Guns, Gams & Gumshoes

A defense attorney & PI who also happen to be writers

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THE ZEN MAN, BookRooster Reviewers’ Pick, is Free March 17-19

Posted by Writing PIs on March 17, 2014

Click on cover to go to book's Amazon page

Click on cover to go to book’s Amazon page

Semifinalist Best Indie Books of 2012, The Kindle Book Reviews

BookRooster.com Reviewers’ Picks 2013
March 17: #1 Kindle Store-Mystery-Private Investigators!

#1 Kindle Store-Mystery-Private Investigators

“I loved every single word of The Zen Man!”~Delores Fossen, USA Today best-selling author

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Nick and Nora’s in Real Life

Posted by Writing PIs on March 11, 2014

Writing a sleuth?  Curious about the real world of man-and-woman P.I. teams?  Guns, Gams and Gumshoes’s Colleen Collins’s article “Current-Day Nick and Nora’s: Married Private-Eye Teams” is posted at Digital Book Today.  Below is an excerpt with a link to the full article at the end.  Enjoy!

Current-Day Nick and Nora’s: Married Private-Eye Teams

Shaun Kaufman and Colleen Collins August 2011

Our guest blogger is Colleen Collins author of several books including The Ungrateful Dead: Prequel to The Zen Man and The Zen Man.

Married Private-Eye Teams

What is it like being a married private-eye team? In the ten years experience my husband and I owned a private detective agency, we found it to be, for the most part, fun. We had our tense moments, but we enjoy each other’s company and love to make each other laugh, so when we look back on our P.I. days together, we have many fond memories.

These days, my husband is focused on his law practice, and I on my writing (but I still take a P.I. case from time to time), and although we enjoy our current careers, we sometimes miss those days when we’d be trying to nail a process service, rolling on surveillance or digging through trash.  Ah, the romance of it all.

Our Strengths and Weaknesses as a P.I. Team

Over ten years, we grew to understand each other’s work styles.  He’s a big-picture person, I see the details.  Those strengths can work fantastically together — and those personalities can also drive each other more than a little crazy.

Here’s one example of how our different traits meshed well.  Whenever we had a surveillance, I knew I could count on my husband calmly tackling any major issue, from losing a subject in traffic to a flat tire.  And I knew he counted on my organization and planning — for example, before we headed out to surveil someone, I’d have prepared information about the subject for us to review, from photographs of the subject/s to their possible hangouts to detailed physical descriptions, jewelry, traits, etc.

As to how our different working styles could grate on each other…well, it’s like putting together a person who sees the forest with a person who sees the trees and asking them what’s the best way through that landscape.  They’re going to have very different opinions!

Other Articles

We talk about being a P.I. team at our sister site, Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes, in a recent blog “He Said, She Said: Pros and Cons of Being Married to Your PI Partner” — click here to read it.

A local magazine ran a story about us two years ago — in fact, they made us the cover story. It was a kick hanging out with the reporter, although when she didn’t get some of our sixties and seventies references, we realized we’re, well, growing older. To read “For These Married Detectives, Truth is More Fun Than Fiction” (the reporter picked that title, and she’s right…it is more fun), click here.

Other Married P.I. Teams

We’ve gotten to know a few other married PI-team couples over the years, such as Jimmie and Rosemarie Mesis who, besides running their own investigations business, also are publishers of Professional Investigator Magazine. If you’re a writer developing a sleuth character or story…

To read the full article, click here.

Have a great week, Writing PIs

Colleen’s new mystery novella, The Ungrateful Dead, featuring a private eye man-and-woman team who investigate a homicide at a coroners’ conference, is now available on Amazon.

Click on cover to go to book's Amazon page

Click on cover to go to book’s Amazon page

“I loved The Zen Man and really had fun catching Rick and Laura’s first case in the prequel, The Ungrateful Dead. These novels have everything I love in a mystery: smart dialogue, a flawed hero, a little romance and a great plot. Murder at a coroner’s conference? What could be more fun!” 
~ Nancy Warren USA Today Bestselling Author of The Toni Diamond mysteries

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Can a Private Investigator Obtain a Police File?

Posted by Writing PIs on March 10, 2014

private investigator

A writer asks how a P.I. might obtain a law enforcement report.

