Guns, Gams & Gumshoes

A defense attorney & PI who also happen to be writers

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.

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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

During the Holidays, People Turn to PIs to Help Find Missing Relatives

Posted by Writing PIs on December 19, 2013

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The holidays are a time of celebrating with friends and family, a time when people often grow nostalgic about those with whom they’ve lost contact.  Sometimes people try to look up missing loved ones on the Internet (who aren’t always missing, by the way — sometimes their contact information fell through the cracks years ago), but there’s little or no information about their whereabouts online.

Online Detective Sites: Save Your Money

If you’ve been searching for contact information for a missing loved one on the Internet, and eye and magnifying glassyou’re only finding out-of-date addresses and phone numbers, resist the urge to pay an online detective site. A lot of their Internet ads promise to locate people for $19.95, $24.95, or more, but unless that person has stayed put, living in the same residence for at least two or more years, those Internet databases probably aren’t going to help you. Instead, you’ll end up paying good money for old, wrong or irrelevant information.  Unfortunately, if you have a question about the search results, there’s no live person to help you out.

Hiring a P.I. to Find Someone

Often, a qualified private investigator can locate a person efficiently and quickly.  Of course, there’s a lot of different variables that come into play when trying to locate a person — it can be more difficult to find someone, for example, if they have a very common name (e.g., Jane Smith), or there’s scant data about the individual, or the person has taken steps to not be found, etc.

One avenue of research P.I.s use to find people is through proprietary databases. But there’s more to their use than simply plugging a name or other identifier into them — an experienced P.I. is skilled at sifting through search results (sometimes reams of it), pinpointing relevant data, and often using it as a basis for further research.

What Are Proprietary Databases?

These are privately owned, password-protected online databases that are not available to the public. The proprietary databases we use cull their information from many different public records.  We once asked a customer rep if she knew exactly what public records her proprietary database pulled from, and she said, “There’s so many, it’d take me a day to tell you just some of them.”  One proprietary database advertises they pull from billions of public records.

Our proprietary database companies’ clientele includes private investigators, law enforcement, law firms, collection agencies and others who are professionally qualified. All clients of such databases, including the authors of this blog, have gone through background checks by these companies before they are allowed to access information in the databases.

Researching Public Records

Writing PIs: A Couple of Private Eyes Who Also WriteA qualified P.I. is also knowledgeable about searching public records, many of which are online, to locate someone. Below are a few examples of such public records:

County assessors’ sites.  These contain lists of owners of real property, along with information about the assessed value of that property

Privately owned cemeteries and mortuaries.  Here can be found burial permits, funeral service registers, funeral and memorial arrangements, obituaries, intermediate orders and perpetual care arrangements.

Court records. In reviewing these, a P.I. might find addresses, phone numbers, relatives’ names, places of employment, and more.

Additional means a P.I. might use to locate a person are through interviews, Internet research, investigating social media, surveillances and trash hits (searching garbage).

How a P.I. Handles Others’ Expectation of Privacy

If you contact a P.I. to help you find a missing relative, keep in mind that a professional investigator won’t simply hand over the found person’s private contact information to you.  Instead, after the P.I. locates the relative/loved one, the investigator will:

  • Inform the found person (through a phone call, letter or in person) that he/she has been hired to locate them by a client, and provide that person’s name.
  • Provide means for the found person to locate the client (through a phone number, address, email address, etc.).

These precautions are critical to protect others’ privacy. Unfortunately, there have been cases where criminals and others with questionable motives have hired P.I.s to find people.

Initial Screenings of Clientshat and magnifying glass on computer

Prior to accepting your case, a P.I. will likely conduct an initial screening to verify your identity, review your criminal background and check the legitimacy of your request.  You’d want the same privacy protection and options if someone was wanting to locate you.

It’s our experience that most “missing” family members are delighted to have been found by their loved ones.  And it’s rewarding to the investigator to have brought families together again.

Guns, Gams and Gumshoes’s Colleen Collins wrote about a particularly difficult “locate” in her article “Hired to Find a Long-Lost Love: A Case with a Surprise Ending.”

