Guns, Gams & Gumshoes

A blog for PIs and writers/readers of the PI genre

  • Writing a Sleuth?

    A Guide for Writing Fictional Sleuths from a Couple of Real-Life Sleuths

    "How to Write a Dick is the best work of its kind I’ve ever come across because it covers the whole spectrum in an entertaining style that will appeal to layman and lawmen alike."

    Available on Kindle

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Archive for the ‘Nonfiction book: HOW DO PRIVATE EYES DO THAT?’ Category

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.

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#Excerpt How Do Private Eyes Do That? – How PIs Are Used in Cases Where DNA Evidence Is Employed

Posted by Writing PIs on November 8, 2014

How Do Private Eyes Do That? is a compendium of articles about private investigations, currently available on Kindle.

“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

“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

“I have been “snooping” for over 30 years. I worked Security and Law Enforcement, in the military, back in the 80’s. I WAS TRULY IMPRESSED with the information in this book!”
~I. Reed Alott

Excerpt: How Does DNA Get to a Crime Scene?

There is known DNA evidence (produced by the victim) and there is evidence produced by a suspect (foreign depositor.) This evidence must be collected by a definite protocol because deviation from this collection method might spark a courtroom challenge to the reliability of that evidence.

How is a private investigator used in a case where DNA evidence is employed?

A private investigator might be retained and used to challenge the manner in which DNA evidence was gathered and handled by their opponent. The private investigator might look for evidence to substantiate a challenge to laboratory staff’s credentials or he might look for evidence that their test results have been successfully challenged in other cases.

When Is DNA Evidence Used?

DNA evidence is used in criminal prosecutions (to show a suspect is the perpetrator of a crime) and in an increasing variety of civil cases (to prove that an individual was wrongfully convicted and imprisoned for a crime, to show paternity, and to establish lineage in estate matters.)

As an example, “wrongful conviction” cases have created a new type of litigation. Civil lawsuits are routinely brought by those

Animation of the structure of a section of DNA...

Animation of the structure of a section of DNA. The bases lie horizontally between the two spiraling strands. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

exonerated through DNA evidence against police, prosecutors, and the forensic laboratories who helped bring about the wrongful conviction. For example three young men who played on Duke’s Lacrosse team and were falsely accused of rape and wrongfully prosecuted for that crime over a twelve-month period sued a North Carolina District Attorney and thirteen others. The trio also sued the laboratory used by the prosecutors for withholding evidence that pointed to their innocence. This is the laboratory that initially attested to a match between their DNA and samples taken from their accuser. This laboratory is now under scrutiny for its handling of evidence in this and other cases.

Note to writers: If you’re writing a story with a private investigator character, he/she (who could easily have a scientific or an investigative background) might be involved in gathering evidence about how certain laboratories are crooked, how they employ “bad science,” or even what makes some scientists charlatans.

All rights reserved by Colleen Collins and Shaun Kaufman. Any use of the content (including images owned by Colleen Collins and/or Shaun Kaufman) requires specific, written authority. Any violations of this reservation will result in legal action.

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A Couple of Non-Fiction Books for the Sleuth-Writer in Your Life

Posted by Writing PIs on December 16, 2011

Maybe you know someone writing a story featuring a private eye, or someone who’s a PI-genre fan, or someone who’s intrigued about the world of private investigators. Hey, maybe that person is you. Below are two books by Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes’s private investigators about the real world of private investigations. Below that are a few links to some recent articles about private investigations for your reading pleasure.

How to Write a Dick: A Guide for Writing Fictional Sleuths from a Couple of Real-Life Sleuths

Geared mostly to writers writing sleuths, with plenty of info for those wanting to read more about the real-life world of whodunits. Topics include a history of private investigators, a sampling of private investigative specializations (from legal investigations to pet detectives to investigating white-collar crime), the ins and outs of a private investigator’s business (from licensing to marketing), homicide investigations, a DNA Primer and a “Gumshoe Glossary.”

