Interview Techniques By Witness Personality Type: Part II: The Empath.

empathy

(Continuing the series)

Interview techniques by witness personality type: Last week, we stated:

“An often requested service for investigators is to interview witnesses in order to obtain written or recorded statements.

To that end, a successful interview is often based on the investigator’s approach and the better she can assess the subject’s personality, the more effective the interview.”

In our multiple-part series, this week we focus on interviewing an empathic witness.

Definition of an Empathic Personality: (The Mind Unleashed.org):

  • Feeling others emotions and taking them on as your own

  • Sensitive to violence, cruelty or tragedy

  • Creative

  • Addictive personality

  • Loves to daydream

Description of a Empathic Personality: (from Psychology Today):

“Empaths are highly sensitive and supportive. They are finely tuned instruments when it comes to emotions and tend to feel everything, sometimes to an extreme.”

Empaths unwillingly, unwittingly absorb, intuit and feel other people’s emotions — from joy to misery.”

Armed with the above knowledge, below are effective approaches that can be taken by an investigator attempting to elicit a strong, accurate and credible statement from an empathic witness.

  1. The empath, prone to daydreaming, needs to be kept on track by sticking to the facts as points of reference. Empathic witnesses may keenly recall many details at once, flooding their sensitive natures.  Albeit more time-consuming, let the empath tell the story their way but guide them to stay on point with facts.  I.e., keep them on a timeline track.  “The accident occurred at 12:30 p.m.  How long after the accident  did the police arrive?”  rather than “At what time did police show up at the accident scene?”  The latter is too abstract for an empath who is reliving, moment by moment, the witnessed event.  We’ve all experienced startling incidents which seem to either have occurred much more rapidly or stretched out impossibly longer than the reality. Guide (not lead) the empath through a factual timeline.
  2. Don’t lead (you can direct) an empath as, they tend towards creativity.  “In which hand was the defendant driver holding her cell phone?” is very different from the correct “Was the def. driver on her cell phone before or during the accident?”  The former may generate a very wrong interpretation of the facts.  If asked the first way, conceivably, what the empath witness meant and can potentially state during a deposition or trial, might be, “In her right hand.  After she pulled it out of her purse to call 911 after the accident.” Lawyers do not like to be surprised during negotiations or at trial.
  3. Recognize the memory-clouding emotional process that an empathic witness may experience.  An empath’s sensitivity is heightened.  She may process the pain and shock through the eyes of the actual victim during recall. Do not rush the interview.  While keeping the witness on track by time and position reference points, an investigator may be surprised by the voluminous recall by empaths.   Again, an empath is able to place herself in the victim’s state of mind and emotions at time/place of occurrence and observe the event through that prism.  Follow the facts through the emotions; conduct soft fact checks, though, such as asking the empathic witness if she’d been involved in a similar accident/incident.  If the recall timeline doesn’t make sense, the empath may be emotionally overwhelmed, thereby relaying events with huge sequential gaps.  Ensure that the facts make rational and logistical sense.  E.g., the witness may say, “I was in the same train car as the man who got hurt. The train was stopped at the Chambers Street station.  He slipped and fell on to the tracks where he was then run over.”  (This scenario is graphic but also true, and representative of the need to take accurate statements.) There are follow up questions then that an investigator must ask to correctly interpret that statement: 1. What was the position of the witness relative to the victim? Clear line of sight?  2. Had the witness observed the victim before the incident?  If so, what were the victim’s actions? Did he appear sick, injured or under the influence? 3. If the victim was in the car, how did he fall onto the tracks?  Was he between cars? 4. Obviously, the train must have bolted forward (brake test?) or begun traveling for the victim to have been struck. How long had the train been stopped at this station?  (The list goes on but the point has been made – the investigator must ensure the logical sequence of events.)

Continuing with this series, in the next Bulletin, we will cover, “The A-Type”: techniques for interviewing an alpha personality witness.

BNI Operatives: Situationally aware.

As always, stay safe.

Interview Techniques By Witness Personality Type: Part I: The Narcissist.

narcissist

An often requested service for investigators is to interview witnesses in order to obtain written or recorded statements.