Happy Holidays, Writing PIs

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

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

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December 18 – On Sale 99 Cents – SECRETS OF A REAL-LIFE FEMALE PRIVATE EYE

Posted by Writing PIs on December 17, 2013

A part-memoir, part-reference nonfiction book based on the experiences of a real-life P.I.  To get your copy, click here.

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

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

Audiences: researchers, writers, detective-fiction fans, armchair detectives and anyone curious about the real world of private investigators!

“This book does a great job bridging the gap between our country’s first private investigators to the state of the modern sleuth…a must-read for anyone remotely curious about what a private dick(ette?) really does.”
~ Mike Spencer, P.I., partner, Spencer Elrod Services, Inc.

“Loved this one. Great read, great author…a lot of basic tips and real experience.” ~ MCWriter

“One of my favorite parts of this book though is the Lady Sleuth Cocktail Appendix!! What a cool surprise!!” ~ L. Coker

“Secrets of a Real Life Female Private Eye is a very cool examination into this male-dominated profession.”  ~Alex Prosper

“Discover what the life of a female private eye really is about, without the fluff and sound effects. Secrets of a Real-Life Female Private Eye may even help you develop a passion for becoming a private eye yourself!”
~ Jackeline Winters, M.Sc.

To read an excerpt, click here.

Happy Holidays, Writing PIs

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@writingpis ranked #11 in Top Private Investigators on Twitter 2013 by PINow.com

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

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Secrets of a Real-Life Female Private Eye: The Violent Side of Process Services

Posted by Writing PIs on October 27, 2013

A few years back, we were reading one of Sean Chercover’s novels featuring the P.I. Ray Dudgeon, where Dudgeon recalls a violent encounter with a process server.  It’s been a while since we read the book, so we can’t exactly recall the scene, but at the time we were both hit with how true it is that a task such as serving legal papers — which seems so basic, so benign — can also be deadly.

amz COLLEEN COLLINS

Guns, Gams and Gumshoes’s Colleen Collins wrote about some of the dangerous aspects of process services in her nonfiction book Secrets of a Real-Life Female Private Eye.  Below is an excerpt.

The Violent Side of Process Services

A few years ago in my state, a local P.I. was murdered in the course of serving legal papers for a divorce.  Police have long known that domestic violence cases can be the most threatening — passions are heated, and too often drugs and alcohol are involved.  I once served divorce papers to a husband, accused of regularly beating his wife who managed to escape the house and file for divorce.  Minutes after I drove away, he fatally shot himself.  I didn’t know this until a week later when the lawyer, on whose behalf I served the papers, informed me.  How did I feel?  Horribly sad that a person took his life.  Even sadder for the children of the marriage.

I wish I could say that was the extent of violent episodes while my partner and I served legal papers, but it’s not.  Once a public government official got so furious, she shoved the papers back into my partner’s face. That official was reassigned to a basement office where she has little contact with the public.  Another time, a woman pounded her fists on my partner’s back as he walked away after serving her papers, and another time two guys tried to run my partner and I over with their truck after we served them papers.

And then there was the local process server who was attacked by a professional businessman who was furious at being served legal papers.  The process server had to spray the businessman with pepper spray to halt the attack, after which the process server ran away to safety.  He then sold his process service business, saying “No job is worth losing your life over.”

In this section are several stories of violent episodes I experienced while serving legal papers.  But first, let’s take a moment and talk about some of the myths of process service.  First, that the server is stoned like Seth Rogen in the film Pineapple Express.  Second, the psychology of the people who have been working hard, and sometimes rather creatively, to avoid being served legal papers.

We’ll start with the stoner-process server, who in reality would never make it in the business.

Pineapple Express: Dude, It’s Fiction, Not Reality

Pineapple Express: Dont'Serve Stoned, Dude

Pineapple Express: Dont’Serve Stoned, Dude

This movie featured a stoned process server — make that a very stoned process server — who runs into all kinds trouble while serving papers, including a run-in with a nasty mob character.  Funny as a story, but not realistic in real life.

