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Posts Tagged ‘surveillance’

#BookExcerpt The Work of a Legal Investigator

Posted by Writing PIs on April 7, 2015

gavel and scales

Today we’re offering an excerpt from A Lawyer’s Primer for Lawyers: From Crimes to Courtrooms on the work of a legal investigator (from the chapter “Private Investigators”).

A Legal Investigator’s Tasks

Some of you may be familiar with the PI character Kalinda Sharma on the TV series The Good Wife. This is an example of a legal investigator who works in-house at a private law firm. The investigator will have an office, or share an office with another investigator or legal professional. As attorneys need the services of an investigator, they’ll contact their in-house PI to schedule the task.

Other legal investigators might work exclusively for public defenders’ offices or district attorneys’ offices. As there is a lot of investigative work needed for these types of agencies, these investigators would likely have offices within these organizations.

hat and magnifying glass on computer

Then there are legal investigators who work as independent contractors, typically under the umbrella of their own investigations agency. Some of these PIs might have their own offices, and some might work out of a home office. We never knew any PIs who had virtual offices, such as with a law firm, but that’s entirely possible, too.

Wherever a legal investigator works, below is a basic list of their common work tasks:

  • Locating and interviewing witnesses
  • Drafting witness interview reports for attorneys
  • Reconstructing scenes of crimes
  • Helping prepare civil and criminal arguments and defenses
  • Serving legal documents (process service)
  • Testifying in court
  • Conducting legal research (for example, drafting pleadings incorporating investigative data, devising defense strategies and supporting subsequent legal proceedings)
  • Preparing legal documents that provide factual support for pleadings, briefs and appeals
  • Preparing affidavits
  • Electronically filing pleadings.

An Example of a Legal Investigations Agency

Below is a list of services we listed on our legal investigations website. Next to each service are examples of the kind of law practices for which we did that type of investigative work.

Asset Search

Often divorce attorneys would ask us to check the assets of a client’s husband/wife, sometimes to see what money the soon-to-be ex-spouse might be hiding. At times we also conducted asset searches for probate lawyers to determine if a family member was suddenly buying high-ticket items they couldn’t afford, indicating they might have surreptitiously taken money from a family trust.

Background Research

Many different kinds of lawyers would request background research on an individual or a business, including criminal defense, personal injury, divorce and business litigation lawyers.

Court Records Search

Pitkin County District Courthouse (photo by Carol Highsmith)

Pitkin County District Courthouse (photo by Carol Highsmith)

Similar to background searches, many different types of lawyers requested court records searches, including divorce, personal injury, DUI, business litigation and personal injury law firms.

Expert Witness Location

Although different types of law practices use PIs to locate expert witnesses, we primarily received such requests from personal injury and defense lawyers.

Criminal Records

We would primarily look up criminal court records for divorce and defense attorneys.

Domestic Relations

Divorce attorneys would request us to conduct different investigative tasks for their clients who were in the process of a divorce. Such tasks included surveillances, trash hits (literally this means to check a person’s or business’s garbage for evidence), as well as retrieving criminal records and conducting background checks.

Drunk Driving Defense

We worked with several attorneys who specialized in drunk driving defense. For them we would retrieve Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) court and criminal records, as well as conduct surveillances and trash hits.

Financial Fraud

Primarily probate, business, divorce and defense attorneys hired us to investigate possible financial fraud.

Personal Injury

Obviously, this refers to personal injury lawyers who hired us for such tasks as witness interviews, scene documentation, surveillance and background checks.

Process Service

Primarily, divorce attorneys hired us to deliver, or serve, divorce papers on behalf of their clients. We also served legal papers for probate, personal injury, defense and business law firms.

Mitigation Packages

Criminal defense attorneys sometimes, but not often, hired us to research and prepare these reports. Chapter 16 has more information about mitigation packages.

Skip tracing

This term is industry jargon for finding people, also informally called locates — as in “I want to hire you to do some locates” — which we did for all kinds of law firms, but primarily for criminal defense attorneys.

Surveillance

surveillance female hanging out of car with camera

We mainly conducted surveillances for divorce attorneys, but occasionally received surveillance requests from defense, business, personal injury and probate attorneys.

