investigations can be obtained cheaply on the Internet, but they're often worthless. (There is no such thing as a National Criminal Check.) To do a thorough criminal investigation you need to first have positive identifiers on the person. In other words, you need to know who the person really is.

Then you need their address history. The reason for this is that criminal background investigations are carried out on at least 3 levels. We check federal, state, and county records. A person who did a few months in county jails in 4 different states likely will not show up on any Internet searches. One often has to go physically to the county court house in every county where the person has lived.

Criminal background checks should also include a Sex Offender Status check. Then, there's bankruptcies, liens, and judgments, plus civil suits, and even newspaper articles search. Suppose the person that your checking is an alleged crime boss, but has never been convicted. Court checks wouldn't reveal this, but newspaper articles might.

In a pre-employment background check, it's more cost effective to have a resume' or job application to start with. Then, the easiest thing to do is to verify everything the applicant has claimed. This includes the person's real name, address, address history, education, employment history, and references.

One thing we watch out for here is a continuity of dates. Say the person claims to have work on a certain job from January 1995 through March of 2003. The next job listed started on November 2003. There's an 8-month gap there. What was that person doing during those 8 months, unemployed....or in jail?

The hardest kind of background check to do is when you start with a minimal amount of information, such as the person's alleged name. These can be done, but takes much more time and effort. It really depends upon what kind of information the client wants on the target (the person being investigated).

Another thing to watch out for is references. These could be references from previous jobs, or personal references. A good thorough background check also checks out the background of the references, to be sure that they are who the applicant claims they are, and not their brother-in-law or great-aunt.

At Sherlock Investigations we often get cases where the client wants dirt on the target. This can be expensive, and may even require long-term surveillance.

In other cases, we deal with families, usually from India, Pakistan, or the Mid-East, who are arranging marriages for someone in the family. In these cases, we usually have to check out the habits, associates, life-style, and income of the prospective groom (the groom is usually in New York). Again, surveillance is often required in these cases.

Another kind of case we deal with is background investigations of cult leaders. These cults may be religious, political, or economic cults. (I won't take the time to explain the difference here, but see our Dangerous Groups Investigations page on our website for more information, or visit )

To be really effective, these investigations can take a lot of time and money, as they often involve going undercover into one of these groups. A lot of information can be obtained without this drastic step, but going undercover is often the most effective way of getting the dirt on these manipulators.

In a nutshell, it's possible to find out just about anything on anybody. It's really a matter of time and money. Remember, you get what you pay for.

Friday, October 28, 2005

You should write a book!

"You should write a book" is a refrain that I hear often. There's no question about it, there's plenty of material in the Sherlock Case Files for a book. Who knows, maybe someday I will write a book based upon our cases. The problem is, though, I couldn't name names.

We have as clients people in entertainment, the fashion industry, elected officials, non-elected people in high government posts, and just ordinary folks whose lives are very private.

There are too many private investigators who leak items to the media in order to get the resulting publicity. Positive publicity is good for a company like Sherlock Investigations, but not if we have to betray our client's confidence to get it.

In some of our Internet ads we say, "Confidential and personal." We mean just that, and try to give each and every client the personal attention that they need. Beyond that, we keep our mouths shut.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Contact Loved Ones

After hurricane Katrina I wished that I could come up with a way to help people contact loved ones. After all, Sherlock Investigations does a lot of that, but not in the context of a national disaster. I did have some success in locating some distant relatives from New Orleans, but overall, I wanted more.

Well, a guy on Long Island, New York, Dan Schoeffler, has ingenuously done what I wanted to do. His web site is Take a look by clicking on this link:

Dan shares some amazing success stories and even tells us that people can find lost pets through the site.

Good going Dan!

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Paris Hilton's Cell Phone

A few months ago someone hacked into Paris Hilton's cell phone and got her personal phone book listings and all her friends' phone numbers. If Paris Hilton had been under the care of Sherlock Investigations we could have protected her against this electronic assault.

One of the things we do here at Sherlock Investigations is to protect corporations and individuals against electronic threats, whether on their individual computers, networks, cell phones or landlines. We've found that almost every company is vulernable, and so much more so with individuals. Our research has discovered ways to detect and prevent unwanted eavesdropping.

