Guns, Gams & Gumshoes

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Archive for the ‘PI Topics’ Category

National and International Private Investigator Day: History of the Private Eye

Posted by Writing PIs on July 24, 2018

Eugene Francois Vidocq, recognized as the first P.I.

Eugene Francois Vidocq, b. July 24, 1775

National and International Private Investigator Day is July 24, also the birthdate of Eugene Francois Vidocq, recognized as the first private eye.

Vidocq Introduced Criminal Investigation Techniques

In 1833 Eugene Francois Vidocq, a French ex-criminal, founded one of the first private detective agencies, Le bureau des renseignments (Office of Intelligence) where he oversaw the work of other detectives, many ex-criminals such as himself.  He is credited with having introduced record-keeping, criminology, and ballistics to criminal investigation.  He also created indelible ink and unalterable bond paper with his printing company. Apparently, he had an altruistic bent as he claimed he never informed on anyone who had stolen for real need.

With Vidocq, the private investigator was born.  As the industry evolved, clients often hired PIs to act in law enforcement capacities, especially in matters for which they were not equipped or willing to do. This led to PI agencies sometimes performing like private militia and assisting companies in labor disputes.

Pinkerton National Detective Agency

Allan Pinkerton

Allan Pinkerton

Allan Pinkerton was born in Glasgow, Scotland, on August 25, 1819, and emigrated to the United States in 1842, where he founded a barrel-making shop in Dundee, forty miles outside Chicago. As an abolitionist, he set up his shop to also be a station for slaves escaping via the “underground railroad” for freedom in the northern states. After his work helping bust up a counterfeit ring, the Cook County sheriff offered Pinkerton a job as an investigator in Chicago. Within a few years, he accumulated more arrests for burglaries and murders than any of the other police officers within the department. He also gained a reputation for being fearless, having an iron-clad integrity and the ability to quickly read people.

Pinkertons’ Ops’ Ethics

In 1850, Allan Pinkerton established the Pinkerton National Detective Agency at 151 Fifth Avenue in the heart of Chicago.  In an era with many law enforcement personnel openly associating with criminals sharing their illegal profits, Pinkerton stood out by promising that his agents would not only produce results, but always act with the highest ethics.   He promised to:

  • Accept no bribes
  • Never compromise with criminals;
  • Partner with local law enforcement agencies, when necessary
  • Refuse divorce cases or cases that initiated scandals of clients
  • Turn down reward money (his agents were paid well)
  • Never raise fees without the client’s pre-knowledge, and
  • Apprise clients on an ongoing basis.

It’s remarkable how many of the above ethical standards are mirrored in many PIs’ standards today (such as regularly apprising clients, partnering with law enforcement, and raising fees only with clients’ knowledge).  It’s also amusing to read how Pinkerton’s men refused divorce cases considering today many PIs specialize in marital investigations.

A Master at Marketing

Besides being an outstanding investigator, Pinkerton was also a master promoter of his agency. He made sure news of his investigators’ successes at catching murderers and thieves became newspaper stories. He also crafted a logo, an eye surrounded with the words “We Never Sleep,” the motto of his agency, and posted it in magazines, circulars, newspapers, billboards, and even wanted posters.

In 1856, Pinkerton hired Kate Warne as his first female investigator, which was highly unusual at the time. According to the Pinkerton website, police departments did not hire women to join their ranks until 1891, nor did they get promoted to be investigators until 1903.

Kate Warne: First Female U.S. Private Eye

There is little biographical information known about Kate Warne, although some sources claim she was born in 1833 in New York, and was a widow with no children. Allan Pinkerton described her as a slender, brown-haired woman who, in 1856, responded to an ad for detectives at the Pinkerton National Detective Agency. Pinkerton presumed she was there to inquire about a clerical job. Later, he said that she demanded to be a private detective, and that he eventually hired her for that role on August 23, 1856. By 1860, Pinkerton had hired several more women to be detectives, calling them his “Female Detective Bureau” which was supervised by Warne.