“If you want authenticity in creating a fictional private investigator for your stories, then this is a must-have reference book. Its authors, Colleen and Shaun, are living breathing PIs with years of actual experience in the PI game.” ~ R.T. Lawton, 25 years on the street as a federal special agent and author of 4 series in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine

“How to Write a Dick is a gift to crime fiction authors everywhere, a comprehensive and no-nonsense compendium of information, analysis and thought-provoking writing prompts that will help you create your own 21st century shamus with confidence and class. An absolute must for the library of any PI writer!” ~ Kelli Stanley, critically acclaimed author of City of Dragons and the Miranda Corbie series

To order How to Write a Dick

How to Write a Dick is an eBook, but you don’t need an ereader. Both Amazon and Barnes & Noble provide free apps that are easy to download onto your laptop, desktop, other device.  Want to give as a gift? All you need is the person’s email address.

How to Write a Dick on Kindle

How Do Private Eyes Do That?

Geared to the armchair sleuth, with plenty of info for writers, investigators, and others interested in the techniques and tools of today’s private investigators. Dozens of articles about private investigations on such topics as how to catch a cheater, techniques for finding people, how to locate a cell phone number, tips for locating a family trust, email security tips, how to unblock incoming blocked phone numbers, intellectual property investigations, the art of interviewing witnesses, listening devices, sleuth gadgets…we’re running out of breath, here…online research tips, how to search for people on YouTube, case examples, a listing (plus links) of several dozen private investigator blogs and PI-genre writers…and a whole lot more.

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

“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

To order How Do Private Eyes Do That?

Same as above — you don’t need an ereader to download this book. Both Amazon and Barnes & Noble make it easy (and free) to download an app onto your PC/Mac/other device to read this book. If you want to send it as a gift, all you need is the person’s email address.

How Do Private Eyes Do That? on Kindle

 

Posted in Nonfiction book: HOW DO PRIVATE EYES DO THAT?, PI Topics, Sleuth Gifts, Writing About PIs | Tagged: , , , , , , | Comments Off on A Couple of Non-Fiction Books for the Sleuth-Writer in Your Life

Excerpt from HOW DO PRIVATE EYES DO THAT?

Posted by Writing PIs on October 15, 2011

Never Sleep with Anyone Whose Troubles Are Worse than Your Own

-Lew Archer in Black Money by Ross Macdonald (attributed to Nelson Algrin)

Originally published in NINK, newsletter for Novelists, Inc. April 2011

A common misconception is that a PI’s work mostly involves surveilling cheating spouses. Actually, there are dozens of investigative specialties that PIs practice, from accident reconstruction to insurance investigations to pet detection. Infidelity investigations, aka chasing cheaters, is one of those specialized fields.

Infidelity Investigations: An Investigative Specialty

Chuck Chambers, PI and author of The Private Investigator’s Handbook, specializes in infidelity investigations. He offers this interesting statistic: 98 percent of his female clients who suspect their husbands of cheating are correct, and 50 percent of his male clients who suspect their wives are correct.

At our agency, we specialize in legal investigations (trial preparation/investigations), but occasionally we get the “I think my husband/wife is cheating” call. We’re hesitant to take these cases because they’re fraught with emotion, from tears to homicidal rage. Tears we don’t mind, but that latter passion makes the work potentially dangerous. Remember the woman in Texas who ran over her philandering husband three times in the motel parking lot? Know how she learned her husband’s location? The PI she’d hired to follow her husband called her, explained her husband had just entered a hotel with another woman, and gave her the motel name and address. That PI’s firm was later sued for gross negligence and will ultimately pay the children of the deceased philander millions of dollars.

Chasing Cheaters: Adding Danger (or Humor) to a Story

Infidelity investigations being fraught with danger might be undesirable in reality, but it’s great for fiction. Maybe your sleuth/PI takes a cheating-spouse case thinking it’ll be an easy way to make a few bucks, but before the sleuth has time to focus her camera, she becomes a witness to a murder. The Texas PI mentioned earlier actually filmed the murder as it took place and then provided testimony to convict the spurned client. What if the infidelity case was just a ruse, and actually the betrayed-wife pretext lures the PI into solving another crime (think Chinatown).

