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.

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