Facts And Factors That
May Inhibit A PI From Executing His Task
By M. Ettisch-Enchelmaier, B.A

 

 There are quite a number of "inhibiting facts and factors". Some may only
effect an investigator locally or nationally. But when working internationally he may encounter others completely different or additional to those he confronts locally or nationally. Also their local impact may differ to the national or international counterparts.

There are numerous "inhibitors". Many will agree that
legal aspects play a major part as inhibitors of which the Data Protection Act (DPA) major of which the DA, the greatest.

Financial factors such as the lack of education as well as training and equipment further important barriers
Cultural barriers
Language barriers
Technical barriers: equipment not yet available to facilitate investigation
Lack of data stored or just not available online.

Cyberspace is considered by many to be the real final if not the newest frontier. It is also one that investigators can exploit as a major investigative resource. Armed with modems and computers, investigators can reach out to each other around the world via computer keyboard. Online services can be useful tools, when deployed wisely. [1]

Investigators must convert huge amounts of information into knowledge. With busy schedules and economic pressures, they are forced to efficiently and economically transform a glut of information into genuine insight with the help of the Internet's collaborative tools. Computers and online services are investigative tools that are here to stay. The challenge is to harness the technology in ways to help investigators handle their jobs better and faster thus transforming Internet from toy to tool. [1]

Potential Impediments to Investigators of any kind

Many investigators believe to be too old to take the challenge and invest
time, money but also nerves in getting acquainted with the new fascinating new world. Consequently some have either amalgamated their business with
those of others nilly willy because of lack of financial means. Other
investigators have totally given up and closed their business altogether.

Other investigators are so overloaded with cases that they have little time to log on to the Internet, even if they were empowered to do so by their superiors. The latters may be afraid that instead of handling cases or checking legal precedent cases to support a claim denial for the benefit of their companies, the investigators may surf the Internet for their own pleasure [1]. The possibilities are abundant: from watching porno sites, booking a journey or bidding on eBay.

Superiors are much concerned about that waste of time and money, they try to regulate it by inserting special equipment to record such not permitted surfing. For doing this they either insert a paragraph in the work contracts or ask the union representative to agree to such measures.
Yet research has shown that productivity is less impeded by certain private surfing than no surfing. Since a happy employee is a better working employee. This has been meanwhile taken into consideration in appertaining legal and work regulations, even in Germany which is rather slow in taking up such things compared to the USA.

Some superiors are afraid that investigators of different companies may compare notes on the Internet thus open a door to constituting collusion among competitors, perhaps triggering antitrust claims. [1]

The author of this essay believes that the greatest inhibitor to investigators is the Data Protection Act (DPA) (US), also known as the Right of Privacy Act (UK). The DPA is not the only legal aspect which hinders an investigator in doing his job. Although the Americans have
initiated this legal aspect, it is least strictly applied to as yet there, although things change presently. In many countries it is illegal to undertake investigations of any sort (Arabian countries,
Franco Africa for instance).

Mr. Riddle [2] discusses who to locate hidden assets, an important investigative field of activities, a need resulting from various reasons, e.g. because of divorce proceeding, a person or a company having declared bankrupt, somebody not wanting to pay the damage to a car or a person because his insurance company does not cover the damage and declaring that he does not have the means to settle the damages.

An insurance company may try to locate assets to reclaim the money spent to their insured, businesses conduct hidden asset investigations before entering into business dealings with another company or person to make sure they are financially stable.

Mr. Riddle concedes that handling such an investigation it is important
to get information about the debtor, first from the client, then from other sources. Ideally the debtor's credit report would be a great mean to obtain such needed information, but it is illegal in the light of the DPA [3] to obtain such without the debtor's permission except in a few cases. It is very clear and understandable that the debtor will not issue
such.

To help the client Mr. Riddle advises to provide a "financial profile."
One means to that end is checking records such as those lodged with the
appertaining district civil and county civil courts. This may lead to
the investigator finding that the debtor has several lawsuits for
failing to pay debts or taxes. This result may stop the investigation
at this stage to save the client money, thus avoiding throwing good
money after bad.

This sort of search is not available in Europe on account of the DPA.

But the client may still wish to continue with the investigation nonethe-
less, especially if on account of his long standing experience the conscientious investigator has a feeling that there is still a chance to
find hidden assets. The investigator may even take it as a challenge
stating that he will not charge anything or a nominal fee if the findings
after all prove that the debtor is indeed financially broke.

In the USA the social security number is still the key to open locked
doors, i.e. to start the investigation with. In the USA in most cases
one has the same social security number throughout one's life. In Germany
for instance it can be changed several times during a person's life time.

