Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Roving Bugs

The big news in the eavesdropping world is so-called "roving bugs." As a result, we've gotten calls from people who think that their cell phone is bugged. Before you call us, let me first tell you that your cell phone is very, very likely not bugged.

An article appearing in CNET News.com has generated all the buzz. Many bloggers picked up the story. Many of these bloggers subscribe to numerous conspiracies.

The article said, "The FBI appears to have begun using a novel form of electronic surveillance in criminal investigations: remotely activating a mobile phone's microphone and using it to eavesdrop on nearby conversations.

"The technique is called a "roving bug," and was approved by top U.S. Department of Justice officials for use against members of a New York organized crime family who were wary of conventional surveillance techniques such as tailing a suspect or wiretapping him.

"The FBI is apparently using a novel surveillance technique on alleged Mafioso: activating his cell phone's microphone and then just listening."

If you Google "roving bugs," you'll find the full story.

It's my opinion that a cell phone cannot be turned on remotely if the power is off. Even if it could, the microphone isn't sensitive enough to pick up conversation more than a few feet away anyway.

I think the story is really based on a judge's decision to allow roving phone taps. In other words, say the FBI gets permission to tap a mobster's phone. Well, he's not going to be in his home all the time. He travels. So, the newest thing in taps, is tapping every phone where the mobster might be, including payphones in his neighborhood. That's a roving tap, or roving bug.

In the CNET article, one TSCM expert (bug sweeper) whom I respect, affirmed the gist of the story. I still disagree with the article.

However, if you think that a program can be downloaded to your cell phone to turn it on and eavesdrop on you, there are several things you can do.

Pull the battery out. Get a prepaid cell phone. Put your cell phone in a clam shell-type glasses case (You'll still be able to hear it ring, but it will muffle the mic enough so that an eavesdropper won't hear a word.

But ask yourself, are you really important enough for the FBI to place a roving bug on your phone?

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Background Check on YOU!

At Sherlock Investigations we commonly have clients ask us to check them out. They want a background check on themselves.

A recent client was applying for a Small Business Association loan. Before he sent in his application, he wanted to know of any adverse information that the SBA might find on him.

Frequently, we have clients send us their resume and ask us to check with their former employers to learn what they have to say about them. Often, the most that they'll answer is, "Is he/she eligible for rehire?" If the answer's "no," he or she has real problems. "Yes," of course, is a good sign

When inquiring past employers for a recent client, I heard "Interesting," when I mentioned his name. I knew that it was going to be all downhill from there.

Sometimes clients admit that they had a past criminal conviction, and wonder if it will show up on a background check. Generally, if it occured more than 7 years ago it won't, BUT, you never know.

It's best to be very honest on job applications and resumes, because if the company to which you're applying for a job hires a P.I. to do a background investigation, the chances are that your untruths will be exposed!

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Western Union Warning

Western Union is a very safe way to send money....if you personally know the person to whom your sending it. However, scammers and con artists also use Western Union to receive money. You might think that you know who you're sending money to, but anyone can come up with a fake I.D. to use for picking up money from Western Union.

I've picked up money from Western Union for Sherlock Investigations, and I know that they don't check my I.D. very closely. As long as it looks official, and has my name on it, it'll do. A person could set up a website, lift someone's wallet and use his name on his website, and then use his license when customers send him money through Western Union for something they'll never get.

Western Union is advising people to help prevent consumer fraud. Here is what they're saying:

"Are you sending money to claim lottery or prize winnings, or on a promise of receiving a large amount of money?" (If you didn't enter a lottery, you didn't win the lottery. And if you did enter a lottery, you don't have to pay more money to get your winnings. Duh.)

"Are you sending money because you were 'guaranteed' a credit card or loan?" (Don't pay money to get a credit card or loan.)

"Are you responding to an Internet or phone offer that you aren't sure is honest?" (Never spend more than you can afford to lose on eBay.)

"Are you sending money to someone you don't know or whose identity you can't verify?"

Now, here is something really special that you should know about Western Union. Suppose you just read this blog, and it just happens that you sent money to someone yesterday and now you wish that you hadn't? Well, you might be able to get your money back if you hurry.

Go to Western Union and ask them to stop your money transfer immediately, or call them at 1-800-325-6000. If your money has not been picked up yet, it will be returned to you.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

More on Gypsy Psychics

Since I posted Gypsy Psychic Scams some time ago, I've gotten quite a few responses from those identifying themselves as Gypsies. All of it has been angry.
In another posting, I apologized to Gypsies, because I did not mean to offend Gypsies as a people. Some have pointed out that Gypsies are involved in legitimate professions and businesses. That may well be.

Yet, I abide by my original contention: Shops with neon signs in the window that say Spiritual Advisor, Psychic Reader, or whatever, are fraudulent. A few of these women (most are women) may think that they have supernatural powers. What they have is the keen ability to read people, question people, and extract a great deal of information from them. Maybe they're convinced that they have supernatural abilities..

And, yes, most of these places are run by Gypsies. That certainly doesn't make all Gypsies bad, but it doesn't change the fact that most "fortune tellers" are Gypsies. I'm sure that there are many good, law-abiding Gypsies.

Most of the angry Gypsies who respond to this blog quote scriptures or use relgious terminology. None though, have said to me that it is wrong to lie, steal and cheat. And that's what goes on in these places.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Child Abuse

A social services office in New York frequently refers people to us who are trying to locate birth parents. Although these people usually have little money, we try to help them.

Today, a social services agency that helps homeless people called us. The case worker had a man there who was looking for the mother of his child, and the child. The social worker called Sherlock Investigations to see if we could help.

My associate, Sherry, talked to him. Right away, she asked the social worker if the homeless man had a criminal record. While still on the phone, the social worker asked the homeless person.

"Yes, he does," he said.

"For what," Sherry asked.

"Child abuse," he said.

Of course we're not going to help him find his child when he's been arrested for child abuse! You'd think that the social worker would have asked him himself.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Investigate Before You Invest

At Sherlock Investigations we get many cases from people who've invested their life savings with some "Wall Street" firm. In every case, they invested just a few thousand dollars for starters. Within a short time, the return on their investment reaped a great harvest. After they had taken the bait, and, yes, that's what they did, they invested a much larger sum.

When the time came to reap their great reward, the investor was gone. Then they hired Sherlock Investigations to find the person. In some cases we found the person, and when we did, they were arrested.

When I mentioned a "Wall Street firm" above, I didn't really mean it. Anyone can have a nice web site designed, and anyone can rent a phone, a desk, or a cubbyhole from firms located on Wall Street who rent to such fly-by-night companies.

In New York there are a number of such companies. They're on Wall Street, Madison Avenue, and the Empire State Building. Anyone can have a prestigious address.

Most of the time, our cases involving scam artists are past-tense. But, last week we had a client from Italy who was interested in investing with a New York-based company. Fortunately, he hired us to check out the company first.

It turned out that the company was run by scam artists, and two of the people involved were wanted by authorities in Europe.

Always investigate before you invest. If you don't, you could lose your retirement, your life savings, and your home.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

New York Taxis

It's amazing how many people leave personal items in New York City taxis. Most of the time they never see them again.

One time a client took a cab to our office. On the cab seat he found a woman's wallet, so he brought it to us. From the driver's license inside we learned that a woman from Texas lost it. Included with the driver's license were credit cards (an identity thief's dream), and over $100 in cash.

To make a long story short, we tried for an hour to locate her. We finally found a phone number in Texas and left a message. In a little while, panic stricken, she called us. She didn't even know that she had lost her wallet until she checked her voice mail at home.

She took another cab to our office; I gave her the wallet, and she darted off with hardly a "thank you." Most Texans I know are more gracious.

We've had a number of clients who've come to us to report that they left something in a cab...everything from wallets to laptop computers. I don't think we've ever been able to track down the lost item.

This brings up one of my rules. Just like I have an eBay rule (Never spend more than you can afford to lose.), my New York taxi rule is, "Always get a receipt."

New York cabs have an automated receipt printer. If you don't take your receipt, the cabby will just throw it away. If you take your receipt, and you absent-mindedly leave something in a cab, you can easily track the cab and cabby and locate what you left behind.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Secret Video Taping

Yesterday I came across a story about a former police dispatcher who was charged with a felony for secretly videotaping his ex-wife. His ex-wife happens to be a deputy sheriff in upstate New York.

The man, Michael Alteri, was accused of hiding a video camera in his ex-wife's home. Ticonderoga town police obtained a search warrant for Alteri's home and found videotapes from a hidden video camera allegedly installed in his ex-wife's home. He was charged with felony eavesdropping.

This brings up several questions. Did Alteri place the camera in his ex-wife's home before the divorce? Or, did he trespass in her home after the divorce?

Where was the camera? In her bedroom or bathroom? Since the grand jury indicted him for felony eavesdropping, it was probably in one of them.

The article I read didn't say why the town police got a search warrant, but somehow the man's ex-wife must have suspected something was going on. Perhaps she had her home swept for eavesdropping devices.

New York state has very stiff penalties for audio eavesdropping, or wiretapping, as it's called. The laws regarding video eavesdropping are somewhat vague. In any case, a person has a reasonable expectation of privacy in their home, which makes this type of video taping problematic.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Victim of Identity Theft?

Recently I posted a couple of stories about a close friend of mine who was the victim of identity theft. Her JP Morgan Chase checking account was raided, and the thief was processing $6000 every-other-day through PayPal.