To that end, a successful interview is often based on the investigator’s approach and the better she can assess the subject’s personality, the more effective the interview. Fortunately, most people are cooperative, fairly truthful and possess a relatively normal personality.  There have been quite a number of times, however, when we’ve had to extract information from people whose base nature or personality has been overwhelmingly outside of the normal range.

With these type subjects, it’s the investigator’s people skills that determine whether she will prevail.

In our multiple-part series, we begin this week with tips for interviewing a subject with a narcissistic personality. Because of their compulsive, detail-oriented personality bent, narcissists can actually make very good witnesses – if you know how to handle them.

Definition of a Narcissistic Personality:

Most experts use the criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), published by the American Psychiatric Association, to diagnose mental conditions and personalities.

DSM-5 criteria for a narcissistic personality include these features:

  • Having an exaggerated sense of self-importance
  • Expecting to be recognized as superior even without achievements that warrant it
  • Exaggerating your achievements and talents
  • Being preoccupied with fantasies about success, power, brilliance, beauty or the perfect mate
  • Believing that you are superior and can only be understood by or associate with equally special people
  • Requiring constant admiration
  • Having a sense of entitlement
  • Expecting special favors and unquestioning compliance with your expectations
  • Taking advantage of others to get what you want
  • Having an inability or unwillingness to recognize the needs and feelings of others

Description of a Narcissist (from Psychology Today):

Narcissism is often interpreted in popular culture as a person who’s in love with him or herself. It is more accurate to characterize the pathological narcissist as someone who’s in love with an idealized self-image, which they project in order to avoid feeling (and being seen as) the real, disenfranchised, wounded self.

Having the above knowledge, a field investigator should be able to quickly assess the subject’s personality during the pre-interview casual conversation we engage in with witnesses to determine where they are “coming from”.

If the investigator has ascertained that she is dealing with a narcissist, the three best basic approaches are:

  1. Provide positive feedback throughout the interview without being disingenuous and overly solicitous.  A narcissist needs to be constantly recognized but, is also suspicious of people who are being nice.
  2. Base the account from the narcissist’s perspective.  As with most people, but more so with a narcissist, people recall best when mentally positioned (though guided imagery) to recall an event from where they were at the moment of occurrence.
  3. Let the subject talk.  At some point, with mild encouragement, the narcissist, because of the compulsive component of this specific personality, will give you the information necessary to complete a thorough statement.  By his very narcissistic nature, he is exacting with details.  Also, we’ve found that engaging a narcissist in minor physical tasks (such as drawing a diagram of the location of accident or arranging site photos) during interviews, helps defuse excess energy and OCD-like behavior.

In the next Bulletin in this series, we will cover, “The Empath” – Does she give a true account of the incident or is she wrapped in the emotion of the moment, clouding her recall?

BNI Operatives: Situationally aware.

As always, stay safe.

Inheritance Theft: Rarely Committed By Strangers

Inheritance theft occurs when a person, usually a relative, friend, new spouse or advisor, takes advantage of his or her relationship with the person making the will (called a testator), to obtain or take money or property from the testator that the testator intended to leave to his legal heirs.

The person attempting to steal the testator’s assets gains his trust and proceeds to use such tactics as undue influence, isolation, manipulation, lies, threats or forgery to obtain alleged “gifts”, cash and property.

When most people hear the term inheritance theft, they presume these are acts committed by outsiders that are not related to the testator.  The opposite is true- the vast majority of inheritance thefts are committed by the testator’s own children or other family members.

Seniors are particularly vulnerable to inheritance theft and – under undue influence –  will give away valuables, money and other property to people that visit or stay with them more or help them on a regular basis, especially if the testator’s relatives live far away.

Signs of Inheritance Theft:

  1. The inheritance thief physically moves in or close to his intended victim or visits often.
  2. He insinuates himself into the daily lifestyle of the testator (runs errands, accompanies testator to medical appointments, becomes involved in financial matters, etc.)
  3. There are signers or owners are added to the testator’s bank accounts.
  4. There are bank, brokerage, and retirement account statements indicating withdrawals in amounts that are greater than normal.
  5. The testator is isolated from other family members.