In Europe the DPA does not permit access to the social security number
records or the usage of it for investigation purposes, similarly there is no access to the driving records in many countries, e.g. Germany where even lawyers not involved in litigation with the driver in any manner is not allowed to get a copy of the records without a court order.

Mr. Riddle states that another useful tool is the good old tool of "dumpster diving." This means to search through the investigated person's
garbage. Many persons and companies are very negligence and careless when
throwing bank account documents or such from authorities, personal records or private lettres. They throw such documents without tearing them
apart, let alone running them through a shredder. In UK this is not permitted [3], there was even a court case well covered by the press against an investigator who did dumpster or garbage diving.

Mr. Riddle continues stating that the investigator should keep in mind trespassing laws, i.e. not entering private property, even in the
front garden. In this case, the dumpster was in an office complex readily accessible.

 

In Germany there is a big discussion as to whether the garbage is "forsaken" by the its producer even if dumped on the sidewalk, a public area. The legal view is that the garbage or dumpster albeit being in a public area is not "accessible" to third parties, but has been handed over to the garbage company so that they can use it to their liking within the framework of environmental laws and regulations. This means that the garbage company represented in the street by the garbage collectors may sell it for profit, destroy part or all of the garbage as it chooses.

That the government does not keep to the rules set by them themselves
can be well viewed by the article compiled by:

The US Federal Government does not apply the privacy regulations themselves [4]

He stated in his memorandum that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), set out its own privacy principles in May 2000 in a report entitled
"Fair Information Practices in the Electronic Marketplace" when
regulating the commercial sector, forgetting however to regulate itself
and other governmental entities.

Rep. Billy Tauzin and Dick Armey asked the General Accounting Office (GAO) to apply the FTC's privacy criteria to the government itself. Not only
did the FTC fail to meet the very standards it had asked Congress to
impose on everyone else, so did 97 percent of all federal websites
surveyed.

The various governmental entities collection data from the citizens
maintaining that these data are needed to properly execute the entities'
tasks bestowed to them by the government. This would be in order to some
extend in the opinion of many citizens. But the governmental entities
do not stop there. They will routinely share data and information
with other agencies. That means citizens' complete life history are floating around the bureaucracy, whether the citizens like it or not. Some of this information sharing is beneficial, allowing agencies to work more efficiently. But too much is shared evading the citizens' privacy, thus curtailing their legal rights too much.

President Bill Clinton used his last hours in office to draft together a rule designed to protect the privacy of medical information. But buried
within the expansive text filled with new regulatory requirements for
health care providers is a passage giving the Department of Health and
Human Services the right to collect all personal medical records from a given health provider without a warrant or prior notice.

While the Americans put a high value on their privacy, still, when
interviewed in the framework of a mortgage application, a prospective
employment, a license, they are much more willing to supply information
compared by their European counterparts. If the Americans are willing to
answer 80 to 100% of the questions, the Europeans may answer at
the start only 40 - 60%, with much persuasion, showing that answering
the questions is for their own benefit, some further 20%.

The American e-commerce business in the largest sense of the word (not only the trading of goods but also supplying services) is by far more
developed than in other parts of the world because there are less impeding factors than elsewhere.

One reason of course is that the American computerised world is by far the most developed in the world, but also Americans are more willing to
supply their private data, incl. social security, credit card numbers
more readily than in other parts of the globe.

Another hindrance in cyberspace world is the lax security -still- prevailing. Mr. Dick Armey [4] stated that he has not yet undertaken the transition to online banking being afraid of the lax security online.

Those who run websites of any kind, especially the traders and those
offering services, must take the security angle very seriously to remain in business by imposing or accepting notice rules and standards on web sites most likely becoming relevant in the coming years.

So two great hindrances in handling investigations have been indicated:
privacy regulations, even handled in a lax way within governmental
organization but not to the private investigators for instance, as well as
security reasons permitting hackers to enter systems believed
to be secured, yet not available to third parties, e.g. the
private investigators.

It is important to know how the Internet and websites function.
They change considerably, since these media are still in the trial
stage, but they are here to stay.

Financial barriers (lack of education as well as training and equipment)

A great inhibitor or obstacle in handling investigation is the lack
of education, both general, legal or commercial to state a couple.

An investigator must be able to read and write well - at least in his own language: read: to understand the client's written instructions, sources, legal, commercial or any others needed to get on with the investigation,
write: letters asking for information in a correct language, e.g. in
a background investigation to the (ex) employer's human resources
department of an applicant. If the investigator's written application
does not concord with the least professional requirement, it is very
likely that he gets no answer at all or at least an unsatisfactory one
because of being too short to be of any use.