When she learned of it, she called Chase, who closed her checking account. Then, two weeks later, someone went into four different Chase banks and started withdrawing money from her savings accounts. (You'd think Chase would have had some safeguards in place by then, but they didn't.)

My friend did all the things that you're supposed to do when one becomes a victim of identity theft: notify the bank, the credit bureaus, and file a police report. When she filed the police report with the NYPD, a Detective Ramos said that the perp probably knew her.

When I heard that, I said, "Yeah, right." I didn't believe if for a moment. Well, to make a long story short. My friend's accountant noticed that four of her clients have recently become the victims of identity theft. In one case, the police called her to run a name by her, to see if she recognized it.

"Yes, I fired that person a couple of months ago," the accountant said. The police had come up with a name in one of the cases, and it turned out that the same woman stole the identities of four different women, and was raking in thousands of dollars a week.

Detective Ramos was right on when he said, "It's probably somebody that you know."

Friday, October 20, 2006


If you're going through a divorce, thinking about divorcing, or have a friend in either situation, you need to know about divorcenet.com. DivorceNet is the Internet's largest divorce resource, offering state-specific articles, an online community and a nationwide directory of divorce lawyers, mediators and financial professionals.

DivorceNet has over 16,000 registered users. Registration is free. There are over 70 Community Forums, where members help each other. Each forum has a Community Moderator; a professional who will answer reader's questions.

"Ask the Private Investigator" is one of the forums. I'm the Community Moderator. I enjoy answering online reader's questions. We've enjoyed thousands of visitors at Ask the Private Investigator.

There are many helpful sections on divorcenet. com. Here are some of them:

Collaborative Law - Avoid going to court.
Divorce Mediation - Negotiate your agreement.
Financial Planning - Understand your finances.
Real Estate - Your home, your future.

eBooks & Forms - Our most popular self-help tools:
Predivorce Document Checklist - Find hidden income.
Divorce Financial Worksheet - Organize your divorce.

Divorce News Blog - Nationwide news and editorials on divorce and separation, updated daily.
Paternity Testing & Family Law News
Community Forums - Support network with over 70 forums.
Daily Answer Desk with Jim Gross, Esq. - Divorce advice from an experienced attorney.

Related Resources:
Child Support & Alimony
What are the support guidelines?

Custody & Visitation
How often will I see my kids?

Property Division
Will I need to sell my home?

Military Divorce
Is this the same as a civilian divorce?

Divorce & Taxes
Are you aware of tax-related divorce issues?

Stages of Divorce:
Considering Divorce
Planning Divorce
Filing & Litigation
After Divorce

State Resource Pages - Divorce law is different in each state.
Please visit the state in which you and your spouse currently reside or last lived together.

Begin Your Divorce Online - Customized online divorce forms. Fast, affordable and easy.

Save Money on Legal Fees - Software suite designed to help you take control of your finances.

If you, or someone you know, needs help with a divorce, I highly recommend divorcenet.com.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Media Hurts Private Investigator's Image

Once in a while the media presents something positive about private investigators. Most of the time, though, it's either sensationalist or negative. In our field, just like any other field, whether it's politics, banking, or education, there are bad apples.

Fictional TV shows about P.I.s either make us look like wonder-workers (and do everything for free, for you never see a P.I. taking money from a client in a TV show), or sleezeballs. Some P.I.s add to our sleezy image with their own TV shows.

Private investigators do a lot of good for society. We reign-in fugitives and deadbeat dads, we bust bogus psychics (and most of them are bogus), and find sellers of counterfeit merchandise and perpetrators of eBay fraud.

We help people from making costly mistakes when we do background investigations, we reunite loved ones, find birth parents for medical reasons, and do a number of things pro bono...just for a good cause.

Private investigators know how to dig for information, and know what to do with the information we find. (Yes, sometimes we do work wonders.) Some of us use it for good, others for not-so-good things.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Cost of Iraq War on Families

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are taking a toll on families. Besides those being killed and wounded, being apart from loved ones months at a time (and several times in a row) creates great stress on relationships.

Every week we at Sherlock Investigations get email from soldiers serving overseas who think that their spouses, or boyfriends or girlfriends, are having affairs while they're away serving our country. Sometimes we even get calls from Iraq or Afghanistan via satellite phone. These calls are from both men and women.

A soldier's pay is so little, that there is often very little we can do in these situations, as surveillance is usually required to prove infidelity. And surveillance is expensive. It's usually best if the soldier serving overseas enlists help from a friend or family member.

The best thing "family values" politicians can do for these families is to bring our troops home.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

How to Locate a Cell Phone Bug

Cell phone bugs are the most popular means of electronic eavesdropping today. When I talk about cell phone bugs, I don't mean a bugged, or tapped, cell phone. While the government has equipment that can pick up your cell phone conversations, you're probably not a major criminal or a threat to national security, so the government has no interest in you. If you think otherwise, you're probably paranoid.

Most people who are interested in what you say on your cell can't afford $75,000 for the electronic equipment to do the job, and the manufacturer wouldn't sell it to them anyway.

However, there is a real threat with cell phone bugs. In this case, a cell phone itself is the bug. While you can purchase a specially equipped cell phone to use as a bug for around $1000 on the Internet, you can just go to your nearest cell phone store.

One or two things make these cell phones unique. First, when you call them, they don't ring or vibrate. Calling them simply turns on their microphone. Now the person calling can hear every word that's spoken within a certain proximity. Most cell phones have a pretty good microphone (mouthpiece) that serves quite well for eavesdropping. Some cell phones, though, are equipped with a highly sensitive mike that will easily pick up a conversation twenty feet away.

Think about the possibilities. A person could visit an office and drop one in a plant, under a bed, or, using double-sided tape, stick one under a conference table or desk. Then go on their merry way, and call the phone anytime they want to listen to the sounds in that room.

The best kind of phone to buy for eavesdropping purposes is a pre-paid cell phone that has a feature to shut off the ringer. These phones can't be traced to the purchaser. But, the number the person calls from would still show up if it was a published number.

There's another adaptation of these phones that you should know about. Eventually, the battery's going to die. Cell phone bugs placed in a vehicle have a wire going from the phone to the car's battery. This means unlimited listening time. They also have a seperate, sensitive microphone. The tiny mircrophone is often hidden several feet from the phone.

Thus, the phone could be hidden in almost any place in a vehicle. The wires to the battery and microphone are hidden very carefully, usually in interior trim or molding. These cell phone bugs often have a tiny circuit board about the size of a postage stamp attached to the mic wire.

Now, how to locate them. (Professionals have sensitive equipped that can locate a cell phone that is powered on.) First, any unclaimed cell phone in an office or home should be suspect. This is especially true if you find that they are turned on. To disable one, simply remove the battery.

If you go in a room, think about where you would hide a cell phone if you wanted to eavesdrop. Use your imagination. Don't forget to look on top of the tiles of a room with a dropped ceiling. Look under tables, chairs, in plants. Thoroughly search the room.

In a vehicle, do the same thing. The most likely place to hide a cell phone bug in a car is within a few feet in front of the driver. Look in the air vents, under the dash (use a mirror and flashlight), and under the seats.

If the cell phone bug is equipped with a seperate microphone, the search is much harder. Look for any screws, trim, or molding that may have been tampered with. Look in the map light, the air vents. Look at the battery and see if there is an extra wire that's not original equipment. The same with the fuse box.

It once took me two hours to locate a cell phone bug in an SUV. The microphone was in the maplight. I followed one wire up into the roof where I found a Motorola cell phone. Another wire went from the cell phone to the battery for power.

When someone calls a cell phone bug, they can hear everything up to twenty or more feet from the device. Cell phone bugs are the easiest and cheapest eavesdropping devices to install. No wonder they're so popular.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Plane Hits New York Apartment

When a single-engine plane slammed into a 50-story apartment building this afternoon everyone immediately thought of terrorism and 9/11. Apparently, it was a tragic accident.

Let's suppose for a moment that it wasn't an accident. There is virtually no security at the nation's hundreds of small airports. A person could easily steal a plane from one of them. In fact, in some small airports that rent planes, it's possible to obtain one without even displaying a pilot's license.

Taking this scenario further, let's suppose that someone rented or stole a plane, landed it in a field, and filled it up with explosives. Then they took off and literally flew below the radar to any chosen target.

In the immediate aftermath of today's tragedy, I wondered if this small plane could have been targeting the nearby United Nations. It probably wasn't, but it could happen in the future.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Spy vs. Counterspy

This week's New York Magazine has an article called Spy vs. Counterspy. The subtitle reads: "Two private eyes face off on getting the goods and keeping your secrets." By Sarah Bernard, it's a fun piece that came in the wake of the Jeanine Pirro revelation about her wanting to bug her husband's boat.

The article focuses on five areas, Eavesdropping, Stalking, Digits, Visual Contact, and Cybersecurity. I'm the spy in the article. Todd Morris, of Brickhouse Security, is the counterspy.

Of course, I want you to go out and buy New York Magazine, so I'm not going to reveal any more about the article. However, there is one point that the writer, or the fact-checker, misunderstood.

Under Eavesdropping, the article says, "Inexpensive scanners pick up wireless calls easily." This is not true. The older 900 MHz cordless phones (and baby monitors) can be picked up easily with a Radio Shack scanner. Even the first analog cell phones had this weakness. Today, it's very difficult to eavesdrop on a cell phone. I know of one company that has a scanner that will pick up cell phone conversations. They sell it to the government for about $75,000, something the average person can't afford (They wouldn't sell to the average person even if they could afford it.).