Dead Ends While Researching Warne

Possible sketch of Kate Warne

Possible sketch of Kate Warne

Lynn H. Levy, owner and president of L.H. Levy Investigations, Inc., in Baltimore is currently writing a book about ten female investigators, including Kate Warne. In her research, Levy dug through 72 boxes in the Pinkerton archives at the Library of Congress, but due to a fire at the Pinkerton offices years before (likely the result of the Chicago fire in 1871), there was very little information about the agency in the 1850s.

In her further research on Kate Warne, Levy said, “I read every book published about Pinkerton, and there was enough information to get a full chapter about Kate. I found a few drawings of her and some photos that they believed were of her, but we don’t really know. She was born in New York and I’ve been trying to find out anything I can from sources there. They’re not even sure that was her last name. Up until she walked into Pinkerton’s office, there’s very little written about her.”

 Warne’s Most Famous Case

In 1861, Kate Warne helped foil an assassination attempt on President-elect Abraham Lincoln on his travels to Washington, D.C. for his inauguration. According to the Central Intelligence Agency’s article “Saving Mr. Lincoln,” Warne accompanied Pinkerton and four other operatives from his agency to Baltimore where Pinkerton had heard a plot to assassinate Lincoln would take place. According to other sources, she both helped to coordinate the operatives as well as to devise a strategy for getting Lincoln safely from Baltimore to Washington, D.C.

Warne and Pinkerton’s Relationship

Pinkerton’s brother Robert wasn’t happy with Kate Warne’s agency expenses as he believed they included funds his brother diverted for gifts and travels with Kate as his mistress. Pinkerton never confirmed such a relationship. Nor is there any documentation written by Kate, not even a letter, to offer any of her insights about her life.

In 1868, Kate fell ill, and Pinkerton stayed by her side, nursing her, until she died. Some say she suffered from pneumonia and that her death was sudden, other sources say it was a lengthy, painful illness that is unknown.

Pinkerton had her buried in his family plot at Graceland Cemetery in Chicago, with a spot reserved next to her for him when he died. In his will decades later, he dictated that Kate’s plot was never to be sold. They remain buried next to each other to this day.

Private Investigators in the 20th Century

By the 1920s, due to the expanding middle class in America, the private investigator became better known to the average citizen. Since then, the PI industry has continued to grow as it fills the needs of the public (who retain PIs to work on cases like infidelity, fraud, and criminal defense investigations). Licensing requirements, with criteria a PI must meet, have also been regulated in most states in the U.S.

Additionally, professional organizations (regional, national, and international) combined with good business practices have cast the PI career in a more respected light versus its outdated, fictional reputation as the wrinkled trench coat, fallen-from-grace Sam Spade figure found in books and film.


 

All rights reserved by Colleen Collins. Any use of the content requires specific, written authority. 

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Safety Tips for St. Patrick’s Day

Posted by Writing PIs on March 16, 2018

happy st patricks day shamrock

St. Patrick’s Day is coming up, a day devoted to green beer and lots of partying. It’s great to get together with friends and have fun, but not so great to get arrested for breaking a law while intoxicated.

Top Three Reasons For Getting Arrested

  1. Drinking and Driving: Here’s a sobering fact: between 2009 and 2013, 276 people died on St. Patrick’s Day in the U.S. due to drunken driving accidents (information from TSM, Traffic Safety Marketing). Another sobering statistic: From 2008 through 2012, half of the men killed in crashes on St. Patrick’s Day were drinking and driving (info from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration). Simple way around this: Don’t Drink and Drive. Go partying with a friend who is the designated driver or travel by taxi.
  2. Public Intoxication: Although each state has its own definition of public intoxication, below are a few shared elements of the crime:
    – Being visibly drunk or under the influence of drugs while in a public place.
    – Appearing to be intoxicated in a public place (that’s right, appearances alone can get you arrested).
  3. Urinating in Public: This includes urinating between parked cars, on walls, even lawns. If you gotta go, go before you go outside.

A Few More Safety Tips

A little common sense can ensure you and others have a safe, fun St. Patrick’s Day celebration:

  • Plan How You’re Getting Home Ahead of Time. Be it by taxi, designated driver, public transportation, or one of the numerous sober-drive-home services offered in different cities.
  • If You’re Traveling with a Designated Driver, Leave Your Car Keys at Home.
  • If You See a Drunk Driver on the Road, Call the Police. This could save many people’s lives.
  • If You See Someone Who’s Drunk Getting Ready to Drive: Gently take away their keys and help them find a safe way home. Better yet, call a taxi and pay for it upfront.