Writer’s Question: In the book I’m trying to write, the sister of a woman is missing. The police have finished their investigation and decided that the woman ran off. (Maybe not closed the investigation, not sure how that works in real life.) Her sister doesn’t believe that, so goes to my P.I. for help. My questions are: Can a P.I. get the file on the woman from the authorities? Is there sharing and corporation or is there conflict between them?

Answer: It’s very difficult for anyone from the private sector to obtain an open investigation file, although any private citizen can obtain access to a closed file.

But back to an open investigation file: Law enforcement officials might share verbal conclusions, but they would not share the entire body of the file. Often, there is conflict (or at least a lack of cooperation) between the private and public sectors. Things get even more complicated when you factor in the federal agencies because they consider most local law enforcement to be inferior agencies. For example, federal agencies frequently defer missing person investigations to local authorities absent special factors, which include kidnap with inter-state transport, kidnap with ransom, child kidnap, international kidnap, and  kidnapping related to international or domestic terrorism.

Saying that, there are a number of famous cases where private investigators have solved missing person and homicide cases. Not so long ago, several retired El Paso County Colorado law enforcement agents formed a private investigations agency that uncovered a serial murderer responsible for anywhere between 7-30 deaths (many of which had been unsolved for more than 10 years). This is an example of dedicated law enforcement work by those in the private sector, although we also surmise they must have had a tremendous amount of cooperation from their former agencies.

Holmes

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Interview with Steven Kerry Brown, author of “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Private Investigating”

Posted by Writing PIs on February 16, 2014

This is an update on P.I.-author Steven Kerry Brown, followed by a two-part interview Guns, Gams and Gumshoes did with Steven in 2009.

Bio: Steven Kerry Brown

Steven Kerry Brown is a former FBI special agent and supervisory special agent, founder and president of Millennial Investigative Agency in Florida, novelist, author of magazine articles and nonfiction books, blogger, and has spent two years as captain of a sixty-foot ketch running sailing charters in the Bahamas.

He’s appeared on such television programs as Hard Copy and 60 Minutes, and is the author of one of the best books on private investigations around (The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Private Investigating — its third edition was released March 2013). He is also the author of 5 Things Women Need to Know About the Men They Date, released in April 2013.

The Idiot’s Guide to Private Investigating

The first time I met Steven was back in 2004 when he called our agency and retained our services for an investigative task in Colorado. The prior year I had attended an intensive, 16-week on-site investigative course that used the The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Private Investigating in its course material. I had read that book front to back, then back to front, scribbled notes in the margins, re-read — and then re-read again — numerous sections to ensure my grasp of a topic. Steven writes in a clear, straightforward manner, and sprinkles factual material with his own personal experiences.

That same year, I took another course on process service.  One day, the instructor played a Q&A game with the class — the prize for the most correct answers was a copy of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Private Investigating. 

So a year later, when the author called out of the blue and requested our P.I. services, I was honored.

Writing the Private Eye Novel

Years later, Steven’s and my paths crossed again, but this time as novelists. We both have written private-eye genre novels, and have chatted off and on about agents, publishers, even WordPress. He co-authors the blog Handcuffed to the Ocean with several other writers, one being James N. Frey, a novelist and author of one of the better books on fiction writing, How to Write a Damn Good Novel.

Undergoing a Bone Marrow Transplant

Over the past few years, I’ve grown to admire Steven even more for his gutsy perseverance as he’s undergone a bone marrow transplant. Below is the beginning of a post he wrote last June:

I’m sitting here at 11 pm eating out of a carton of Edy’s Double Fudge Brownie ice cream. Got to love life. On Saturday June 15 I passed the one year mark since some nice guy over in Germany donated his bone marrow stem cells to me. I haven’t checked the statistics this year but when I agreed to enter the BMT Clinic at Shands Cancer Institute in Gainesville, Florida the mortality rate for bone marrow transplant patients was fairly high. 

Many of Steven’s friends and colleagues in the P.I. industry have contributed to his Bone Marrow Transplant Fund to help with the $500,000 in expenses for this procedure. Recently, there have been complications, which Steven wrote about in September 2013 — below is the beginning of that post:

I really thought I would have my immune system back by now. Most of the BMT transplant patients I’ve met received their shots by the end of the first year. But, now I’m convinced that I may never get it back. I’ve had a few set backs these last few weeks. I encountered a big flare up of GVHD that took over my entire torso. The doctors put me back on prednisone and other immune suppressant medication. I told the doctors I’d rather have the GVHD than the prednisone. But they said this flare up was life threatening, so I really didn’t have a choice.

