What to do when you’ve been impersonated online

 June 16 – 2018 rami-al-zayat-170349-unsplash

Have you ever googled your own name to see what pops up? I know I have. Mostly it is my business pages that appear, followed by my various social media profiles – from Twitter to Facebook. Other times for work I’ll have to look up clients and see their online presence. And recently I noticed a client had a second twitter account, featuring photos from her Facebook and a sizeable following – but with a single letter changed in the handle. I immediately realized this was a fake profile and informed her. She was curious as to what the next steps to take were, so I thought to write them out for her and for all of you as well in case you find yourself in a similar situation.

What To Do First
Report it immediately.  TwitterFacebookLinkedIn and Instagram all have ways of reporting fake profiles. In a matter of days, all of these social media sites will suspend the offending account.

Analyze The Damage
At this stage, you should conduct a thorough analysis to see what the person has done with your name.

Have they communicated with others?
Have they said anything offensive or shared views you disagree with?

The best way to do this is to conduct a deep dive on the posts – most likely it is just a spam account (which is a real and rampant problem on social media – an estimated 48 million accounts are just spam accounts designed to simulate real people). 

What Next?
After this, the next thing to do is absolutely nothing.

As someone who often mines information on social media for a living, you could spend dozens of hours tracking this person down, but without any real harm committed here, what’s would the point be? That time could be better spent on other investigations Besides the likelihood of tracking down this person is relatively small

Keep in mind anyone can set up a fake profile in a just a few minutes and it will be near impossible to trace. While Twitter does have some information to help track down this person (such as an IP address, phone number, email or physical address), they aren’t going to give this information out without a court order. And without any real harm done, no court is going to do anything here.

Work To Prevent This In The Future
There really is no way of preventing someone from impersonating you online (kind of scary to realize this). The best you can do is to watch the web for anything that might have your name – thus googling yourself regularly is good not just for the ego but also a good thing to do.

Final Thoughts
The situation involving my client turned out to be pretty benign and simple to clear up but there are plenty of situations where this is more serious. In such cases, you should contact an attorney or professional for help.




How Investigations Help Small Business Grow

 May 04 – 2018

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At the tail end of 2017, I took a very interesting case. A new business had bought a few high-value items specific to their industry at an online auction and needed someone to confirm the validity of the products. The price they bought these industrial items for was well below market price (the deal seemed too good to be true), and the business partners stood to gain a lot by obtaining these items from the auction in the condition they were advertised to be in.

However, if these specialty items were of poor quality when they arrived then they would have lost their business capital and their dream venture would be over. Essentially, their start-up would fail.

My job was simple. The clients were from British Columbia and the auction house was in Ontario. I was to find the auction house and confirm the validity and quality of the industrial tools was as promised.

Before I took the case the client and I calculated the costs of the investigation versus the cost of the lost items. What we discovered was that they stood to lose more money (and their business) for canceling the auction than having a private investigator confirm the state of their purchase.

As such, I crossed Ontario to give them peace of mind and to help their business succeed.

The investigation was extremely short and highly productive. In the course of 2 days, I discovered each of their items was valid, in better condition than advertised, and the auction house was expecting similar items in the future, giving the partners a chance to acquire even more goods at a bargain to help their business thrive.

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(Some of the auctioned items)
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Although this specific case turned out to be very simple and benign, I was happy to help in ways I hadn’t thought I could before. I can imagine plenty of situations where not confirming the validity of assets could lead to a serious loss for a business, and even put it under (as in the above case). In these cases, you should contact a professional private investigator to help bring you peace of mind.

 



Driving Under The Influence – The Surprising Facts of Ontario

 March 19 – 2018

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There appears to be a large debate between small vocal groups in regards to driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol. Police departments and various other government agencies are worried about what the effects of cannabis legalization have on impaired driving.

A few of the most recent articles point regarding this issue.