Process servers need to be clear-headed and educated about the statutes that affect the service.  No way he or she could roll up to a house or business, their car and lungs filled with ganja smoke, and expect to fulfill a proper service of legal papers.  Here’s some reasons why:

  • The process server might be delivering papers to someone who’s actively avoiding service, so it is critical that the server is clear-headed and reading the signs to the person’s whereabouts.
  • Sometimes the person being served pretends they’re not that person, so the process server must be relying on research to accurately, and immediately, identify that person’s identity.
  • A business might think it’s protecting an employee by pretending the employee doesn’t work there, or that a manager isn’t legally required to accept the service on behalf of that employee, or someone at the business falsely recites some non-existing legality that forbids the process service from completing the service (we’ve even had lawyers do this — and guess what, they were making it up).  A process server must again rely on her research and know the laws affecting that type of service.

I’ve had all of the above scenarios occur while serving legal papers, which means it’s critical for me to be knowledgeable about state statutes regarding process service while quickly assimilating the signals and clues to the person’s identity and location.

Now let’s look at something less funny than a stoner trying to serve legal papers: Subjects turning violent when served legal papers.

When Subjects Go Ballistic

Confronting violent situations when serving legal papers isn’t always a random, out-of-the blue event.  Meaning, when the subject gets violent about being served legal papers, this rage has often been building over the days, weeks, months that they’ve been hiding, or perhaps attempting to stop the process, or maybe trying to outwit the process server.  All of which means the subject has grown increasingly anxious and angry.

Maybe they’re no longer driving their own car, or they’re crawling in and out of a back window every day to go to work instead of walking out their front door, or they’re no longer answering their phone or turning on certain lights at night in their home so it appears no one is home.  We knew a couple who left their and moved several hundred miles away, where they rented a guest house on someone else’s property.

The stress of hiding and avoiding service can affect spouses, significant others, children, bosses, coworkers, friends, even neighbors who are drawn into this web of deceit and avoidance.

In a recent article in the online magazine Psychology Today, Lisa Firestone, a clinical psychologist, states that violent behaviors can be triggered by frustration, anger or perceived humiliation.  Those are certainly responses I’ve witnessed in the course of serving legal papers.  Firestone states that often when people turn violent, they are attempting to retaliate, intimidate or exert control — motivations I’ve witnessed when violence erupts in the course of a service.

The following accounts describe violent incidences I’ve encountered or observed in the course of serving legal papers.

Stopping a Pit Bull Attack

Three years ago, I accompanied my business partner as he served legal papers to a residence.  I stayed in our vehicle so I could snap a photo of his serving the papers (having a photo of the actual service prevents people from claiming they were never served.) it’s good for people to see their actions are being monitored, and I can also quickly call nine-one-one if there’s a problem.

This particular morning, we identified one of the vehicles in the driveway as belonging to a twenty-one-year-old who lived with her parents, which indicated she was at home.  In our research, we knew the ages of her parents and their general physical description.

I watched my partner knock on the screen door of the home (the front door was wide open).  When a man fitting the description of the father came to the screen door, my partner first asked for so-and-so (the person to whom we were serving papers).

The man didn’t answer.  Instead he opened the screen door and yelled for his dog.  A barking pit bull appeared.  My partner thought quickly and jammed his foot against the screen door, blocking the dog’s exit.

Mind you, my partner loves dogs.  He’s trained German Shepherds as show dogs in the past.  We have two Rottweilers (but we never send them to an open door to greet strangers.  Although they’re well-behaved dogs, we’re aware their looks alone might scare people, so we put them into a separate room if strangers are coming to the house).

Because it is legal to serve adult members of a household where the subject of a process service resides, my partner announced he was serving papers to the father for [subject’s name], placed the papers on the porch and left.  Perhaps the man saw someone was in the car documenting his every move, so he had the good sense to not attempt further retaliation via his dog.