Click on image to go to Amazon page

Click on image to go to Amazon page

~ End of Excerpt ~


Have a great week, Writing PIs

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. Other images are licensed by Colleen Collins, and are not to be copied, pasted, distributed or otherwise used.

Posted in Investigating Fraud, Nonfiction Books on Private Investigations, PIs and Lawyers, process servers | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on #BookExcerpt The Work of a Legal Investigator

Answering Writer’s Questions about Surveillance Video

Posted by Writing PIs on November 22, 2014

surveillance

Updated Nov 22 2014

We originally wrote this post in 2010, then updated it in 2012. A note we want to add today is that by 2011-2012, we were exclusively using equipment that recorded digitally, from digital recorders to digital video cameras. A funny story: After we had “gone digital,”  a P.I. contacted us and asked what tape recording equipment we had used for an insurance company client several years prior because they had just hired him, and they insisted he only record with tape! He was frustrated, but had no choice if he wanted to conduct insurance investigations for them.

We figure that the insurance company has gone digital by now. If you’re writing a story set around 2012, that could be a funny predicament to put a PI character in (forced to use near-obsolete equipment).

And now, the post from 2012…

We’re answering a writer’s questions about surveillance video vs. tape, the inclusion of sound, and terms referring to viewing and monitoring video.

WRITER’S QUESTION:  Do PIs/police/etc still refer to surveillance video as surveillance TAPES (even though info could be on disks,sticks, etc)?

GUNS, GAMS, AND GUMSHOES’S ANSWER: In our work, we say “surveillance video.” We thought about this, asking ourselves if we still hear other PIs loosely refer to surveillance video as tapes, but we can’t recall hearing that in a long time (several years at least).

WRITER’S QUESTION:  Do surveillance videos normally include sound?

surveillance female hanging out of car with camera

GUNS, GAMS, AND GUMSHOES’S ANSWER:  With our equipment, yes, and we expect that’s pretty standard for other PIs. We often don’t like it for our surveillance work, and invariably we’ll be using the camera and realize it’s recording our comments to each other, etc., and we need to shut down the sound. We have an entire surveillance video with the sound of our dog panting in the backseat (which strikes a soft spot with us as we’ve since lost that beloved dog). More than you wanted to know, but possibly fodder for stories.

WRITER’S QUESTION:  Are there special (industry specific) terms associated with reviewing and monitoring surveillance video?

GUNS, GAMS, AND GUMSHOES’S ANSWER:  Not that we’re aware of. In speaking with our clients, be they attorneys or civilians, we’ll use pretty generic verbs (reviewing video, downloading video [from video hard-drive to main computer, for example], “photoshopping” video [in our office, photoshop’s become a verb much like Google–let’s Google that address, for example], editing video, burning video to a CD [we’ll burn video segment/s to a CD, which we’ll drop off at attorney’s/other’s offices], shooting video).

Click on image to go to Amazon page

Click on image to go to Amazon page

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

Posted by Writing PIs on February 16, 2014

This is an update on P.I.-author Steven Kerry Brown, followed by a two-part interview Guns, Gams and Gumshoes did with Steven in 2009.

Bio: Steven Kerry Brown

Steven Kerry Brown is a former FBI special agent and supervisory special agent, founder and president of Millennial Investigative Agency in Florida, novelist, author of magazine articles and nonfiction books, blogger, and has spent two years as captain of a sixty-foot ketch running sailing charters in the Bahamas.

He’s appeared on such television programs as Hard Copy and 60 Minutes, and is the author of one of the best books on private investigations around (The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Private Investigating — its third edition was released March 2013). He is also the author of 5 Things Women Need to Know About the Men They Date, released in April 2013.

The Idiot’s Guide to Private Investigating

The first time I met Steven was back in 2004 when he called our agency and retained our services for an investigative task in Colorado. The prior year I had attended an intensive, 16-week on-site investigative course that used the The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Private Investigating in its course material. I had read that book front to back, then back to front, scribbled notes in the margins, re-read — and then re-read again — numerous sections to ensure my grasp of a topic. Steven writes in a clear, straightforward manner, and sprinkles factual material with his own personal experiences.

