Thursday, September 8, 2011

A PI Magazine by Any Other Name

I found a fabulously clever Twitter account today - PI Magazine. I guess it just reminded me that we all cannot own specific phrases and brands when they are generic or when specific words or abbreviations like P.I. can be attributed to other uses.

This Tweeter(?) uses PI in the context of "π, the mathematical constant whose value is the ratio of any circle's circumference to its diameter."


Here are a few of my favorite 3.14 related tweets:

"The fattest knight at King Arthur's round table was Sir Cumference. He acquired his size from too much pi."

"If you want this twitter account, you'll have to apologize first, then write a $3.14M check with "Newby" in the subject line. You know my number."

and of course...

"Need to find followers who share a love for "geometric investigations.""


Here is another great use of the term from Private Investigator Magazine:

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Costa Rica Private Investigator

If you think being a Private Investigator in Costa Rica is how Hollywood has glorified it, think again. Most PIs will tell you, nowadays it’s more leg work and lonely surveillance. The days of the Sam Spades and Philip Marlows may be over in the US, but not necessary in Costa Rica. With the industry now growing at a rapid rate, and the need for corporations and legal firms to use private investigators, the scope to specialize in more than one geographical location has increased, Costa Rica being one of those.

Costa Rica always has had a reputation for being the ideal spot to hide from the law. It is no secret many have sought sanction from criminal warrants and civil judgments. Probably the most infamous in one of the biggest financial frauds in history (at the time) was scammer, Robert Lee Vesco who fled to Costa Rica in 1971. At the time a national law was made to protect him from extradition. Consequently, Costa Rica became the preferred home of many “bad guys,” with their lax laws on extradition, secluded areas, and the easy laws on obtaining residency.

But that all changed in 2007 when Costa Rica joined in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Beside commercial and technology trade it also opened a brand new set of doors for law firms, courts and private parties who are seeking those that have fled to Costa Rica for various civil (child/spouse support) and criminal (warrants/skip tracing) reasons. However, the need for PI services has increase to personal matters such as: 1) Been wronged by your significant other, scammed or cheated by a business partner in Costa Rica. 2) Backgrounds checks on would be employees and/or employees that you suspect might be stealing or selling drugs etc. and/or a future spouse, to make sure you are not getting scammed 3) Infidelity reports (verification of activities and movements) on a cheating spouse and/or boy/girl friend.

Even with the free trade, just trying to serve a subpoena, one usually has to venture into an underground environment and criminal societies that demand the talents of the tough and hard core. Police in Costa Rica [as a rule] take the side of the bad guys and unlike the US; they do not provide a good reliable backup for several reasons, but the number one: The police are paid about $380/month, which means, the bad guys and girls just pay them off (or give sex) not to give information to a PI. And/or many a PI has found their way into a hospital. Costa Rica has some very rough parts of towns that even Al Capone would be stupid to venture into.

According to INTERPOL, Costa Rica harbors hundreds of international criminals whose crimes range from murder to child molestation.

If your P.I has a relationship with O.I.J. (Costa Rica F.B.I.) you are in for a bonus. O.I.J. are good to deal with and generally nice and professional (but lack of training) as you will find anywhere. Plus, O.I.J agents have access to all sorts of government files.

Unlike the US, there is no licensing authority in Costa Rica for private investigators, so picking and choosing a PI can be the first gamble. If you are dealing with a foreigner, always asked to see a residency card and/or passport.

1) Never hire a PI who claims he or she works alone. Security and safety should be on your PI’s mind at all times and they do pay for it.

2) Make sure the PI is physically present in Costa Rica, has a Costa Rica cell number, and are in some way partnered with a Licensed Costa Rica Attorney (Consultores Iberoamericano de Derechos C.I.D.). This is important due to the unique differences between law in Costa Rica and the United States. Costa Rica law is based on Napoleonic, in other words, guilty until proven innocent.

3) Be leery of any PI in the US that claimed they have connections in Costa Rica. Ninety-five percent of the time they will take your money and subcontract to a party in CR that may or may not have the skills and professionalism.

4) Check Credentials. If they list education or experience on their website and there is no substantive information concerning the education or experience, inquire as to where and when they obtained such qualifications, it is time to look for another PI.