September 2017

March 2017

1) http://toronto.citynews.ca/2018/03/07/impaired-driving-rules-pot-legalization/
2) https://www.ctvnews.ca/politics/senate-struggles-with-key-question-how-do-you-measure-pot-impairment-for-drivers-1.3833751
3) https://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/senate-adds-new-delay-to-ottawas-cannabis-legalization-plan/article38227907/

I thought I’d so some of my research on what we have already measured, which is driving while under the influence of alcohol. The stats I’ve seen from the most recently available statistics, provided by the excellent staff of StatsCanada, seem to show a different picture than the one I originally believed (which was that drunken driving is on the rise).

These are the most glaring facts that stood out to me from (this was data from 2015)

  • Impaired driving seems to be lowest it’s been in 30 years (while our population is the highest it’s been)
  • Ontario has the lowest instances of impaired driving among all provinces and territories.
  • Young Drivers are driving safer and are soberer.ANDcurrently, it seems drug impaired incidents were less likely to result in a charge than alcohol-impaired driving incidents.
  • “When heard by the courts, drug-impaired cases, overall, took more than double the time to be processed, a gap that has widened since data were first collected on this subject. In addition, drug-impaired driving cases were less likely than alcohol-impaired driving cases to result in a guilty finding.”

With legalization on the horizon, and as evidenced in the articles at the start of this blog, there is a desire by law agencies to create laws to maintain road safety. And this is a paramount issue, as Ontario has a very good track record in relation to drinking and driving.

And, If young drivers already practice good habits when it comes to not driving under the influence of alcohol, will these good habits transfer over to cannabis use? The laws that arise around these issues will hopefully work to do just this so we can continue to be the safest place in Canada to drive.

You can find all of the stats I mentioned in this article for free below:
Thank you again to the staff at StatsCanada.

 





February 16 – 2018

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As Investigators, we frequently notice the early signs of infidelity in a relationship. Often it’s when our clients want proof to use in their upcoming fight for divorce and custody. Some of these things are obvious like receiving calls more often to see what you’re doing or when you will be home. Others are subtler such as “I love you” is said more often but with less feeling.

Changes in routine are a big indicator. Have you ever found yourself thinking  any of the following:

“Why isn’t he answering his cell phone? He always answers when he sees my number or when the kids call him.

Is something wrong? He is usually home right after work or calls when he is working late.

 Why is he angry when I ask why he didn’t pick up my call earlier?”

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These are powerful signs your spouse may be in the early stages of a relationship outside of your marriage. More obvious signs can include:

More concern is shown than usual in regards to their appearance, such as joining a gym while showing no prior interest in fitness. Getting rid of grey hairs or purchasing cologne and new clothes.

wang-xi-468747They seem to take special care to bring their cell phone everywhere, while before they’d leave it on the table when they left the room.

The largest indicators are big gaps of unexplained time. Did he your son’s game for the 2nd time this month while never having missed any before?

Being aware of the flow in a relationship is very important. Don’t wait to find a receipt for a hotel room, condoms in the glove box or the clichéd lipstick on the collar.

Consider how a private investigation in the early stages of an affair can help. Is there a chance stopping the act of a sexual affair before it happens can not only save your marriage but keep your family together? Would counseling work if only you knew sooner?

 




Jan 26 – 2018

Dashcams: An Invaluable Tool? Maybe.


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As you may be aware, it is essential to stay aware of the latest surveillance technology to be a successful private investigator. This means knowing about newer gadgets and testing their use in the field. Being prepared for anything is the name of the game when conducting surveillance. Regardless of the type of surveillance, there are many basic items that every investigator should have in their vehicle and on the job. Today I wanted to mention one that is often overlooked and is helpful to everyone, not just investigators.

The humble dash cam.

Newer dash-cams can be purchased for a relatively low price (they are available for less than a $100) and can be set up without too much hassle. You’d be surprised what footage a dash cam can catch. Most are loaded with low to mid-range cameras and can catch license plates and can film in low-light conditions.