And remember, never say anything on a phone, or write in an email, that you don't want others to know about.
For more about this story, click on link below: content/article/2005/09/13/AR2005091301423.html

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Internet Fraud and You

The Internet is truly a great advance in global communications. It's made the world a smaller place. With it, we meet people, conduct business, and purchase everything from homes to groceries.

The Internet has also exposed us to virtual criminals. Criminals all over the world use the Internet to separate people from their money. Whether they sell non-existent items on eBay, or non-existent stocks, candy machines, unclaimed funds in hidden bank accounts, or counterfeit merchandise, they have just about perfected their many scams.

At Sherlock Investigations, we endeavor to keep ahead of these criminals. Unfortunately, our clients usually come to us after they've been ripped off.

In solving cases of Internet fraud, we can trace email, determine who really owns a web site, or find the location of a seller of an item on eBay. Just like Sherlock, we look for clues that the ordinary person just simply doesn't see. Then when add two and two together, and zero in on the culprit.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Psychic Detectives

I'll admit that I only saw Court TV's Psychic Detectives only once. But, once was enough. It's my personal feeling that the cases are totally fake, well, maybe laced with a bit of truth.

In the Psychic Detectives program I saw, a psychic located the body of a victim who apparently wandered off in a snowstorm and froze to death in the woods. After a lot of drama, out of focus video shots, and questionable interviews, the psychic sat down and drew a map indicating where the body lay.

For all I know, the psychic drew the map AFTER the body was located. I know how some of these shows are fabricated, and I think this one was fabricated.

It's not that I don't believe in psychic powers, but I think most psychics are phonies, including most psychic detectives.

When Sherlock Investigations tries to locate a person, we don't employ psychic powers. However, they may come into play, I don't know. We always try to get a photo of the person that we're looking for and post it on our bulletin board. If nothing else, it keeps the hunt in mind. As they say, "out of sight, out of mind." Perhaps, though, by mentally focusing on the image something else comes into play.

In any case, we locate 98% of the people we're hired to find, and I'm really not sure how we do it.
See link below for more on this topic:

Sunday, October 23, 2005

NY Private Investigators

NY Private Investigators, New York Private Investigators, Private Investigators New York, Private Investigators NY

No doubt, you're wondering what is all this gibberish. Well, I recently extolled Google on this blog. Generally, Sherlock Investigations is very pleased with Google. However, once in a while there's what I call a Google Earthquake, where they really shake up the search rankings. I think it's done to force companies into buying Google Adwords, which can be pretty expensive, and is, by the way, how Google makes its billions.

Last week there was a Google Earthquake. Sherlock Investigations has always been on page one of a Google search for New York Private Investigators, except when there's a Google Earthquake. The above is a test, which I won't go into.

Meanwhile, thank you for visting our site, and I hope to write something more interesting shortly.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Why Sherlock Investigations isn't on TV

Yesterday we received invitations from two television production companies to participate in television shows about private eyes. One was for Court TV and the other for a new show on NBC.

I thanked them both for their interest in Sherlock Investigations, but told them that we weren't interested.

Last summer we did a pilot for another production company. They showed it to Court TV and a couple of other networks. So far, no go. This is fine with me.

There are three basic reasons I turn down these offers. First, we're private investigators, not actors. Second, our office is busy. Lights, cameras, and extra people lurking around really gets in the way. And third, we employ investigative secrets and tactics for completing investigations. We don't want to broadcast them to the world, and our competition.

Would the folks at Coca Cola let the cameras in when brewing their closely-guarded formula? I don't think so.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Fortune Teller's Web

One day a young woman called Sherlock Investigations from a payphone in Penn Station, where she had been sleeping for the past two nights. Before that, she was sleeping in Kennedy Airport.

The destitute woman proceeded to tell me a horror story. Wanting to hear the story in person, I agreed to meet her at a bar in Times Square.

This is the short version of the story she told me:

A recent graduate of a four-year college in Florida, with a degree in architecture, she landed a job in New York. Walking around New York on her first weekend here, she spotted a sign that said, "Fortunes, only $10."

Naturally, a new college grad, with a new job, and just starting out on her career, she wondered what the future had in store for her.

Something the fortune teller told her struck home. (Gypsy fortune tellers, experts in human psychology, know how to say something that will strike a chord.) She wanted to know more. The fortune teller said that she could tell her much more, for $100.

The young woman went for it, and by now she was hooked, but didn't know it. The next day she went back for another reading.

