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Entries in Pursuit Magazine (5)

Wednesday
Jul162014

Live Law 6 - Nashville

Live Law 6 is your chance to hear the beard in person. Nashville Private Investigator hosts this amazing LIVE podcast at the W. O. Smith School of Music in Nashville on August 6, 2014. 

A live storytelling event co-hosted by the Life of the Law podcast and Pursuit Magazine - The magazine of professional investigators. Harold Bradley, Jason White, and other Nashville music insiders will speak about the ways the law and music collide, and how that collision has changed Music Row forever. With musical guests, the Muddy Magnolias.

Get your tickets Here:http://livelaw6.brownpapertickets.com/

Tickets are $20 in advance and $25 at the door. 

Monday
Dec162013

The Truth About Deception

This month in Pursuit: lies and deception, and a confession.

In December, we’re looking into lies, malfeasance, fraud, and deceit. Leading off the month is an excellent and well-researched piece by new Pursuit contributor Kevin Goodman about the latest behavioral research on deception detection. Later in December, look for more deception-related stories, including a Q&A with Diana Henriques, the NYTimes financial writer whose new Bernie Madoff biography delves into the psychology of the biggest Ponzi schemer in history.

As we explore fraud and malfeasance in the virtual pages of Pursuit, we’re also doing a little soul searching. We try to be forthright and transparent, and in that spirit, we offer the following confession.

Last month, we celebrated our one-year anniversary as Pursuit Magazine’s new owners and editors. Frankly, we’re still learning how to manage an online publication.

We are professional investigators, writers, journalists, and businesspeople. We are not SEO masterminds. We are not savvy to the myriad ways the interwebs for computers are manipulated to generate traffic, for the sake of traffic. Clicks gained through outrageous headlines, keyword-rich content, and click farms are clicks. They drive up stats.

But we believe that clicks like that are inherently misleading and, thus, deceptive. Fraudulent, even. And if you’ve been following the news of Google’s recent Panda updates, you’ll no doubt conclude that the search engine king agrees with our assessment.

We get submissions, to the tune of three or four a day, from “content providers”…black-hat SEO practicioners with an unfirm grasp of English.

We get submissions, to the tune of three or four a day, from “content providers.” Some are clearly from overseas black-hat SEO practicioners with an unfirm grasp of English. Others come from “real people” who address us by name. If we ask for editorial changes, they usually comply.

We’ve been on the other side of the editorial fence. We’re willing to give new writers a chance to hone their chops.

But the majority of these submissions aren’t by new writers looking for a chance to hone their chops. They’re by link farmers, and their submissions are riddled with hyperlinks and awkward phrases, crafted specifically to include as many keywords as possible. Even when competently written, they are generic in tone and offer no real insight into the investigative industry. Some of the articles have been “spun”—run through a software tool that changes a few words and phrases, and tricks Google into indexing the content as “original.”

We’ve fallen for a few of them, put them in our pages.

We’ve fallen for the occasional infograph of suspect click-bank origin. I love a good infograph, the way information is conveyed visually and succinctly, but many of them are problematic. Ruben Roel, our talented and trusted webmaster, pointed out that the last infograph we posted was from a dubious source. We investigated, followed the links, and deleted the post.

The Pursuit editorial team will no longer post material from guest bloggers we do not know. We will entertain content from experts in the investigative business. We will continue to encourage professional investigators to write for us. We will welcome submissions from real writers and industry leaders who have good stories and wisdom to share.

We will not, however, post click-bait from people who ” … plan to write a unique article just for your site about a subject of your choosing which will not be published anywhere else.” We’re been burned, lesson learned.

At Pursuit, we don’t believe in short cuts. We’re in this for the long haul, and we don’t see deceptive SEO practices and spammy, low-quality link-bait as a long-term strategy. We will never post paid links, nor will we publish paid content or advertisement that is not clearly labeled as such.

Deception takes many forms. There are outright lies, and then there are the more subtle forms: feints  omissions, and misdirection — the tools of magicians, politicians, and fashion magazines. (Think Photoshop.) To our minds, selling something under the guise of offering information is a form of deception. It is a lie. And it undermines the trust we seek to build.

We believe that becoming an industry thought leader is a long, arduous process. It’s not about “generating content.” It’s about relationships — gaining the trust of our small community of investigators by providing useful, interesting articles about the investigations field.