Anyway, I'll write a Letter to the Editor about the misunderstanding. In any case, you heard it here first.

Monday, October 09, 2006


When most people think of private detectives they associate us with tailing. And we do a lot of that. Even in the age of the Internet, where all sorts of information can be found online, old-fashioned surveillance is still the name-of-the-game. Some private investigators, and, especially, information brokers, do everything online. There are some things you can never find online.

The Sherlock Investigations' surveillance teams are busy every week. Sometimes we don't have enough personnel to cover our needs, so it becomes first-come, first-served.

Most of our surveillance involves what we call domestic cases...infidelity cases. As long as people think that the grass is greener on the other side of the fence we'll be in business.

Some of our cases involve Indians or Pakistanis whose families practice arranged marriages. They might have, for instance, a daughter that they have arranged to marry a young man who currently lives in New York. They want to know what he's really like when certain others aren't around.

The best way to find out someone's comings-and-goings is to follow them. You can also find out if they smoke, drink, gamble, or what-have-you.

In other cases, we follow people around who come to New York, America's playground. They think that if they're 1,500 miles away from home that they can get away with things they can't do at home.

We'll follow them to restaurants, bars, and even when they pick up a prostitute and bring her back to their hotel. I've sat in a hotel lobby for 8 hours, and across the street from the Trump Plaza in the middle of winter on a park bench dressed like a homeless person, with my camcorder in a paper bag, looking like a bottle of beer.

Our surveillance teams have digital video cameras, hidden cameras, and a specially equipped surveillance van. One investigator even has a kayak that he said we could've used if Jeanine Pirro had hired us to conduct surveillance on her husband's boat.

Surveillance is expensive. One detective for 4 hours costs $600. Two detectives costs about $800. We did a surveillance that lasted for 10 weekends and ran into the thousands of dollars. Often, though, surveillance is the only way to conduct an investigation. What we see is what you get.

Friday, October 06, 2006

What Private Investigators Do

While we list our services on our web site in menu-style, we actually do a lot more than what we list. The only thing we won't do is anything illegal. For example, we're asked all the time to plant a bug or tap a phone. We'll find one in a business or residence, but we won't place one.

Of course, we do all the normal things PIs do such as tailing an unfaithful spouse, run background investigations on people, and locate missing people. Once is a while we are asked to perform countersurveillance. In other words, people think that they are being followed hire us to follow them to see if they're being followed.

Some of our assignments brings us to the New York Public Library where they have phone books going back to Alexander Graham Bell's time. A lot of useful information can be found in old phone books.

We have some smart people working for us. We know how to conduct research, whether on the Internet, or real physical places.

With the advent of the Internet, I worried about our business. After all, anyone can access the Internet. I've found that my worries were unfounded, as most people don't know where to go on the Internet to get the information they need.

Most of all, we're problem solvers. Contact us if you've got a problem that you think we can solve.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Witness Protection Program

The so-called "witness protection program" is administered by the United States Marshall's Service. The U.S. Marshall's probably apprehend more fugitives than any other law-enforcement office.

The U.S. Marshall's are generally in charge of prisoners, from the time they're arrested, throughout the trial, and until they are put away.

The U.S. Marhall's are also often in charge of protecting witnesses. Some witnesses risk life and limb when agreeing to testify against suspected criminals. Some criminals are so dangerous that after the trial a whole new identity needs to be set up for the witness. This includes a new name, address, occupation, and sometimes even plastic surgery to change the witnesses appearance.

At Sherlock Investigations we sometimes get calls from people who know the whereabouts of a fugitive. They're afraid to report this themselves, so they call upon us to do it.

Using our extensive contacts in law-enforcement, we're more than happy to provide this service. And it is a service. Putting dangerous people behind bars is a good thing.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Bugging a Spouse

Since the Jeanine Pirro investigation involving her desire to bug her husband's boat, a lot of people have asked me if it's legal to bug your spouse. The reasoning is, that you should be able to bug your own home or marital property, or tap your own phone.

I won't do it for anyone, and I always discourage people from doing it. Not being a lawyer, I can't argue the fine points of the law. Generally, if you're not a party to the conversation, you can't record it.

If Pirro did bug her husband's boat, and the FBI says it was illegal, then her discussion of it with a private eye was illegal too. It's conspiracy to commit a crime.

As a former district attorney, she should have realized that she was treading on dangerous ground. Also, the person she discussed it with on the phone was someone to be careful with, as he was the target of investigation. A good rule to follow: never discuss anything on a phone, landline or cell, that you don't want the world to know about.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Pirro Bugging Case

The FBI dropped a bombshell on Jeanine Pirro, the Republican candidate for Attorney General of New York State, by letting her know that she was the target of a federal investigation as a result of her wanting to bug her husband's boat.

The revelation was leaked to WNBC/Channel 4, in New York, after the FBI learned of her discussion with private eye Bernie Kerik after tapping his phone while conducting an investigation of Kerik. Kerik is a former Police Commissioner of New York City.

Yesterday, Pirro held a press conference in an attempt to save her faltering campaign. Pirro called the investigation a "political witch hunt and smear campaign," to ruin her politically.

She demanded an investigation into why sealed documents were leaked to the public. She said that her marriage was personal and not part of her campaign. She added that there's nothing illegal about one spouse taping another.

Jeanine Pirro, a former District Attorny of Westchester County, should know better. Wiretapping without a court order is illegal, period. Electronic eavesdropping, unless you're a party to the conversation, is wiretapping, and illegal.

On the FBI tapes, Pirro is quoted as saying, "What am I supposed to do, Bernie? Watch him fuck her every night? What am I supposed to do? I can go on the boat. I'll put the fucking thing on myself."

I can understand a woman's outrage at an unfaithful spouse. We get calls all the time from women in similar circumstances. The answer though, is not bugging. Surveillance would have probably done the trick for Pirro. Now, it's too late. Her political career is over, and probably her marriage too.

While the leak of the FBI tapes to the media was probably a political thing, the FBI's investigation into Pirro is not. Whenever the FBI suspects that a crime has been committed, or may be, it is bound to investigate.

In this case, they didn't know if private investigator Kerik went ahead with it, or not. They didn't know if Pirro found some other way to bug her husband, including doing it herself, as she had suggested.

The FBI is blameless. The person who leaked the tape transcript probably is not.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

New York Post & Background Investigations

In their section called "Pulse," my interview about background investigations with the New York Post came out this morning. It looks like it'll land me on the Today Show tomorrow. We'll see.

The article focused heavily on online dating. Because of the frequency of calls we get about online dating, I decided to do something about it. As much as 50% of the posts you find on online dating sites are exaggerations, if not outright lies. People lie about their looks, age, marital status, and their employment.

So, a couple of years ago I started an online dating site. The unique feature of the site was that every member underwent a background check. If we found that they lied about something, we kicked them off.

I lost my shirt with the dating site. I got out before I lost my pants, too. The project was underfunded, and I don't know the business of online dating sites. However, I do know about background investigations. So, I decided to stick with that.

Now, background checks are becoming quite common on online dating sites. I heard about one company that does background checks for $25. That's like jumping out of a plane using a handkerchief for a parachute. I don't see any way a $25 background check would be of any use.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Background Investigations

Today, a reporter from the New York Post interviewed me about conducting background investigations. Her particular angle was employing background investigations in checking out a boyfriend. The article is supposed to appear in tomorrow's paper. We'll see.

I've written about background investigations several times on this blog, and I'm sure I'll write about it again. There's always more to say about background investigations.

There are several tiers to background investigations. First, there is the case where you have a lot of information to start with; things that the client tells you about the subject of the investigation. The investigator then verifies the information provided. Often, we're unable to verify the information because it's false.

These investigations cost the least because we have somewhere to start. We simply compare what's provided with what actually is.

The most difficult, and expensive, background investigations are when you have little to start with, and have to discover everything through investigating. Clients sometimes want to find out everything they can about a person's "lifestyle." In other words, does he smoke, drink, carouse, hang out, and who are his friends? The only real way to get this kind of case done is through surveillance. Surveillance costs a lot of money.

Whatever you're looking for on a person, we can find it, if you've got the money.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Detective Novels

I don't read many private detective novels, mostly because they fail to depict reality. But, several years ago I visited Partners & Crime mystery bookstore on Greenwich Avenue in New York. I asked for any books about private investigators in New York City.

They pointed me to Lawrence Block's series on Matthew Scudder. Since that time, I've read them all, and enjoyed them. Some were better than others, of course. Familiar places made me feel like I was part of the stories. There were some locations, though, that I couldn't quite figure out.

Later, I met Block. He confessed that he made up some of the locations, a sort of composite.

The main difference between private detective novels and the real world is that the private detectives in these books usually work on criminal cases. Most private detectives don't work on criminal cases. Yes, there are some that specialize in criminal matters, but not that many. About 10% of our cases at Sherlock Investigations involve criminal matters.

Also, many private investigators don't carry guns. Those who are ex-cops sometimes do, but even some of them have hung up their weapons. I stopped carrying a pistol years ago, before I actually shot someone.

In most states, private detectives aren't allowed to carry badges. Along that line, in Massachusetts, where I'm also licensed, we're called Private Detectives. New York, though, thinks that "detective" sounds too official, so we're called Private Investigators here.

Private detective novels are often a fun read, but just don't believe everything you read.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

What's in Your Wallet?

"What's in your wallet?" is a well-known credit card company's advertising slogan. I know one thing that's not in your wallet. That's your proof of citizenship. It's not there because there really is no such thing, unless you're a naturalized citizen and you have a certificate issued by the government.

