Guns, Gams & Gumshoes

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

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Posts Tagged ‘PIs’

Protecting Your Cell Phones Against Spyware

Posted by Writing PIs on May 13, 2010

Seems every time you read or watch the news, there’s a new story about someone discovering nasty spyware secretly downloaded onto a cell phone.  Such spyware (or malware) is a real threat, but according to some experts, the media makes it seem more prevalent than it really is.  According to one of our PI associates who’s quite knowledgeable about cell phone forensics, a lot of cell spyware is junk, although there are also some competent, popular software brands out there.  He estimates there’s currently over 500 documented malwares for cell phones.

One of our Writing PIs currently wrote an article about how to protect yourself from cell phone spyware:

Are Cell Phones Good? Or How to Protect Cell Phones From Going Bad Due to Downloaded Spyware: (had problems shortening this url–if you click and the article doesn’t open, select the entire url and paste into your browser)

Here’s a YouTube video “Is Your Cell Phone Bugged?”

You lock the doors to your house and car, right?  You password-protect your computer, right?  Follow the suggestions in the above article to also protect your cell phone.

Have a great week, Writing PIs

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Answering Writers’ Questions: Overseas Assets and Finding People

Posted by Writing PIs on March 21, 2010

Today we’re posting questions from writers about assets and finding people, and our answers.

WRITER’S QUESTION: Regarding PIs searching for assets.  What if these assets are set up in countries outside the US?  What if your client lives in the US, but the account is in Switzerland or the Isle of Man?  Actually, I thought tax-free accounts were supposed to be cracked down on by the IRS.  How could a wife find out if her husband was hiding money during a nasty divorce?  Can it be undetected without a bank number?  I don’t think those types of banks use regular name and account numbers like here, but I’m not sure.

GUNS, GAMS, AND GUMSHOES’S ANSWER: This question applies to finding overseas assets.  A lot of countries now participate in reporting offshore bank accounts.  To the best of our knowledge, Guernsey, England is still very private (i.e., not reporting offshore accounts), but in this case a U.S. citizen could hire a local U.K. attorney to open an account in Guernsey and act as an agent in that country.   Bahamas, once a popular place in reality and many fiction stories as a place to hide assets, is no longer such a financial haven–after the U.S. threatened them with trade restraints, they agreed to disclose information about bank accounts.  There are probably other countries/regions that are also private, but one would need to research that.

Oh, one more country that is private.  It’s a small country named Nevis (an island nation in the West Indies) that has extremely tight privacy laws.  Check out, which is located there.

WRITER’S QUESTION: Regarding Skips.  What if a person skips while out on bail and somehow manages to leave the country?  Could a family hire you to find them before the FBI does?  Of course, if you were hunting for a criminal, you would have to turn them in if you found them, wouldn’t you?

GUNS, GAMS, AND GUMSHOES’S ANSWER: We’ve been hired by families and attorneys to find people in other countries.  However, we’ve never tracked someone who had skipped out on bail (this is what bounty hunters, like Dog, are hired to do).  So if a bounty hunter is tracking someone who’s skipped bail and there’s indications this person is in another country, the bounty hunter would have to work closely with that country’s local and national enforcement, the U.S. Embassey, and any private individuals who also specialize in bail/skip recapture.  This is an extremely technical area, bound up in a mess of treaties concerning extradition, as well as that country’s local law and international law (including the Hague Convention).  Remember all the trouble Dog got into a few years ago (for those who might not know, Google Dog the Bounty Hunter and Mexico)?  In that scenario, one man’s bounty hunter was another man’s kidnapper.

WRITER’S QUESTION: Under a similar scenario:  Suppose a woman hired you to find a long lost love and you were able to locate him, but unbeknown to her, he had a criminal record and was wanted.  Are you obligated to tell her this information?  Are you obligated to turn him in?  I think this could make for a great book.

GUNS, GAMS, AND GUMSHOES’S ANSWER: We would tell her, and we would tell law enforcement.

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Reverse Email Searches: The Good, the Bad, and the Costly

Posted by Writing PIs on March 17, 2010

Sometimes all a person has is an email address and he/she would like more information associated to it (like a name, website link, maybe an address).  There are reverse email searches online that make you pay upfront–sometimes you get good info, sometimes it’s old, outdated, or just plain bad info.  Shame to spend that money when, instead, you can just run a free reverse email  search.  Let’s look at a few of those options. We’ve become fond of this free deep-web search engine (for those wanting to know what a “deep web” search engine is, in a nutshell: Its web crawlers find information traditional search engines miss). Go to, click the “Email” link, enter the email address, and press the “Search” button. This takes a little sleuthing on your part because you’ll need to check the information in those links to find other information associated with that email address. For example, one of the links might be a website where that email address appears–you’ll need to click on that link and review the website content for information (like a name, phone number, address) connected to that email address.