Several years back, in an episode of the former TV series Dog the Bounty Hunter, a person released an aggressive pit bull (dog on “Dog”), and Dog shot some kind of pellet (not ammunition) at the dog to scare it away.

We have a process server acquaintance who says he always carries a bag of doggie treats to win over dogs.  If that fails, he uses pepper spray.

-End of Excerpt-

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

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Answering Writer’s Question: Suspicious Death and a Missing Will

Posted by Writing PIs on October 15, 2013

eye and magnifying glass

As private investigators, we’ve investigated several cases where there has been a suspicious transfer of estate property after a death.  As Shaun, one of the Guns, Gams & Gumshoes’s authors, has returned to the practice of law, his background ties into our answer as well.

WRITER’S QUESTION: My question is with regards to access to information. In my story, a woman has died under suspicious circumstances, and the police officer investigating the case has been unable to find a will on the premises or any indication of who the deceased’s lawyer might be, and the case is closed. Later, the officer hears some rumors about the will that leads him to believe he shouldn’t have closed the investigation. He wants to see the will and finally finds the name of the lawyer holding it, and discusses his concerns with him, but the lawyer refuses to share any information.

Unfortunately, the officer’s supervisor doesn’t want to re-open the case. So my questions are: If the officer convinced his supervisor to re-open the case, would the lawyer likely share the information or does the officer need a warrant from the court before the lawyer will release any information?

GUNS, GAMS, AND GUMSHOES’S ANSWER: The lawyer’s client is deceased, but the lawyer is still considered to represent the estate of the deceased. However, if the lawyer suspects that someone has committed a crime in order to take advantage of an inheritance, the lawyer is under an ethical obligation to facilitate the investigation. The lawyer would be inclined to cooperate with the officer in spite of what the supervising officer might want.
To go to book's Amazon page, click on cover

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

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

Posted by Writing PIs on October 5, 2013

It’s interesting how many people think Stephanie Plum, the popular character developed by writer Janet Evanovich, is a private investigator.  No, she’s a fugitive recovery agent (AKA bounty hunter), but jumbling these two professions is easy to do.  Guns, Gams & Gumshoes’s Colleen Collins discusses why in an article she wrote for Savvy Authors — below is an excerpt, with a link to the full article at the end.

Private Detectives and Bounty Hunters: Similarities and Differences

By Colleen Collins for Savvy Authors

In a recent online voting poll for the best private detective character in fiction, one of the choices was the character Stephanie Plum in author Janet Evanovich’s popular series that began with the novel One for the Money.  Actually Stephanie Plum is a bounty hunter, not a private detective, but this isn’t the first time I’ve noticed people confusing the two professions.  It’s easy to mix them up as both private investigators and bounty hunters perform a number of similar work tasks, which I’ll discuss later in this article.

But first, let’s briefly review job descriptions and titles for these two professions.

What Do Private Investigators and Bounty Hunters Do?

Private investigators accept employment from clients — such as law firms, corporations and private individuals — to obtain information on crimes or civil wrongs; locate people and property; analyze the cause of accidents, fires, or injuries to persons or to property; and locate evidence to be used before a court.

Bounty hunters work on behalf of a bail bondsman to re-arrest and put into jail the bondsman’s client who has defaulted on his/her bail contract.  Typically, the client has failed to appear in criminal court as promised, and a judge has signed a warrant for the client’s arrest.

What Are They Called?

Both occupations have a variety of titles, from the professional to the slang, with some of the latter being viewed as derogatory within that vocation.

Private Investigators

Having co-owned a private investigations agency for ten years, I know numerous private investigators across the U.S.  Some prefer the job titleprofessional private investigator as it adds esteem to a vocation that often gets a bad rap, thanks in part to the cynical, law-breaking private eye protagonist in early noir films.

Personally, I always referred to myself as a private investigator, and sometimes a private detective (although there are some private investigators who think the word detective should be used only by those who work in law enforcement).  The abbreviation P.I., for private investigator, is also commonly used by my peers.  I’ve also had law firms call and request to retain the services of an operative, another term for P.I., a term that always struck me as a bit old-fashioned.