Have a great St. Patrick’s Day, Writing PIs

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International Women’s Day: Honoring Female Investigators

Posted by Writing PIs on March 8, 2018

International Women’s Day has been observed since the early 1900s. On this day, thousands of events occur around the world to celebrate women and their accomplishments.

For International Women’s Day, I’m honoring female PIs through articles written about them to radio shows hosted by them. This post isn’t meant to be all-inclusive by any means, just a cross-section of outstanding female investigators, including their fictional counterparts.

Radio Shows: New and Old

Below are two radio shows, one hosted by a contemporary female PI, the other about an old-time radio female private eye.

PI’s Declassified

California PI Francie Kohler hosts this weekly Internet radio show where she interviews private investigators and other professionals in associated fields. The show airs every Thursday at 9 a.m. Pacific Time: PI’s Declassified.

Old-Time Radio: Candy Matson Yukon 2-8209cover ebook 2000px longest side

This old-time radio show kicked off in 1949. Every show opened with a ringing telephone with a female answering, “Candy Matson, YU 2-8209,” after which the theme song “Candy” played.

According to the Internet Archive, Old Time Radio (OTR) researchers view this radio show as the best of the female private eyes. It ran until 1951. Listen to single episodes here: Candy Matson YUkon 2-8209.

Articles About Real-Life Female Private Investigators

Possible sketch of Kate Warne, the first U.S. female PI

Possible sketch of Kate Warne, the first U.S. female PI

Below is a sampling of articles written about female PIs:

The First U.S. Female Private Eye: Kate Warne (The Zen Man)

Q&A: Norma Tillman–Right and Wrong (Pursuit Magazine)

What Does It Take to Be an International Private Eye (interview with international private investigator Yin Johnson and her husband Phil, via RC Bridgestock Blog)

What Is It Like Being a Female Private Investigator? (The Zen Man)

This Private Investigator is One of the Few Jersey Women Working as Sleuths (NJ.com)

Articles About Fictional Female Private Eyes

There are many entertaining female “eyes” in literature, going back to the mid 1800s.

Dangerous Dames: A Timeline of Some of the Significant Female Eyes (The Thrilling Detective – if you haven’t checked out The Thrilling Detective, you’re missing out on one of the most comprehensive and entertaining sites about fictional private eyes on the ‘net)

Female Private Eyes in Fiction: From Lady Detectives to Hard-Boiled Dames (by Guns, Gams & Gumshoes’s Colleen for Festivale magazine)

Sara Paretsky Interview: “I start each VI Warshawski book convinced I can’t do it” (interview with Sara Paretsky in The Guardian. By the way, Paretsky does do it, and beautifully, every time she starts a new VI Warshawski novel.

Have a great week, Writing PIs

Click on cover to go to Amazon page

Click on cover to go to Amazon page

“As an experienced private detective and a skilled storyteller, Colleen Collins is the perfect person to offer a glimpse into the lives of real female P.I.s”
~ Kim Green, managing editor of Pursuit Magazine: The Magazine of Professional Investigators

 

 

 


All rights reserved by Colleen Collins. Any use of the content requires specific, written authority.

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Five Holiday Safety Tips

Posted by Writing PIs on December 3, 2017

As the holidays approach, our work load invariably picks up as more criminal cases come into the office. Sometimes on a festive evening, such as New Year’s Eve, we’ll look at each other and say, “Wonder what’s happening tonight that brings in work over the next few weeks or months?” Notice we don’t say “Wonder if something will happen…”

Five Safety Tips

Below are a few safety tips to keep you and yours from hiring attorneys or private investigators over the next few weeks.

Tip #1: When you go shopping, lock your car. It sounds so simple, yet you’d be surprised at the number of people who forget to do this. People get preoccupied with shopping, holiday parties, who’s picking up Great-Aunt Sarah on Christmas Eve…and they forget to lock their car doors. That makes easy pickings for thieves looking through car windows—if they see a package, it can be theirs within seconds. Several years ago, Sergeant Foley of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department claimed that nearly 50 percent of the car break-ins in his area were due to cars being left unlocked.

