Many people visualize private investigation as the dirty job where one spouse hires some sleazy jerk to spy on the other spouse. This does tend to be a regularly requested job for a lot of private investigators, but it goes a lot further than that. A friend of mine shared a tweet where someone accused “supporters” of programs like e-verify of wanting the private sector to do the government’s job. This made me pause and take a little bit of offense (being in the private sector), when I realized that this is partially true. Think about it. If you want to do a background check on someone, can you run down to the police station and just get a background check? Some jurisdictions, you can (at least you used to be able to). It is becoming increasingly difficult to get government assistance. So, to illustrate the need for private investigation, I want to share a couple of stories with you.
The Bank Statement
One day, a client came to me concerned that her ex-husband had gained access to her financial records. She had received a copy of a statement from her bank and a note stating that this was a copy of the bank statements recently faxed to her per her request. She had not requested the bank statements, so she called the bank. The bank informed her that someone had called up with her social security number and birthdate (that’s all they required back then) and requested a copy of the bank statements to be provided via fax. They further explained that it is policy to send a copy to the address on file as well. When she adamantly (in their local branch) declared she had never made such a request, they escalated the situation and determined that the fax number was the same area code where her ex-husband was living. They had an upcoming court battle over missed alimony payments, so it made sense he was trying to get any ammunition to get out of paying what he owed. After trying to find out the steps for filing a police report, two pieces of information came about for her. 1- none of the law enforcement agencies knew how to help her because it crossed state lines and involved a bank (leaving it to the federal government); 2- no one would even consider a report without actual proof.
This client was very upset that her ex-husband had accessed the information, breaking the law, and the government was not interested in helping her. When she came to me and explained the situation, I asked her what she wanted. She wanted him arrested and put in jail where she felt he belonged. After explaining that a lot of crime occurs where law enforcement is not interested in actually enforcing the law. They are always low on budget, overworked, and cases where people are not injured or lose money really fall into civil matters for those who care enough (and have the money). We discussed a few options. I traced the fax number back to a public access location, so getting any information would require a court interceding and hiring another investigator in the state where her ex-husband lived. Then, it was highly probable they didn’t even keep records and all we would be able to confirm is that the fax was sent to that location (which we already had from the bank). After providing some other discouraging information, I gave her the cheapest and easiest solution. Wait until she goes into court, then when either he or his lawyer use the information in any way, get a copy of the court records as proof that they had somehow acquired the information. If they cannot provide a plausible reason, then both he and his lawyer are on the hook for illegally obtaining financial records. She was pleased with this suggestion and went off to court. She reported that he never did use the information, though the lawyer did ask a question about her financial status. After she returned from her court case, she decided to just cancel her account with the bank and place warnings on her next account requiring specific information that he would not have. She was happy with the outcome of the proceedings and the information really wasn’t anything special or worth investing more money into. So, while my services were quite minimal in this case, it is a great example of the government NOT wanting to do their job and the private sector having to work twice as hard to make up for it.
The Case of the Funeral Director
This particular story falls slightly outside of my services provided, but came from a friend of mine. It still shows the blatant disrespect for people by some government jurisdictions. Now, don’t get me wrong, many of my friends over the years have been in law enforcement. Most of the people I have met in law enforcement are good, hard-working people. In future blogs, I’ll share some cases that really do not need law enforcement attention and private investigation is the best solution. For now, this blog is focusing on why people think the private sector needs to do the government’s job.
My friend was an assistant to a funeral director. They work with families to bury their deceased loved ones, including the cleaning and preparation of the body for viewing and burial. One day, there was a body delivered from the neighboring county’s medical examiner’s office (some people call the medical examiner a coroner…though most medical examiners argue this is not correct). The information provided to the funeral home was that the man had died from a heart attack while driving his car. It had wrecked and the heart attack and most likely the injuries sustained from the accident resulted in his death. The body arrived like usual, and the funeral director and his assistant (my friend) got to work on prepping the man. During the cleaning process, my friend noticed a hole under the man’s arm that clearly resembled a bullet hole (keep in mind he saw a lot of different injuries, so he was very familiar with bullet hole wounds). Well, since the medical examiner’s office officially declared the cause of death as a heart attack, this was a little awkward. In the past, if they had something like this happen, the medical examiner’s office would tell them to keep quiet and do their job. Thankfully, there was a new medical examiner so the phone call from the funeral director was less awkward and the office advised the funeral home to stop all activities and collect everything for re-processing of what they could. The body was sent back to the medical examiner’s office (yes, very difficult for the poor family) and it ended up a murder investigation. I did not know my friend back when this had happened. If I had, I would have given him plenty of my cards! In this case, the private sector did not actually do the job of the government, but acted as the supporting role that is desperately needed.
How could Private Investigation have helped in these situations?
#1- in the bank situation, the best-case scenario was tracking down or catching the client’s ex-husband using the information or possibly accessing the bank account again. To be completely honest, law enforcement’s hands (either local or federal) were tied because it really looked like someone making wild accusations about their ex to help influence the court proceedings. Even though she and I both knew that wasn’t true, her only choice was to collect the proof for law enforcement to be able to really do anything (or to take civil action if they still did not want to do anything). Thus, had she decided to pursue it, she would have needed the help of the private sector to do what the “government” should technically do.
#2- Thankfully, there was a new medical examiner! In the event that the medical examiner’s office continued to tell them to keep quiet and pretend they never found anything, the best-case scenario is still the worst-case scenario. He never told me how they handled the prior incidents (or what they were), but I would hope they would advise the family of their findings, document what they can, and refer them to a private investigator. This was a perfect example of the private sector supporting the government and working together!
Government and Private Sector Are Necessary
This is just a tiny glimpse into the private sector needs, and how a private investigator can help. There are many other areas outside of the cheating spouse that can use the help of the private sector. The government has limited resources, limited finances, limited personnel, and cannot possibly police every crime all the time. They heavily rely on the public to help prevent crime through implementation of proven crime safety tips (such as lock your car doors when you leave your car in a parking lot), utilize the resources of the private industry to supplement the limited resources in any jurisdiction, and assist those individuals who need assistance outside of law enforcement or other government functions. All partners need to come to the table to help improve the quality of life of communities. While e-verify does not provide the level of information you would get from a background check through a private investigator, or one conducted at the government level, it still serves a need that people have. So, I do agree that supporters of e-verify think the private sector needs to do the job of the government, but I think it is a much more positive comment than it was intended. I also do not necessarily “support” e-verify, but I do acknowledge the necessity. If you are interested in learning more about online background checks, hop on over to my blog on the topic and keep an eye out for more examples of the need for private investigators (I have a lot more)!
-The Private I on Private Investigation- is there a need