The fortune teller told her that she was too materialistic, and that she had to cleanse herself of the evil of money. Gradually, the fortune teller began to help her with this, by taking her money.

She employed many fortune teller tricks. One was the famous trick of asking the client to purchase an egg at a market and bring it in. Using slight-of-hand, the gypsy switched the egg with a specially prepared egg with a small snake in it. Upon cracking the egg, the snake crawled out. This would amaze anyone who didn't realize what was going on.

The gypsy slowly led the young woman into her web of deceit. Pretty soon, she was afraid to make a move without consulting the fortune teller. One day, the gypsy told her to go out and buy her a Rolex watch. The young woman did, and turned it over to the gypsy.

This went on for a year. Soon, she was unable to pay her rent, even though she had a good job. The fortune teller was taking all her money.

The wintry night that I met her she was dressed in a thin jacket against the cold. Most of her possessions were put in storage by her landlord because she couldn't pay her rent.

On successive nights, I spent hours with this woman, almost convinced that I could not break her of the "spell" of the gypsy. However, the woman knew the truth, and that she had been had. Finally, she got angry, and went to the police and filed a criminal complaint.

Then we went out looking for the fortune teller. She apparently moved to Florida before we could locate her. We still look sometimes, but she knows that she's wanted.

Today, the young woman is back on her feet, successful at her job, and well-adjusted.

Now when I look at the expensive store-fronts with neon signs these fortune tellers have all over the city, I know where they get their money. There are a lot of suckers out there, ready to be relieved of their money.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Is Sherlock Charitable?

For a number of years I worked for non-profit organizations. The last one investigated really far-right organizations. While I found this extremely rewarding, the fundraising part wasn't. We never charged for our services, but relied on member's dues and contributions to sustain the organization.

When I left the non-profit world and started Sherlock Investigations, I intended it to be a pay-as-you-go company. In other words, to charge people a reasonable fee for a valuable service.

It's sad when people take advantage of us. We often try to help in heart-rending family situations where an investigation would help a needy client. It may be a missing family member, or locating someone who stole money or assets which practically put the client into bankruptcy.

As some clients neglect their bills, we are less inclined to be charitable. (One client strongly objected when I used the word "charitable." She said that she didn't want our charity, but she still hasn't paid our bill, which was half of what we normally charge for locating an absent parent.)

We also normally get paid in advance. One exception we made was to lawyers. Big mistake. Lawyers, unless they're working on a contingency basis (which we do not), get paid in advance. From now on, we will charge lawyers full payment in advance.

Sherlock Investigations will continue to be nice, and, yes, charitable, but it will be the exception and not the rule.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Vinnie Parco

A woman asked me the other day if I liked the private eye show on Court TV, Vinnie Parco. I told her that I'd never seen at, as I don't watch TV.

She said, "Oh, I don't watch TV either, but I like Vinnie Parco." That's an oxymoron if I've ever heard one.

Some of our staff watch Vinnie Parco, and seem to enjoy it. I did read a review of the show the New York Post. Their headline read "Magnum P.U." It wasn't a rave review. To read it, click on link below:

There's a lot of business out there for private investigators, who, when you get right down to it, are in the business of helping people with their problems. So, there's room for Vinnie Parco, Sherlock Investigations, and many others.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Skipp Porteous: Google is Best Search Engine

The Sherlock Investigations web site has been online for over 10 years. The Internet is the only place we advertise, and by doing so, we have clients from all over the world.

In order to stay current, I closely monitor our web stats daily. Every day I know how many visits there are from the previous day. Our stats even show us how many people visit each page of the Sherlock Investigations web site.

I also know exactly what search terms and search engines people use that cause them to end up at our site. I find it interesting that Google brings us more than twice the visitors of all the other search engines combined, including Yahoo, MSN, and AOL.

One reason for this I think is that Google searches now include blogs (web logs), such as this one. In fact, the things I write about in this blog are picked up by Google within a day of posting.

With this inclusiveness, Google, so far, is staying way ahead of the pack. As a general search engine, Google is by far the best.

Skipp Porteous

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Homeless Woman Located Under Bridge

This true story takes us from Jerusalem to a bridge in the Southwest.

One day we received a call at Sherlock Investigations from Jerusalem. An Israeli woman said that her daughter had gone to the United States two years earlier, and she had not heard from her in over a year. The last time that she had heard from her she was staying in Massachusetts with friends.

