1“Those private yachts, custom homes, and pieces of expensive jewelry that I flash around are all just a facade.”
2“That 5,000-square-foot beach house was bought with your hard-earned money.”
3“I pulled off a multimillion-dollar investment fraud a few years back and even served three years in prison for it.”
4“I hired some guy in China to bury all the bad stuff about me on the Internet so people like you couldn’t find it.”
5“I have to guarantee insanely exorbitant returns; otherwise, why would anyone invest with me?”
6“I made up that degree from Cambridge University, knowing full well that you would not be able to verify it.”
7“I like to surround myself with celebrities and people of high moral character, so other people (like you) think I have an ounce of respectability in me.”
8“Our ‘independent’ accounting firm is really run by our CFO, who happens to be my brother-in-law.”
9“One of my ‘tricks’ is telling you things that you will never be able to verify, like my tale about that time I saved 17 schoolchildren from a burning building while I was backpacking through the rainforest in Africa.”
10“That work history on my resume? I just made all that up so you would think I really knew what I was doing.”
11“It’s amazing the kinds of documents you can forge with a little know-how and a few Photoshop skills.”
12“I’ve been fired twice from respectable financial advisory firms for bilking clients.”
13“I’ve been sued more times than I can remember…nobody has collected a dime. God bless our court system!”
14“I’m not licensed as a securities broker or registered as a financial advisor…but I do have a driver’s license!”
15“My license plate reads: ‘Makin $$.’”
16“That well-dressed woman half my age you thought was my girlfriend? She’s actually an out-of-work actress I paid $150 to be my sidekick for the night.”
17“You know those ‘satisfied clients’ I have plastered all over my website? They’re just figments of my imagination.”
https://diligentiagroup.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/17-things-a-Ponzi-Schemer-Wont-tell-you.png400750Brian Willinghamhttps://diligentiagroup.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/11/Diligentia-Logo-JPEG1-300x204.jpgBrian Willingham2020-10-15 06:00:002020-10-13 20:11:5617 Things a ‘Ponzi Schemer’ Won’t Tell You
Over the years, we have written dozens of blog posts in order to answer some burning questions people have had about private investigators. Now I’ve decided to put these answers into one convenient list:
1Do private investigators need to be licensed?
In most states, yes; 45 of the 50 states require a private investigator’s license in order for someone operating as a PI to perform his or her duties.
2Can I hire someone who is just good at following someone or good using the internet?
Sure, but the person you are hiring is likely breaking the law. By definition, a private investigator is hired for a fee to obtain information regarding the habits, conduct, whereabouts or trustworthiness of people, among other things. And if that unlicensed person does something illegal, you may be liable.
3Is there a difference between a private investigator and a private detective?
Private investigators get their information from a wide number of sources, including investigative databases, court records, human intelligence, surveillance, confidential sources and social networks. Tip: Most of the information a private investigator can get is publicly available; you just need to know where to look.
9How are private investigators different from “regular people”?
The fact of the matter is that an investigator and an “average Joe” are not all that different; however, we do have a level of expertise because we’re practitioners of our craft. Private investigators have access to information, know-how, experience and a network of sources to utilize for our investigations.
10What can a private investigator not get legally?
This question is the subject of many myths born from TV and the movies. Financial and telephone records are the most commonly requested pieces of information that a private investigator cannot legally get. Any investigator who tells you they can will likely be obtaining the information illegally.
11Do I need a local private investigator?
Maybe. A lot of information these days can be obtained through investigative databases, public records, social networks and a network of other sources online, and interviews can be conducted over the phone. If you need someone followed or a location staked out, or if it’s a case that has a lot of on-the-ground work, we would suggest contacting someone locally.
12How do I find the best private investigator for the job?
When choosing a private investigator to hire, you want to find one with the right skill set for the job. A more “old school” investigator might not be as adept at searching through someone’s social media accounts, while someone from the “new school” might not be as good at operating a long lens camera.
13What questions should I ask before hiring a private investigator?