Despite what he’s going through, his humor shines through — check out this poem to his doctors (posted on his September 2013 blog):

I wrote a little poem for the doctors about GVHD.

GVHD

Itch, itch, Itch,

Like a son of a 

Bitch, bitch, bitch.

By the way, this post includes photos of his symptoms (he does this to help others who might be contemplating a bone marrow transplant). Be forewarned — these photos are graphic.

At the end of this post, Steven writes:

Thanks for the well wishes and the donations. I promise as soon as I can I’ll get back to investigating the Haleigh Cummings case. I do have more posts on that coming up soon.

Amazes me that while dealing with his health challenges over the last year+ he has also self-published one nonfiction book and revised another. Puts the notion of “writer’s block” to shame.

To donate to Steven’s Bone Marrow Transplant Fund, click here (Donate button is on left side of screen).

Now to the 2009 interview with P.I.-author Steven Kerry Brown…

Steven Kerry Brown post 2-16-2014

Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes: Good morning, Steven, and welcome to Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes. First, we have to say that The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Private Investigating  is one of our favorite resource books. As we haven’t seen this second edition, we imagine you’ve updated it with more technology and tools–saying that, what is one of the more useful technological techniques you’ve recently started using in your investigative work?

Steven: There are three really useful techniques that are relatively new that I use a lot.  Two of them I describe in detail in my book. The first is the GPS tracking device. Below is a photo with the unit in a waterproof Pelican case and a 50 pound pull magnet and a long life lithium-ion battery pack. (Not much larger than a man’s hand.)

I set this unit (I have two of them) to report in every 10 minutes. I change the batteries out once a week. I also have the capability of clicking on “tracking now” on the unit’s website and receive a real-time location of where the unit is. So you or your client can sit in front of their computer and see where the unit is at any given time.  Of course, the primary use of this is in family law cases. Even though Florida is a “no fault” divorce state (meaning that proof of adultery doesn’t have a real impact on property settlement), still the client needs to know the facts of their situation before they can make an informed decision. Hence, using the GPS to track the spouse.

We follow-up the use of the GPS with a little judicious surveillance. Even though the GPS will tell us where the spouse is, it won’t tell us who he/she is with, so a few photos of the spouse and the other party will usually do the trick. And don’t be fooled by clichés. There are not more men than women committing adultery. We find it splits about 50-50.

The second technique I like a lot is Spoofing Caller ID. Now you have to be careful with this as it is now illegal in some states, like Florida, if you spoof a caller ID with the intent to deceive. How does it work and how do I use it? You can do a websearch on Spoofing Caller ID and find lots of folks who will sell you spoofing time. I use Spoofcard.com  For $5.00 you get 25 minutes of spoofing time. Basically spoofing caller ID means that you can use this service to call a target number and the incoming caller ID will display any number you want it to show. The technology behind it is the spoofing company uses Voice Over IP (VOIP) to make the call and in doing so can send whatever Caller ID data you want sent. (You can find full details in the CIG to PI pages 184-188)

How do you use caller ID spoofing? Well, you might for instance, want to see if a certain person is at a particular residence. Before the law changed in Florida, I called a witness to a case that I needed to talk to. He wouldn’t answer my calls so I spoofed my number to look like his mother’s phone was calling him. He answered the call.

The third technique I like only works on cell phone numbers. You can use this service and it will bypass the phone and go directly to the cell phone’s voice mail. That way you can hear the message on the voice mail and sometimes figure out who the phone belongs to without them ever knowing you called the phone. It’s not perfect and your number might show up as a missed call on their phone. The service is called Slydial and their number is 267-759-3425. It’s free, give it a try. A database only available to PIs called Skipsmasher, has a much improved version of this service which will not leave your number on the target’s phone as a missed call and it will record the voice mail message for you. I love it and use it often. Kudos to Skipsmasher.com.

