Guns, Gams & Gumshoes

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

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Posts Tagged ‘Federal Bureau of Investigation’

Answering a Writer’s Question: Has a Bad Guy Ever Tried to Hire You?

Posted by Writing PIs on October 15, 2016

This was a question that came up several times in our workshops with writers. It’s a good question, as too often in books and film, a PI-character blithely hands over sensitive information to a “client” who has a dark agenda. Writers, just because you see/read this in stories doesn’t mean it’s how PIs operate in real life; in fact, naively handing over potentially damaging information to a client just because he/she asked for it is becoming a cliche.

Read on to learn how we, and other PIs, screen their clients…

(Image licensed by Colleen Collins)

Do “Bad Guys” Sometimes Try to Hire PIs? (Image licensed by Colleen Collins)

WRITER’S QUESTION: Have you ever had a “bad guy” try to hire you to find someone? What if you didn’t realized it was a bad guy—after you found the person, what would you do?

GUNS, GAMS, AND GUMSHOES’S ANSWER: Yes, we’ve had “bad guys” ask us to find someone. What triggered us to think this potential client might have bad reasons/aren’t being honest?

  1. We always run a criminal background check on any non-attorney clients (right there we can find nefarious reasons, such as restraining orders, divorces in progress, domestic violence convictions, etc.)
  2. If the person requesting the skiptrace (search for someone) omits certain information, or makes inflated claims as to why they want to locate another person, we’ll generally refuse the case. And if we do accept a skiptrace, we never hand over the sought-person’s personal contact information (street address, phone number, etc.). Instead, we provide our client’s contact information to the individual (sometimes the client will write a letter explaining his/her reasons for wishing to make contact). At that point, it is solely the found-person’s decision whether or not he/she wishes to make contact.
  3. Sometimes we’ll hear signs of intoxication/mental illness in a requestor’s speech, and we refuse the work
  4. Suspicious emails—be they directed from a bogus-sounding account or the request is stated in such a way it’s obvious they’re wanting us to break the law. We delete the requestor’s email and that’s that.

To clarify our response to the second part of your question, when we smell a bad situation, we simply don’t take the case. If we were to take the case, and then realize it’s a bad situation, we refund the client’s money and terminate our work without relaying any information we might have learned in our investigation. Using such filters, we have never been in the position of finding out something that might harm a third party. If we were ever in that position, we would contact law enforcement with what we’d discovered.

Writing PIs, a Couple of PIs Who Also Write

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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.

Changedetection.com: 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 Legally Obtain?

Posted by Writing PIs on March 12, 2012

Today we answer writers’ questions about PIs obtaining people’s records, such as drivers’ records and court records.

Writer’s Question: What are the legal reasons for a PI to request and obtain public records? What would be some “illegal” reasons?

Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes’ Answer: Statutes provide these permissible uses, or as you said “legal reasons.” For example, the Drivers Privacy Protection Act (DPPA) is a federal law that regulates how information is disseminated (which includes who can access this information) for drivers’ licenses, auto registrations, auto titles, motor vehicle emissions, motor vehicle recalls (and other objects of governmental purposes). Here’s a partial list of who can access DPPA-type information for others: federal, state or local courts and law enforcement in connection with driver safety, theft, emission and product recalls; licensed private investigation or security services; civil, criminal or administrative court proceedings; collection agencies; anyone in possession of written permission from the subject.

In our state private investigators are not required to be licensed — when we go to the DMV to obtain others’ driving records, we must provide the court case number and Colorado jurisdiction for which the search is being conducted.

There are also various restrictions in different states for the public, including private investigators, in accessing court files. In Colorado, private investigators can legally request any court file except for sexual assault, juvenile and probate. We don’t know the statutes for other states, but it’s possible a PI in another state might have to show his/her license (similar to law enforcement) to access court files containing sensitive information (such as probate, financial statements in divorce cases, proprietary and trade secret information, sexual assault).

As to “illegal reasons” to access records, you can also think of these as the non-permissible reasons. For example, a PI can’t access a driver’s history to find that person’s residence so the PI can stalk, intimidate or harass that person. Those are obviously non-permissible reasons and the PI could end up answering to federal charges for violating the DPPA and state charges for participating in stalking. Similarly, a PI cannot obtain other records that are governed by permissible reasons (such as police records, water district records, fire district records) for personal use (for example, to solicit clients for himself or for a lawyer, or to resale the information for profit).

Writer’s Question: My character isn’t a PI; she’s an investigative journalist, but I figured she’d use a lot of the same techniques and methods as a PI. Another character in my story, actually the romantic interest of the PI, is a sheriff. Would he, too, use some of the same resources as the PI?

Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes’ Answer: Regarding techniques and methods, an investigative journalist is similar to a PI. A fair number of investigative journalists who lost their jobs during this recession (as newspapers have downsized) have become PIs in our state. One of our best friends is a former Los Angeles paper crime reporter who became a PI. As to your hero sheriff, he’d have access to a lot more resources than a PI. For example, he can tap into the FBI’s NCIC, the National Crime Information Center. He can also access national databases of motor vehicle registrations, certain military information, and immigration records.

Have a great week, Writing PIs

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