Tip #2: Park in well-lighted areas. Don’t tempt a thief by parking where there’s little or no lighting.

An unlocked door is an invitation to a criminal

Unlocked Doors Are Open Invitations to Criminals

Tip #3: Avoid parking on side streets. Vehicles parked on secluded side streets are easy prey for thieves. Also, with increased holiday traffic, and drivers preoccupied with cell phone conversations, passengers, or even eating while driving, your vehicle might be the victim of a hit-and-run.

Tip #4: Drink responsibly.

You Don't Want to Wear One of these Bracelets This Holiday

You Don’t Want to Wear One of These Bracelets This Holidays

Yeah, this sounds like one of those ads, but it is smart advice. Many of our criminal investigation cases involve people drinking too much and doing something stupid that they regret for years to come.

Watch the other guy, too —is someone getting blitzed and out of control at a party? Be proactive and make sure he/she has a sober driver to take them home. Or call a taxi and pay the driver upfront for the person’s ride home, which might be the best holiday gift they get. Also if a party is getting out of control, it’s a good time to leave.

Tip #5: Be aware. Perhaps the best advice is to be aware and use common sense.  Don’t carry so many packages to your vehicle that you can’t quickly reach your cell phone or car keys. Shop in groups rather than alone. If you have a choice to shop during the day or at night, pick daylight hours. Don’t leave items visible in your car that might tempt a thief. Have fun at parties, but drink responsibly and avoid those who aren’t.

Wishing you a happy, healthy, and safe holiday season!

(Click on banner, below, to go to Amazon page)

A heartfelt, humorous, romantic-mystery story about a down-on-her-luck lawyer, a special agent visited by the past, and an arson dog named Maggie who join forces to rescue the holiday spirit!

“Mistletoe and Murder in Las Vegas” is Colleen Collins at her best. It’s got the charm and humor of the best romantic comedies combined with a genuinely good mystery–an unbeatable combination. I couldn’t put the book down once I started it.” ~Nancy Warren, USA Today Bestselling Author

wreath line

All rights reserved by Colleen Collins and Shaun Kaufman. Do not copy/distribute any content without written permission from the authors. 

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What Is Expectation of Privacy?

Posted by Writing PIs on November 1, 2017

woman peeking thru blinds licensed by C Collins

In a nutshell, expectation of privacy is a zone of protection created by constitutional law against unreasonable searches and seizures.

How Does Expectation of Privacy Affect You?

Most people don’t value their expectation of privacy until a government agent (such as police or health inspectors) intrude onto their property without authorization. Another area in which people don’t always value their expectation of privacy is in their personal computers. The founding fathers wanted people to be secure in their “homes and papers,” but no one has ever doubted that the Fourth Amendment expectation of privacy also applies to individuals’ personal computers and other electronic devices.

PIs and Expectation of Privacy

Below are a few slides from a presentation we gave at a Pikes Peak Writers conference on this topic. The audience wanted an example of how their private eye character might be affected by an expectation of privacy issue in the course of an investigation.

Expectation of Privacy slide 2

Expectation of Privacy slide 3

Have a great November, everyone! Writing PIs

All rights reserved by Colleen Collins. Please do not copy, distribute, or otherwise use any of this article without written permission from the author.

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Tips for Your Safeguarding Your Halloween Haunted House

Posted by Writing PIs on October 25, 2017

It’s that time of year when people stretch cobwebs on porches, prop plastic gravestones in front yards, string flashing lights everywhere, and my favorite—arrange mechanized life-sized creeping zombies that crawl and moan. These decorations mean it’s also the time of year to ensure safe conditions around your spook house.

Five Safety Tips

  1. Keep walkways dry and clear from anything that might trip your visitors. This includes cords and crawling zombies.
  2. haunted house2

    If the area outside the house is dark, trick-or-treaters might stumble and fall.

    Maintain good lighting for your candy-hunting guests in areas where they walk up to your doorway. Keep in mind that many children are wearing masks that can block their vision, and that children might be running as they approach your front door. Dark-tinted lights and flashing strobes are a recipe for trouble, even if they look fantastic. One idea: Try the “Christmas light style” jack-o-lantern lights on your banisters and stairways to highlight handrails.

