This week’s private investigator training is 4 warnings before you take your first P.I. job or even a private investigator internship!
1. Beware of fake online job ads where there’s no P.I. job at all! The whole thing is just a scam to get your personally identifiable information to commit fraud.
Many people are so desperate to get into this line of work because they love skip tracing or they’re really good at digging into someone’s background, the P.I. “applicant” willing jumps through the hoops they think will get them the job only to have their identity stolen!
2. Beware of “job offers” that require you to pay for training to “get the job”.
I’m a huge believer in getting good, professional training, but the rip-offs I’m talking about here are scams. They don’t really have a job, they’re just trying to trick you into paying for the “training” they’re selling. They are not detective agencies, they’re just selling garbage.
3. Watch-out for debt collector jobs advertising themselves as “skip tracer” jobs. I’ve seen this so-o-o much!
Sure, there me be an element of skip tracing when you work collecting debts, but it ain’t a P.I. job it’s debt collections.
4. Carefully read and consider any Non-Complete Agreement you’re asked to sign.
Non-competes are a legitimate thing, but beware of the over-reaching ones.
No detective agency wants you to work for them then leave and steal all their clients. So…
Non-compete agreements usually prohibit working for their clients for a set amount of time or geography after you leave the private investigative agency.
For example, you may agree not to work for any clients for 2 years or within 250 miles after your last day of employment.
Heck, that may be reasonable.
What will bite you is the unreasonable agreement. For example: You will not work for any other P.I. for two years after your last day of employment. (Ouch!)
Notice how the second (unreasonable) agreement will basically kick yo out of the P.I. business for two years!
The Good News
While my first three warnings are actually fairly common (especially numbers 1 and 3), the unreasonable non-compete agreement is much more rare and easily avoidable. (Now that you know about it!)
Automatic License Plate Readers (ALPR’s) are used to automatically spot, photograph and record license plates. Plus, they photograph the car the plate is on! Then your license plate (and all that other information) is forever stored in a variety of databases. Remember, this records and stores the precise location (within a few yards!) of where your car was spotted.
There are a variety of reasons ALPR’s are dangerous.
First of all, they are difficult to defeat because your license plate must be displayed everywhere you go and the LPR’s are all over. Sure there are thousands of stationary readers in places like parking garages and along public roads, but they’re also on police cars, repossession companies use them, some buses and even some trash trucks use them!
Because you can’t cover or conceal your license plate, it is in constant danger of being recorded with your location down to within 36 inches or so!
Imagine this… even if you register your car through an LLC, a trust, or your attorney’s office that doesn’t protect you!
Sure, if someone runs your plate through the Department of Motor Vehicles, the address may trace back to your attorney’s office. But if they run your plate through a database that uses LPR’s to collect information, they are likely to see your car parked in front of your house, at your place of employment, at your church and at all the places you go, which you thought no one knew about!
Second of all, there is no regulation at all. Currently, there is no regulation on how this information is collected, recorded (including history) or shared. None.
Thirdly, both the government and private sector use LPR’s. You might consider it bad enough that the government has a detailed record of where you’ve been, but really consider for a moment what it means that the private sector holds these records.
When the government holds these records, there is at least the veil of “reasonable use”. And let’s face it, the government doesn’t care about you or where you’ve been until they need that information for something.
The private sector, on the other hand, loves to track you and know everything about you and is actively seeking to sell that information to anyone they can. 24/7 they are trying to sell your private information.
Fourth, the data never goes away. Even if no one cares today about tracking you, at any given time, they can go back and see everywhere your car has been recorded for years. You have no control over this. You can’t even find out when or where they photographed you and your car!
Private investigators have essentially unlimited access to these databases of license plate location histories. Currently, there are well over 10 billion of these photos/plates/locations easily and cheaply available to private investigators.
In fact, as of 2021, the average license plate and vehicle are recorded over 9 times in these databases. That means YOU are likely in the database nine times!
Catch-22: License plate covers do offer some limited protection from these ALPR’s. Not much. Not much at all really, but if 1 in 10 times they obscure the reader’s photo, well, at least that’s better than nothing. The problem is, license plate covers that actually help are largely illegal. This means that you’re drawing more attention to yourself with the cover than you’re avoiding!
Real Pro Tip: Get a new license plate every year.
Sure, it costs a few extra dollars to get a new license plate rather than simply getting a new validation sticker, but your new plate has no history in the database! If I run your plate now, I might come up with nothing or only a couple of locations rather than nine!
Last resort Tip: If you start today parking your car so the tag is hidden from view (say backing into a parking space against a bush or wall), you ‘ll lessen the odds of your plate being photographed and cataloged.
As a private investigator, calling the client after you’re burned on surveillance is almost the worst thing, but knowing secretly, in your heart that it’s because you made a mistake is even more gut wrenching!
This week’ private investigator training video approaches this very serious problem with a bit of humor just to take the edge off. But the reality is, if you’ve ever had to make that call to a client, then you know how rough it is.
Usually, your client will not understand.
Maybe if you’re working for a law firm (maybe). And maybe if you’re working on a workers compensation fraud case because “getting burned” happens more for that client simply because they’re assigning a lot more cases.
But a client “off the street”? A woman who want’s her cheating husband followed? She will 100% NOT understand. She won’t. Period. (Neither will a husband who want’s his cheating wife followed.)
Learn good surveillance techniques now, before you need them, and save yourself that terrible call.