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."

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Posts Tagged ‘cheap nonfiction books’

Surveillance Rule Number 1: Blend In

Posted by Writing PIs on May 15, 2012

Your Writing PIs

Last month we gave several presentations at the Pike Peak Writers Conference, a fun, informative annual conference held in beautiful Colorado Springs, Colorado. We taught two workshops for writers: “Surveillance 101” and “Missing Persons 101.”

Today we’ll share a few of our “Surveillance 101” slides on the topic of “blending in” while on surveillance:

Rule Number One: Blend In!

Types of clothing to wear on surveillance, based on locale, weather, length of surveillance

Choose an Appropriate Surveillance Vehicle for the Locale

Tips for Picking Effective Surveillance Vehicles

More Tips for Effective Surveillance Vehicles

We loved The Rockford Files, but this is hardly an effective surveillance vehicle!

Have a great day, Writing PIs

Posted in PI Topics, Surveillance 101: Effective Surveillance Vehicles | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Surveillance Rule Number 1: Blend In

Private Investigators: News, Resources and Some Fun Stuff

Posted by Writing PIs on May 13, 2012

Here at Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes, we write a lot about serious issues.  Today, we’d like to offer a smattering of items, from investigation news, handy resources and even some fun stuff.  Yeah, fun stuff.  It’s Mother’s Day.  Time to smile a little.

Private Investigators in the News

Click on a link to read article:

Private Eyes Spy on Staff (The Portside Messenger)

Private Eyes Spy on Exam Sheets: Private Detectives May Be Called in to Catch Any Internet Cheats (The Connexion)

Piles of junk prompt St. John’s to hire private eyes (CTV News)

Private investigators are selling access to financial and criminal records (The Guardian)

Handy Resources

Click on link to read more about service/product.

Read-Notify: Track your email. Know when emails you’ve sent get read, even from what city.

Convoflow: Harvest real-time social media conversations. Be automatically notified when any web page changes.

Google Keyword Tool: Evaluate the usefulness of keywords before using them in websites and blogs.

Fun Stuff

Click on a link to check it out:

Quick Quiz: Check Your Knowledge of the FBI in Pop Culture (Brought to you by the FBI)

FBI Widgets (Want “10 Most Wanted” on your Cell? An “FBI History” widget? A “Wanted by the FBI” module?…All brought to you again by the FBI, who’re showing you they can be fun, sorta, too).

Inside Private Eye: A video look at the inner work of the satirical UK publication Private Eye

“Another Whacko Process Service: Is It Time to Quit?” On a sister site, one of the Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes’s PIs debates the process-serving biz after escaping a woman wielding a frying pan.

Have a great Mother’s Day, Writing PIs

Posted in Handy Resources for Private Investigators, PI Topics, Private Eyes in the News | Tagged: , , , , , , | Comments Off on Private Investigators: News, Resources and Some Fun Stuff

Answering Writers’ Questions: What Records Can PIs Get via Databases or by Phone?

Posted by Writing PIs on March 20, 2012

Writer’s Question: I know private investigators have access to both proprietary and public online databases. What about obtaining a birth certificate? In my story, I need to reveal that no father was listed on suspect’s birth certificate, but from what I’ve read, these certificates are hard to get. Is that true? Maybe a private investigator could purchase one through a database or make a phone call to request one?

Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes’s Answer: No, one cannot get birth certificates through proprietary/public databases or by phone. One needs to have permission (power of attorney) from the parents or from the individual. Or, permission via a court order.

Writer’s Question: What about employment records? My amateur sleuth wants to compile another person’s work history — is there a way to do this?

Guns, Gams, and Gumshoe’s Answer: Well, it’s possible to piece together some work history via proprietary/public databases, but this is getting more and more difficult due to identity theft legislation. There are some PIs who specialize in employment work histories (or they advertise they can retrieve such histories) but we’re not sure a legal means exists to get a complete work history. On the other hand, many people’s LinkedIn profiles (for example) reveal partial (sometimes full) work histories.  Sometimes other social media sites, such as Facebook, also show people’s work histories (that is, whatever the people wish to share via those sites).

Writer’s Question: Is it easy for PIs to find out what degrees a college graduate earned?

Guns, Gams, and Gumshoe’s Answer: Colleges & other educational institutions will provide the dates and degrees earned for an individual. Anyone can call and request this information. Same with accreditation. Professional organizations will release (via phone call) the type of accreditation a person earned and the dates the person belonged to the organization.

Writer’s Question: I understand police records are generally only available for a brief time after an incident, which is when the press gets them. True?

Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes’s Answer: False. Most police agencies now keep records for a minimum of 5-7 years. Sometimes we have found that when a case is currently open, a police department might not release those records to us. However, recently we were able to obtain (via a written request…these forms are often online within the PD website) records for a case that was open.

Writer’s Question: I also understand that a PI can get only convictions, not arrests. True?

Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes’s Answer: False. Many state police agencies keep records of arrests and release them to the public upon request and fee payment. However, these records caution that they are not to be relied on as any indication of conviction.