I have no proof of citizenship other than my birth certificate, and I don't carry that around in my wallet. My driver's license simply has my name, address, and date of birth. So, if I were arrested on suspicion for being an illegal alien, I couldn't defend myself on the spot.

At Sherlock Investigations we get quite a few inquiries either about a person's citizenship, or their immigration status. Since INS won't cooperate with us, and there is no database listing citizens, these cases are very dificult.

I don't think I'm in favor of a national identity card, but I am in favor of noting citizenship on a person's driver's license, or state ID card. It could just be two little boxes, and the state would just check one, citizen, or non-citizen.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006


"Just because I'm paranoid, it doesn't mean that someone isn't watching me," goes the saying. And it's true. However, many paranoid people are totally convinced that some sort of electronic eavesdropping or harassment is being employed against them. They're so convinced that they relay convincing stories to investigators.

Most of the calls to Sherlock Investigations from truly paranoid people are from women over 60 who live alone. They're convinced that a neighbor, or someone else, is beaming some sort of radiation into their apartment. Some spend all their waking hours dwelling on this.

I've heard stories that go on and on with detail. Some people purchase radio frequency meters over the Internet and point them in their neighbor's direction. If they get a reading, they believe that they have proof. Even if the equipment is of decent quality, one needs to know how to use it.

With some callers I've said, "Have your doctor or lawyer call me. If they request our services, I'll be glad to help you." Lately, we've been limiting our domestic, individual cases, and restricting our technical surveillance countermeasures to businesses only.

While I mentioned women over 60 who live alone, I don't want to discount women living alone who are going through a divorce. Estranged husbands often bug their wives residences or tap their phones.

Not being a psychiatrist, I don't know if it's possible for a person suffering from mental illness to acknowledge that electronic eavesdropping is a figment of their imagination. If I believe that there's any possibility of a person being under electronic surveillance, I want to help. Therefore, I'll listen to your story, to a point.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

The Secret Life of Private Investigators

Under "Buzzwords" in The Week in Review, Sunday's (9/17/06) New York Times featured an article titled "The Secret Life of Private Investigators." Spawned by the recent Hewlitt Packard scandal over pretexting, the piece briefly touched on what we do as private investigators.

Most private investigators employ pretexting, defined as posing as someone you're not. Usually, this is completely legal. However, when someone poses as the person they're trying to get information on, especially when it's to banks, phone companies, and utility companies, it becomes illegal.

The Times article gave away some of our secrets, but not all of them, fortunately. It also mentioned some of the legitimate reasons that we are hired to locate people, such as finding deadbeat dads, debtors, and runaways. I would add to that, witnesses who could testify in a court action, heirs, and fugitives.

While we do have a lot of tricks up our sleeves, most of our work requires persistence, an active imagination, and patience.

Monday, September 18, 2006

$500 Background Check

There is a difference between a background check, and a background investigation. Most of our clients can afford a background check, but not a full-fledged investigation.

When we perform a background check for $500 we don't leave the office. We search many public and non-public online records for information on the subject. We search newspapers online to find any possible articles written about the subject.

We also perform an in-depth Internet search, often coming up with very hard-to-find items. We also may employ some private investigator's "tricks-of-the-trade".

A $500 background check includes an address history, a search for criminal records going back 7 years, in any states and counties the subject has lived in during that time. It includes a search, again online, of relatives, associates, and may include anyone the subject has lived with, including a spouse. It includes bankruptcies, liens and judgments, and vehicle, boat and plane ownership. We also check to see if the suject is a registered voter, and if so, what party affiliation.

If we've been given a resume, we'll verify past employers and education claimed. Generally, a $500 background check won't include present employment (although it may come up in a routine search, and if it does, we include it). Of course, anything that comes up in the course of the background check is given to the client (However, we don't usually give out Social Security Numbers.)

I think that that's quite a lot for $500. However, some clients want much more than that. OK, now we're talking about a background investigation. An investigation includes all of the above, but more. An investigation may take us out on the street. We may interview neighbors, past employers, relatives...whatever it takes to get the job done.

One problem with this type of investigation is that the subject of the investigaion may learn about it. Sometimes great care needs to be taken to prevent this, which makes things even harder.

Background investigations may cost in the thousands of dollars. Telling us what information you specifically want will help keep down the costs. In any case, being specific about yours needs is always helpful.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Rick Ross and Destructive Groups

Rick Ross is in hot demand. I'm not talking about Rick Ross, the rapper. I suppose he's in hot demand too, but only to people who enjoy rap. I'm talking about Rick Ross the exit counselor.

An exit counselor is a person who helps people get out of cults. It's a profession with a lot of job security. Cults have been around forever, and because of our human foibles, they always will .

Exit counselors have varying degrees of expertise and integrity. I've known Rick Ross for almost 20 years. Rick is dedicated to his work and extremely professional. As a result, he's help a lot of families get their loved ones out of destructive groups.

I think I have a pretty good knowledge of various religions and cults, but Rick knows much, much more than I. In fact, I believe Rick Ross knows and understands cults, or destructive groups, as well, if not better, than anyone else in the world.

Interventions, i.e., the process of convincing a person to leave a destructive group, aren't always successful. The reasons range from a person being mentally ill, to simply bad timing.

Because of Rick Ross's successes, groups such as Scientology and others, have viciously attacked Rick. They've hired private investigators to follow him around and go through his trash. They've dug up indiscretions from his youth, and sued him in various courts around the country. Rick Ross still stands.

Because of his sincerety and dedication, and often because they feel his First Amendment rights are being violated, powerful lawyers have stepped in to help him out when he's challenged by destructive groups.

Rick Ross runs a not-for-profit educational foundation. His web site is among the most popular sites in the world, as it contains a wealth of information about destructive groups. Visit it at www.rickross.com.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Ann Richards

A great woman, former Governor of Texas, Ann Richards, died yesterday. The only thing that this has to do with private investigations is airports. Let me explain.

I've always admired Ann Richards. She was outspoken, witty and fiesty. She's the one that quipped that George W. Bush was "born with a silver foot in his mouth." While there isn't much to admire about most politicans, they should at least entertain us. She did that, and more.

So, when I spotted her standing alone in Chicago's O'Hare airport a few years ago, I just had to approach her and tell her how much I admired her. She accepted my compliments with grace, but had nothing funny to say at the time.

OK, so I previously lumped Ann Richards, airports and private investigation together. Sherlock Investigations constantly conducts surveillances in the New York metro area. Many times we've had to start the surveillance assignments at the New York airports.

This has always been a challenge, and has become more-so since 9/11. Security is tight at airports (but not at US ports...what's wrong with this picture?). Security is also tight in New York Hotels. That's one reason that we require clients requesting hotel surveillance to book us a room. You need a room key to be able to hang around a hotel lobby for long periods.

Anyway, life goes on. I'll always remember Ann Richards. Her sense of humor and pointed remarks did us some good.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Wiretap and Bug Detection

In the business, we call it TSCM, which stands for Technical Surveillance CounterMeasures. To most people, it's simply wiretap and bug detection. By "bug," of course, I mean electronic eavesdropping, not insects. The bugs we look for are not cockroaches. If so, they'd be easy to find, especially here in New York.

There are numerous reasons why people want our services. A company many be hosting a conference in which confidential information will be shared. They want to be sure that no one has placed a listening device in the conference area to learn their trade secrets.

In one case, a big city mayor just assumed office after an election. Sherlock Investigations was hired to sweep his office, conference room, and limousine. He wanted to be sure his predecessor didn't leave any listening devices behind. He didn't, but when I saw wires attached to the battery with alligator clips, I at first thought they were power for a transmitter. It turned out that they were for the mayor's car siren.

In a recent case, a high-profile socialite had us sweep her office for bugs. None were located.

In another case, a woman found that her husband, whom she was divorcing, knew a lot about conversations she had on her cell phone. She thought her cell phone was tapped. While this is possible, it's improbable unless the FBI is spying on you.

It turned out that her husband had placed a cell phone bug in her SUV. It took me two hours to locate it, as it wasn't turned on at the time of the search. Finally, within the maplight above the rearview mirror, I located a tiny microphone attached to a postage-sized circuit board. Two wires were attached to the circuit board. One led to the battery. The other led to a cell phone hidden in the ceiling of the vehicle.

The husband would call the cell phone from various places in the U.S. and listen to his wife's side of the conversation as she talked in her vehicle. The hidden cell phone didn't ring, but turned on the sensitive microphone.

Of course, once I found the cell phone, all I had to do is look at the phone numbers that had called the phone. All of the numbers were the husband's.

Cell phone bugs are probably the most common type of bug now. A specially prepared cell phone can be left on a desk, taped under a conference table, placed in a plant, or under a car seat. The eavesdropper can call at will and listen to the conversation in the room or vehicle.

Of course, we can locate cell phone bugs, and other eavesdropping devices, including hidden cameras, whether they be wireless or wired.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006


Hewlett Packard's scandal has put "pretexting" in the daily news. Until recently, only private investigators and information brokers knew about pretexting. According to today's Wall Street Journal, pretexting is "obtaining information by hiding one's identity." It's a lot more than that. It's not only hiding one's identity, it's pretending to be the person that you're trying to get information on.

When an information broker, or a private investigator, calls a phone company and says he's Bob Smith, when he's not Bob Smith, and that his house burned down and he lost all his cell phone records, and could they fax them to him, that's pretexting. Because it's identity theft, it's unethical, and, in many cases, illegal. At the very least, phone companies can sue a person for obtaining private information by fraudulent means.