 

An investigator must also have a good legal knowledge and know where to
search for more if advice is needed in a specific instance. Much is available online these days [5], [9].

Even if investigators have a good knowledge in their field of investigation (many were police officers before turning to the private
industry), it is a fact that major traditional private investigation associations do not accept applicants as members unless they have been (self)employed for three years [10].

Police officers often have more possibilities to employ in order to undertake an investigation, e.g. accessing databases such as FBI records, not available to private investigators who legally are but private persons
and have to act like such.

The main reason for not accepting a police officer turned private investigator less than 3 years ago however is that a member of the law enforcement does not have the financial liability and extend of financial consideration as an private investigator has from an economic and commercial point of view. It takes several years to get accustomed to the economic and commercial "laws and regulations" prevailing outside
the law enforcement entities.

Ideally for a private investigator of course would be able to have access to all these databases and the possibilities as a law enforcement per-
son, but this is not possible: DPA forbids it.

As in any profession proper training is a most important factor in
successful investigation. With training comes experience not only knowing where to turn to in order to obtain the information needed to continue the investigation, but also using various means and modes of investigation to
successfully close the investigation. Training and experience also develop a "feeling", a hunch, how to undertake the investigation. This is an in-
valuable "means" which takes years to build.

Imagination and resourcefulness are also very helpful investigative means,
some investigators are well bestowed others less with these excellent
"tools". Moreover an investigator must be careful not to cross the legal boarder prescribed by his state or country laws, impeding him in his activities as well.

Lack of equipment is another great inhibitor. The lack of equipment may be the result of financial means missing, e.g. a surveillance van or a computer equipment cannot be acquired because the means needed are just beyond the investigator's financial resources.

But at times to rent the required equipment is also beyond and above an investigator's resources.

Even if he is able to rent the equipment from the financial point of view, in case he not have the proper training to handle the equipment, partly
because the need of this sophisticated equipment is rare, it is of no use. For instance the investigator has the means to rent or buy a Ferrari, but if he cannot drive it, he is better of with his old VW Beetle.

This is particularly valid for the use of the Internet.

The writer of this article tried to locate two Chinese companies to
be processed served. Two leading Chines agencies could not help. They are agencies of long standing, one located in Hong Kong, the other in Shanghai, both covering the whole of Mainland China, since they are
using the old mode of databases and commercial register records. The writer of this article therefore went online to search the Internet. There
the companies were listed in detail, including the names of the
executives, a most important information from the process serving angle.
Furthermore the history of the companies, their lines of business, subsidiaries etc. These data were of use to add what the writer calls "more icing to the cake", thus improving the quality of the reports and impressing the client, the aim being to have the client coming again to the investigator with new assignments.

Cultural barriers are also big inhibitors.

Assuming that two investigators speak the same language perfectly, nonetheless they may not understand each other. This sounds illogical, but experience has proved it often enough. Already between USA and UK there are linguistic and cultural differences.

Here is a simple example which the writer quotes to demonstrate this statement: In Great Britain one pays the bill (invoice) with a cheque, while in the USA one pays the check (invoice) with a bill. So if a
British customer in an American restaurant asks for a bill, the American
waiter will most likely be enraged, since he is asked to pay money on
top of the expenses incurred through the meal and drinks.

Thus different cultural background and upbringing may lead the investigator in a foreign country accept the assignment, but "understand" the requirements in a different way than intended.

For instance when an American colleague asks the writer of this essay to recommend an investigator in Iran, the latter tries to persuade the American counterpart to forsake this his idea, but allow the writer to oversee the investigation, act like a "translator" or "catalysator"
between the American and the Iranian investigators. The aim is
not only "translating" the investigative requirement, but also
discuss the possibilities available legally in Iran in contrast
to those in the USA in order to ultimately still handle the case successfully, figuratively speaking, the American investigator may turn left in order to reach his goal whereas his Iranian counterpart turns right and both will reach the aim nonetheless.

The difference in culture and consequently the difference in language
usage may be a big inhibitor too.

Americans are much more easygoing, they consider etiquette much less
seriously. They use first names terms immediately, also in instances
where they have had no contact with their counterparts ever before. In Germany this is a big faut pas. One is addressed by Mr. or Mrs./Miss,
often adding the recipient's title, such as Dr. Miller. In Austria
they go further addressing a person by his (professional) title (Herr
Geheimrat Müller) or a higher grade than in reality (Herr Baron when a person is a learned man). Letters are also more formally composed.
In the USA a writer may close with only "Jack" . In France a business letters closed with "Nous vous prions, Monsieur, d'agréer nos salutations les plus distinguées" (We ask you, dear Sir, to accept our most respectful
greetings") or similar phrases. These days things get a bit laxer these days, perhaps under the influence of the USA and in the wake of globalization.