The woman had contact information for a couple of her daughter's friends. We called them. One of them said that about year earlier he got email from the woman that said that she was going to Arizona to consult with an astrologer.

For the next two weeks, we called every astrolger we could locate in Arizona. Finally, we hit pay dirt. A woman in Tucson remembered our target. She remembered her for several reasons. First, she fit the physical description. Second, she had an Israeli accent. And third, our target had a obsessive compulsive disorder that caused her to frequently wash her hands... and before sitting down with the astrologer, our target made the astrologer wash her hands. She apparently had other mental problems which caused her to lose touch with her family and friends.

The astrolger told us that she thought our target was still in the area. We relayed this to our client in Jerusalem and she immediately flew to New York.

One of our female investigators went to Arizona with our client. After checking into a Tucson hotel and renting a car, they set out armed with photos of the target. Their first stop was a college campus library, because we thought she might be using the reference books there because we knew that she had an interest in certain subjects.

Sure enough, several people in the library recognized the photos. One of them mentioned a market that she had seen her shopping in. They went there, and a clerk remembered her from several visits. He said that she was homeless, and thought she lived under a bridge.

By that time, it was dark, and they were afraid to go under a local bridge where homeless people lived. However, they learned about a group that fed sandwiches out of a van to homeless people.

The next night, the two found and staked-out the van. In less than an hour, our client's daughter showed up. They followed her from there to an Internet cafe. Our investigator followed her in and approached her. She said, "Your mother loves you very much. She's outside if you'd like to see her."

The daughter started crying, as did our investigator. Shortly, the mother and daughter were reunited. Today, she is getting the support and help she needs.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Thief caught in New York's Diamond District

One of our most incredible cases involved a diamond thief in New York's Diamond District. A woman called Sherlock Investigations from Boston and told us that she had inheirited $20,000 worth of diamond jewelry from her mother.

This is her story: She came home one day and her diamonds were gone. So was Stanley, her live-in boyfriend. Asking around, she learned that Stanley ran off with a woman named Janice. She called the Boston Police Department and filed a complaint.

After three months, the Boston PD had not located Stanley. However, the jewelry began showing up in Boston-area pawn shops.

Then she called Sherlock Investigations and we began the hunt. Using every trick in the trade (and we have a lot of them), we, too, were unable to locate Stanley after three months.

Belatedly, we asked our client for a photo of Stanley. She sent us one that was 7 or 8 years old. Meanwhile, I had a surveillance job on New York's 47th Street, the Diamond District.

I took the Number 5 bus down to 5th Avenue and 50th Street. I got off and headed south to 47th Street. Between 47th and 48th Streets I saw a couple sitting on the sidewalk with their backs up against a building. Next to them was a pile of luggage, and in front of them a sign that read "Homeless." An empty paper coffee cup was on the sidewalk by the little sign.

It struck me that the guy resembled the photo I had memorized of Stanley. "No," I thought, "I've been working too hard and it's getting to me." Still, the guy did resemble Stanley.

So, after walking by, I turned around and dropped a dollar in the cup. Both of them thanked me. I asked him his name. He said, "Stanley." She said, "I'm Janice."

I mumbled "Good luck," or something as the adrenaline began to hit. I walked around the corner and called 911. While waiting for the cops I called the client and told her that I found Stanley. She was, of course, ecstatic.

When the cops arrived, I explained that I was a private investigator and told them about the case. They went over and had the man identify himself. Indeed, he turned out to be the Stanley that I was looking for.

The police slapped cuffs on him and we all drove down to Midtown North together. After they locked Stanley up, they called the Boston PD and told them that they'd hold Stanley for 24 hours, but that they had to come down to get him.

The Boston PD said that it wasn't worth it to them, as Stanley hadn't murdered, maimed, or raped anyone.

So, the NYPD let Stanley go, and he and I walked out of the police station together.
I did my job, but Stanley sort of slipped between the cracks.

The next day, Stanley was seen sitting on the same sidewalk with Janice, and the little cup. I guess he didn't invest the diamonds wisely. Probably bought crack or something with the proceeds.

Skipp Porteous

Friday, October 07, 2005

Domino, "I am a bounty hunter."

Newline Cinema's new movie, Domino, "I am a bounty hunter," premiers nationwide on October 14th. The action film stars Mickey Rourke. To promote the film, Newline is running a contest.