We private investigators are equipped to employ pretexting because we can readily get a person's Social Security Number, date of birth, and mother's maiden name. With this power, though, comes responsibility. And because of the careless actions of some, private investigators continually lose their access to important information.

I know of at least two cases in which investigators provided home and work addresses to clients, who then went out and murdered the women that they had been stalking. That's why we at Sherlock Investigations are very careful to whom we give information. One of our policies is to never give out someone's Social Security Number unless there are legal grounds to do so.

We sometimes run a background check on our clients, for our own protection, and the protection of the public. Also, we sometimes ask clients why they want certain information. If their answers convince us, then we provide the info they want.

So, if you contact us for an investigation, don't be offended if we ask you some questions. If you have legitimate reasons, and there are many reasons, to order an investigation, you have nothing to worry about.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Employment as a Private Investigator

At Sherlock Investigations we are flooded with inquiries about employment. Some people call, others send email, and others send regular mail. Most applicants have no prior experience as an investigator, and most have no skills applicable to the field.

This leads me to believe that most applicants are on unemployment, and contact us just to meet their quota. It's obvious that none of these people have read the Employment section on our website.

If you're serious about getting into the field of private investigations, then learn some attractive skills. You don't have to have previous experience in law enforcement. I've seen librarians and geneologists become private investigators. That's because they know how to conduct research.

Take a look at our home page. See the kind of investigations that we conduct. How would you go about investigating these topics: locating someone, backgrounding a person or company, counterfeit merchandise investigations, finding a wire tap or other hidden eavesdropping device, investigating a cult, etc.?

If you have the skills to perform any of the above, you might make it as a private investigator.

Finally, please read our Employment column found at our home page.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Free People Search

Are people who get something for free called free-loaders? A while back Sherlock Investigations offered a free people search once a month for a worthy case. Our heart was in the right place, but it didn't work out because the people behind the cases we took were either unappreciative, or uncooperative.

You'd think they would be both, since they're getting hundreds of dollars worth of absolutely free services. But, that never seemed the case.

I don't know if TV has helped private investigators or hurt us. Television has focused on our industry to the point that people often think of us when they have a problem. The only problem is, TV doesn't present private investigators in reality.

The biggest point that they miss is the financial aspect. If you see a docudrama about private investigators, you never see a client signing the contract and handing the private investigator a check or credit card. In fact, no show about private investigators show such a thing.

Who's paying the bills on these shows? In the case of a docudrama the production company pays the investigator for his services. The so-called client gets everything free.

In programs like CSI, or other fictional shows, whether or not they're based on reality, some unseen and unmentioned entity pays the bills. In real life, the government foots the bills for investigations. Sometimes, though, they don't have the budget. That's why many crimes are never solved, because no one has the money to pay the detectives.

Criminal cases and civil cases are not solved by entering information into a data base and pushing a button. There are very specific steps an investigator must go through in solving a case.

We'll still take pro bono cases, but very, very seldomly. We don't have the time or the budget. Sorry.

Friday, September 01, 2006

William Koch's Investigation

William Koch is a billionaire, and most well-known for winning the Americas Cup in 1992. Koch collects wine. In fact, in the basement of his Florida mansion he has 17,000 bottles of it. Several bottles were alleged to be rare French wines once owned by our third president, Thomas Jefferson.

However, the legitimacy of this claim was challenged by several sources. Koch purchased the alleged rare wine from a German collector named Hardy Rodenstock. Since doubt was cast upon the authenticity of the wines, and knowing full well that the authorities had little interest in the plight of a billionaire and his rare wines, Koch himself launched an investigation of the wines and Rodenstock.

He hired former FBI agents to head the investigation. They concluded that Koch had been taken by a con artist. Now, Koch is suing Rodenstock. Koch footed the bill for the investigation, which cost over a million dollars.

Among other things, the private investigators learned that Rodenstock used to go by another name, and he apparently faked documents, among other misdeeds.

This brings us to the issue of the cost of investigations. A million dollars. Just to prove the legitimacy of a few bottles of wine.

People contact Sherlock Investigations for background investigations on various individuals. Among the things they ask us to find out are the number of bank accounts a person has, the amount of money in each account, properties owned, the person's place of employment and employment history, his marital status, how many wives he's had, the number of children, his educational background, and on and on.

When we tell them what we can actually do for their budget of, say, $500, they balk. Well, first of all, it's illegal to get most financial information. We can get information on certain assets, such as property, vehicles, boats, and planes.

Private Investigators can get a lot of information on a person. If there's anything detrimental, they can get that too. However, it's going to cost the client.

When the FBI does a background check on a person it takes at least 6 months, and costs the government thousands of dollars. Yet, people often want the same thing from us for $500, and done in five days.

As much as possible, we like to quote flat rates for investigations. To do so, we have to determine how many hours it will take us to gather the information. We roughly figure our fee at the rate of $150 an hour. So a ten-hour investigation would cost $1500. In reality, most of our background investigations go for $500. To do the kind of work many clients demand would cost in the thousands.

So, the truth is, you get what you pay for.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Con Artists

It never ceases to amaze me how often people are taken in by con artists. It shouldn't amaze me, though. The word "con" comes from "confidence." A con artist, whether a man or woman, builds up your confidence in them to the extent that they can rob you blind with a smile...and you'll smile right back while they're doing it.

Con artists are often complete strangers. You can meet them anywhere. They're always on the lookout for an easy target. Or, they can be members of your family.

Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal had an article about family members who take advantage of elderly family members. Like all con artists, one of their techniques is to try to separate the person being conned from other family members or friends.

The reason, of course, is that others can see what's going on more easily than the person being conned. So, the first sign that one should watch out for is that the person you trust so much tries to keep you from your friends or family. Another sign that you're being conned is that the person you trust keeps financial records from you, such as your check book. They assure you that everything's being taken care of.

The elderly are often afraid to report their suspicions about being conned, because they think that others will think that they've become incompetent. Actually, recognizing a con is a sign of competence.

At Sherlock Investigations we've conducted many background checks of con artists. Often though, the person being conned will never admit it, especially when others have pointed it out to them. Denial is costly.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

JP Morgan Chase Security

Recently I wrote about a close friend whose savings account at JP Morgan Chase, or just Chase for short, was hacked into online. The final damages were that the hacker got $64,000, processed through PayPal. Every other day they extracted $6000.

Of course, my friend called Chase immediately upon finding out that her money was disappearing. Well, actually, that's not quite accurate. She received a letter from Chase verifying that she had changed her address. But she hadn't. So she got on the phone with Chase and within a few minutes they found out that a chunk of money had disappeared from her account.

Chase quickly put a stop to the leaking funds, or at least that's what my friend thought. Yesterday, she found out that $6000 was now missing from her checking account. How Chase failed to catch that I don't know, but it underscores my belief that online banking is unsafe. Sure, the accounts are insured, but it's still a pain in the ass to straighten everything out.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Prostitution in New York

New York City is known as America's playground for entertainment.
This also applies to illegal entertainment and the city's abundant underground sex industry. There are more than 250 brothels in New York City's five boroughs.

Prostitution may be illegal in New York, but there's no shortage of sex workers plying their trade. Working out of an individual's apartment or apartments converted to many small bedrooms, they advertise "in call" services on cable TV and several free weekly newspapers. For those unwilling to go to a brothel, the same services are just a phone call away. Many hundreds of escorts provide "out call" services to hotel guests. Of course, prostitutes still work the streets, especially near every hotel.

At Sherlock Investigations, we've researched the industry, and made a map of NYC's brothels. When conducting a surveillance, and when the alleged philanderer is followed, investigators are be able to identify an existing brothel, even though on the outside it appears to be just a regular apartment building or business.

Unfortunately, in the course of our work, we have a high demand for surveillance, and have the ability to track and investigate subjects frequenting brothels. Most people have no idea the prevalence and popularity of these establishments---what is known as the world's oldest profession is a thriving business in locations throughout the city that you would never be aware of.

Our maps of brothel locations in Manhattan was formulated after many hours of research, including phone calls to many of these establishments, surveillance, and information from company case files. We used to have this map on our web site, but we removed it so that we wouldn't cast shadows on any neighborhoods.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Whitey Bulger Sighting?

James "Whitey" Bulger has been on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted List since 2000. They're offering a $1 million reward for information leading to his arrest.

A Boston mob figure, Bulger worked for years as an FBI informant. Now he's wanted in connection with several murders. He's considered armed (a knife) and dangerous. Photos of the white-haired Bulger are on the FBI's web site.

To this day, I believe that I spotted him on Saturday, September, 2003. Here's my story:

At approximately 1:25 p.m. I arrived with a friend at The Zipper theater at 336 W. 37th Street in New York to see a show called "Berkshire Village Idiot," a one-man comedy about Western Massachusetts.

After picking up our tickets at the box office, we sat in the waiting area for about 15 minutes until they opened the theater. Then we were ushered to our seats, which were second row center. The show began about 10-12 minutes later.

About 2:30 p.m., a half hour into the show, I noticed a distinguished-looking man sitting about 10 yards away from me, diagonally on the right. He was sitting at the far end of the front row. There were four people sitting to his left.

The physical appearance of the man caused me to do a double take. My first thought was that he looked like Whitey Bulger. His white hair was closely cropped on the sides. He appeared to have no hair on top. He was dressed in black slacks, a black short-sleeved shirt, and thick-soled black sandals, with no socks.