That same year, I took another course on process service.  One day, the instructor played a Q&A game with the class — the prize for the most correct answers was a copy of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Private Investigating. 

So a year later, when the author called out of the blue and requested our P.I. services, I was honored.

Writing the Private Eye Novel

Years later, Steven’s and my paths crossed again, but this time as novelists. We both have written private-eye genre novels, and have chatted off and on about agents, publishers, even WordPress. He co-authors the blog Handcuffed to the Ocean with several other writers, one being James N. Frey, a novelist and author of one of the better books on fiction writing, How to Write a Damn Good Novel.

Undergoing a Bone Marrow Transplant

Over the past few years, I’ve grown to admire Steven even more for his gutsy perseverance as he’s undergone a bone marrow transplant. Below is the beginning of a post he wrote last June:

I’m sitting here at 11 pm eating out of a carton of Edy’s Double Fudge Brownie ice cream. Got to love life. On Saturday June 15 I passed the one year mark since some nice guy over in Germany donated his bone marrow stem cells to me. I haven’t checked the statistics this year but when I agreed to enter the BMT Clinic at Shands Cancer Institute in Gainesville, Florida the mortality rate for bone marrow transplant patients was fairly high. 

Many of Steven’s friends and colleagues in the P.I. industry have contributed to his Bone Marrow Transplant Fund to help with the $500,000 in expenses for this procedure. Recently, there have been complications, which Steven wrote about in September 2013 — below is the beginning of that post:

I really thought I would have my immune system back by now. Most of the BMT transplant patients I’ve met received their shots by the end of the first year. But, now I’m convinced that I may never get it back. I’ve had a few set backs these last few weeks. I encountered a big flare up of GVHD that took over my entire torso. The doctors put me back on prednisone and other immune suppressant medication. I told the doctors I’d rather have the GVHD than the prednisone. But they said this flare up was life threatening, so I really didn’t have a choice.

Despite what he’s going through, his humor shines through — check out this poem to his doctors (posted on his September 2013 blog):

I wrote a little poem for the doctors about GVHD.

GVHD

Itch, itch, Itch,

Like a son of a 

Bitch, bitch, bitch.

By the way, this post includes photos of his symptoms (he does this to help others who might be contemplating a bone marrow transplant). Be forewarned — these photos are graphic.

At the end of this post, Steven writes:

Thanks for the well wishes and the donations. I promise as soon as I can I’ll get back to investigating the Haleigh Cummings case. I do have more posts on that coming up soon.

Amazes me that while dealing with his health challenges over the last year+ he has also self-published one nonfiction book and revised another. Puts the notion of “writer’s block” to shame.

To donate to Steven’s Bone Marrow Transplant Fund, click here (Donate button is on left side of screen).

Now to the 2009 interview with P.I.-author Steven Kerry Brown…

Steven Kerry Brown post 2-16-2014

Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes: Good morning, Steven, and welcome to Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes. First, we have to say that The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Private Investigating  is one of our favorite resource books. As we haven’t seen this second edition, we imagine you’ve updated it with more technology and tools–saying that, what is one of the more useful technological techniques you’ve recently started using in your investigative work?

Steven: There are three really useful techniques that are relatively new that I use a lot.  Two of them I describe in detail in my book. The first is the GPS tracking device. Below is a photo with the unit in a waterproof Pelican case and a 50 pound pull magnet and a long life lithium-ion battery pack. (Not much larger than a man’s hand.)

I set this unit (I have two of them) to report in every 10 minutes. I change the batteries out once a week. I also have the capability of clicking on “tracking now” on the unit’s website and receive a real-time location of where the unit is. So you or your client can sit in front of their computer and see where the unit is at any given time.  Of course, the primary use of this is in family law cases. Even though Florida is a “no fault” divorce state (meaning that proof of adultery doesn’t have a real impact on property settlement), still the client needs to know the facts of their situation before they can make an informed decision. Hence, using the GPS to track the spouse.

We follow-up the use of the GPS with a little judicious surveillance. Even though the GPS will tell us where the spouse is, it won’t tell us who he/she is with, so a few photos of the spouse and the other party will usually do the trick. And don’t be fooled by clichés. There are not more men than women committing adultery. We find it splits about 50-50.