YoName: This searches several dozen social networking sites with one tidy search. Go to, enter the email address, and press the “Yo!” button (gotta love a search engine with a Yo! button). As with Pipl, you need to click on a link to review its content for information associated with that email address.

Google: Probably should’ve put this at the top of the list because Google still ranks as the most comprehensive, free, public search engine. Simply go to, enter the email address, and press the “Google Search” button.  It’ll display every online site and document where it finds that email address–like for Pipl or YoName, click a link to review its content for any information associated to that email address.

Have a great week, Writing PIs

Posted in PI Topics, Reverse Email Searches | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Writing about PIs: Catching the Cheater

Posted by Writing PIs on February 25, 2010

Many people think all private investigators spend their time chasing cheating spouses. Actually, private investigators often specialize in different kinds of investigative work (such as accident investigations, fraud investigations and more).  Some investigators specialize in domestic relations (which includes chasing down cheating spouses/significant others) or include such work in their repetoire of services.

Colleen wrote about infidelity investigations in an article (“Your Cheatin’ Heart: Infidelity Investigations”) for the Rocky Mountain Mystery Writers of America. You can check it out at:

“Your Cheatin’ Heart: Infidelity Investigations”:

One of our favorite PIs (and a fellow “writing PI”) Steven Kerry Brown was interviewed this month by a news team, with the story also running in the Jacksonville News, about catching cheaters. In the link to the story (below) scroll down to the video segments, which include footage of Steven Brown in action while conducting a cheating spouse case:

Channel 4 Investigates: Cheating Spouses:

You’ll probably notice a reference to Steven Brown’s book The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Private Investigating at the beginning of Video 1.  It’s a great reference book, not only for private eyes, but also for writers writing about PIs/sleuths and investigations in general. In our interview with Steven Brown here on Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes last month, we talked about this book, as well as other investigative topis and tools.  Check it out at

Have a great weekend, Writing PIs

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Answering Writer’s Question: Why Do Lawyers/Others Ask PIs to Surveil People?

Posted by Writing PIs on February 14, 2010

Today we’re answering a writer’s question about why attorneys and others might hire private investigators to surveil people.

WRITER’S QUESTION: What are some reasons lawyers or others have asked you to surveil people? In my story, I have a cop asking a PI who’s a retired cop to surveil a girl he believes is in danger, but she doesn’t know she’s being surveilled. Is that realistic?

GUNS, GAMS, AND GUMSHOES’S ANSWER: We think your scenario is realistic, especially with the PI being a retired cop (sounds as though he and the cop are/were friends?). Although neither of us at Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes are retired law enforcement, we have had a patrol supervisor (a friend) contact us with a request to follow up with a civilian who wanted surveillance.

As to reasons lawyers/others have asked us to surveil people, here are a few: cheating spouse, child custody issues (for example, a parent suspected of using drugs), skiptrace, process service, employment locate (in a judgement recovery or child support context), to confirm opposing parties’s whereabouts and activities when they’ve made claims that can be contradicted through continuing surveillance and insurance fraud surveillance.

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.

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A Day in the Life of a Legal Investigator

Posted by Writing PIs on February 10, 2010

Because some people have asked, “What’s a legal investigator?” and because in our PI agency that’s what we primarily do (legal investigations), I thought I’d break down a day in the life of a couple of legal investigators.  We have an extra dimension to our work lately because my business partner is once again studying for the bar exam (in 2 weeks). 

First, here’s the National Association of Legal Investigators’ (NALI) definition of a legal investigator: 

Legal investigators are licensed private investigators or law firm staff investigators who specialize in preparing cases for trial for attorneys. Their job is to gather information and evidence which advance legal theories to benefit the client’s case. The legal investigator must possess knowledge of statutory and case law, local rules of court, civil procedure, forensic sciences, techniques of evidence collection, and its preservation and admissibility.

Legal investigators assist attorneys by reviewing police reports and discovery materials, analyzing and photographing crime or accident scenes, interviewing parties and witnesses, performing background investigations, preparing documentary and demonstrative evidence, recommending experts, and testifying in court. Legal investigators must exhibit the highest standards or professional and ethical conduct.

Now we’ll look at yesterday in “a day in the life of a couple of legal investigators.”