While he appeared very trim, his arms were somewhat muscular. He looked to be in his late 60s to early 70s. On the floor to his right was a medium-sized black, nylon backpack.

Dismissing my "sighting" as someone who looked coincidentally like Bulger, I let it go, but I occasionally glanced over at him. One time, our eyes met, and momentarily locked. After that, I avoided letting him see me look at him. For the next few minutes he acted figidty.

Although the show has some funny lines, I never observed him laughing, or even smiling to the extent of revealing his teeth.

In one scene, the lights were extinguished and the theater was almost completely dark. When the lights came back on, I noticed that the man had disappeared. His black bag was also gone. It was about 2:45 p.m.

I sat for a few minutes wondering what to do. It made sense to me that Bulger, being from Massachusetts, would find a show about Massachusetts of interest. My adrenaline began to rise. The seat in front of me, which was the front row, was empty. I quickly climbed over it and hurried out of the theater. I spoke to an usher who was seated on a folding chair outside.

I asked her if she had seen a man leave, and I described him. She said that she had, and mentioned that he had left in a hurry, and didn't look at her, or say anything.

I also spoke to the person in the ticket office. He had also noticed the man leave in an apparent rush. I went outside and looked up and down 37th Street, but didn't see the man, and found no one else who had noticed him.

Then, I called a contact at the FBI. My friend took my verbal report and suggested that someone would get back to me. I imagined that the FBI would first question me, and then go down to the theater and fingerprint the area where the man sat. If Bulger's fingerprints were found, then the sighting was real, and they would know at least that he was in New York.

I never heard from the FBI about this. Either they knew that Bulger was in some other location, or they're just slack in looking for him.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Google Earth

If you haven't discovered Google Earth by now you're really missing out on a fun and useful Internet tool. Google Earth is a great way to learn geoography. They list a number of fun sites that you can "fly" to. You can type in a location, including almost any address in the United States, and then Google Earth zooms in on it just like you're flying there. They even have a DaVinci Code tour, taking you to sites mentioned in the book and movie, which Google calls "a little-known and obscure book and movie."

At Sherlock Investigations, we use Google Earth as an investigative tool. It's useful in preparing for many surveillance assignments, as you can literally scope out the land. You can spot trees, buildings, lakes, and ponds. If fact, it is so detailed that I can see my parked car in New York. (The up-close details in some rural areas are somewhat obscure.)

Google Earth is comprised of satellite photos taken at least two years ago. It is not real time, but still very useful.

In one case, we found that the subject of an investigation had a large house with an olympic-size swimming pool. This was useful information as we were conducting a background investigation.

When trying to locate a person recently, Google Earth solved the case. No, we didn't see the person standing in front of his house. Through other means, we located the person and his phone number, but no one ever answered the phone there, and there was no response to a Fedex envelope sent to the address.

So I ran the address on Google Earth and noticed that it was a large complex in Florida near a golf course. Next, I ran the address on Google and found that it was a large retirement community. I Googled the name of the retirement community and found their contact number. I called their office and inquired about the subject of my investigation. Right away they told me, "Oh, he's on vacation up north and won't be back until the end of October." But they knew where he was and put me in touch with the subject.

So, besides being a lot of fun, Google Earth has numerous useful purposes.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Private Investigator's Q&A

If you have questions relating to private investigations, you can post them here anonymously and I will try to answer them on this forum. They could relate to personal problems that an investigator might help you with, or a general question.

We get many emails and calls a day at our office, but with caller I.D. and email IP addresses revealed it's difficult to remain anonymous. Now you can.

So, whatever your question, post it here, and I'll try to answer it in this column.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Cell Phone Records

On June 21, 2006, I appeared before the United States House of Representatives' Committee on Engergy and Commerce in Washington to ostensibly testify about "information brokers" who advertise cell phone records for sale on the Internet. If you Google my name, Skipp Porteous, you'll read on the Committee's website: "Mr. Porteous invoked his 5th Amendment right against self incrimination & declined to testify and answer the committees' questions."

The Committee is chaired by Congressman Joe Barton (R) of Texas, and had already passed a law that could land a person in prison for 20 years if they used deception to obtain a person's cell phone records. This was the first time I had ever heard of Congress holding a hearing after they had passed a law.

Earlier, they had invited me to testify. I politely declined. Then they subpoenaed me to appear. I would have gladly testified had they not kept me in the dark about why Sherlock Investigations was included in an investigation concerning what information brokers advertise on the Internet. Sherlock Investigations is not an information broker.

When our lawyer inquired why they included Sherlock Investigations in their investigation, as we have never advertised the procurement of cell phone records, the Committee's attorney said, "Are you sure?" Well, we were as sure as we could be.

When I was called upon to testify, the Committee posted a document on a large overhead flat-screen monitor. The document was a copy of a posting that a former employee had placed on the Internet...advertising a sale he was running on obtaining cell phone records. And he included Sherlock Investigations in his post.

After my initial shock, I said to myself, "So, this is what it was all about." Now, in a trial one has a right to "discovery." That means you have a right to know what the other side has on you. In a Congressional investigation you're kept in the dark, as it's not a trial.

We receive many inquiries about obtaining cell phone records. As useful as they might be in an investigation, we don't do it, period. I think you can understand why.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Identity Theft

A person very close to me learned last night that she is the victim of identity theft. She received a letter from Chase about her recent address change, and that if the information was incorrect to notify Chase immediately.

She's lived at the same address for 15 years, and hadn't notified Chase of any change. After a call to Chase, she learned that someone went online and changed her address to a Brooklyn one, and changed her online login and password. Then they proceeded to launder her money through PayPal at the rate of $6000 every other day. So far, we know of $36,000 taken. Fortunately, accounts are insured up to $100,000. Still, it's a pain in the neck to straighten everything out.

I checked out the Brooklyn address and found that it was a fake one.

Meanwhile, she's closing all her accounts at Chase, and I'm quickly coming to the conclusion that online banking is unsafe. As a private investigator I know that it's easy to get someone's Social Security Number, mother's maiden name, address, phone number, and any other info a thief would need to steal your identity.

I think to be safe, you should have the bank flag your account with a notice that says that you have to go to the bank in person to change anything on the account.

To learn more about protecting yourself against identity theft, go to the Federal Trade Commission's web site at www.consumer.gov/idtheft.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Is your phone bugged?

I sweep homes and businesses for clandestine listening devices two or three times a week. Our clients come from every walk of life. Recently, I swept the office of a very famous socialite. Before that, I swept the office, conference room, and city-owned vehicle of a well-known mayor. But, most of the people who call Sherlock Investigations are ordinary people. They may be other private eyes, accountants, lawyers, or housewives.

For every case I accept, there's one that I turn down. About half the people who call have a legitimate reason to have their place of work or home swept for electronic bugs. They may be going through a divorce and the soon-to-be-ex knows too much about what is going on. Others may have a high-level conference scheduled and they want to make sure eavesdroppers aren't listening in.

I'll turn down a case if I feel a would-be client is mentally unstable. People who hear strange sounds in their head, or see red lights in the bathroom are quite common, but a little off. In almost every other way they're normal. Still, they're paranoid.

In some cases, people have convinced me to sweep their apartment or house, only to tell me afterwards (after I found nothing suspicious), that "they knew you were coming and turned off the devices."

Believe me, I want more business, and love doing what I do, but I can't take advantage of people. If you think your place is bugged, ask yourself who would go to such extreme lengths to plant listening devices or cameras in your house? Do you have a landlord or neighbor who might want to spy on you? That could be a good reason to suspect something.

Do you think the CIA has placed computer chips in your head? If you do, please don't call me, call a psychiatrist. I'm not being cute, I'm serious.

Sometimes paranoia or an obsessive compulsive disorder is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. Medication may relieve this sympton, as these things are usually treatable.

Sometimes our fears or suspicions are self taught, from the messages we tell ourselves. We tend to build a case about some fear until we really start to believe it.

Many of us have phobias. I've always been afraid of heights. To help get over this fear, I started climbing 30-foot ladders. I'm still somewhat afraid, but it's more on the side of caution than fear. Sometimes we have to systematically desensitize ourselves about our fears. Little by little, we can replace the fear with the truth.

Most people don't have to worry about the FBI conducting surveillance on them, or the CIA tapping their phone. If you can think of a real good reason why someone would place a bug in your car, office, or home, call me. I'll locate and disable it.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Apology to Gypsies

Several Gypsies and "psychics" recently contacted me concerning my posts about Gypsy Psychic Scams in the Sherlock Investigations blog. The complainants said in effect that all Gypsies and/or pyschics are not criminals. To this I must wholeheartedly agree, and apologize to the Roma (Gypsy) people for implying that they are all criminals.

The Roms/Gypsies originally came to Europe from India about 1000 years ago. Now, they are found in many countries, including, of course, the United States. Romas can be found in all walks of life. Most are honest, law-abiding citizens.

I talked to an NYPD detective who was involved in "Operation Crystal Ball," a police crackdown on fraudulent psychics in New York City. He told me, "I've never see [a pyschic] with a neon sign that was legitimate." He added that only one in a hundred is a non-Gypsy. (A Roma term for a non-Gypsy is Gadje, which is considered an offensive term.)

While I really don't know whether people have psychic powers, I concur with the NYPD. I believe that all the storefront psychics, the one's with neon signs, are phoney.