They have made my job and driving throughout Ontario a lot less stressful. From the daily fear of questioning what happened during an accident – there really is no question with a dash cam involved – to giving you the freedom to step out of the car while on surveillance for a few hours without missing anything.And most importantly, they add another layer of evidence to your surveillance.

Aside from recording hours of footage, some dash-cams also record audio, are able to alert you if you are speeding, can zoom in and out, can be turned and twisted to catch other angles than just what’s in front of your vehicle, and record vandalism or suspicious activity occurring around your vehicle. Some dash-cams are even built with GPS and provide coordinates for you.

There are some cons.

Setting one up can seem complicated for first time users, you should do some searching around to make sure the camera you are buying is of good quality. You will capture your own at-fault driving, and they reduce the level of privacy in your own car as they bear witness to your own conversations. All of these things are important to consider in the decision to use a dash-cam.

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To sum it all up, a dashboard camera is a great investment, especially since it is very cost-effective and has a very straightforward design that typically consists of a microphone and a fixed-lens digital camera. These simple cameras can be installed on the dashboard or the windshield of your car within seconds, thanks to their suction cup.

 




Dec 22 – 2017

Tips for staying safe this Christmas

We’re all getting busy with the holiday season approaching. From the extra work-loads at the office to setting up decorations, organizing plans, to the last-minute Christmas shopping we all invariably find ourselves doing.
So below are some key tips to help you this season, and hopefully keep you from hiring private investigators or even worse, attorneys, over the next weeks.
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  1. Lock your car when you go shopping. Most car break-ins are due to cars being left unlocked.
  2. Don’t make several trips to the car and back. Leaving your new valuables in the car makes it a target for anyone noticing your new toys left unattended.
  3. Leave the purse at home. Purses are easy targets during the busy shopping season, especially if left in the shopping cart.
  4. Put your wallet and keys in the front pocket. Thieves can’t access the front pockets as easily as your back ones.
  5. Bring only what you need. Leave extra credit cards, passports, SIN cards, and everything unnecessary at home
  6. Shop during the day. I know the sun’s setting earlier, but if you can shop during daylight hours, are much less likely to attempt during the day.
  7. Lock your house. Double check your home before heading out. The number of break-ins is much higher this time of the year.
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  8. Don’t leave big boxes in the trash.  Break down boxes so everyone doesn’t see your big, new purchases.
  9. Drink Responsibly. And avoid those who aren’t. It’s simple but powerful advice.
  10. Stay Alert – the best advice is to be aware and use common sense. Keep an eye on if anyone is following you or if there are suspicious figures eyeing your car or home. If you are going shopping during the busy season, go in groups.
  11.  Wishing you all a happy, healthy, and safe Christmas!

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Dec 01 – 2017

I’ve met my fair share of smart and lazy people. The worst offenders are those who work hard at working little. They can hurt morale, productivity, increase insurance premiums, and are just smart enough to get away with their actions. I’ve dubbed them the Uncaring Employees.

If any of the following sounds familiar, then you might have one on your hands:

“This guy is bringing morale down across the whole plant. He’s sick and takes an extended weekend off every holiday and the other guys have to work harder to cover for him and get the job done. Whenever there is overtime or a big order to fill, he seems to magically hurt himself at work and get out of working the extra hours. But his injury is never enough to warrant a doctors note or a claim.

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Sounds innocent. We’ve all wanted some extra time off or to do less work. But the actions of the Uncaring Employee have dire ramifications. Think of the other employees who see him get away with this year after year. They’ll think “if he can do it, why shouldn’t I?” or “the company clearly doesn’t care or do anything about it.”
His actions can be the beginning of an extensive loss in performance and production from your most committed and hard-working employees. This could lead to increases in WSIB or insurance premiums, slow down in workload, and rising costs for less output.