4:30 a.m.: Partner is up, studying (getting the hours in before the work day starts).  Gotta hand it to him, he’s been studying at all hours while juggling other work coming into the office. Sometimes he’s up at 3:30 a.m., other times he “sleeps in” until 6 a.m.

8 a.m – 9 a.m.: Phone calls start. Reminder from a law firm that we have legal papers to serve a bank in the afternoon. New client is driving into Denver, wants to meet for coffee in the a.m.  Paralegal calls, wants to know if an elusive subject has been served yet.  Woman calls, says someone stole her truck from in front of her house. Yes, she’d left the keys in the truck, but only her best friends, a few neighbors, a business acquaintance and her family knew she always left her keys in the truck.  We suggest she discuss this with all those people first, then call us back if the truck is still missing.

11 a.m.: I’m finishing writing several reports. Partner is heading out the door to meet with the new client who’s just arrived in Denver.  It’s going to be a complex, difficult case that will require a lot of travel. We’re already scheduling the travel, where we’ll stay, the interviews, and so on.

noon: Partner’s back, had a good meeting with the new client.  Feels good about client’s character, how he comes across (important elements as we’re expecting this case to go to trial). The coffee shop they met at is one of local haunts–one of the kids who works there knows my partner is studying for the bar and drinking a lot of coffee, so he gifts us a bag of our favorite coffee beans.

Afternoon: Spent driving all over the city. Picking up discovery at one law firm, picking up legal papers at another, serving same papers to the bank, picking up a new case while visiting another law firm, checking addresses for a person we’re trying to locate.  Every time there’s a break, I sit in the car and read through police & EMT reports for another case.

4 p.m.: Home to catch up on phone calls, emails, life stuff.  Partner tells me that after we go out again (for a difficult serve), he plans to spend the rest of the evening studying for the bar exam. I do a “locate” (finding someone) for a law firm. Not easy as the person is using all kinds of addresses–trying to figure out which one is the most relevant.

5:30 p.m.: We head out for the difficult serve. It’s in a bad part of town, serving legal papers to a person who has a history of violence (we’re working on behalf of the law firm who’s representing one of the people who was beaten up by this person). Partner brings his big, black metal flashlight. And good thing he did as it came in handy.

6 p.m.: We find the person’s house. Metal fence around yard that has two overly excited dogs. Partner gets out, tries to talk to them. One turns friendly, the other has an issue with partner trying to get to the front door. Partner turns on flashlight (by now, it’s dark outside), and holds it in front of him. I’m holding my breath inside the car, watching the dog butt its head against the flashlight, growling and barking. Partner keeps walking toward the front door, which suddenly opens. There’s our guy, who has trouble controlling the more aggressive dog. This works in our favor, however, as he readily accepts the papers to get us to leave so he can corral the dog back into the house.

6:45 p.m.: Back at office. We write down our time for the day on the different cases. Partner calls attorney about mid-day interview with new client, gives verbal report. Partner begins studying again for the bar exam.


7-8 p.m.: Watching The Tudors, season two. King Henry VIII is battling with those fighting the Reformation, Anne Boleyn is realizing her days are numbered, Cromwell is driving the suppression, characters are sneaking around, spying on each other.  All that bad faith, legal wrangling, and high drama reminds me of law firms, nasty litigation, and the work of legal investigators.


8:30 p.m.: Woman calls. Found her truck. Seems a neighbor borrowed it without telling her.  We thank her for calling, wish her a good night.

Posted in Legal Investigations | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Interview with Steven Brown, author of “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Private Investigating”

Posted by Writing PIs on January 11, 2010

Click here to read this interview.

Posted in Interviews, Steven Kerry Brown | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

Links to articles on catching cheaters, ordering background reports & safeguarding your Internet ID

Posted by Writing PIs on November 1, 2009

Today we’re posting links to articles we’ve recently written on catching cheaters, ordering tailored background reports, and protecting your identity on the Internet.   The techniques are good for real-world application as well as fictional stories.   Have a great week!



How to Outwit Your Cheating Spouse and Catch Him/Her in the Act:


couple dating

How to Check if Your Date Is Telling the Truth:


reportHow to Select a Tailored Background Report:



woman at computerHow to Safeguard Your Identity on the Internet:




Online Class: Quick Studies on the Shady Side: Tips and Techniques for Writers Developing Sleuths and Villains

November 16-23, 2009: Surfing the Web & Digging for Dirt
Ways a sleuth uncovers data, from Internet/database searches to getting down and dirty in someone’s trash. One week, 2 classes, questions answered by email in-between.

To register, go to

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