The second technique I like a lot is Spoofing Caller ID. Now you have to be careful with this as it is now illegal in some states, like Florida, if you spoof a caller ID with the intent to deceive. How does it work and how do I use it? You can do a websearch on Spoofing Caller ID and find lots of folks who will sell you spoofing time. I use Spoofcard.com  For $5.00 you get 25 minutes of spoofing time. Basically spoofing caller ID means that you can use this service to call a target number and the incoming caller ID will display any number you want it to show. The technology behind it is the spoofing company uses Voice Over IP (VOIP) to make the call and in doing so can send whatever Caller ID data you want sent. (You can find full details in the CIG to PI pages 184-188)

How do you use caller ID spoofing? Well, you might for instance, want to see if a certain person is at a particular residence. Before the law changed in Florida, I called a witness to a case that I needed to talk to. He wouldn’t answer my calls so I spoofed my number to look like his mother’s phone was calling him. He answered the call.

The third technique I like only works on cell phone numbers. You can use this service and it will bypass the phone and go directly to the cell phone’s voice mail. That way you can hear the message on the voice mail and sometimes figure out who the phone belongs to without them ever knowing you called the phone. It’s not perfect and your number might show up as a missed call on their phone. The service is called Slydial and their number is 267-759-3425. It’s free, give it a try. A database only available to PIs called Skipsmasher, has a much improved version of this service which will not leave your number on the target’s phone as a missed call and it will record the voice mail message for you. I love it and use it often. Kudos to Skipsmasher.com.

End of interview, Part 1. Check back in on Thursday, January 14, for Part 2 where Steven discusses the recession and private eyes, crafting non-fiction vs. fiction, and how much real-world PI dirt he puts into a fictional-world PI story.

 

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Private Investigating, Third Edition

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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

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Answering Writers’ Questions: Tips for a Private Eye Doing a Winter Surveillance

Posted by Writing PIs on January 13, 2012

Writer’s Question: My PI is doing surveillance at night, in a vehicle, in the winter (temperature about 30 degrees). My research has turned up some inventive ways for him to keep warm and to keep the windows clear of fog. I’m wondering what you might suggest in addition to appropriate clothing, warm beverages, etc. One of the simplest things I read for warmth was an electric blanket, plugged into the lighter with an AC adapter. I saw mention of heat-generating packets, too.

Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes’s Answer: Well, we watch how much we drink (whether it’s water in hot weather or warm beverages in cold weather) because it can really hinder a surveillance if you need to go to the bathroom all the time. Yes, there are “wide-mouthed cups” that PIs often take with them on surveillances, but those can be a hassle to use (for women anyway) and what if you fill your cup and need another?  Sorry to be so graphic, but it’s the reality of longer surveillances, so think about this as you write your surveillance scenes.

What else about surveillances at night during the winter? Hunters’ hand-warmers and foot-warmers are handy (and they don’t cause moisture). We’ve tried not to turn on the heater unless it’s absolutely necessary (a dead giveaway if a sitting car suddenly starts running). Some PIs use portable heaters that plug into the AC adaptor. Some cars have heated seats (a turn of the ignition, without turning the engine on, can heat the seat from 85 degrees+).

Those are a few ideas.

Writer’s Question: I was wondering about the windows fogging during winter. One article I read said a small fan unit, also plugged into the lighter, can keep windows clear. Another said a very small electric heater will also keep the windshield from frosting over.

Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes’s Answer: Those sound good. Once, early in our business, we were conducting an all-night surveillance during a chilly spell in December and Colleen decided to talk about plotting a story…Shaun asked her to stop talking because she was fogging up the windows. True story! So if you’re with a PI partner, don’t talk too much 🙂 Or maybe use something along those lines for a humorous scene.

All rights reserved by Colleen Collins. Please do not copy or otherwise distribute any content without written permission from the author.