Another common question is: How much does a private investigator cost? This is a question without an easy answer. There is no set cost. Some investigators charge by the hour, and some charge a flat fee. Always keep this in mind: Just like anything else in life, you get what you pay for.
15Can a private investigator work on a contingency fee?
The cost of finding a person varies depending on the degree of difficulty involved. For instance, finding someone named Rudy Longfellow in Bucksnort, Nebraska, won’t cost nearly as much as finding someone named John Smith in New York City.
17Do you guarantee results?
Any firm that guarantees results is likely willing to resort to unethical methods to ensure their “guarantee” and therefore cannot be trusted. There are a few “types” to look out for when it comes to trusting a private investigator. We can guarantee that we will do everything within our legal abilities to find answers, but not much else.
Most background checks will include a criminal background check, employment/academic degree verification and a credit check. In addition, there are many different pieces of information included in a background investigation, depending on what you want to know.
20How can I avoid having private investigators dig up my personal information?
https://diligentiagroup.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/20-Questions-You-Always-Wanted-to-Ask-a-Private-Investigator-1.png400750Brian Sabolhttps://diligentiagroup.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/11/Diligentia-Logo-JPEG1-300x204.jpgBrian Sabol2020-05-19 07:00:002020-05-14 11:08:0020 Questions You Always Wanted to Ask a Private Investigator
This was originally posted in September 2013, but updated in May 2020 with new information.
Of the 50 states in the United States of America, 45 states (and the District of Columbia) require a private investigator to have a license in order to perform his or her investigative duties.
States that do not require a license:
After a law passed in Alabama in 2013, and licenses became mandatory in Colorado in 2015 (Colorado is a bit of a mess – see below), only five states do not require a private investigator/private detective to have a license:
*Although there is no licensing requirement in the state of Alaska, certain cities (such as Anchorage and Fairbanks) do have their own private investigator licensing requirements.
The following states require investigators to have a license:
* As of May 2020, Colorado requires a private investigator license; however, the law is scheduled to sunset in September 2020. Colorado started voluntary licensing in 2013. In 2015 it became mandatory.
** In Pennsylvania, private detective licenses are issued by county, each with their own application procedure. (e.g., Lehigh)
*** In Rhode Island, private detective licenses are issued by city, each with their own application procedure. (e.g., Cumberland)
What is a private investigator?
While each state has its own definition of a private investigator, in general, a private investigator is someone who is hired for a fee or other consideration to obtain information regarding the habits, conduct, whereabouts, or trustworthiness of people; the location of stolen property; and/or the cause or responsibility of accidents, injuries, or fires. Private investigators can also be tasked to secure evidence for use in a court proceeding or other hearing.
What is required to become a private investigator?
Laws vary by state, ranging from zero years of experience up to six years/10,000 hours of experience. Of the states that require a private investigator to have a license, ten states have absolutely no requirements regarding previous experience, while other states, such as Nevada, require 10,000 hours of experience. Another example is Maine, which requires six years of experience. In most states, at least two years of related experience is required before obtaining a license.
https://diligentiagroup.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/Do-Private-Investigators-Need-to-be-Licensed-2020.png11031545Brian Willinghamhttps://diligentiagroup.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/11/Diligentia-Logo-JPEG1-300x204.jpgBrian Willingham2020-05-11 17:00:002020-05-30 14:25:07Do Private Investigators Need to be Licensed? (2020)
I’m a movie buff as well as a private investigator. Now that I (and the rest of the world) have been trapped at home for over a month, I thought it would be a good idea to unveil the list of my favorite private investigator movies.
While there are well-known classics on the list, such as the noir classic Chinatown, starring Jack Nicholson, it also contains a couple of fresh takes on the classic genre and its tropes, such as the grim Angel Heart.
Let’s dive right in. Here is my list:
10The Nice Guys (2016)
Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling star as a tough guy “enforcer” and a flighty private investigator who team up to find a missing girl in 1977 Los Angeles. Along the way, the pair uncover a plot involving politically-driven porno movies, a villainous auto industry, and a corrupt United States Department of Justice. The chemistry between Crowe and Gosling elevates the fun to the next level.