End of interview, Part 1. Check back in on Thursday, January 14, for Part 2 where Steven discusses the recession and private eyes, crafting non-fiction vs. fiction, and how much real-world PI dirt he puts into a fictional-world PI story.

 

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Private Investigating, Third Edition

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HOW DO PRIVATE EYES DO THAT? Only 99 cents February 8-10

Posted by Writing PIs on February 8, 2014

How Do Private Eyes Do That? is a compilation of articles about private investigations written by Guns, Gams & Gumshoes’s Colleen Collins. Audience: Readers interested in the world of PIs, including fiction writers, researchers, investigators and those simply curious about the profession.

99 cents February 8-10

Click on cover to go to book’s Amazon page

Book Excerpts

“Never Sleep with Anyone Whose Troubles Are Worse than Your Own”

“How PIs Are Used in Cases Where DNA Evidence Is Employed”

How Do Private Eyes Do That? tells the real story behind private investigations

How Do Private Eyes Do That? discusses tips, techniques and tools of the P.I. profession

Praise for How Do Private Eyes Do That?

“A must have for any writer serious about crafting authentic private eyes. Collins knows her stuff.”
- Lori Wilde, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author

“If you’re looking for the lowdown on private investigations, this is it. Packed with details and insights. A must-have for anybody writing private-eye fiction and for anybody who’s curious about what being a private-eye is really like.” 
– Bill Crider, author of the Sheriff Dan Rhodes series and many other novels in multiple genres

“I picked up my copy as a whim to flesh out the background of my own fictional PI, and after reading the book, trashed just about everything I had written. I see now that you have to pay for the book. No matter. It is a spectacular bargain. It will help sweep out misconceptions, empty the waste bin of trite, worn out cliches and give you plenty of room for fresh ideas. Man, it’ll save your life.” 
– C. M. Briggs

fedora black and white

Posted in Handy Resources for Private Investigators, Legal Investigations, Nonfiction Books on Private Investigations | Tagged: , , , , | Comments Off

Ten Favorite Private Investigator Blogs in 2013

Posted by Writing PIs on January 15, 2014

We like to kick off the each new year with a list of some of our favorite P.I. and P.I.-related blogs. Not claiming these are the top or the best because there’s a lot of informative to entertaining blogs out there, so view this as a sampling of Internet stops we like to make.

Some Favorite Blogs

In no particular order, these blogs (plus a few online magazines) offer information about numerous facets of investigations, from fraud to cold case to catching cheaters.

PIBuzz.com, edited by Tamara Thompson, is a well-known California private investigator, speaker and blogger known for her expertise in Internet data gathering, genealogical and adoption research, witness background development and locating people. Her blog provides such information as research how-to-articles, lists of resources and private investigator research links. Twitter handle: @PIbuzz

Sherlocks

Diligentia Group is a boutique investigative firm that provides services to law firms, financial institutions, and decision makers who require comprehensive background and due diligence investigations.  Brian Willingham, CFE and president, has been a private investigator since 2001. He blogs almost daily, most of which fit into one of the following categories: Background Investigations, Due Diligence and Legal Investigation. For a sampling of readers’ favorite posts on his site, check out this post: “The Top Ten: 2013’s Most Popular Posts from Diligentia Group.” Follow @b_willingham on Twitter.

Sherlocks

Mike Spencer of Spencer Elrod Services, Inc. has been a private investigator for nearly two decades, in the course of which he worked with legendary Hollywood private eye John Nazarian. Mike writes interesting, relevant and sometimes downright entertaining articles about the profession at his blog Private Eye Confidential. He’s also in the process of publishing a nonfiction book titled Private Eye Confidential, and we can’t wait to buy a copy. Here are some book excerpts from Mike’s blog:

Private Eye Confidential: Introduction

Private Eye Confidential: I Was a Florida Night Cops Reporter

Follow him on Twitter at @SpencerPI

Sherlocks

Kevin’s Security Scrapbook – Spy News from New York. Kevin D. Murray is an independent security consultant who specializes in surveillance detection services, and solving security and privacy problems, as well as being the author of Is My Cell Phone Bugged?. He’s a prolific blogger, with the majority of his posts focused on his area of expertise, surveillance, as well as P.I. news and trends, and the occasional fun post (Trending TV: Spies are Hot, Again).  His Twitter handle: @spybusters

Sherlocks

 

Fraud Magazine. Not a blog, but a worthy addition on current white-collar crime and fraud examination techniques. Of particular interest to investigators is an entire section devoted to case studies, which includes investigations of immigration officials selling green cards, horse-racing fraud, humanitarian fraud, employee embezzlement, and much more.