Penalties for Inheritance Theft:

Anyone involved in an inheritance scam can potentially face criminal charges for a variety of crimes including:

  • State or federal fraud charges.
  • Bank fraud charges
  • Identity theft charges
  • Wire fraud charges
  • Forgery charges

These criminal charges, if proven, carry serious penalties and, a defendant could also be subject to civil or criminal forfeiture, a civil lawsuit and forced to pay restitution to the victim.

BNI Operatives: Situationally aware

As always, stay safe.

Facial Recognition At Airports, Privacy Concerns And Options.

Airline travelers are now facing a new reality- their faces are now being used as boarding pass I.D.s.

Facial recognition technology is now in use at boarding gates for international flights at major airports in Europe, Asia and the U.S., even as privacy concerns about the technology continue to grow.

JetBlue has incorporated facial recognition technology at airports in New York; Delta in Atlanta, Minneapolis and Salt Lake City, with the remainder of its hubs added by year end 2019.  International airlines (such as Air France, Lufthansa and Norwegian) are also scanning faces to board airplanes in the U.S.

In Atlanta, Delta is using facial recognition for international passengers anywhere you would have to normally show your i.d./passport, i.e., the TSA checkpoint and boarding gate. You just look into the camera and the system identifies you and knows your destination and then prints out the luggage tag, eliminating the need for your passport and I.D. at boarding.  Just look into the camera and then go through the body scanners. Your seat assignment is processed at the gate, once again via facial recognition.

While facial recognition airport security and boarding is currently optional, Delta states that, as of last month,  only 2% of its passengers have thus far opted out of the program at the locations where it is in place.  If you wish to bypas the f.r. technology, simply hand over your passport and I.D. as in the past.

But privacy advocates have raised concern.

Marc Rotenberg, president of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, a Washington, D.C., nonprofit research organization, says facial recognition can easily be misused unless strict rules are in place.

“It is a very intrusive identification technique, because it’s general-purpose. That technology being used by CBP (Customs and Border Protection) could be used by other federal agencies for other purposes,” he says. After airports, the government might take it to federal office buildings where people today can enter without being identified, Mr. Rotenberg says.

CBP says airline use of facial recognition isn’t an expansion, only a better way to confirm who’s onboard.

“This is not a surveillance program. This is replacing a manual check that goes on today,” says John Wagner, deputy executive assistant commissioner of CBP.

WSJ, August 14, 2019

We will certainly monitor this boarding process shift involving facial recognition technology and, update as warranted.

BNI Operatives: Situationally aware.

As always, be safe.

 

Profiling The Latest Social Media Predator: The Carpetbomber

Recently, we constructed a profile of an online predator known as a catfisher.  Recapped: one involved in this activity creates a fake profile (or uses his real name but provides very little verifiable personal information) and pursues unwitting targets via social media for his own selfish reason – whether it’s attention-seeking, pursuing an offline sexual encounter, a money grab, etc.  We previously provided these tips on identifying catfishers:

How To Spot A Catfisher:

1. Caginess about life details: Marital status, age, location, field of employment, etc.

2. Has few photos of himself.

3. The few photos that he has posted aren’t usually of him with consistent people in his life.

4. Few, if any, posts on his timeline denoting real time activities with friends and family.

On the heels of the Catfisher, we’re now encountering cases involving the “CarpetBomber”.  Having undoubtedly catfished to select his targets- he friends them on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. and gains access to their cell numbers – he then claims to not be on that social media platform any longer.

How To Spot A Carpetbomber:

1.Texts seemingly innocuous (“feeler”) messages during off (evening/late night) hours.

2. Engages the target, over the course of time,  in more revealing, confidential conversations.

3. Builds on this “trust” and becomes more demanding – pushing the target’s comfort zones.  (The carpetbomber generally employs passive/aggressive control over the targets- complimenting upon cooperation; punishing the unaccommodating or reluctant with silence, withholding, disrespect, etc.)

4. Portrays himself as a “giver” to others – emotionally, physically, financially, etc.,  – yet he mostly demands from his targets.