9Who’s Harry Crumb (1989)
John Candy stars as Harry Crumb, the last descendant, and least apt, of a long line of successful private investigators. When Harry is assigned a kidnapping case, it is clear that he was not meant to find the truth, but you can never underestimate dumb luck. Yes, this is primarily a comedy; and yes, it is goofy. That being said, watching Candy stumble his way to the truth using an array of outrageous disguises and accents is pure entertainment.
8Devil in a Blue Dress (1990)
This film stars Denzel Washington in the role of Easy Rawlins, an unemployed WWII vet in 1948 Los Angeles, who we follow through his first case as a private investigator, after he is hired to find a missing girl. Of course, things are not what they seem, and Easy soon finds himself caught up in a web of dirty cops, corrupt politicians, and, of course, murder. Don Cheadle stands out as Easy’s loyal, yet violent friend Mouse, who’s always there in a pinch.
7The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo(2011)
The American adaptation of Stieg Larsson’s novel is definitely a slow burn. Rooney Mara is excellent as the tortured and eccentric investigator/hacker Lisbeth Salander. When a disgraced Swedish journalist, played by Daniel Craig, is tasked with solving the 40-year-old disappearance of a young girl, he enlists Salander to assist him in the investigation. The deeper the pair look into the missing girl’s family, the darker the secrets they find.
6Angel Heart (1987)
Every list has one unorthodox entry, and this is mine. Definitely a grim and gritty take on the genre, this movie goes to some very dark places. Mickey Rourke stars as a 1950s New York private investigator named Harry Angel, who is hired by Robert De Niro’s cryptic character, Louis Cyphre, to find a missing musician who owes him a mysterious debt. The case leads Harry on a trail of murder, voodoo, and the darkest parts of the human soul. Things aren’t always as they seem; and in this case, neither are people.
5Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang (2005)
The dialogue in this buddy movie is worth the price of admission. When Robert Downey Jr.’s character, a New York-based criminal, is mistaken for an aspiring actor, he is whisked off to Los Angeles and teamed up with Val Kilmer’s character, a private investigator, to research a role. After Downey also reconnects with a childhood friend who has her own agenda, the trio dives deep into the seedy underbelly of Hollywood to solve two intertwining cases.
From the opening frames of the film, Paul Newman’s character, gum-chewing private investigator Lew Harper, is clearly down on his luck. Out of fresh coffee filters and in the midst of a separation from his long-suffering wife, Harper is hired by a rich socialite to find her missing husband, who he quickly deduces has been kidnapped. Harper uncovers everything from the convoluted kidnapping plot to the smuggling of illegal immigrant workers, all the while pouring on the Paul Newman charm.
3Knives Out (2019)
This is the most recently released film on the list, and it is a great throwback to the long-lost genre of the whodunit. It stars Daniel Craig as “gentleman sleuth” Benoit Blanc, an homage to Agatha Christie’s eccentric Hercule Poirot—both seemingly aloof, but always listening with a truth-seeking ear. In this cleverly written masterpiece, which turns the genre on its ear, Blanc battles wits with a family full of suspects to discover the truth behind the apparent suicide of the family patriarch.
2The Long Goodbye (1973)
This is one of the two quintessential private investigator movies on this list, along with Chinatown. Elliot Gould brings a dry, disheveled wit to the role of Raymond Chandler’s famed private investigator, Philip Marlowe; he is in no way a tough guy. Shortly after his best friend is found dead in Mexico of an apparent suicide, Marlowe is hired to investigate the disappearance of a self-destructive, alcoholic writer. As he peels back the layers of the case, it quickly reveals itself to be connected with Marlowe’s dead best friend.
This is the gold standard for private investigator movies. In 1937 Los Angeles, private investigator Jake Gittes, played by Jack Nicholson, is hired by a woman named Evelyn to follow her husband. When the husband turns up dead, and the real Evelyn shows up threatening to sue him, Jake begins investigating, and he uncovers shady land deals involving the Los Angeles Water Department, who are intent on keeping them quiet. He also finds himself in the middle of a very unique love triangle, which is revealed in a legendary movie plot twist.