Sherlocks

PINow.com articles: PINow.com is an advertising site for private investigators that also includes a section on investigative articles. Some are written by professional PIs, others are links to articles about investigations. PINow.com also does annual listings of top P.I.s on Twitter:

Featured on PInow.com - Top Private Investigators on Twitter 2013

PINow.com also does an annual ranking of Top Private Investigator Blogs:

Featured on PInow.com - Top - Investigator - Blogs

PINow.com’s Twitter handle: @PInow

Sherlocks

Pursuit Magazine: This has become one of our favorite stops on the Internet. It’s more than a blog — it’s an online magazine that was revamped last year, and the result is fantastic: A splashy new look, a wider breadth of articles that includes interviews with acclaimed authors such as Maria Konnikova who wrote Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes, industry news and more. Follow on Twitter: @PursuitMag

Sherlocks

Defrosting Cold Cases is owned by Alice de Sturler, a former human rights lawyer and current cold case investigator. Besides being the official blogger for The American Investigative Society of Cold Cases, her blog Defrosting Cold Cases won first place this year in the American Bar Association Journal’s top 100 blogs, Criminal Justice category. Alice also hosts a Twitter chat (#crimechat) each month on crime and related topics. To check the #crimechat schedule for 2014, click here (it’s in the middle of the page). Her Twitter handle: @Vidocq_CC

As we said at the beginning of this post, there’s other P.I. blogs that offer great content. Here’s a few: Denver Private Investigator Blog, Handcuffed to the Ocean, The Background Investigator, Kusic and Kusic Ltd.

Some Fun Blogs

Invisible Privacy |Online Privacy

How can you resist a blog with this introduction:

JJ Luna’s personal privacy blog. In 1959 he moved to Spain’s Canary Islands to begin a then-illegal educational work that included secret meetings in remote mountain forests. Although pursued by General Franco’s Secret Police, he maintained his privacy via a false identity and was never caught. When the Spanish dictator moderated Spain’s harsh laws in 1970, Luna was free to come in from the cold. However, he remains in the shadows to this day. He is currently an international privacy consultant.

Unfortunately, J.J. Luna’s last post was December 25, 2013, in which he explained why he hadn’t been able to blog in several months (he and his wife are dealing with health issues) so it’s possible he’ll not be blogging regularly in the future.

Sherlocks

Bitter Lawyer

Lawyers can be funny.  Really.  This blog offers an irreverent look at the profession of law, which features — quote — “lawyer jokes, news, and celebrity lawyer interviews from a team of prominent (and sometimes anonymous) writers.”  A recent blog was titled “Best Ways to Serve Booze in the Office” – need we say more?

Check Out the Writing PIs’ Other Sites

TheColoradoCriminalDefense.com: Shaun Kaufman’s criminal defense blog.

ShaunKaufmanLaw.com: Shaun’s legal blog on topics ranging from Gmail tips for lawyers to preventing legal disputes with neighbors.

ColleenCollinsBooks.com: Colleen’s book news, with an occasional article on writing or investigations.

Colleen’s Facebook Page: Mostly book news, with some fun stuff thrown in.

Have a great week, Writing PIs

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Private Eye Writers of America Accepting Submissions for 2014 Shamus Awards

Posted by Writing PIs on January 9, 2014

Below is the announcement for the Private Eye Writers of America (PWA) 2014 Shamus Awards, which acknowledges the best private-eye novels and short stories in 2013. For more information, please go to the PWA website.

PRIVATE EYE WRITERS OF AMERICA ACCEPTING SUBMISSIONS

FOR 2014 SHAMUS AWARDS

For Works First Published in the U.S. in 2013

Following are the categories for the Private Eye Writers of America 2013 Shamus Awards for private eye novels and short stories first published in the United States in 2013.  The awards will be presented in the fall of 2014 at Bouchercon in Long Beach, California.

DEADLINE: For publishers submissions must be postmarked by March 31, 2014. No extensions can be given.