5. Off kilter messages. Very few people can maintain fluid simultaneous multiple conversations.  In identifying a carpetbomber, look for texts that seemingly make sense but are slightly out of context or the timing is delayed or off.  While texting can lend itself to misunderstandings, it has a logical flow.  Carpetbombing does not follow a normal conversational stream.  It is often stilted, with the predator apologizing for “mistakes” and often blames the technology, trying  to appear self-effacing re: his tech skills.

6. Almost all communication is in writing; either by text or email.  The carpetbomber is messaging several targets at once –  impossible to do by phone.

7. Uses messaging apps with secret chats (which he can permanently delete on both ends), such as Snapchat or Telegram.

Don’t be fooled by this ever-evolving predator; he knows exactly what he is doing, what he wants and considers himself an expert on human nature- i.e., perverting its base instincts and innocence.

Bottom line: If it doesn’t read right, it’s usually not.  Keep an eye out for especially emotionally vulnerable people. If a loved one or a friend is becoming secretive, experiencing personality shifts, operating at strange hours… find out with whom they are communicating.   Perhaps an earlier intervention can preclude a damaging result.

BNI Operatives: Situationally aware.

As always, stay safe.

What You Need to Know About Text-to-911

 

The FCC encourages emergency call centers to begin accepting texts as text providers develop text-to-911 capability, but it is up to each call center to decide the particular method in which to implement and deploy text-to-911 technology.

FCC rules require all wireless carriers and other providers of text messaging applications in the United States to deliver emergency texts to call centers that request them. If a call center requests text-to-911 service, text messaging providers must deliver the service in that area within six months.

To check to see if the 911 call center in your area supports text-to-911, download the FCC list of areas supporting available service (updated monthly). But even in areas where call centers accept text-to-911, existing voice-based 911 service is still the most reliable and preferred method of contact.

How to contact 911

If you use a wireless phone or other type of mobile device, make sure to do the following in an emergency:

  • Always contact 911 by making a voice call, if you can.
  • If you are deaf, hard of hearing or speech disabled, and text-to-911 is not available, use a TTY or a telecommunications relay service, if possible.
  • Remember that in many cases you cannot reach 911 by sending a text message.

Bounce-back messages

If you attempt to send a text to 911 where the service is not yet available, FCC rules require all wireless carriers and other text messaging providers to send an automatic “bounce-back” message that will advise you to contact emergency services by another method, such as making a voice call or using telecommunications relay service (for persons who are deaf, hard of hearing or have a speech disability). Bounce-back messages are intended to minimize your risk of mistakenly believing that a text to 911 has been transmitted to an emergency call center.

Which service providers are not required to support text-to-911?

  • The FCC’s text-to-911 rules do not apply to text messaging applications that do not support texting to and from U.S. phone numbers.
  • Text messaging apps that only support texting with other app users or texting via social media are not required to support text-to-911.

Bottom line: In an emergency: Call if you can, text if you can’t.

 

BNI Operatives: Situationally aware.

As always, stay safe.

Preparing For a Divorce: The Plan.

It’s hard to imagine planning for a divorce as one is usually in the emotional process of the marriage break up and not focused on the financial aspects.  Considering that money is the number two cause of divorce in the U.S., perhaps the marriage’s economic condition needs stronger monitoring throughout to ensure that foundation remains strong.

But if you have arrived at the point of no return within the marriage, ensure that you do as much as possible to secure your financial future.

1. Secure funds for attorneys, other professionals and the divorce itself.  Plan to have enough funds on hand to pay the professionals and your living expenses for at least three years.,  A divorce can occur within a much shorter time period; it can go longer.  Be prepared.

2. Hire an attorney.  Do not try winging a settlement with your ex by yourself.  (Especially if you are an attorney.) Rarely does a divorce come as a surprise for either partner and each party is going to naturally view asset ownership to benefit themselves.  Divorce is complicated and requires a dedicated and experienced professional who is not emotionally tied to the matter.

3. Collect financial documentation.   Gather bank statements, tax returns, brokerage account statements, credit card statements, real estate documents, mortgage applications and contracts, documents related to major purchases, wills and trust information,  life insurance policies, etc.   While this may appear to be a massive undertaking (and it is), it will prove invaluable during the divorce process.  Knowledge is power.