Bonus Movie — The Big Lebowski (1998)
The list wouldn’t be complete without recognizing this Coen Brothers classic. While not technically a private investigator, “The Dude,” as played by Jeff Bridges, acts the part in this Raymond Chandler-inspired comedic crime tale. After a case of mistaken identity, middle-aged stoner The Dude is hired by a disabled millionaire to handle the ransom delivery for his kidnapped trophy wife. What follows is an absurd oddball odyssey, as The Dude tries to navigate the case and discover the truth. John Goodman shines as the Dude’s Vietnam-obsessed best friend, Walter.
OK—there you have it. Did I fail to mention your favorite movie? Let me know in the comments, as your taste may differ.
One thing will always remain true for me: nothing is as exciting to watch as a private investigator unraveling a case and uncovering the truth.
https://diligentiagroup.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/Best-Private-Investigator-Movies.png472840Brian Sabolhttps://diligentiagroup.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/11/Diligentia-Logo-JPEG1-300x204.jpgBrian Sabol2020-04-24 06:00:002020-04-24 08:09:27A Real Private Investigator Reveals the Best Private Investigator Movies
Blogging and social media have been a very important part of expanding our footprint and growing our business. We have been blessed with a strong online following, especially in the PI community. Sharing our experiences and knowledge with our investigative community has become one of our company’s trademarks.
With the end of the decade rapidly approaching, we thought it would be fun to take a look back at the 10 most popular blog posts of the decade.
Many of the questions we get asked are based on things people have seen in movies or read in books, and #10 on this list is no different. Everyone wants to know whether it’s legal/admissible to record a phone call without the other person’s knowledge. As is the case with most “legality” questions, the answer is rarely as simple as people think.
This blog post was written to dispel a few frequent misconceptions about what private investigators can or cannot legally access. I say “legally” because we are often asked to obtain certain information “by any means necessary.”
In short, no, we will not break—or even bend—our morals and ethics for any case.
We are not law enforcement personnel, nor will we EVER pretend to be.
Many of our potential clients ask us to locate an individual. These requests range from finding an estranged relative, sibling or parent all the way to “I saw a pretty girl on a flight from Kansas to Vermont two years ago but was too afraid to talk to her. Can you find her for me?”
While we most likely can find either subject, the cost will greatly differ based on the level of difficulty involved in locating the person. We can’t guarantee that we will find everyone, but we are realistic about our possibilities, give you an honest assessment, and have a really high success rate.
The truth of the matter is, most of the information we gather when conducting an investigation is also available to the public—they just don’t know it. While some of the databases require you to be a licensed investigator, for the majority of them, it’s just a matter of knowing where to look.
And private investigators have something that others don’t: expertise. We do this every day. Just like most of us can do some light legal work, accounting work, or even an odd job around the house, you probably need a professional to represent you in a serious lawsuit, file complex taxes, or put an addition on your house.
We hate to admit it, but we’re not magicians, miracle workers, or superheroes.
No matter what the nature of a case is, we are here only to find and report the facts. We will never make assumptions, and will only offer an opinion if it is asked for. We will search, hunt, scour, rummage, research, question, inspect (hold on … let me check my thesaurus … OK), forage, poke around, and triple-verify in order to provide verifiable facts. What you do with those facts is up to you.
Here is another blog post that relates to what investigators can or cannot legally get and where we can get our information from. Our asset searches are very effective in arming our clients with information that may help them win a court case or recoup monies owed to them.
Without a court order, there is nearly no legal way to get bank or account information from a bank without the account holder’s consent. Period. I know that there are dozens of firms or investigators who claim that they can do this, but in short, we won’t touch it with a 10-foot pole. Philip Segal of Griffin Intelligence handled this eloquently in a recent post that is worth the read. So, if a firm tells you that it can obtain that information for you, proceed with immense caution.