In fact, fortune telling, except for entertainment purposes, is illegal in New York. While only a misdemeanor, it quickly escalates to a felony, grand larceny, when people start losing the amounts of money we see in our case files. At Sherlock Investigations we've had clients lose as much as $150,000. All of these clients started with a $10 reading from a storefront psychic.

While most people never file charges with the police, they can, and should.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Wire tap & bug detection update

Cell phone bugs are currently the most popular and easiest method of eavesdropping. Whether placed behind a plant in a conference room, or behind the bed in a bedroom, cell phone bugs are hot.

Cell phones can be purchased right off the shelf that have the ability to silence the ringer. All an eavesdropper has to do is just leave the cell phone any place he wants to listen in on the activity. Then he can call the cell phone from any place in the world.

Some cell phones are modified slightly with a super-sensitive microphone, or even an extended microphone on a thin wire leading away from the cell phone. Cell phone bugs can last a week or more with the internal battery. Connected to a car battery, cell phone bugs hidden in a vehicle can last indefinately.

Most TSCM people (bug sweepers) either don't bother with cell phone frequencies because they are so common. Also, a cell phone left in an office looks so innocous. However, it's a very real threat.

Cordless phone threats

Yesterday, I conducted an electronic sweep at a home in Connecticut. The owner said that people were repeating conversations that had taken place in the privacy of his home. We get many calls from paranoid people who may suffer from mental illness. So, I was a little dubious.

I still see quite a few 900 MHz cordless phones in homes. Eavesdroppers can easily listen in on their conversations with a simple Radio Shack scanner. I always advise clients to throw out these phones and pick up a digital 2.4 GHz or 5.8 GHz cordless phone, as these aren't picked up by scanners.

Yesterday, to my surprise, I found a GE 5.8 GHz cordless phone that was compromised. When I conduct an electronic sweep, I play music from a known sound source, a cassette player. My equipment includes an array of antennas and a broadband receiver with headphones. If I hear the music I'm playing through my headphones, then I know a hidden microphone in the room is picking it up and transmitting it. In this case, it was the cordless phone. The lesson is, anything can be compromised.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Find a Person

Finding people is one of several things that we do very well at Sherlock Investigations. We've been locating people for many years. When the Internet first came on the scene I was afraid that it would cut into our business. We've experienced quite the contrary.

On the Internet you can find many services that claim to find people. Whether you Google "people search," "find a person," "find someone," or many other combinations, you'll get many hits. Some of these sites offer free people searches. They'll find the easy ones.

Others even post ominous warnings such as:

Find A Person - Warning
Do Not Pay For Any People Search
Service Until You Read This

"Find People" Scam Alert
Do Not Purchase Any "Find People"
Results Until You Read This Warning

I strongly suspect that these warnings are not posted by neutral review boards or consumer boards, but are from self-serving companies that sell the public almost useless programs to locate people, or to conduct background investigations on people.

At Sherlock Investigations, we never use programs such as Net Detective or similar programs. We have access to databases that require a valid private investigation license. But, we often go way beyond database searches. For example, a recently missing person won't show up in any database as the information in them is often months old.

We get on the phone, go out into the street when necessary, and employ other trade secrets that I'm not about to tell. Yes, we're more expensive than computer programs you can buy on the Internet, but over the years we've proven ourselves with solid results. The testimonies on our web site are proof of this. Yes, every day we locate hard-to-find people. The results are very satisfying.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Gypsy Psychic Scams

Pretending to be caring, compassionate, and often Christian, your run-of-the-mill fortune teller, spiritual advisor, psychic, or whatever they want to call themselves, only want one thing: to relieve you of your money.

Many people who get sucked into the psychic lairs do it just for fun. After all, an initial reading is only ten bucks. But, before they know it, they give the fortune teller $100, and then thousands.

Never give them a penny. Even a "fun" $10 reading supports a criminal enterprise.

Fortune tellers are adept at gathering information from you in a casual conversation. Then they turn it around and give it back to you in a way that you think that they somehow came up with it in the first place. Sometimes they just read between the lines of what you tell them.

They also intimately know human nature, and the weaknesses, fears, and troubles we all share. When a person hears something from a pyschic that strikes a cord in them, and they think that the pyschic must indeed be gifted, they're ready to go down the slippery slope.

At Sherlock Investigations, we've had clients who have given fortune tellers $50,000 in a year's time, and even $150,000 in a year-and-a-half. Now, these are educated, intelligent people. However, the pyschic found something in them, a weakness, maybe a need or want to believe.

Victims come to us ashamed, humiliated, and desperate. In most cases, the money is never returned, and the fortune teller escapes. Only when less than 24 hours have passed have we been able to get a victim's money back.

We've had other cases where our clients said a pyschic told them who committed certain crimes. The other day, a man called to say that he knew who murdered someone in a case where a large reward was offered. As we sometimes act as a go-between in cases where someone is afraid to come forward with knowledge of a crime, we were very interested....until he told us that he was himself a psychic, and he learned the name of the murderer through his special powers. Well, we couldn't jeopardize our credibility with the FBI with information like this, so we let it drop.

To learn more about gypsy psychic scams, go to www.gypsypsychicscams.com. This is an excellent site that offers help to victims, and exposes psychics all over the country.

Finally, a well-known New York magazine is working on a story about psychic rip-offs. If you're in New York City, and have had a bad experience with a fortune teller or psychic, and want to talk about it, please contact Sherlock Investigations.

Friday, May 26, 2006


Do you know that you're a scam waiting to happen? That's right, scammers and con artists are just waiting to take you for a ride. These people know every possible human weakness, weaknesses that make all of us vulnerable.

Fortunately, there are those who have the expertise and know-how to warn us. Among them are Jim and Audri Lanford. Jim and Audri are Internet pioneers. Over the years they've developed a number of programs and services to promote business and help all of us.

Now, they run Scambusters.org, the #1 Publication on Internet Fraud. Found at www.scambusters.org, the online publication is free. It's supported by inconspicuous ads placed at the end of each newsletter.

The current issue focuses on small, recurring credit card charges, and bounced check handling alerts. Here's an excerpt from "Small, recurring credit card charges:

Have you ever noticed a small charge to a company you don't recognize on your credit card statement?

You then look at last month's statement, and find the same credit card charge. And going back, you see that charge has been there month after month after month...

The charge is often for $9.95, $14.95 or $19.95 each month. These are called small, recurring credit card charges and experts say they have increased dramatically over the past six months.

People often believe that the charge belongs to their spouse.

These charges are more than annoying. Unfortunately, they can add up to hundreds of dollars over time."

The article then goes into detail about these scams, and how you can avoid them.

Notwithstanding that it would hurt our business if more people read ScamBusters, we highly recommend the free, online newsletter.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Bug sweeps: wiretap & bug detection

Can you imagine what people are learning about your personal life or business if they've tapped your phone or bugged your home or office?

Are people finding out your secrets or personal business?

Are you scheduling a highly confidential meeting or conference?

Is confidential information about your business leaking out?

Does your phone often ring once and then stop?

Did you have a break-in at your home or business and nothing was taken?

Do you have an overly suspicious spouse or significant other?

Do others know about your conversations even when you talk from the privacy of your vehicle?

Do you think you might be under covert video surveillance?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may be under electronic surveillance. Your home, office, vehicle or computer may be "bugged," or otherwise compromised. Don't go out and order a "bug detector" or "phone tap detector" off the Internet, because most of that equipment is junk. And even the good equipment is useless unless you are highly trained to use it. You need to contact us, the sooner the better.

Sherlock Investigations' clients include politicians, law enforcement, entertainers, attorneys, accountants, manufacturers, publishers, the fashion world, and private citizens.

Besides years of hands-on experience, Sherlock's investigators have been trained at the World Institute for Security Enhancement in TSCM (Technical Surveillance Countermeasures). Using state-of-the-art electronic countermeasures equipment and a thorough physical search, they'll sweep the entire radio spectrum for clandestine transmitters, hidden microphones, wireless video cameras, tape recorders, and phone taps. They'll check your computer for keystroke loggers.

If electronic devices or programs have been placed in your home, office, business, vehicle, or computer network, Sherlock Investigations will locate them, neutralize them, and help you find out who placed them.

Of course, our services are discreet. We'll come to your home or office at a time most convenient to you, and at a time that would arouse the least suspicion.

Sherlock's technical surveillance countermeasures sweep includes the following:

Total RF (radio frequency) spectrum sweep - 200 Hz to 12 GHz
Carrier current sweep - 20 KHz to 400 KHz
Infrared transmission sweep
Laser beam transmission sweep
Microwave (X-Band) transmission sweep
Microphone sweep
Radio transmitter sweep
Video transmitter sweep
Hidden video camera sweep
Audio recorder sweep
Acoustic leakage inspection
Phone taps (includes recorders and transmitters) sweep
Vehicle "bumper beeper" sweep
Vehicle active and passive GPS sweep

Considering what people may be finding out about you or your business, the rates for a TSCM sweep are inexpensive. No job is too large or too small. So contact Sherlock Investigations today.

NOTE: Sherlock Investigations specialize in the New York, New Jersey, Connnecticut, Massachusetts area, but can make arrangements to go anywhere in the continental U.S.

Our rates are $350 an hour. There is a two-hour minimum for vehicles, and a four-hour minimum for buildings. We may impose a $75 an hour travel fee.

Special: Repeat sweeps within 3 months are discounted 50%.