Slang terms that are commonly viewed within the profession as having negative connotations, but which are often found in movies and stories, include the following:

  • Gumshoe
  • Private dick
  • Shamus
  • Snoop

On the other hand, some P.I.s like to play with these terms, using them in their businesses or related projects, including the author of this article who co-wrote the book How to Write a Dick: A Guide for Writing Fictional Sleuths.

Bounty Hunters

Some who work in this profession prefer the title fugitive recovery agent because the term bounty hunter to them conjures derogatory images of the old west dead or alive posters, which advertised rewards in exchange for the fugitive.

More professionally accepted titles for bounty hunters include:

  • Bail bond recovery agent
  • Bail agent
  • Bail enforcement agent
  • Bail officer
  • Fugitive recovery agent
  • Fugitive recovery officer

P.I.s and Bounty Hunters: What Do They Have in Common?

Private investigators and bounty hunters perform some similar tasks in their work, which is why it can be easy to confuse the two occupations.  For example, both professions perform the following:

  • Tracking people to a current residence or location (also called “skip tracing”)
  • Conducting interviews
  • Performing surveillances
  • Contacting the subject
  • After the subject is located, the P.I. or bail recovery agent might perform “legal process” (a P.I. might serve legal papers on the non-fugitive, and a bounty hunter might serve a warrant on the fugitive).

To read the rest of this article, click here.

Other Articles on P.I.s and Bounty Hunters

Bounty Hunters and Private Investigators – Are They One and the Same? by Donald Hoofard, Sr.

Training for Fugitive Recovery by Colleen Collins

Difference: Bounty Hunter and a Bail Bondsman by Bail Hotline Bail Bonds

Bounty Hunters Cleaning Up Their Image by Oliver Libaw

Female Atlanta Private Investigator Uses Bounty Hunting Skills to Help Attorneys and the Public in Knoxville Daily Sun

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

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P.I. Tips: Answering Writers’ Questions About Fraud Investigations

Posted by Writing PIs on September 19, 2013

woman looking thru mag glass black and white2

Writer’s Question: What makes fraud different from an average garden-variety argument over a broken-down business deal?

Answer: We look for signs of one person (or several persons) who hide important information or who abuses his/her position in a business relationship.  An example of this would be an accountant who knowingly misrepresents the financial condition of a company.  Another example is a business manager who willingly hides lawsuits against his/her company from a potential purchaser.

Writer’s Question: Can someone be guilty of fraud in a divorce proceeding? fedora black and white

Answer: Yes.  When one partner hides income or assets, or even hides the fact of remarriage (when that remarried partner is still receiving maintenance from the former spouse), you find fraudulent misrepresentations that can be the subject of a separate civil lawsuit for fraud.  Keep in mind that any divorce proceeding is the dissolution of a marriage partnership that mimics a business partnership.  In both instances, you can have misrepresentation and reliance on those misrepresentations.

Writer’s Question: As investigators, what do you look for when you are asked to find fraud?

Answer: Like most investigations, a fraud investigation begins in public records, where we look to uncover business acquisitions and acquisitions of personal property that show an unusual amount of income that the partner investigated is otherwise unable to access.  For example, if a business owner who is selling a corporation that’s in financial trouble, has recently purchased a new car, a new house, and a boat — information we’ve dug up through property, vehicle and boat ownership records — we know that he/she is likely to have emptied corporate assets to make these purchases in his/her name.  What did the owner think h/she was accomplishing by purchasing these personal property items?  Hiding money.  Why didn’t h/she think they’d be caught?  Well, sad to say this, but often people just do dumb things, probably because they’ve gotten away with such acts in the past, too.  The flip side is people often don’t think someone else, such as a law firm/investigator, is going to dig for this information.

Have a great week, Writing PIs

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

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

Posted in Investigating Fraud | Tagged: , , , | Comments Off

Answering Writers’ Questions: Finding Evidence Long After a Crime and A Cheating Spouse Case

Posted by Writing PIs on September 8, 2013

Below we’ve posted several writer’s questions and our answers about evidence and cheating spouses.  We provide background to some of the questions in brackets.