Real fans can’t be stolen or bought; they must be earned. And the only way to earn them is to offer something of quality, day after day, for as long as it takes. That’s what we signed on for, and that’s what we plan to do. —THH

Sunday
Apr082012

[FIND] Expertise - How to use your PI - Part 1: The Why's

This series of posts is exerpted from an article produce by Nashville private investigator, Thomas H. Humphreys for Pursuit Magazine. Thomas H. Humphreys holds the CFE designation from the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners. He is [FIND] Investigaitons' lead investigator.

How to best use a private investigator Part 1

If you're a busy attorney, and you've never considered hiring a private investigator, you're throwing away money. No matter how skilled, experienced, or efficient you are, you can't possibly get to all the work that crosses your desk. You can't do the fishing for case-making facts as thoroughly as you would like. And you can't be an expert in everything.

What if you could outsource some of that time, shoe leather, and expertise, bill for it, and say yes to a wider variety of cases? How smart would you look if you had a savvy private eye in your rolodex, a gal with a hefty rolodex of her own?

The Whys:

Outsource Work

The May 5, 2011 edition of The Economist printed a two-page story about the legal industry in America. They use Howrey (one of the world’s top 100 law firms) as an example of sea-change facing the profession. Aside from bankruptcy, securities litigation, and regulation issues, the world of 700 member law firms has been hit hard. Gone are the lucrative mergers and acquisitions (M&A), and it seems that clients are seeking, even demanding, alternatives to the ubiquitous billable hour.

One point The Economist makes: Clients are demanding “…that their lawyers pass certain routine work to cheaper contractors.”

Should lead counsel be in the field interviewing witnesses, canvasing neighborhoods, and personally vetting experts? Someone must, but these things take a lot of time and often lead to endless cul-de-sacs of evidentiary dead ends. Why not pay a professional investigator to track down hard-to-find witnesses, canvas the area, and vet experts?

Outsource Expertise

It used to be that an associate could read up on a topic and brief the partner, each being paid handsomely for the private course of study. Now, more often than not, it makes more sense to bring in a qualified expert in certain fields, pay her a flat fee or lower hourly rate, and likely be better informed in the long run.

The Economist points out that law firms can guarantee themselves work by becoming “…experts in other industries, not just areas of legal practice.” An alternative to this, The Economist points out, would be outsourcing the expertise.

That’s where professional investigators come in. An attorney can leverage expertise, an investigative firm’s collective experience, to his own benefit. A true professional investigator either maintains expertise in various areas, or maintains affiliations with industry specific experts. Either way, an adept lawyer will realize the value of knowing a professional investigator, the consummate information professional, the guy who knows a guy.

First and foremost, attorneys are experts in the law. Some lawyers also craft themselves into industry specific experts: real estate, finance, criminal defense, aviation, medical malpractice, etc. The lawyer/expert is usually a person who takes on one type of case and charges top-of-the market fees for his niche. However, for the majority in the legal profession, criminal defense work can mean anything from a criminal charge for inadvertently carrying a four-inch pocketknife through airport security (a misdemeanor in Tennessee, apparently) to first-degree murder (widely accepted as felonious activity anywhere in the country), and literally anything in between.

Experts in the law, a general defense team should be well equipped to argue legal points; but what about specific issues in obscure cases from various disciplines in which they are not schooled?

Can, or should, counsel review a real estate appraisal report for a fraud case? It seems easy enough, but what about making sure the report follows Uniform Standards of Appraisal Practice? What are the four forces that are required to create value? These are industry-specific issues in which most attorneys do not (nor should they be expected to) have any competency.

Would it be advisable for a lawyer to analyze blood spatter in a crime scene photo? Should an attorney be expected to break down a financial statement and explain in detail whether it is misleading or fraudulent?

Why not hire a professional investigator knowledgeable in that field to bring one up to speed? By delegating work to experts in various fields, counsel makes his firm look savvy, connected, and thorough.

In the end, law firms must decide on a case-by-case basis whether to add a PI to the defense team. If your client left his cheese knife in his backpack after a weekend of hiking and finds himself in the clutches of TSA and airport police, an investigator probably isn’t necessary. If, however, your client has been charged with fraud in conjunction with an eleventy-billion dollar Ponzi scheme, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to consider hiring a professional investigator. Client is a local charged with DUI, no real need for a PI. Client’s an international banking mogul charged with attempted rape, you bet a PI is one of your first calls.