For example, if the website indicates both investigations and security services it is usually one more than the other. Investigative skills and security skills are uniquely different and require vastly different education and training. Usually security people have military backgrounds whereas investigators have law enforcement backgrounds. If an agency claims they have military experience in Costa Rica, go to another firm. Costa Rica has not had a military since 1947. If they claim US military experience, ask to see their discharge papers. If they claim they have worked and trained for X years with an investigator in the US, call that firm.

5) There are some that will claim to beware of investigators who say they have “special connections” with the government or police in Costa Rica. They will add, The United States Code (Chapter 15) has a statute (Foreign Corrupt Practices Act FCPA) that prohibits any American citizen paying bribes or other consideration to influence a government or private officials to provide information not authorized by the laws of the foreign government.

Any quality PI in Costa Rica knows it takes money to get information. And Costa Rica’s is no stranger to corruption and no stranger to the open palm or Cost of Doing Business (CDB).

Unlike the US, Costa Rica laws on privacy are very lenient and flawed; knowing the system, anyone can obtain information without the expensive court order.

For example, US and Canadian expats who do not have residency or citizenship can only stay in the country for 90days, before they have to renew that stay, so legally, they have to leave the country for 72/hours. A few dollars to a immigration officer, a few keystrokes later, and one can learn real quick who traveled where and for how long, and current city and address. Usually the first real friend/partner of a PI will be an immigration official.

Back in June 2010, 1000s of Expats who had defaulted on sales tax suddenly found themselves being publicly embarrassed when there names were published in El Financiero, the weekly business newspaper put out by Grupo Nación. When this happened, many on the list had some sort of infractions against them in the US, and a few suddenly found themselves being served for some type of civil judgment in the US.

In a recent Costa Rica court ruling it made it easier to get private information from credit reporting agencies. Everyone in Costa Rica, including expats, are being systematically logged into databases and the information is fairly easy to get by everyone.

Cero Riesgo continues to sell its public information available in bits and pieces (for as little as $7USD an inquire - to $150USD/month for unlimited access) that they get from the Registro Civil and the Registro Nacional . Even the Instituto Nacional de Seguros (National Insurance or INS) keeps a list of vehicles and their plate numbers by name of owner. Telephone numbers and their owners are available for free downloading from the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad (ICE).
Costa Rica Street Sign

Streets are almost impossible to find, let alone the addresses

Make sure your PI has good accounting records and expect to see CDB listed on it. Experience PIs who have worked in CR can pretty much give you a ball park figure. Retainers are usually high and can be around 50% if not more and it is not uncommon for the PI to demand 3-$4000 right up front. CDBs can be anywhere from $20 to $100. The average worker in Costa Rica makes around $15/day, so paying a local $40-$100/day to keep tabs on a suspected cheating employee or spouse is a bargain that can generate great results.

In the US, to subpoena someone costs between $30-$60, that is, if you know the address. Unfortunately, if you need to subpoena someone in San Jose, expect that fee to be around $450 and outside San Jose, add the travel time and expense.

The reason for the expense, There is no such thing as “Yeah dude, just Google the address!”

Streets and addresses are nightmares, because there is virtually none.

A typical address may be like, “Go down the street a few kilometers until you see the store with the Imperial sign on the corner. Turn right … go another kilometer until you see a large Mango tree. Turn right, then down 200 meters until you see the goat tied to the fence. Take the middle dirt road; turn left on the second dirt road. It is the lime green house in back of the one with the three palm trees in front.”

Friday, April 22, 2011

FREE Private Investigator Marketing Ideas and Tips

Just came across this great Facebook page that deals with Private Investigator Marketing. It's from L. Scott Harrell and CompassPoint Investigations, (now owned by Ruben Roel) so I know that the information he is posting to the page is not only important to building my private investigations business but is timely and relevant, too.

Before starting a new video marketplace, Scott was a fantastically popular and successful WORKING private investigator for 17 plus years, he understands what it really takes to build a successful private investigation agencies, as opposed to the other guy who's still trying to sell you phonebook ads, animal parts and a directory listing.