  3. Use extension cords for electrical items in the yard that are rated for outdoor use to avoid electrical shorts and fires.
  4. Secure yard decorations (wooden signs and faux grave markers) from the bold fall wind.
  5. Direct traffic at your doorway. Limit the number of trick or treaters coming up to the door to prevent chaos and possible injuries when departing ghouls bump into arriving ghosts. You might try being on the porch during the busiest hours to hand-out candy.

Enjoy a safe, fun Halloween!

All rights reserved by Colleen Collins. Please do not copy, distribute, or otherwise use any of this article without written permission from the author.

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5 Tips for Having a DUI-Free Halloween

Posted by Writing PIs on October 23, 2017

The origins of Halloween go back to the Celts who marked the day as the end of harvest season and beginning of winter. The day itself was thought of as a bridge to the world of the dead.

Today Halloween is a fun day filled with candy, costumes, and parties. And not just for kids, but for grown-ups, too. For the latter, here’s a few suggestions to have a good time without getting a DUI (drinking under the influence).

Five Tips For Not Being Haunted By A DUI On Halloween

Tip #1: Don’t Over-Imbibe. Your blood alcohol level is a major factor in determining if you will be charged and convicted of driving under the influence (DUI). Although there are variables in how people’s bodies metabolize, or burn off, alcohol, here’s a general rule of thumb: For every ounce of alcohol consumed, wait 90-120 minutes before drinking another ounce.

Each of the following drinks contains approximately an ounce of alcohol:

  • 12-oz. can of beer
  • 1.25-oz. shot of hard liquor
  • 6-oz. glass of wine.

Tip #2Don’t Wear a Mask While Driving. Officers must have reasons for pulling over drivers they suspect might have been drinking. One reason is if the driver is wearing a mask—an officer might say it obscured your vision while driving, and then the officer might assess if you have been drinking.

Tip #3Eating fatty, spicy food to trick a breathalyzer test is an urban legend. Some people think consuming greasy, spicy foods (think a big plate of enchiladas smothered in cheese, chilis and onions) will help them beat a breathalyzer test as the food lowers the alcohol content in their system. Well, such foods might mask the odor of alcohol on one’s breath, but they do absolutely nothing to lower the alcohol content.

Tip #4: Plan for Sober Driving Options. Best idea of all is to plan ahead for how to travel safely—here are a few ideas:

  • Designate who is the sober driver for the evening if you’re out with a group of people.
  • Call a taxi.
  • Pre-program numbers into your phone for safe ride options in your city, such as Curb (formerly TaxiMagic) or Lyft.

Tip #5: Don’t Pull a Reese Witherspoon. If you’re a passenger in a car that’s been pulled over, remember what happened to Reese Witherspoon who, as the drunk passenger in a car, got loud and crazy with the cop. Next thing the famous movie star knew, she was starring in her very own mug shot. Law officers can cite others in a vehicle for interference or obstruction.

Follow these tips and enjoy a safe, fun Halloween!

All rights reserved by Colleen Collins. Please do not copy, distribute, or otherwise use any of this material without written permission from the author.

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Senate Resolution May Eventually Allow ISPs to Sell Sensitive Customer Data

Posted by Writing PIs on March 23, 2017

Browsing History and Your Privacy

March 23, 2017: Today the Senate passed a resolution that would overturn an FCC rule that requires internet service providers (ISPs) to get customers’ permission before ISPs sell sensitive consumer data, such as browsing histories. You can read more in the LA Times article Senate votes to kill privacy rules meant to protect people’s sensitive data from their Internet providers.

Mystery writers often joke that if the government ever looked at their browsing histories for stories, the writer would look like he/she wanted to murder someone through his/her searches on poisoning, bombing, knifing, strangling, and on and on…

But it’s not so funny that a Minnesota judge recently approved a warrant to retrieve people’s Google searches on variations of a victim’s name over a 5-week timeframe. Google was to provide the court each searcher’s name, email address, account information, and IP address. Think about that. What if you had Googled a name of a second cousin, a potential employer, even the name of a character in a book, and what you typed just happened to be similar to that victim’s name? Your name and personal information would be provided to the court as a possible suspect.