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So let’s work to catch this guy before this happens. Is he really injured? Or is he taking a day to go fishing? Maybe he is working on the side using company tools and equipment all the while your business covers the cost. An investigation into these innocuous acts can save you thousands of dollars down the road. Not to mention morale across your whole team and could even help your brand maintain it’s strong image.

Don’t let one uncaring employee damage your company. A proper investigation can not only assuage your fears, but can save your company time, money, and its image.




November 03 – 2017

Over the years I’ve worked on many different cases and met many different people. However, some people, or rather archetypes, keep popping up again and again. They share similar patterns and problems. This is the first write up of one of them I’ve done. I call this archetype the Untrustworthy Contractor.

The Untrustworthy Contractor.

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 Many businesses contract or sub-contract their work out to a third party. While most third parties are honest and hard working there are a few who are not. These individuals can damage not only businesses but for families as well with their work ethic and false promises.

They tend to offer below-market rates, even offering unbelievable deals and discounts to begin work as soon as possible. But, once the deposit has been received or work begins, they tend to disappear off the face of the planet.

They stop answering phone calls and emails and do not return to the job site.

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To find these bad apples isn’t easy, and to take them to small claim courts you must serve documents first, which is hard when they don’t want to be found.




October 06 – 2017

In late July last year, I was contacted by a concerned parent. Their daughter had just passed her G2 examination and was going to be driving on her own. They had a typical parental concern; their kids may be getting up to no good with their new freedoms, harming their future success.

Now the parents wanted a discreet way to monitor their daughter. I offered them a simple solution. They could rent one of my GPS trackers for the month and place it on the family vehicle. These are small, easily concealed devices that track movement, location, and speed.

I provided them with real-time access to the unit using their cell phone.This allowed them to check on their daughter at their own convenience.Screen Shot 2017-02-03 at 10.51.10 PM

Turned out the parents were surprised and delighted to learn their daughter was not engaging in any obvious delinquent behavior and was actually an all-around great driver.
She spent her time at the typical places a teenager would during the summer:

  • Starbucks
  • The mall
  • Part-time job
  • Finishing chores
  • At the theatre
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    The worst thing she did? She sped a little on long stretches of road.On our second meeting, the parents stated they were extremely happy with their daughter. They felt even stronger as a family as there was no more tension or worry. They remarked how a small device like a GPS tracker essentially erased all their worst fears by drawing a map.Since they had no reason to track her driving any longer they returned the GPS tracker two weeks early.



August 13 – 2017

I received a call from a friend a few years ago for some help on an assignment. He was working for a food manufacturer outside of Toronto who was in the midst of a large lay off during the holidays. They needed some additional help for property loss investigations and general security.

Blog3Our rules were simple:

  • The boardroom was to be our command center
  •  24-hour exterior and interior surveillance was required throughout the
    holiday season
  • Keep a record of any damage we found
  • Security was at our disposal for whatever we needed
  • Oh yeah, and don’t watch TV on the big screens

We began with two of my junior investigators looking over the storage and basement areas, while I took the kitchens and main offices. My juniors found only the standard stuff; damaged vending machines, graffiti on the walls and posters, and empty spots where coffee machines once sat.

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On the second day, I entered the kitchens space and smelled a putrid odor. I recognized it from my training as being Methyl Mercaptan. Gathering my team, we explored the space but couldn’t find where it was coming from. We called the fire department and evacuated the building.

The gas was shut down and the leak was discovered in the ceiling, slowly building up in the space between the walls. The building was shut down for a few days until the gas cleared, with the press, who were there to report the lay-offs, being none the wiser about it due to my team not leaking any information regarding the situation to them.

The fire department and the management were impressed we caught the gas leak, as the kitchens had been closed down and no one had been inspecting the space. It would have been a terrible tragedy if it had gone unnoticed.

Once the all-clear was given my team returned to work, thankfully for a quiet end to the season. I gave my team a week off before the next assignment, as they had done splendid work with the evacuation, news coverage, and security.

As for the leak.

It was an old building with old infrastructure. A small crack in some of the fittings was the only real culprit.