So far I've seen very original ideas about social media marketing, original idea about using Facebook to find and target media outlets for publicity and exposure. He described what EdgeRank and News Feed Optimization is and why it matters. I also liked the articles on building sales brochures and how to develop highly targeted marketing lists for certain types of investigations!

There is a lot more on this Facebook page that I could possibly get into here, and if I tried there would probably be a dozen more marketing and advertising ideas there before I got through.

Check out the Marketing for Private Investigators page, right now... you can't beet the price of FREE!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Becoming a Fan of an Online PI Magazine

I am a huge fan of Pursuit Magazine and think that it is the only worthwhile magazine for private investigators these days since the industry's only "print publication" has grown stale and often employs non-investigator authors for content that's been rewarmed dozens of times then repurposed for the industry. The only good articles, in my opinion, are the ones being provided by NALI.

You can't just put the phrase "private investigator" into a few general purpose articles and call it an industry publication! It takes much more than that to be a professional publication, so I dumped them and said "NO!" to their ridiculous subscription fees and circus-like layout.

I want real content, written by real investigators. I want fresh articles and want them delivered to me via email or to be available online on a continuous basis. I've become a fan of Pursuit Magazine on Facebook and hope you will too. Just check it out...

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Updated State PI Licensing Laws

Pursuit Magazine, a free online magazine for professional investigators, has just posted the best list of private investigator license laws I have seen to date.

Today, I surveyed 6 websites in comparison for this information and I found NUMEROUS legal errors, outdated laws and dead links in all of them except for Pursuit's list... this is obviously because Stephanie Mitchell, the Editor, has a background in thorough legal research as a former paralegal.

They point out in their resource that a state P.I. license is not currently required in several states including Alabama, Alaska, Colorado, Idaho, Mississippi, and Wyoming, though some local jurisdictions in each state do require professional licensing at the county or city level. There are changes underway in Missouri and Pennsylvania.

My question is why would someone who cuts my hair or paints my wife's toes need a state license but someone who deals with the public trust not need a license and state mandated continuing education? That seems kind of silly to me, quite frankly!

All of that aside, Pursuit Magazine continues to innovate and push forward the standard of training and freely distributed industry information- great job!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

One Online Private Investigator Magazine's Approach to Social Networking

Great Editor's update by Scott Harrell at Pursuit Magazine concerning Social Networking with PIs.

I think that it is great that they are embracing the whole media vertical thing rather than being a one dimensional print-based magazine.

I would also point out that I just saw a list of types of private investigator services as well on the Be A Private Eye Blog and thought that also was really good information; especially now that many people are either getting into the private investigation business as a new career or established PIs are branching out with new and improved service and product options.

They discuss various types of services under the categories of Surveillance, Insurance, Corporate Investigations, Civil and Domestic Cases, Skip Tracing and Locating Missing People, Forensic Computer Examination, Criminal Defense Investigations, and Political and Discovery Assignments. The list does a great job at enumerating all of the different choices a new private investigator has when trying to figure out what types of PI assignments in which he or she might want to specialize.

The options are endless and the subject really deserves its own entire article here. The blog lists the most obvious ones. I absolutely recommend that investigators find their niche and specialize in only a few types of investigations! There are several important reasons for this, but it can be summed up this way: when you are the most notable investigator in your region of the country for a specific type of investigation, you will find MANY additional opportunities to make a lot more money than if you advertise yourself as a “jack of all trades.” This has been proven across the country time and time again and was something I learned while working for CompassPoint Investigations.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Ruffin Blaylock has Joined Pursuit, the Private Investigator Magazine

I just read Ruffin Blaylock's new article on using assault rifles and shotguns in bail enforcement and it was extremely insightful. Bounty Hunters often wonder if they should be carrying firearms and what types specifically are good for bounty hunting work and Ruffin's article exemplified experience and practical experience.

He'll make a great editor for the new online pi magazine's bail recovery category.

I forgot to mention that Pursuit Magazine, a private investigator magazine, has also set up a new MySpace account separate from the CompassPoint Investigation's account. Be sure to drop by and check out the new layout and add them as a friend. I understand that they are sending out subscriber-only notices and special content /sneak peeks to their MySpace friends so that might be a good resource for PIs.