So, this blog post has roughly double the traffic of any of the previous eight, and we think we know why: people love digging up information (or if we’re being real, mostly dirt) on people. They’ll dig into friends and foes alike, and in the age of the internet, there is plenty to find on just about anybody. People are also primarily very (how do I say this politely?) economical when it comes to spending their own money, so they want to see how much information they can find on their own before hiring a professional.
Well, here is the most comprehensive list you will find to assist you in your internet stalking.
We’re finally here, our number one most popular blog post of the decade. This was no contest—it was a landslide victory, doubling the traffic of even #2 on this list (which, itself, had doubled the traffic of the other eight entries).
We all know that a military imposter is one of the lowest forms of humans you can be. To capitalize on someone’s respect and admiration for active servicemen and veterans is as grimy as it gets. We get many requests to verify current or past military service, and we are more than happy to help. The truth is, once again, that this information is readily available to the public. But, if you need some guidance or advice, we are 100% here to help.
So, there you have it—our 10 most popular blog posts of the past decade. We’ve posted nearly 300 posts this decade, but these 10 rose to the top.
For those who have stuck with us over the past 10 years, keep your eyes open in the coming decade, because we plan to continue blogging in the future.
https://diligentiagroup.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/Most-popular-posts-of-the-Decade.png450730Brian Sabolhttps://diligentiagroup.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/11/Diligentia-Logo-JPEG1-300x204.jpgBrian Sabol2019-12-23 06:22:002019-12-22 20:23:0110 Most Popular Blog Posts of the DECADE
For the second year in a row, I attended the OSMOSIS Conference for open source intelligence professionals (you can read last years OSMOSIS review here).
I go into these conferences with a pretty open mind – people who think they are going to have some life-changing-experience are bound to be disappointed. In part, because everyone attending the conference has a different background, so every presentation is not going to perfectly relevant to what you do.
So even if you are never going to do a cryptocurrency investigation, chasing down child predators or spending your wee hours on dark web, it’s important to have at least a basic understanding of what that is.
My goal with any conference like this is to pick up a few new techniques and tools relevant to my daily business practices, have an understanding of new trends, meet some new people and to walk away with a new sense of investigative inspiration.
By that measure, it was a resounding success.
I’m just amazed about how many brilliantly smart people that are out there doing some really incredible work.
The venue in Orlando this year was 100% better than the Excalibur in Las Vegas last year (and San Diego in 2020 is going to be hard to pass up).
I did find that a few of the presentations were a big miss (note: we know how to Google and anyone can read a PowerPoint slide), but overall, it’s a great conference that I would recommend to anyone in the business.
2Best virtual machine? VirtualBox if you are working with $0 budget; VMWare if you have $80 a year.
3Qintel – One of the best datasets and indexes of dark web content.
4ViewDNS.info – One of the best sites for searching domain website data, including boolean searching, where you can search for things like anyone with an email that starts with a particular username from any domain (e.g. hello@*.com)
5Reveye – Chrome and Firefox extension that lets you do reverse image searches through five separate image search engines (Google, Bing, Yandex, TinEye and Baidu) at the same time.
9Sneaky way to find out if there are connections between multiple websites is to check to see if they have a matching Google Analytics code. You can get the Analytics code in the source code, and simply do a Google search on the Analytics code.
11Favorite VPN – I asked the same question last year to people much smarter than me, but Nord VPN and Proton VPN seem to be the flavor of the year. Privacy Internet Access, which I personally use, seems to get blocked from too many websites because of its popularity.
12Quiztime – Each weekday, members post a quiz on Twitter, asking you to geolocate an image, to find out whether a video has been tinkered with or to identify some obscure audio. Great way to test out your online sleuthing skills.
13GeoGuessr – Online game that lets you guess the location of street-level imagery on a map. Another great way to test your skills.
14“Some investigative techniques may not be viable, but if it does work, you can look like a wizard and a hero to your client.” ~Chris Brenner
19Hooyu – Relatively new, UK-based database that helps investigate people, places and businesses.
20Photos of the interior of a house from real estate listing websites like Zillow can be very revealing.