4. Make lists of all known assets, liabilities, real estate, and business interests.  You require as complete an accounting as possible in a divorce.  Your memory or what you think you own are generally not as reliable as a thorough list of all financial interests.

5. Open accounts only in your name. Open new bank accounts and credit cards, preferably at banks or companies in which you do not have joint accounts. Use completely different passwords than you have in the past.

6. Monitor your credit. Obtain your  credit report and review it for accounts you may not know about.  Look specifically at the bottom of your credit report to determine which companies have made inquiries into your rating.  This may give you an indication of other expenses or assets that your spouse may have secretly secured.

7. Get a secure mailing address and email. You will need a secure address to send the statements for your new accounts, to receive correspondence from your attorney, or to receive other important communication. Do not allow these papers to come to your house, as your spouse could intercept them.  For security and privacy, a post office box is probably the best option. Same for a new email address- select a user name and password that is not easily guessed by your ex.

8. Change beneficiaries and decision-makers. You should change your will and your healthcare proxy to ensure that your spouse does not have decision-making capabilities.  Likewise, regarding the beneficiaries on your life insurance policies and financial accounts.  Do not wait for the divorce to be final to make these changes; anything can happen in the interim.

9. Don’t assume that you will get half of everything in the divorce. State laws vary, and the concept of equitable distribution doesn’t necessarily mean an even split. Pay attention to your attorney’s advice and be prepared to negotiate assets and liabilities with your spouse.

10. Prepare yourself for a lengthy process. Your divorce might be finalized quickly or it might not.  You should be prepared for the long-term scenario as it will allow you to negotiate from a position of strength rather than under financial duress.  Prepare a plan of action with your attorney and other professionals at the outset of the divorce process and negotiate a payment plan at specific benchmarks so that all parties are prepared to see the divorce through to a fair and equitable division of assets.

Finally, emotions will run high on both sides in a divorce but under no condition should you ever take it upon yourself to follow your spouse to determine activity or location of hidden assets, resort to any sort of wiretapping, hacking into smart phones or other devices. Prepare a timeline of important financial events in your marriage (real property purchases, vehicles, pension participation…) and leave it to your attorney and his investigative resources to locate these assets.

A divorce is difficult for all parties involved.  Keep your sites on your future and ensure that you are surrounded by people with the same focus.

BNI Operatives: Situationally aware.

As always, stay safe.

 

Insurance Companies Paying Cops to Investigate Their Own Clients?

If you’ve been an investigator in the private sector long enough, you will have, directly or indirectly, worked for an insurance company.  Obviously, it is in the best interest of the insurance company to ensure that all claims are legitimate and true.  Also, this oversight is beneficial for consumers; reining in false claims helps maintain reasonable coverage rates.   The usual investigation into an insurance claim involves surveillance.  The investigator is a private citizen, observing the subject from a public (obviously not overt) location.  Background searches may be conducted as well, to obtain information that may yield other employment or additional addresses for the subject and or frequently-visited relatives.  Evidence surfaces that confirms the claim’s legitimacy or, potential fraud.  The evidence is then turned over to the insurance company or their SIU (Special Investigations Unit).  From this point forward, the company has sole control over the case, i.e., whether it remains a civil matter or potentially, a criminal one.   If the latter, they will contact the law enforcement or prosecutorial agency of jurisdiction.  The investigator has no involvement in that decision-making process and certainly, not any law enforcement capability.

But what if the investigator is a police officer or a prosecutor?

This recently published article addresses just that real time situation.  (To state that the headline alone alarmed me is an understatement.)

BuzzFeed (August 15, 2019)

When police showed up at Harry Schmidt’s home on the outskirts of Pittsburgh, he thought they were there to help. He was still mourning the disappearance of the beloved forest green Ford F-150 pickup that he’d customized with a gun storage cabinet, and he hoped the cops had solved the crime.

Instead, the officers accused him of faking the theft. The Vietnam veteran was now facing up to seven years in prison.

Schmidt was stunned, but he was even more upset when he found out who had turned him in.

Erie Insurance, one of the nation’s largest auto insurers, had not only provided the cops with evidence against its own loyal customer — it had actively worked with them to try to convict him of insurance fraud.

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