Chasing cheaters can also add humor to a story.  We know a PI who ended up marrying his client’s divorce attorney. And – true story – we once followed a suspected philandering husband who the wife said also “appeared to be involved in some kind of new business.”  We learned what that new business was…a brothel.

What steps might a PI follow in a cheating-spouse case?

Catching the Cheater

When we accept an infidelity case, we request:

  • Information about the suspected cheater’s habits, work schedule, days off, etc.
  • Photographs of the suspected cheater (and the suspected girlfriend/boyfriend, if available)
  • Addresses and phone numbers (suspected cheater’s home, businesses, etc. as well as addresses/phone for suspected girlfriend/boyfriend)
  • Any known routes suspected cheater takes on way to work, home, to exercise gym, etc.
  • Vehicle descriptions, license plate numbers for suspected cheater (and suspected girlfriend/boyfriend)

What About Attaching a GPS Device to the Suspected Cheater’s Vehicle?

Unless the spouse’s name is registered on the suspected spouse’s vehicle (and it’s surprising how many spouses think their names are, but they aren’t), this is a big no-no. We’re talking felony. Not counting the possibility of extraordinarily bad publicity.

But again, what’s bad in reality can be great for fiction. What if your PI knows he’s courting a felony, but attaches the GPS device anyway, gets caught, and ends up in jail. We know a PI who this happened to. He knew his client’s name wasn’t on the spouse’s vehicle registration, but attached the GPS anyway. A woman in an adjacent parking lot saw him crawl underneath the vehicle with an object, then reappear empty-handed. She called the police and said, “I think a guy just attached a bomb to a car.”

Next thing the PI knew, police, fire trucks, and bomb squads arrived, and he was in handcuffs. Nearby schools, homes, and businesses were evacuated. News stations picked up on the story, reported the bomb threat. It took him nearly two years and $8,000 in legal fees to salvage his investigations business.

Think about how to use infidelity investigations with your fictional PI As in the story above, it could be an expensive, comic subplot. Or maybe a seemingly distraught client hires a PI to watch his/her spouse, when the real reason for the investigation is something much darker.

——————————————————–

How Do Private Eyes Do That? is a compilation of articles about private investigations written by Colleen Collins, a professional private investigator (and one of the Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes blog authors). Its topics are geared to readers interested in the world of PIs, including fiction writers, researchers, investigators and those simply curious about the profession.

“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

“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

How Do Private Eyes Do That? on Kindle: Click here

Posted in Be Your Own Investigator, Nonfiction book: HOW DO PRIVATE EYES DO THAT?, Writing About PIs | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Excerpt from HOW DO PRIVATE EYES DO THAT?

HOW DO PRIVATE EYES DO THAT?: New Ebook for Writers, Researchers, Investigators

Posted by Writing PIs on October 9, 2011

Writing a sleuth character? Want to know how to locate a cell phone number? Curious how a private investigator might investigate a homicide or crime scene?

How Do Private Eyes Do That? is a compilation of articles about private investigations written by Colleen Collins, a professional private investigator (and one of the Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes blog authors). Its topics are geared to readers interested in the world of PIs, including fiction writers, researchers, investigators and those simply curious about the profession.

A supplement to the book is a chapter from How to Write a Dick: A Guide to Writing Fictional Sleuths from a Couple of Real-Life Sleuths, co-authored by Colleen Collins. This chapter describes numerous specializations in the field of private investigations, including legal investigations, infidelity investigations, pet detection, insurance investigations, personal injury investigations, executive protection and more.

“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

“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

How Do Private Eyes Do That? on Kindle: Click here

How Do Private Eyes Do That? on Nook: Click here

Posted in Nonfiction book: HOW DO PRIVATE EYES DO THAT?, Writing About PIs | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
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