But, there’s no need to panic. Instead…

Be Proactive with Your Internet Privacy

The Senate’s resolution hasn’t gone to legislation yet, of course. So this is an opportunity to think about ways to protect your internet privacy and browsing history. For example, are you using a private search engine? Good. If not, consider using a private search engine like DuckDuckGo or StartPage.

Articles on Internet Privacy

Some private search engines, such as StartPage, also encourage users to take additional steps to limit cookies as a second line of defense. I wrote about how to set up Do Not Track options, add-ons, extensions, and more in my article Tips for Keeping the Cookie Monster Out of Your Browser.

Below are more articles that offer tips for protecting your internet privacy:

How to Browse the Internet Anonymously by Natasha Stokes (Techlicious)

One setting to protect your privacy on your iPhone or iPad by Mark Jones (Komando.com)

Computer security tips for whistleblowers and sources (The Guardian)

Have a good week, Writing PIs

 All rights reserved by Colleen Collins. Any use of the content requires specific, written authority. All images are licensed by the author, who does not have legal authority to share with others so please do not copy or distribute those images, thank you.

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The Witness Who Came in from the Cold

Posted by Writing PIs on February 23, 2017

black-white-woman-along-at-table-drinking-gratisograph-ryan-mcguire

(Image courtesy of Ryan McGuire)

We worked this case as an investigative team, with our results helping a defense lawyer to obtain a dismissal for his client. Also, we worked this case the old-fashioned way, on foot, as a key witness was afraid for her identity to be traced digitally (email, phone, etc.).

Late One Summer Night…

…a resident in a home near a park called 911 after hearing sounds of yelling and fighting (the caller couldn’t see the park itself as the view was obstructed by other homes). When police arrived at the park, they found three local gang members with knife wounds, lying on the ground. The gang members said two rival gang members from another city had stabbed them. One ran away, whereabouts unknown. The other had flagged down a car for a ride (they gave the license plate and description of that car.) Police found no weapons on the three gang members—it was later learned that others in their gang had gathered all the weapons and left before the police arrived.

Charge: Felony 3, First-Degree Assault

Police found the described car parked at a home in the neighborhood. The driver admitted he’d given a ride to a young man (whom we’ll call “E”), who had flagged him down and asked for a lift to a friend’s home. The police went to that address and found E, who matched the description given by the stabbed gang members.

handcuffed-hands

With no witnesses to confirm E’s claim of self-defense, police arrested him (image licensed by Colleen Collins)

Although E claimed self-defense, saying the rival gang had harassed, punched, and threatened him with their weaponry, the police charged him with the stabbings, a felony 3, first-degree assault.

Following the code of gang members, E refused to give any information about his fellow gang member who’d run away (later we learned this gang member had returned to his car and driven back to the neighboring city that night).

Goal: Find a Witness

E hired a defense lawyer (for whom we worked as defense investigators at the time). The lawyer informed the court and opposing counsel that our client was claiming self-defense.

Because E refused to identify his fellow gang member, the case lacked an independent corroborating witness. Based on the 911 call, people in the neighborhood had obviously heard the fighting, but no one had yet come forward to say that E had fought in self-defense.

As investigators we could have driven to the neighboring city and tried to root out this gang-member-witness—yeah, that would have been an easy, fruitful enterprise (not).

Bottom line: we had one weapon, the old “neighborhood canvas” or knock and talk.

Fear of Gang Retaliation

Problem was, people didn’t want to talk. An elderly man confided that people were afraid to talk out of fear of gang retaliation.

Next, we printed posters asking anyone who had seen an incident on [date] and [park name] to call [phone number], and the conversation would remain confidential. Whenever we’ve posted flyers like this, we use a dedicated, virtual phone number (meaning we set up a unique number that can’t be traced, and rings through to one of our office phones).

Then we walked up and down the sidewalks of this east Denver gang-infested, lower middle-class neighborhood, sticking our posters on street light poles, the fence around the park, and other such public spots (didn’t leave any on people’s doors as we didn’t want any third parties later assuming so-and-so, who had had a flyer on their door, was probably the snitch).

The Clock Was Ticking

Days later, we began to panic. E had to decide on a 5- to 12-year prison-only plea offer in the coming week, and no one had called us.