PLEASE NOTE: (1) DO NOT call from a phone or area that you think may be under electronic surveillance. Do not email Sherlock from a computer that you think might be compromised. (2) If you have reason to think that any kind of law enforcement agency has you under surveillance, go somewhere else. Sherlock cannot help you. (3) Sherlock Investigations does not install bugs or wiretaps. Please do not ask.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

People Search

At Sherlock Investigations we like to find people. Among the most popular reasons our clients hire us to locate the current whereabouts of someone is that they're looking for debtors, witnesses/heirs, deadbeat parents (usually fathers), criminals, runaways, birth parents or long-lost siblings.

With a success rate of 98%, Sherlock's private investigators specialize in locating hard-to-find people. You can believe that Sherlock's private investigators are the best in the industry. Unlike some services found on the Internet, we provide you with a valid current address, not just a long printout of matching names. (We never use Net Detective.) We work with you throughout the process of locating someone.

How it works

Initially, Sherlock's private investigators painstakingly search billions of public and non-public records contained in 24,000+ databases. They include:

The three major credit bureaus, utilizing Social Security numbers
Driver's licenses
Voting records
Date of birth files
Social Security Death Index
Current phone numbers
Warranty registration cards
Magazine subscriptions
U.S. Postal changes of address
High school and college alumni databases
Professional licenses
Inmate locator databases
Multiple state, county, and city databases
Newspaper articles and obituaries

If utilizing the resources listed above fails in locating the current whereabouts of your subject - and depending upon our your wishes - Sherlock's private investigators personally contact friends, relatives, former neighbors, former classmates, former landlords, and employers. We'll even go to previous addresses and knock on doors for you.

Sherlock Investigation's rates

Sherlock Investigation's flat rates with no hidden fees provide five weeks of investigative services ... more than sufficient time to locate most people. Sherlock Investigations can usually locate almost anyone in a matter of days, but sometimes it takes weeks or months.

If, after five weeks, Sherlock Investigations haven't located your subject, we close the case. Now, because of Sherlock's high success rate, the cases coming in have become more and more difficult. Sherlock aims to please you, but it's sometimes impractical and costly to continue an investigation. However, Sherlock now offers special "Sherlock Insurance."

Sherlock Insurance

Sherlock Insurance is a consumer protection plan that guarantees that Sherlock will continue to look for your subject until the subject is located. Even if it takes Sherlock six months, or even a year, Sherlock will stay on your case. Now, for a mere $99 one-time additional fee, Sherlock Investigations guarantees that your case will remain active until the subject is located.

In criminal cases, Sherlock's private investigators work closely with law enforcement. In some cases, a county or state will not extradite a wanted felon, mostly for budgetary reasons, so attempts to locate the felon may be futile.


"I literally spent years searching on my own for a biological father I hadn't seen in roughly 30 years. I used all the resources I could find on the web even spending the money on some of the online people finding services. At every turn I was met with nothing but failure and frustration. After reading the testimonials on Sherlock Investigation's website and seeing their phenomenal success rate, I decided to give their private investigators a try. You probably think I'm exaggerating, but in a mere 90 minutes after I emailed Skipp Porteous the very limited information I had, he had found my father! Not only that, he also provided me with a current address and phone number, both of which were 100% accurate. I could have never imagined that Skipp and his private investigators would be able to do such an amazing job so fast. If only they could make the meeting as easy as the finding."

- B.A., North Carolina

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Private Investigator Secrets

Private investigators have secrets. Many laymen think that they can learn our secrets by buying Net Detective or some other useless program.

There are books, such as The Complete Idiot's Guide to Private Investigating (available on the Sherlock Investigations site under Employment), that reveal some of our cherished secrets.

Private investigators have long used unorthodox methods for obtaining information. However, some of these are illegal, and any investigator using these methods is taking a real chance.

One of our clients recently complained because we hadn't located a person as fast as he thought we would. He paid $395, and expected that we'd send an investigator out on the street for a week looking for the person. For that amount, we can't afford to send an investigator out, but we can let our fingers do the walking. Which brings up our biggest secret.

Good private investigators take full advantage of the telephone. For example, when locating a person, we know that there is always someone, and, usually, quite a few people, who know where the person is that we're trying to locate. So, we start calling friends, associates, former neighbors, former employers, and ask them if they know where the person is.

While we employ public and non-public databases that we subscribe to, a successful locate often comes down to using the telephone.

Some of our secrets are not high-tech, but just plain old-fashioned investigative methods.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Investigative Therapy

There are a myriad of reasons that people or firms hire private investigators. Sometimes they're looking for an old boyfriend, or a deadbeat dad, a debtor, a witness, or an heir. The reasons for these searches are all obvious.

Or, they could be contemplating a divorce and want to gather evidence to support them in divorce court, especially if alimony or child custody is involved.

And companies want to hire the best people, and also reduce their liability, so they have a background investigation performed on prospective hirees.

Then, some people order investigations as a sort of therapy. They either want to know something out of curiosity, or need reassurance. A person might think that their home or office is bugged. After a while it can nag them so much that they hire Sherlock Investigations to perform an electronic sweep just to be sure that they have absolute electronic privacy. I call this "investigative therapy." It can take many forms.

Investigative therapy can involve a lot of different kinds of cases, but the bottom line is that some people just need the reassurance that certain things are so. It's good to know, and that's what private investigators try to do, to discover the facts of a situation and relate them to the client.

So, if you need an investigation performed for simple theraputic reasons, give us a call. We're here to help you.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Disappear Completely

Sherlock Investigations got a good mention in New York magazine on February 27th. The cover story in New York was "Change Your Life." Chock full of good tips on how to start anew, one, Number 12, in which I was quoted, was called "Disappear Completely."

Among the tips for disappearing, was live on cash alone. Of course, this is hard to do. You either have to have a stash hidden somewhere, or get paid under the table. And about the only jobs like that are waiting on tables and picking apples.

One thing I told the writer, but didn't make the article, was that to disappear completely one has to break off all contact with friends and relatives. This is where most deadbeats and fugitives gone wrong. It's really difficult to break off all associations from the past. There's always someone that most people want to keep in touch with. (When looking for fugitives, we check their mother's house on Thanksgiving.)

The people who keep in touch with old associates are the people whose phone will be tapped by the FBI. One call to that old friend and they're done.

Some people have a legitimate reason to disappear (thus the Witness Protection Program), but most do not. And unless one takes very extreme measures, anyone can be found.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Autosurf Scams

According to todays Wall Street Journal, most paid autosurf Web sites are Ponzi schemes. In fact, the Securities and Exchange Commission issued a warning about them, and has shut down one site.

While some autosurf sites are legitimate, most are not, and it's very difficult to know who is legitimate and who is not. These Web sites promise to pay subscribers to view advertising for 12 days that appears on the member's computers through automatic surfing, or "autosurf."

Members have to pay a membership fee up front to participate. The more they pay in, the more they get back. These scams work like the traditional Ponzi scheme. Dividends are actually paid from the money that other new members invest, not the fees the advertisers pay. So, people who get into these schemes at the beginning will make some money, but eventually, the whole thing collapses, and most people end up losing their entire investment.

The SEC froze the funds of 12DailyPro.com last week, saying, according to the Journal, that the Web site had defrauded more than 300,000 people of more than $50 million.

These scams are perpetuated by greed. People like to make a fast buck, and will take great risks to do it.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Lust is in the air

Some investigative agencies report that their case-load of infidelity cases doubles on Valentine's Day. I don't know if this is media hype, or reality. I know that a number of media outlets contacted Sherlock Investigations prior to Valentine's Day and asked if our business increased on that day. Truthfully, it doesn't.

However, surveillance, as part of infidelity investigations, increases in the Spring. Love, or lust, seems to go hand-in-hand with Spring. The change of seasons, warmer weather and fewer clothes, and life bursting out of the ground and tree branches seems to trigger something in us.

So, with March here, Spring starts officially next month. With the arrival of Spring, our surveillance activities in New York City will increase accordingly. While I like having more business, it's always sad to me that there are so many bad relationships. When a relationship has soured so much that one of the partners requests surveillance, it signals the end of the relationship. But, I suppose, sometimes we just have to know.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Who's listening to your voice mail messages?

Most people don't that there are others who routinely check other people's voice mail. This is easily done. For example, when you buy a new answering machine it comes with a preset, easy to remember, security code. Very few people bother to change it. When they do, they enter something that's easy for them to remember, and for others to find out.

Even if you have voice mail through your telephone company, you'll likely pick a security code that you can easily remember.

So, imagine for a minute that someone listens to your voice mail. What personal or business secrets could they learn? What kind of messages do people typically leave for you. In some cases, it could get really embarrassing. It could cost businesses a lot of money, too.

One indication that your voice mail has been tampered with is the discovery of a non-working pass code when you try to call from another number to retrieve your messages. Another clue is that you believe that messages have been deleted. Maybe a friend tells you that they left a message, but there are no messages.

At Sherlock Investigations we have equipment to help our clients know when and who is listening to their voice mail messages. Our equipment works on both cell phones and landline phones. And the best thing is that we can set it up from our office. As far as we know, Sherlock Investigations is the only company performing this service.

Before the service is set up, we'll tell you how to preserve the evidence that unauthorized persons listened to your voicemail. You can use this to confront them, or for a legal case.

If you suspect that someone's been checking your messages, either on your cell phone or landline, don't call your phone company, because they won't help you, and your cell phone company could just mess things up so that we can't find the culprit. And don't change your pass code, because that, too, could mess things up.

These services, of course, are completely legal. Sherlock Investigations does not engage in any kind of electronic eavesdropping. Please do not ask.

Email us if you think you need this service.