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How a Private Investigator Conducts Surveillances in the Country

Posted by Writing PIs on August 2, 2011

Today we’re guests at Terry’s Place, writer Terry Odell’s blog, where she’s posted our article “Writing Rural Surveillances.”  Writing a sleuth who needs to conduct a stakeout in the country?  Curious how a private investigator might prepare for such a surveillance? Drop by and check out the article.  We’re also giving away a Kindle version of How to Write a Dick: A Guide for Writing Fictional Sleuths from a Couple of Real-Life Sleuths.”  If you don’t have a Kindle, no problem.  You can download a free Kindle app for your PC or Mac.

Terry’s Place “Writing Rural Surveillances”

 

Have a great week, Writing PIs

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Best Classroom PI Course (for PIs and Writers): The Private Investigators Academy of the Rockies

Posted by Writing PIs on March 20, 2011

 

Rick Johnson, founder and president of The Private Investigators Academy of the Rockies

 

There’s a lot of online training courses on how to be a private investigator, but one of the best (if not the best) classroom courses is The Private Investigators Academy of the Rockies in Denver, Colorado.

We know because we took this course years ago when we first opened our private investigations business. Since then, we’ve taken many other courses, and taught a fair share ourselves, but if you’re starting out in the business, want to brush up your PI skills, or are a writer wanting to learn about the world of private investigations, take this class.

Here’s a sampling of why it’s an excellent course of study:

  • Rick Johnson, founder and president of the academy, has 35 years of experience in law enforcement and private investigations.
  • Course study includes investigative tactics, techniques, tools, as well as the appropriate ethics and legalities of the profession.
  • Investigative topics include these specialized areas of investigations: domestic relations, legal investigations, criminal defense investigations, insurance investigations, financial fraud investigations, and process service.
  • Presenters include lawyers and experts in the fields of financial fraud, surveillance, family law, criminal defense and process service.

But don’t take it solely from us–read about the course, contact them, ask questions:

Click this link to read more: The Private Investigators Academy of the Rockies

Or send an email to Rick Johnson at rick@denverpi.com

Oh, we’re not affiliated with this class, just passing on the information to those who want to learn from one of the best.

Have a great weekend, Writing PIs

Posted in Training to be a PI | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

What Do Bounty Hunters and Private Eyes Have in Common?

Posted by Writing PIs on January 30, 2011

A lot actually.

But first, let’s get rid of the notion that private eyes strap on pepper spray a la Dog the Bounty Hunter and track fugitives who’ve skipped court dates. That is, unless the private eye has met state regulations to conduct bounty hunting, also called fugitive recovery (by the way, bounty hunting is illegal in some states).

On the other hand, some bounty hunters are also private investigators. For example, Dog the Bounty Hunter’s sidekick Bobby Brown is a professional private investigator, bail bond agent, and a bounty hunter (he also gives classes for bounty hunting in Colorado).

What do bounty hunters and private eyes have in common?

  • They both conduct people locates (also called skip tracing). Both conduct online searches, court records searches, know how to follow up on leads, and so on.
  • They both conduct surveillances, from stationary (literally, being stationary, such as sitting in a vehicle), mobile (again, sounds like its literal meaning, being mobile such as in a car), or on foot.
  • They conduct interviews. Although a private investigator is more likely to conduct interviews (open-ended questions) vs. interrogations (going for an answer).
  • They must have excellent interpersonal and communication skills. That is, if they want to be successful. If a private eye needs information from a witness, she needs to know how to gain the person’s trust, ask the right questions, not intimidate or anger people to the point they refuse to talk. Same with a bounty hunter–he needs information, can’t afford to alienate contacts who may have knowledge on a fugitive’s whereabouts. You’ve probably seen Duane “Dog” Chapman in action on his TV show–he relates to a person’s need to be valued, to the need to do the right thing. He might be built like a truck, have pepper stray and other intimidating paraphernalia strapped on like some kind of street Rambo, but his voice is warm, his body language open, and he asks sincere questions that make people open up and talk, talk, talk.
  • They must understand the state regulations and statutes that affect their work.

Wish I could say most private eyes are in the kind of physical shape Dog is, but that’s another post.

Wishing you a great week, Writing PIs

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Private Eyes in the News, from Crime to Slime

Posted by Writing PIs on January 21, 2011

People often think we lead an exciting, action-packed life as private investigators, but for the most part, it feels relatively normal. Oh, the odd case comes in, and sometimes there’s a touch of high drama in a situation, but a lot of the work can be almost mundane.

