Afraid to text your drug dealer? Try a ‘Dumb Phone’

New York yuppie party people are reportedly freaking out following a rash of high profile drug busts that included a Merrill Lynch associate and a millionaire Chipotle exec, the New York Post reports. From the article: ‘A Manhattan publicist who considers herself a weekend indulger admits the headline-grabbing arrests serve as a wake-up call. “This is actually terrifying. Everybody is scared,” says the 30-something, adding that she intends to curb her cocaine use. After all, if you get arrested, “your face is all of a sudden all over the world. Your career is over.”’

The paranoid partiers are afraid to text their dealers. Some are using services that delete messages after a day, while others have resorted to buying through third parties. As they hunt for high tech solutions, my question is: Why don’t they use burner phones? Anyone can walk into a phone store, put ‘Mickey Mouse’ down as your name and pay cash for a phone that is virtually untraceable.

Smart phone technology is great for many things: Swiping to find a love interest, checking out Yelp reviews of a new Thai place or figuring out how to walk to the nearest 24-hour CVS – NOT for putting ‘Coke Dealer’ in your contacts.

Why I won’t seduce your spouse

This week I have had two people ask me to sleep with their spouses – which, as a reasonably attractive female PI, is definitely an occupational hazard. It’s also a constant cocktail party punchline: “So you try to hit on men, trap them and take pictures, right?” I usually make a joke like “Of course. Just add three zeros to the end of my hourly rate,” or “I think you’re confusing me with Craigslist,” which tends to get the message across.

Seriously, enough already. I’m an investigator. Not a hooker. I will not seduce your spouse. I can get what I want through careful planning, intelligence and hard work–I don’t need to take my top off.

Yes, there are agencies (whom I will not name) who use women – usually unlicensed, inexperienced women – that act as ‘decoys’ to hit on men and ‘honeytrap them’. I am not one of them – and in almost all cases, I believe that this practice is a bad idea. Here’s why:

Surveillance is expensive, and cheating usually doesn’t matter in court. I work in mostly no-fault divorce states. That means that, in most cases – barring a pre-nup that spells out specific consequences for bad behavior (which I don’t recommend) – the judge will not give you a better settlement if you walk in on your wife having a three-way with her cousin and a circus midget.

Of course, I do my share of following cheaters. If someone already knows but just wants closure, or is worried about child custody issues, it could make sense to get intel on a new paramour.

For example, I had a recent case involving a husband who became suspicious about his ex-wife’s new boyfriend, and needed to see if he was doing drugs on a regular basis. In this instance, hours of surveillance absolutely made sense – especially since she was planning to move him in with the couple’s two young children.

Sometimes the infidelity is the ‘gateway’ to the subject’s double life, and can lead to intelligence about criminal activity, cons, fraud, drug dealing, money laundering and even murder.

I don’t believe in entrapment. Relationships are rarely black and white. Honestly, when someone is in a rocky relationship (which, if the client has come to me, they are)  talking to, flirting with, and even planning a night out with an attractive member of the opposite sex proves nothing.

To truly find out if they would go all the way, I would have to kiss/touch/sleep with them. Which brings me to my next point…

I NEVER cross physical lines with subjects. I’ve spent more than a decade deconstructing human behavior, and developing skills that make people want to talk to me. Would I flirt to get information? Probably. To me that is no more emotionally manipulative than a cop who makes the suspect believe that he is sympathetic in order to get a confession.

But getting physical would cross a MAJOR moral and ethical line for me. Also, many of my subjects are wealthy, powerful and handsome. If I enjoyed the hookup, it would be a major conflict of interest – not to mention the fact that if the case ever did make it to court, my professional reputation would be seriously tarnished.

So to all you suspicious spouses out there – I would love to help you with your case. But for all the reasons listed above, please remember that only organ on offer is my brain!

Roommate Background Checks

We’ve all done our share of Google background checks, especially after meeting a new friend, new crush or potential job lead. Now, in a plot twist that reads like a 21st century Single White Female, the search engine has helped one woman bust a serial scammer who became her new roommate.

The Oregon Statesman-Journal reports that a woman accused of befriending people throughout the state of Oregon, then stealing their cash or running up huge charges on their credit cards, has been nabbed in Los Angeles.

This happened after her new roommate – the tipster – called the LAPD and said that she and the scammer had met three weeks prior and become instant BFFs. However, after noticing that something seemed off about her new housemate’s descriptions of her background, the tipster called the cops. It turns out that the 24-year-old suspect had been scamming people for the past three years – and even stolen a car from her own sister.

I’ve done my share of roommate and/or tenant background checks – below are my tips to ensure that using Craigslist doesn’t lead to parting with cash.

1. Don’t rely on the credit check

Credit checks can give you helpful information that can help gauge a potential roommate or tenant’s financial history, income and ability to pay. But a credit check is NOT the same thing as a character check – and many scammers appear to have decent credit history because they keep multiple cards open with just the minimum balance paid – or because they have stolen multiple identities.

2. Check social security numbers

A private investigator can run a check on a subject’s social security number, which can contain a wealth of information. The social security number can, among other things, ensure that you are checking out the right person – and that the potential tenant isn’t using a dead guy’s identity (this happens more often than you might think).

3. Check address history

A complete address history is essential when looking for someone to share your space. Pay especially close attention if the subject is older than his or her early twenties and gives a parent’s or close relative’s address as their only point of contact- they could be omitting unpaid landlord and friends. Address history should also include liens on properties, lawsuits related to the address, evictions and other names linked to accounts. Which brings me to my final point:

4. ALWAYS make phone calls

There is no substitute for picking up the phone to call references – not just the ones that the subject provides, but anyone else who may have information about a candidates history. A good investigator can provide names and telephone numbers of former and current neighbors and colleagues to help get the complete story.


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