Have a great week, Writing PIs

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Excerpt from How to Write a Dick: Financial Investigations

Posted by Writing PIs on July 29, 2011

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

Financial Investigations

Financial investigators might be certified as financial investigators and fraud examiners and have clients who are commercial litigators and enforcement attorneys.  Many financial investigators also do background checks (which include verification of employment, residences, schools, credit, criminal history, and so forth) for such people as employers and landlords.  Financial investigators also perform asset checks (an examination of a business’s or individual’s assets) as well as conduct other information verification for domestic relations attorneys and others interested in performing “due diligence” assays. (Due diligence verification is done to confirm data relied on in securities offerings and in business acquisitions–translate this to big money, and the person doing the work better be right or be ready to be sued.)

A financial investigator’s services might include:

  • Finding and recovering money owed
  • Enforcing judgment and restitution in criminal and civil lawsuits
  • Recovering financial loss through fraud, embezzlement, non-performing loans/leases
  • Performing due diligence in pre-litigation, mergers and acquisitions, investments
  • Investigating bankruptcy fraud.

A financial investigator might have one or more of following background/credentials:

  • Certified Financial Investigator
  • Certified Fraud Examiner
  • Certified Protection Professional
  • Certified Public Accountant
  • Expertise in forensic accounting
  • Expertise in computer forensics
  • Expertise in health care billing and bill coding
  • Expertise in questionable documents
  • Expertise in banking
  • Expertise in the law of real and personal property, taxation, securities and trusts.

One financial investigator claims that only 20 percent of civil cases actually collect, and the other 80 percent go uncollected.  Of those who win restitution, only 3 percent collect.  Almost sounds like a financial investigator’s job is like shooting fish in a barrel, doesn’t it?  The field can be lucrative, but the work can be time-consuming and tedious.

Sample investigation methodology a financial investigator might use:

  • Computer research
  • Public records research
  • Confidential sources
  • Analysis of financial statements
  • Subpoenas
  • Interviews, witness statements
  • Affidavits, depositions, and careful review of legal pleadings and lawyer’s files.

Where might a financial investigator look to find where people have hidden money?

  • Corporations
  • Limited Partnership
  • Limited Liability Company
  • Trusts
  • Off shore accounts
  • Relatives
  • Combinations of the above (recently we discovered a man had created a corporation for his wife and had given her substantial property, which she then deeded to the corporation. She headed the corporation, which then sold the property, and she liquidated the assets, and returned them to her name)

What indicators of fraud might alert the financial investigator?

  • Lack of reasonable consideration for the conveyance
  • Transfer of the debtor’s entire estate
  • Relationship between transferor and transferee
  • Pendency or threat of litigation
  • Secrecy or hurried transaction
  • Insolvency or indebtedness of transferor
  • Departure from the usual method of business
  • Retention by the debtor of possession
  • Reservation of benefit to the transferor

Writer’s Slant:  If Your PI Is a Financial Investigator, Think About:

  • Her background and education.  Most financial investigators have training, if not a degree or certification, in some facet of the financial field.
  • His tenacity
  • Her research abilities and skills
  • How well she knows and uses accounting, psychology, and related disciplines as a whole to uncover assets
  • His knowledge of real-world business matters
  • Her stake in the outcome, as many financial investigators work on a contingency, so they are often as motivated as the defrauding party.
  • How she uses her own past to give her an understanding of the present situation
  • Their understanding of when and how due diligence is performed or required.

Have a great weekend, Writing PIs

Posted in Writing About PIs | Tagged: , , , , , , | Comments Off on Excerpt from How to Write a Dick: Financial Investigations

Researching Online News Sources

Posted by Writing PIs on November 11, 2009

Updated March 25, 2012


There’s many online news sources and archives available to investigators–great research tools for writers, too.   Good idea to first pinpoint which type of resources, as well as the region they cover, are most beneficial to your research–for example, are you interested in:

      • Current news or historical news?
      • A specific region, country, worldwide?

Below are several online news sources/searches:

Google News:  Google is just about the most comprehensive search engine around. Search thousands of newspapers and magazines by region.

Eagle World News:  Search international news, top headlines around the world, topics by subject.  They also maintain an archive of news back to 2006, sources for geneology and obituary research.

Info Pig: Search news by category, news outlet, region.

USNPL: Provides searchs by state and country, with handy search links at the bottom of the page to phone books, maps, weather, cool sites, and more.

Posted in Online News Sources, PI Topics | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

For Writers Writing Sleuths: Links to 7 Articles

Posted by Writing PIs on August 17, 2009

For Writers Writing Sleuths: Links to 7 Articles

Below is a list of articles we’ve written on writing sleuths.   All are based on our experience as private investigators, and all are geared to mystery writers who are developing PI/sleuth characters or stories.  Feel free to re-post any of these articles in your blogs, websites, etc.–we only request you not change the title/content and that you keep the full byline at end of article.

Writing Sleuths-The 21st Century Private Eye:private investigator camera—The-21st-Century-Private-Eye&id=2441991

Writing Sleuths-Six Tips for Developing Characters Who Find Missing Persons:

Writing Sleuths-Depicting Rural Surveillance:—Depicting-Rural-Surveillance&id=2440026




Writing Sleuths-Testifying in Court:—Testifying-in-Court&id=2503670


Writing Sleuths-Pet Detectives:—Pet-Detectives&id=2444739

Writing Sleuths-Five Tips for Developing Bodyguard Characters:

Writing Sleuths-The Down and Dirty Art of Trash Hits:—The-Down-and-Dirty-Art-of-Trash-Hits&id=2762594

Have a great week, Writing PIs

Posted in Writing About PIs | Tagged: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

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