Shamus Committees will forward their final list to the Shamus Awards Chair by May 31, 2014.

ELIGIBILITY: Eligible works must feature as a main character a person PAID for investigative work but NOT employed for that work by a unit of government.  These include traditionally licensed private investigators; lawyers and reporters who do their own investigations; and others who function as hired private agents.  These do NOT include law enforcement officers, other government employees or amateur, uncompensated sleuths.

SUBMISSIONS; Please send one copy of each eligible work to ALL members of the appropriate committee, and send a copy to the Shamus Awards Chair, Gay Toltl Kinman. Do NOT submit a book to more than one committee.

A new category has been added for Best Indie PI Novel.

There is no application fee and no submission form; as a simple cover letter will suffice. If you have any questions, please e-mail Gay Toltl Kinman at gaykinman@gaykinman.com BEFORE submitting.

BEST HARDCOVER PI NOVEL: A book-length work of fiction published in hardcover in 2013 that is NOT the author’s first published P.I. novel.

BEST FIRST PI NOVEL: A book-length work of fiction, in hardcover or paperback, first published in 2013 that is the author’s first published novel featuring a private investigator as a main character.

BEST ORIGINAL PAPERBACK PI NOVEL: A book-length work of fiction first published as a paperback original in 2013 that is NOT the author’s first P.I. novel; and paperback reprints of previously published novels are NOT eligible.

BEST PI SHORT STORY: A work of fiction of 20,000 words or fewer.  Stories first published in an earlier year and reprinted in a magazine, anthology or collection in 2013, are NOT eligible.

BEST INDIE PI NOVEL:  A book-length work of fiction, in hardcover, paperback or e-book, first published in 2013 featuring a private investigator as a main character and published independently by the author.

fedora black and white

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New Year’s Resolutions: A Few Tips for Protecting Your Privacy in 2014

Posted by Writing PIs on December 30, 2013

It’s almost 2014 — let’s go over a few tips you might want to add to your New Year’s Resolutions for protecting your confidential information.

Tip #1: Stop giving out your home address

It’s your home, your private residence, the center of your family life — you don’t need to share this

Don't advertise your home address to the wrong people

Don’t advertise your home address to the wrong people

address with anybody other than trusted friends, family and pertinent business contacts. One way to avoid giving out your home address is to purchase a private mailbox from a U.S. Post Office or private mailbox service, then use this address on forms, registrations, mailings, and so on.

We’ve used a pob address for years, but unfortunately some services and registrations will only accept street addresses. In such instances, we use the street address of the law firm where we maintain an office.

For people who don’t have such an alternate business or other address to use, but would like one as they’re constantly needing to provide a street address in forms, they can purchase a street address. Let’s look at a few of those services.

Purchasing a Street Address

There are services that let you use a street address that is really a pob or virtual mail center

There are street-address services that let you use a pob or virtual mail center

The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) as well as various private mailbox companies, also provide “street” addresses (often where your mailbox is the suite number).

Below are a few services that offer street addresses.

Post Offices

At a U.S. Post Office, a post office box can also be used as a street address, but you’ll first need to fill out street addressing forms (available at your Post Office).

Advantages of using this street-addressing option is that USPS post office boxes are usually much less expensive than private mailbox services, Post Offices tend to be more permanent than private mail box services that can quickly move locations or go out of business, and the Post Office will also receive packages delivered by private carriers such as UPS and FedEx that are street addressed. Also, some Post Offices offer a “text to cell phone” message at no extra charge when a private-carrier shipment is received.  Fyi, not all Post Offices participate in the street-addressing program.

Disadvantages of using your U.S. post office box street-addressing service is that items must qualify for mail delivery (no shipments of alcohol, items over 70 pounds and other restrictions).

Private Mailbox Services

Most private mailbox services offer a street address and secure, 24-hour access to delivered mail and packages. They have additional services (some for a fee) that include mail forwarding and texting/emails when packages arrives.

Examples of private mailbox services:

The UPS Store – Personal Mailboxes

PAKMAIL

PostNet

Virtual Mailbox Services

Virtual mail services forward scanned images of mail to you anywhere in the world

Virtual mail services electronically forward scanned images of your mail to you anywhere in the world

There are also a variety of virtual mailbox services that offer street addresses for your use.  The virtual mailbox service then receives all of your mail — they scan the envelopes and send those scans to you via email or other venue for your review. You decide which envelopes are opened (and its contents scanned and sent electronically to you), and which envelopes are to be thrown away. Such virtual mailbox services let you live anywhere in the world. Pricing can get costly (some of these services charge premium rates of $60 a month).