And then we read headlines in the news about private investigators, and it sounds awfully exciting out there for others in this profession.  Today, we share a few recent PI news items:

Indian River Private Detective Gains Fame in the “Case of the Vanishing Blonde”

Nurse Alleges Slander, Name Shared with Tiger Woods’ Lawyer and Private Investigator

Halle Berry’s Ex Concerned She Hired Private Investigator to Tail Him

D.A. Drops Felony Charge Against Man Who Hired Private Investigator to Follow His Wife

Wait, that last case is from our state, one we and other private investigators have been watching for a while. The PI had first been charged with two felony counts for stalking the wife (he’d been hired by the husband during a custody case), charges which were eventually reduced to misdemeanor harassment. The case raised questions for all of us who work in private investigations as to the work we do, how we conduct surveillances, and when a subject might accuse us of crossing the line.

Fortunately, we here at Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes have never been accused or charged with anything illegal, and that’s because we’re diligent about following the law, but we’ve had things get out of control in the course of an investigation (a woman once sic’d her dog on us (fortunately, the dog wasn’t aware what it was supposed to do), people have done whacky things with legal papers we’ve served them, from driving over them in their car to dramatically tossing them into trash cans (services were still legal), and once we had our very own stalker (an attorney took care of that).

On second thought, maybe our work isn’t all that mundane.

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Think You’re Being Followed? A Few Tips to Protect Yourself

Posted by Writing PIs on December 11, 2010

We just got a call from someone who’s worried he’s being followed, and he asked us what he can do to protect himself.  He lives several thousand miles away, so we don’t know the region personally, but the tips we offered (below) are generally useful for anyone, anywhere.

Call 911 if you’re in immediate danger. Explain that you’re being followed, your location, and any observed facts about that individual (a description of the person and/or vehicle, a license plate number).  If you’re in an isolated region on foot, get to a public place (such as a store or gas station) where there are other people.  If you’re in your car, drive directly to a local police station.

Call your local police. If you’re concerned someone’s surveiling your home, request that a unit patrol your residence.  Again, provide facts about the individual (description, vehicle, license plate number).

Look for attachments under your vehicle. GPS devices are sold everywhere, and can be purchased by anyone, so if you’re concerned someone is trying to track your comings and goings, check underneath and around your vehicle for a GPS device.  Real-time GPS devices (meaning their antennas pick up satellite signals) are typically attached by a magnet to the periphery of a vehicle, so check metal surfaces in/around mufflers, rear-mount spare tires, gas tank, and underneath the trunk.  If you find a GPS device, call the police.  Do not take it apart or otherwise disturb it.

Take your trash to the dump. If you think someone is trying to obtain personal information about you, don’t provide easy access to your trash.  Even if you shred your paper trash, there might still be discarded items a person can use to find out more about you (medicine bottles with personal information on the label, shipping boxes with information on its labels and stamps).  Instead of dumping your trash in your trash container and leaving it for pick-up, take it to the city dump.

Practice common sense. A few common sense tips: Always carry your cell phone with you, don’t go out alone at night, lock your vehicle when you exit it, park in well-lighted areas, keep lights on outside your home, be aware of your surroundings.

Consider obtaining a restraining order. If you’re aware who’s following you, and their activities are threatening/scaring you, try to document their activities (for example, videotape their car parked in your neighborhood or as it’s following you while you’re driving).  Talk to your neighbors and ask if they’ve noticed unwanted surveillance of your home (be sure to document your neighbors’ names and addresses as witnesses if you go to court).  Ask your neighbors if they’ve noticed unfamiliar people around your property (and ask for descriptions of those people and their vehicles).  After you’ve gathered documentation, visit your local country court or attorney to learn the steps for obtaining a restraining order.

Hire a private investigator. Due to resource constraints, law enforcement can’t provide twenty-hour security.  If you’re concerned someone’s repeatedly following and/or surveilling you, consider hiring a private investigator.  Investigators have the expertise and tools to document suspicious activities and educate you on counter-surveillance methods.  Contact your state professional private investigator association for a qualified PI (a list of these state associations can be found at PIMagazine.com).

Writing PIs

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