Part 2: The How's will post next week.

Tuesday
Mar012011

Sleuthing Social Sites

In September, The Economist ran an article titled "Untangling the Social Web." Pursuit Magazine recently published the first of a four-part series last month called "The Power of Social Media." PI Magazine regularly addresses this topic. Everyone--investigators, creative professionals, and entrepreneurs of all kinds--aims to harness this so-called power, but few of us know quite how.

Clearly, social media is a two-edged sword, one we professional investigators can, and must, learn to wield in both directions.

An Investigative Tool

I still find it amazing that some detectives-for-hire view technology with suspicion. A recent article in our local newspaper featured a retired DEA agent-cum-PI proudly asserting, "They call it the ol' gumshoe...no amount of technology is a substitute for knocking on doors and putting in the legwork."

Really? What about when someone doesn't want to willingly cough up the information you need? The "ol' gumshoe" isn't just about putting mileage on your feet. It's a metaphor for problem solving, which means availing yourself of the very best tools--from your mind, eyes, and ears, to electronic substitutes thereof.

Case Study - Choir Boy or Criminal?

Last year we were hired to compile a profile of a man involved in a high-stakes lawsuit. "He's a choir boy,"his family told investigators. "Always doin' good. Ain't never use drugs."

Problem: strolling the subject's neighborhood and knocking on doors was a pretty unlikely way to find out any real information about him. We would've been spotted immediately as outsiders in the community and viewed with extreme suspicion. But in the virtual neighborhood of social media, it's pretty easy to assume a believable disguise and join in the conversation.

As the subject's new online acquaintance,  a whole world opened to us. Photos and comments about the subject painted a completely different picture of his personality and habits. The mythological choir boy image didn't stand up well against a photograph of the youth proudly puffing a blunt whilst flashing a gangster pose. Using connections linked to his page, we also identified a vast list of potential witnesses, uncovered other questionable activities, and unearthed at least three other social media sites portraying the young fellow's extralegal antics.

Case Study - Globetrotting Tweeter

A client hired us to locate a person who'd left the scene of a car accident. The young woman proved elusive and failed to return numerous phone calls from an attorney. The sheriff's office had given up after trying three times to serve subpoenas to her last known address.

We surmised that the demographic in question (women, mid-twenties) can scarcely evacuate their bowels these days without documenting said activities on Facebook and Twitter. It didn't take much techno-gumshoe poking around to discover her Facebook page and Twitter feed. Conveniently, the young lady enjoyed tweeting incessantly on the subject of her location and future travel plans. Cozumel, Isla Mujeres, L.A. (including her actual street address! She checked in on FourSquare.) I forwarded her Twitter handle to the client, and he had her served in California two days later...on the first try.

Observations

A typical skip trace might run a search via IRB and Tracers Info. The address would've turned up nothing except for the house her father maintained while serving five for insurance fraud. The sheriff's office didn't find her there, and neither would a social-media-phobic investigator. Our tweeting sweetheart hadn't been there in years.

Case Study - FCPA Due Diligence

One case promised to take us to exotic, sunny locales to perform clandestine shenanigans for fun and profit. Unfortunately, we were able to pull together enough information using databases, law enforcement sources, and a healthy dose of Facebook revelations to convince our client not to do business with this subject. If it weren't for social media, we'd have a lot more stamps in our passports right now, and our client would be out several grand in travel expenses.

Conclusions

I could go on and on, but you get the point. I understand that canvassing and in-person interviews are valuable tools. But to exclude new and innovative methods of analysis isn't just short sighted, it borders on crazy. New technology isn't an excuse to avoid old-school detective work. It's an opportunity to use the ol' gumshoe skills virtually, in a global neighborhood. It allows an investigator's eyes and ears to blanket the world.

Coming Soon, check out Part Two: Marketing in a Social Media Age

Friday
Nov132009

Investigator Skills - Facial Recognition Test

Have you ever wondered how hard it is for an investigator to remember details. It's why we make notes all day long, even when it seems that nothing of importance is happening. Details make the case. Can you pick a guy out of a line up? Do you notice faces and remember them?


This facial recognition test is cool. I ran across this little gem on the Pursuit Magazine website. Pursuit Magazine is the online journal of professional investigations, a great resource for investigators. It offers a small peek into one of the many facets of the the daily life of an investigator. Give it a try. Test your skills. See if you have what it takes to be an investigator. Click on over to the BBC here.