The lucky winner receives a trip for two to the National Institute of Bail Enforcement, worth $1500.

It would cool is one of our blog readers won the contest. You can enter the contest online at Good luck!

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Phone taps

Every day we get calls and email from people who think that their phone has been tapped, or that their house or car is bugged. Sometimes they're right.

The other day a woman contacted us because she thought her phone had been recently tapped. If one were to size up the situation without knowing the whole story it was almost amusing. She said during the time her phone was allegedly tapped, she kept hearing a "tap, tap, tap" sound on her phone.

If your phone IS tapped, you won't hear "tap, tap, tap," or any other sound. It's possible that for a few seconds when the phone is being tapped that you'll hear a little static. That's if someone is attaching aligator clips or some other device to your line. And if that's the case, you can physically follow your phone lines through the house and all the way out to the pole and you should be able to locate the device.

Now, if your a person of interest to the FBI, they'll get a court order and tap your phone from the phone company's Central Office. This is completely undetectable. And if you think the FBI, IRS, or Homeland Security is bugging your phone, home, or car, please do not call us. If we were able to find their bugs and point them out to you, we could be charged with obstruction of justice.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

International Anti-Counterfeiting Coalition

Sherlock Investigations is a member of the International Anti-Counterfeiting Coalition (, a world-wide organization dedicated to combatting counterfeit merchandise. Counterfeit merchandise, commonly known as "knock-offs," costs the owners of intellectual property billions of dollars a year, it robs states of sales tax, endangers lives, and even funds terrorist organizations.

The problem of counterfeit merchandise is rampant. In China there are nearly 400 factories manufacturing fake Nikes. Other factories churn out fake brakes labeled with the trademarks of the world's leading car makers.

In New York, people buy fake Louis Vuitton or Gucci products on the street and walk away with a smile, thinking that they got a great deal. Or they order fake merchandise on the Internet at steep discounts. These people don't realize who they're hurting.

Can you imagine if you designed a new, popular fashion item, and someone stole your design, hired a factory in China to mass produce it, and put you out of business? It's easy to think of large companies like Coach or Chanel and think that they can afford it. Whether they can afford it or not is not the point. It's just plain wrong.

This is why Sherlock Investigations belongs to the International Anti-Counterfeiting Coalition. You, too, can help. If you see knock-offs of famous brands on the street, or brands like Chanel on the Internet, let us know, and we'll take the proper action.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Marguerite Honor located

Last week we posted a notice that we were looking for Marguerite Honor, 70, and her sister, Viola Williams, missing in New Orleans since hurricane Katrina.

We received word that they have shown up alive and well in Baton Rouge, much to the relief of their family and friends.

From time-to-time we will post requests for help. And, by the way, we're still looking for "Alice," or anyone who knows her. Please see her "wanted" posted below.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Randy Cohen, The New York Times Ethicist

If you read today's New York Times Magazine you may have seen the question posed to The Ethicist about the anonymity of sperm donors, and the ethics of trying to find out who they are, which we submitted several months ago.

This case provoked a lot of discussion in our office. While we initially took the case, in the end we returned the client's money. We agreed with Randy Cohen, that we should not take this sort of case, respecting the privacy of the donor.

In similar cases, we pretty much shy away from adoption cases, and take them only if the client agrees that we will get the permission of whomever we are seeking before we give the client any information.

Likewise, when a guy, for example, is looking for an old girlfriend, we don't give the guy the information unless we have the permission of the person we located.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Iraq war hard on families

You might wonder how the title of this article is related to private investigation. In just a minute you'll see. I've read several articles about how hard the Iraq war has been on families. It's easy to imagine, with the low pay, and the long absences from their families, men and women serving in Iraq and Afghanistan suffer greatly, and their families at home suffer too.

It recently dawned on me about another aspect of this strain on families. At Sherlock Investigations we're getting a steady increase in email and satellite phone contacts from men serving in Iraq and Afganistan. They're concerned about their wives or girlfriends back home. Their concern is that their wives or girlfriends back in the States are having affairs.

In one case, someone stateside was concerned about a soldier having an affair in Iraq with another officer.

While we try to help in these cases, frankly, even when we reduce our rates for Armed Service personnel, most of them cannot afford very much in the way of investigation. Meanwhile, the affair goes on while the soldier's other worry is just to stay alive long enough to get back home and straighten things out.