So if there is a cultural or language barrier, an investigation most
likely will not be carried out as well as it should, because beside
the above mentioned causes, there is also the human touch which may
play a bigger role than thought of. The foreign investigator accepting
the assignment may be angry at the lax way he has been addressed. He
may perhaps not be aware of his resentment, it is only be subconsciously there, yet it adversely effects the foreign investigator's quality of handling. It is the same thing if one does a job but his heart is not with it.

Here the writer as the "interpreter" or "catalysator" can avoid trans-
ferring the instructions the American way, putting them in a more formal manner or if this is not possible, explaining the cultural differences, thus expressing an indirect "excuse" on the part of the American investigator.

Technical barriers (equipment not yet available to facilitate
investigation)

When documents are scanned, at present the scanned material is in an
"image" format, meaning that the researcher must either read the complete
document to find what he is really looking for or copy it into a text or
word processor, then search for the topic needed for with the "find"
facility.

With short documents it may be quicker to skim through the document with
one's eye, with longer ones, the search facility still may be cumbersome.
The ideal situation would be that the scanner is at the same time a search
tool.

To use a video camera for instance during the interview of an applicant for a job, a claimant in an insurance case, may not be possible in many
countries since the equipment is not available either because the
quality is not so good as to really make use of the interviewee's re-
action to the full (the pictures do not yet run smoothly), or the price
of such an equipment say in Eastern Europe is so exorbitant that an
investigator cannot employ such an equipment for his daily use. If this kind of a tool -quite useful in some cases- is really needed, hopefully he can rent it from someone, or better subcontract the recording to a colleague who owns the equipment and is well versed with it. But this is surely done in rare cases because of the high fees involved, which the client for whom the investigation is carried out, will or is not able to accept the fee generated.

A car tracking device is propagated [6] for tracking private cars by means
of a GPS system. It is to be used to follow the movements of a vehicle
without following or tailing it. It can be plugged into a cigarette lighter for the electricity needed to run it.

The system also supplies a complete map with date, time, location and speed of travel as well as stops.

Although the device may be a good record keeping tool for business owners, independent contractors and individuals who need support to document their taxes, mileage and billing time as well as employers who want to keep an
eye on their employees (if legally permitted), a woman on her husband's
doing, parents checking their offsprings' activities, yet without a
proper map, which may not be yet available in China for instance, it cannot be used to its fullest.

The writer of this essay does not discuss here the legal side of using such a device.

Ideally a private investigator is allowed to access the car, build in
it the device and then watch its movements by means of his computer in
his office, but in many instances it is not possible to access the car legally, or when permitted by the suspicious wife or employer to access the vehicle, there is no cigarette lighter to provide the needed electricity.

Ideally video camera in the house or in a car helps to check the activities of a spouse, or an employee (with the permission of the union representative), and what is more, the spouse or the employee cannot shut down the surveying device, or if they think they have, the investigator has the means to activate the camera in such a way that the surveyed persons have no knowledge of it. But such devices are not available -yet-. And even if they are available one day, the legal and/or the financial issues will hinder the use of the video camera in many instances.

Lack of data stored online and the lack of access to data already stored
online.

Online availability of information to the public at large really started in about 1995/6 although some information was available already earlier of course [11], first with a few trials and errors, but the speed of lodging or linking available information by means of the Internet got on with amounting speed.

According to a study published in the July 8, 1999 issue of NATURE, the
world wide web was then estimated to contain some 800 million pages of publicly accessible information [7].

Now if in 1999 there were already 800 million pages, in the speed the
web explodes, there must be many more than a billion pages in 2001, although it is difficult to guess how many.

But even if double and triple or a multiple amount of pages or documents linked become available on and via the Internet, it is agreed that only a very small percentage of the human knowledge will ever be available online.

This is already indicated by the famous Jewish Biblical commentator
RASHI of Worms/Germany, explaining why the Old Testament started with the Hebrew letter "b", which is a square open only on the left [8].

Ideally it would be desirable for an investigator that all human knowledge be put on the Web.

But this is an impossible task. Not only are the capacity resources insufficient for such a monumental task at present, most likely the needed resources will never be available, partly because of financial as well as
linguistic reasons.

Old documents may not suitable for scanning without being damaged nor
the scanners good enough to understand the old scripts.