21MySudo – Helps you communicate with privacy, by creating different “pseudos”, each with a phone number and email address to use for signups, downloads, or anytime you need a private phone number and/or email address.
22Dehashed can help investigators identify usernames and passwords of targets from leaked data.
After years of going to conferences of a large national organization (that will go unnamed) and coming back less than fulfilled, I found it fantastic to attend a conference that was oozing with brilliant people more closely aligned with what I do on a daily basis.
This year’s venue, Excalibur Hotel, was not my favorite; however, OSMOSIS is an absolutely terrific conference. After hearing rave reviews over the past few years from the likes of Kelly Paxton, Eli Rosenblatt, Rachele Davis and Marcy Phelps, I am so glad I made it.
If your business involves gathering investigative intelligence online, it’s a can’t-miss, and I suggest you sign up for next year right now. The networking alone was worth the price of admission.
Here are some of my takeaways, quotes and tools:
“Big Brother is not watching you – unless you have given him a reason to.” — Anthony Reyes, former NYPD officer
FOCA – Metadata analysis tool finds hidden information in documents.
Searx.net – “Privacy respecting” metasearch engine that combs through multiple search engines, including Google and Bing.
Virtual currency is at least 10 years away from being widely adopted.
A man is looking for his keys under a streetlight. A woman approaches him and asks him what he is doing.
“I am looking for my keys,” says that man.
With no car in sight, the woman asks, “Where did you park your car?”
Pointing to a dark parking lot, the man says, “It’s over there.”
“Well, why aren’t you looking over there?” the puzzled woman asks.
“Because there is more light over here.”
dnsLytics – Chrome extension that helps you get information about an IP address, domain name and provider.
Favorite VPN? I asked about a dozen people (much smarter than I am) about their favorite VPN. NordVPN seemed to be most widely used, followed by Privacy Internet Access (PIA). (Personally, I use PIA.)
Talking about leaving data “artifacts,” Anthony Reyes said, “Somewhere out there, there is a footprint.”
Hunchly – Tool for online investigators that captures pages as you search, leaving a full audit trail that can hold up in court. So if that webpage disappears a day after you found it, Hunchly will keep a record of it. And even though the founder of Hunchly, Justin Seitz, wasn’t there for the conference, he was there in spirits … literally. ;-) [Thanks, Justin!]
Canary Tokens – Offers powerful tools to help track who accessed a link, file or email. This one’s a bit beyond my technological pay grade, but here is a good explanation.
“A canary token is a web URL, email address, document file and so on which will trigger an action if it’s ever accessed. In the case of a web URL, the canary token is the address of a unique yet nonexistent page on the website of the company that issued the token. If someone were to ever attempt to access that page, the web server would notice (because it would attempt to serve that nonexistent page to whoever requested it). The server will then notify the owner of the canary token that someone tried to access it.”
Yandex Image Search – The Yandex image search engine for facial recognition is extraordinarily powerful. I uploaded some images from my personal photo collection, and it was easily able to identify a number of photos of me on the web. Neither Google Images nor Bing Images came even close.
Jaleo has some amazing, really authentic Spanish food.
Bing Image Search – The Bing Image search has a feature that lets you search only a portion of the photo if, for example, you want to search a portion (like a background) to determine where the picture was taken.
“Computer forensics is like dumpster diving, but only better. It’s clean and neat.” — Amber Schroader
https://diligentiagroup.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/OSMOSIS2018-FB-Cover.png320720Brian Willinghamhttps://diligentiagroup.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/11/Diligentia-Logo-JPEG1-300x204.jpgBrian Willingham2018-10-15 05:30:032019-11-14 11:30:2125 Takeaways, Quotes and Tools from the 2018 OSMOSIS Conference
https://diligentiagroup.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/What-is-The-One-Quality-that-Every-Investigator-Should-Have.png467700Brian Willinghamhttps://diligentiagroup.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/11/Diligentia-Logo-JPEG1-300x204.jpgBrian Willingham2018-09-18 06:00:442019-11-15 14:03:35What Is the One Quality That Every Investigator Should Have?