This week I share with you 4 Dead Private Investigator Tricks We’re Better Off Without – and one I kinda’ miss.
These are tricks and techniques used “back in the day” and they are dirty trick that were never ethical to use, but scam private investigators used them hoping to get an advantage in their business.
Some of these are in my best selling book 51 Dirty Tricks Bad Guys Really Hate, but while writing this article I discovered something about my own book and I’ll share it with you a bit later in this article.
Dead P.I. Tricks we’re better off without.
1. Criss-Cross Directory Surveillance Cheat
To avoid the work of actually doing surveillance on a person/house, a sum-bag private investigator would look up the address they were supposed to watch in the criss-cross directory.
If you’ve gotten my free report “ If You Want To be a Private Investigator Give Up… Unless You Do These Three Things” (from the home page of my blog) then you know criss-cross directories are a way (and back then one of the only ways!) to look up neighbors of a know address.
So, the dirt-ball P.I. would look up the neighbors, call them and using a pretext, gather information about the house they were supposed to be surveilling.
Then the rip-off P.I. would write a report full of details like the color of the house number of windows, color of the shutters, etc. This would give the appearance that he was really out at the address otherwise, how could he know all of these details?!?
Then he would conclude his fake surveillance report with. “No activity observed”.
The only thing left to do for this cheating P.I. was to collect his check for doing nothing.
This trick is essentially unusable today because of technology that allows anyone to quickly and easily see a house on a street using the Internet. It’s simply not credible any more to pretend like a physical description is proof you were out there.
Also since it’s so cheap and easy to get photos and video of a house, there’s no reason a surveillance “with no activity” shouldn’t have 30 seconds of video every hour just to prove to the client an investigator was out there!
2. The Heavy Rock Trick
To prove a subject claiming an injury (like on a worker’s compensation case), an unethical Private Investigator might place a heavy rock or some cinder blocks as an obstruction to the subject. A classic example is using the rock to block a car in the driveway.
The “investigator” would then sit back at a distance and record as the subject/claimant discovered and moved the rock so he could drive away.
The investigator would document the weight of the rock in his report and present the video as evidence the subject of his investigation was healthy enough to lift and move the rock. Ostensibly this was “proof” the subject was healthy enough to go back to work.
Obviously, this is unethical. One fundamental point of surveillance is NOT to interfere/interact with the subject of your investigation! You need fair and accurate video of what happens when they think no one is watching!
3. Police Officer Confidential Source
Okay, this trick wasn’t necessarily unethical. It depends on what information a cop would pass to his P.I. buddy. But, I think it’s not done too much any more and we really don’t need it!
Thanks to good public records laws and the Freedom of Information Act, we P.I.’s have access to a TON of law enforcement in formation!
An thanks to the Internet, it’s never been easier to access!
Any information we can’t get is likely illegal for us to get from a friendly police officer. And with digital tracking so pervasive, it’s unlikely an officer could pass along information without leaving a digital footprint that would jam them up badly.
Why risk your case (and your buddy’s career!) like that?
4. Busted Taillight Trick
If you’ve ever had the good fortune to have to follow someone at night and they have a broken taillight, you know haw helpful that is! You can see and identify their car from a mile away – literally! It make mobile surveillance much, much easier.
At one time, an unethical investigator might actually break out the subject’s taillight to make his surveillance easier.
As with a lot of these dirty tricks, the investigator justifies his actions by telling himself, “If the guy wasn’t such a scum-bag I wouldn’t have to follow him in the first place. He deserves whatever he gets.”
Larry’s Side Note: If you’re a Christian Private Investigator you know none of us want to get “what we deserve”. Our sins deserve hell. Thank God for his mercy!
Pro Tip: Don’t do anything if your justification is, “He deserves it” or “What did he expect would happen?”
One Trick I Kinda’ Miss
The Birthday Card Trick
Years ago – years and years ago – it was common and acceptable for Private Investigators to pretext banks for financial information.
One pretext was to write a check (including the words “For deposit only”) and send it to the subject of your financial investigation in a birthday card.
After the subject deposited the check, it would be routed back to you with his bank name and often his account number printed on the back of the check. Handy info to have if a deadbeat dad won’t pay his court ordered child support, but super-illegal to do now.
Pro Tip: Do not (and I mean NEVER) pretext a bank for financial information. And I would suggest you read and understand the federal law about pretexting for financial information.
In preparing to write this article, I reviewed my book 51 Dirty Tricks Bad Guys Really Hate looking for some old-school tricks we shouldn’t be using anymore. But, to my surprise, I found many (many!) tricks in my book aren’t “dead tricks” and many are ethical if used properly.
For example, the trick cops use to catch underage drinkers in a bar, the auto repossession “Get the key” trick and the “Slide on Ice” trick are all ethical and legit if used properly.
Committed to your success,
Larry Kaye, P.I.
P.S. – Don’t miss my special report titled… If You Want To be a Private Investigator Give Up… Unless You Do These Three Things. You can get it right here