Searching for heirs is an important investigative field and here a major
tool are old documents. The writer of this article had to find possible kins of a person who died in the 1980ies in the USA, leaving no heirs. Immediate relatives were also unknown. So going back to the 19th Century covering parts of France and Germany, searching in old civic register archives with documents at times in part hardly legible, a family tree could be developed and the aim of the search successfully attained.
Although in some fields of negligible importance not only the availability
of information online is restricted, but because of financial reasons some
hosting providers have started to restrict their facilities to those
who pay and be it only for the URLs to be listed.

Followed by Alta Vista Yahoo has recently started to charge US $199 per
annum for just listing a URL of a website. If the fee is not paid, the URLs are rigorously erased from their search engine, as the writer of this article has experienced. So quite a number of sites containing valuable knowledge are lost to the online public.

Another impeding factor is that information is not updated be it a com-
pany's website perhaps because the PR manager just does not pay attention
to this modern essential advertisement tool, or telephone numbers, partly
because the financial means are not at hand to make the changes as quickly
as to be really of use.

A much more important hindrance in accessing knowledge by investigators
and other segments of the public is that knowledge has often restricted
access either to a special field of activities (surgery information only
for surgeons or multi-media information to multi-media providers), but
also the fees levied, too high for certain users, or for instance the linguistic barriers or lack of equipment able to read e.g. the Cyrillic letters. Ideally of course it would be for investigators not to have to "fight" or be confronted by such inhibitors to execute his job not only easier and quicker, but in some not so seldom instances better and more successfully than otherwise.

About The Author:

Nearly 30 years of GLOBEWIDE investigations of all kinds
M. Ettisch-Enchelmaier, B.A., President, CEO Tel.+49-6238-989 098
Ettisch-Enchelmaier GmbH Fax. +49+6238-989099 + +6238-1313
Bodelschwinghstr. 9/67246 Dirmstein/Germany (+1 h GMT, -6-9 h USA)
Web: http://home.hiwaay.net/~pvteye/ettisch.html
Owner and Moderator of Investigationswordwide Association
Website: http://www.kaleinvestigation.com/world.html
To subscribe: http://www.yahoogroups.com/subscribe/Investigationsworldw

Holder of the Malcolm Thomson Award 1995
and publisher of the monthly "business calender", incl.
tips and tricks for PIs, computer, Internet matters.
Author of the articles on the "European Information
Brokers (past & present)" and the investigators "Using
the Internet and Modern Tools",
"European Resources vs American", FREE e-copies available


[1] Virtual Claims Communities: The Latest Final Frontier by
Mr. Kevin M. Quinley, CPCU, Sr. VP of Medmarc Insuranc Co.,
Faifax, Virginia. He speaks of adjusters, but the same applies
for any kind of investigators.

[2] Kelly E. Riddle: Unmaskting the Mystery of Hidden Assets,
http://www.pimall.com/nais/nl/n.unmask.html
[3] The Data Protection Act originates from the USA. The Europeans
took it and made it much more strictly applied to. The result is
that less the good persons are protected but the criminals. Now
through globalisation the Americans are forced to adopt the DPA
according to European laws. Still there are much which can be
done in the USA while they Europeans cannot dream of using these
records. Thus the investigators are very much inhibited by that
act or law:
[4] Dick Armey: Privacy: For those who live in glass houses
April 9, 2001, pubished by Richard Diamond Office of the Majority
Leader, US House of Representatives Tel. 202-225-6007,
http://www.freedom.gov
[5] e.g. Lexis-Nexis
[6] http://www.pimall.com/nais/cartrack.html
[7] Steve Lawrence and C. Lee Giles "accessibility of Information on the
Web", NATURE 400 (July 8, 1999), page 107, quoted in "Sink or Swim:
Internet Search Tools and Techniques (Version 4.0 - Fall 1999) by
Ross Tyner, M.L.S., Okanagan University College, page 1.
[8] RASHI is the abbriviation of Rabbi Shlomo Jitzchaki (1040 - 1105),
a Jewish household name
[9] Carole Levitt, J.D., M.L.S.: From Due Diligence to Corporate
Intelligence,
http://www.netforlaywers.com/article_company_research.htm
[10] World Association of Detectives/USA (WAD)
Council of International Investigators/USA (CII) to name two
[11] Carole Levitt, J.D., M.L.S.: The Waiting is Over, where the
author describes in a humorous way how she for 15 years for the
Los Angeles Daily Journal to be available online (from 1985 to
December 4, 2000),
http://www.netforlayers.com/daily_journal.htm

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