Finding Evidence Months After a Crime

[This first question was in response to our describing how PIs might find evidence months after a crime has occurred.  In this instance, Shaun, one of the Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes's PIs, had found a .44 casing outside our client's residence]

WRITER’S  QUESTION: In the case where Shaun found the .44 casing … did he leave it alone and call the police so they could photograph it in place? Or did he take pictures of it and put it in a bag and take it to the police? What happened?

The casings proved that the neighborhood was crime-ridden

GUNS, GAMS, AND GUMSHOES’S RESPONSE: The .44 casing was found months after the charged crime and it was not material evidence in our case. However, the casing was proof that the neighborhood where this occurred was extremely crime-ridden, and that our client had a reasonable belief that he had to resort to deadly force to protect himself and his son.

Had the casing been found the morning after the confrontation where our client shot his .357, Shaun would have done the following:

  • Not touched it
  • Left the casing exactly where he found it
  • Contacted the police
  • Taken a photo of it for our client’s attorney

To bring this story up to date, the photograph Shaun took was listed as evidence at the trial, at which he also testified about the nature of the neighborhood (it being crime-ridden, which was backed by data from various interactive crime maps), and how he found the casing.  Our client was found not guilty.

WRITER’S QUESTION: Couldn’t the defense (or prosecution depending which side your client was on) claim that the casing had been placed there later? Or was from a different incident at another time?

GUNS, GAMS, AND GUMSHOES’S RESPONSE: In this case, our client was the defense attorney, and it didn’t matter how the casing got there months later–what mattered in this particular case is that it showed how reasonable our client was in pulling his gun in self-defense.

Answering Writers’ Questions: Cheating Spouses

[This next question pertains to our sharing a story how we interviewed the "other woman" in a cheating spouse case]

WRITER’S QUESTION: And about interviewing the woman in the cheating husband case – I take it there’s no concern about tipping off the cheating husband that he’s being investigated?

GUNS, GAMS, AND GUMSHOES’S RESPONSE: For this case, no, as he’d already seen the photographs (because his wife had filed for divorce and her attorney had the photographs) by the time we’d interviewed the “other woman.” Generally speaking, however, we wouldn’t want to tip off the cheating spouse that they’re being investigated.

WRITER’S QUESTION: Have either of you ever been threatened by a spouse who has been caught? Or by the person they’ve caught them with? Without wanting to give away too much from my WIP, I’m thinking that might be a possible threat to my guys. I’m just wondering if it’s a credible storyline that the cheater might go after the private investigators for destroying their marriage.

GUNS, GAMS, AND GUMSHOES’S RESPONSE: In the “other woman” case we’ve been discussing, she was also married.  A week or so after we interviewed the other woman, she contacted us saying she’d hired an attorney and we were to not contact her again for any reason. We didn’t believe she’d hired an attorney, and figured she was bluffing because she was scared, but we had no reason to contact her again (after interviewing her).  In fact, we felt sorry for her (she had two young children, and her husband was devastated that his wife had fooled around).

To answer your question whether we think it’s  credible in a storyline that the other woman or other man might get so freaked out, have so much to protect, that they’d go after the PI?  Yes, that’s credible.  We’ve been threatened in other situations that weren’t cheating spouse cases (we’ve had dogs sic’d on us during process services, and Shaun once had a woman follow him, pounding her fists on his back, after he served her legal papers). The worst threat by far was a case where the woman to whom we served a restraining order mounted a full-on cyber-stalking attack on our business/reputations.  This woman had a lot to protect–five million dollars she’d stolen, and which by the way has never been found.  Colleen wrote about this case in her nonfiction book Secrets of a Real-Life Female Private Eye.

Have a great week, Writing PIs

 

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

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

 

Posted in Importance of Crime Scenes, Infidelity Investigations, Nonfiction Books on Private Investigations, Real-Life Private Investigator Stories, Writing About PIs | Tagged: , , , , | Comments Off

 
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