Examples of virtual mailbox services:

virtualpostmail

Earth Class Mail

Box 4 me

Tip #2: Don’t announce your location

It’s all the rage for people to automatically announce their location through social media sites

Geo-location services let you tell the world where you are -- but don't

Geo-location services let you tell the world where you are — you sure you want to do that?

(such as Twitter, Facebook and other online communities).  If someone has decided to break into your residence, or confront you, or confront somebody who’s still at your residence (while you’re at your “location”), or conduct some other not-in-your-best-interest activity, don’t help them by letting them know your location.

So when you see those prompts (“Click here so people can know your location!”) don’t click.  It’s as easy as that.

Tip #3: Don’t give out your phone number

Protecting your phone number is about more than just getting unwanted calls

Protecting your phone number is about more than just getting unwanted calls

It’s somewhat easy to find personal information from a phone number, such as a home address. It’s just as easy for you to protect that number, and your personal information associated with it, by using a virtual phone number.

Virtual Phone Numbers

A virtual number is a regular number (area code + number, such as 123-456-7789) that you can set up to ring through to your real number.  When someone calls that virtual number, the call is routed to your regular phone, you answer, and nobody knows the real number you’re answering from.

If someone attempts a trace on that number (to find the name/address it’s registered to), they won’t find it.  Well, unless you start broadcasting the virtual number on the Internet with your name attached.

Virtual numbers typically cost anywhere from $4.95 to $10.95 a month (if you get extra features, such as fax services, it’ll cost more). We use a virtual phone number in our business because it lets us easily keep records of incoming and outgoing phone numbers, the ability to re-route calls to different cell phone numbers as needed, block incoming phone numbers and other features.

Examples of virtual number services:

RingCentral

Grasshopper

Phone.com

That’s it! Three tips to protect your confidential information in the new year.

Here’s to 2014, WritingPIs

Happy New Year gold letters

To go to book's Amazon page, click on cover

To go to book’s Amazon page, click on cover

Posted in Hiding Your Personal Information From Internet Searches, Nonfiction Books on Private Investigations, Protecting Your Personal Data Online | Tagged: , , , , , | Comments Off

Our Top 10 Private Investigations Posts in 2013

Posted by Writing PIs on December 21, 2013

At the end of each year, we like to post our readers’ favorite top 10 posts.  Below is our 2013 Top 10 list, starting with #10.

Top 10 Posts

#10 Private Detective Couples in Fiction and Real LifeMyrna Loy and William Powell 1

#9 Marketing the Private Investigations Business (We wrote this in 2009, but a lot of the tips still hold true)

#8 Private Eye Writers of America Shamus Awards Finalists 2013 (Great list of private eye genre books – check ‘em out!)

#7 No, Stephanie Plum Isn’t a Private Eye, She’s a Bounty Hunter

#6 What’s the Importance of a Crime Scene? crime scene tape

#5 Secrets of a Real-Life Female Private Eye – The Violent Side of Process Services  (This is an excerpt from Guns, Gams and Gumshoes’s Colleen Collins’s book Secrets of a Real-Life Female Private Eye)

#4 How to Conduct a Trash Hit – A Private Eye’s Dumpster Secrets (This post pops up on our top ten lists year after year)trash hit man in dumpster

#3 Best of 2012: Our 7 Favorite Private Investigator Sites (We’ll be compiling our favorite P.I. sites for 2013 soon, too)

#2 Can You Put a GPS on My Boyfriend’s Car? 

#1 Private vs. Public Investigators: What’s the Difference? (This post has been #1 in our top readers’ favorites for several years running!)

Thank you, readers, for dropping by our site!  Wishing you and yours a happy, safe holiday season, Writing PIs

The Writing PIs

The Writing PIs

Posted in 2013 Shamus Award, Attaching GPS's, Bounty Hunters, Importance of Crime Scenes, Public vs Private Investigators, Real-Life Private Investigator Stories | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Comments Off

 
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