One late afternoon, we got a call from a coffee shop phone number in a different part of the city. The caller identified herself as a mother who lived near the park, but refused to give her name, or any digital means of contacting her (email address, cell phone number, etc.) as she was afraid of being traced. She said she’d seen local gang members threatening and taunting E, who at first had run from them, but after being cornered, fought back in self-defense. She wanted to do the right thing and “help that young man.”

A Secret Night Meeting

black-and-white-forest-light

The witness met us in the park shadows (image courtesy of Ryan McGuire)

She agreed to meet us in the park, at night, and point out where the young men had fought. We arrived at the park one weekday night and waited. An older woman walked toward us from a corner of the park.

In the shadows, she pointed out where she’d seen E running from the others, and where E had ended up with his back to a fence. We gave her our lawyer’s card and asked her to call him, and that the lawyer would protect her identity by sealing her statement in the court file.

D.A. Reviews Investigative Report

With a reliable, independent witness supporting E’s story, the defense lawyer took our interview and case report to the prosecution, who agreed to dismiss the charges against E.

All rights reserved by Colleen Collins and Shaun Kaufman, and any use of the content requires specific, written authority. Please do not copy/distribute mages licensed by Colleen Collins as she does not have the authority to share with others. All other images are in the public domain, with the caveat by the photographer, Ryan McGuire, to please credit them with his name.

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Don’t Make Hiring a Private Eye One of Your New Year’s Resolutions

Posted by Writing PIs on January 7, 2017

We once got a call from a woman who wanted to know how her abusive ex-boyfriend had learned her new home address. We ran a quick search of her address on Google, and guess what? She’d listed it on an online resume, which meant anybody could find that home address by simply searching for her name.

Let’s go over a few resolutions you can make to protect your confidential information so you don’t need to add “Hire a Private Investigator” to that list.

Tip #1: Stop sharing your home address

It’s your home, your private residence, the center of your family life — you don’t need to share this address with anybody other than friends, family and trusted business contacts. One way to protect your home address is to provide your business address instead.

Another way to protect your home address is to purchase a private mailbox from a US post office, or from a private mailbox service such as The UPS Store, then use this address on forms, registrations, mailings, and so on. Private mailbox companies often provide you with a “street” address (where your mailbox is the suite number) so those forms that say “You must enter a street address, not a post office box” will be satisfied that you’re entering a street address (although it’s not).

Tip #2: Don’t announce your location

Turn off location services on your smartphones

Turn off location services on your smartphone

It’s all the rage for people to automatically announce their location through social media sites (such as Twitter) and other online sites. 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.

Also, it’s a good idea to turn off location services on your smartphone so you are not giving away your real-time location. Also, photos you take with your smartphone can record your location via embedded geotagging. This 2014 article in Forbes, Don’t Let Stalkers, Abusers, and Creeps Track Your Phones Location, contains instructions for turning off location services.

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

It's possible to track a person's address via their phone number

Did you know that it’s possible to track a person’s address via their phone number?

It’s relatively easy to find home addresses from phone numbers. It’s just as easy for you to protect that number, and your personal information associated with it, by using a virtual phone number. What’s that? 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. Then, you give out the virtual number when a stranger, or someone other than family and trusted friends, asks for your phone number. When somebody calls that virtual number, you answer, and nobody knows it’s not your real number.

If someone attempts a trace on that phone number (to find the name/address it’s registered to), they won’t find it (that is, as long as you haven’t posted your name as being associated with that number somewhere on the Internet). Basic virtual number services typically cost anywhere from $6.95 to $10.95 a month (extra features, such as fax services, cost more). You can sign up for a virtual number at sites like Vumber and our personal favorite, Phone.com.

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


Like this article? It and other investigative articles by this author are in How Do Private Eyes Do That?

All rights reserved by Colleen Collins, and any use of the content requires specific, written authority.All images in this article are licensed by the author, who does not have the authority to share with others, so please do not copy, distribute, or otherwise use any of these images.

Posted in Don't Make Hiring a PI One of Your New Year's Resolutions, Finding Names Behind Phone Numbers, Nonfiction book: HOW DO PRIVATE EYES DO THAT? | Tagged: , , , , | Comments Off on Don’t Make Hiring a Private Eye One of Your New Year’s Resolutions

 
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