Asset Searches: Defined By Matter Type and Scope

(Contact Beacon Network Investigations)

Generally, an asset search investigation is requested to determine a subject’s tangible assets-  quite often, ordered by a guardian ad litem to satisfy the court that there are no other recoverable assets when injuries exceed insurance policy limits, and just as often to determine financial stability of a prospective partner or employee, (the latter in a position of fiduciary trust).

 

A basic checklist for the legal professional is to:

1. Relay the need-to-know reason to your investigative specialist. A business partnership dissolution v. a medmal case requires a very different focus.

2. Obtain as much lead information from your client as possible. The more information the investigative specialist is given, quite often, the more she can return and, in a more cost-effective manner.

3. Local hard records are often more reliable than those compiled into generalized databases. The first step in recording any asset begins at a local level. Many information companies provide “nationwide” database information. The drawbacks to commencing an asset search on a “dumping ground” database basis first, however, are

a) records update lag (delays up to 18 months),

b) incorrect data collection errors (many nationwide databases can return results only with exact names – misspellings will often register “no hit” status) and

c) incomplete information.

Another aspect of an asset search is a true analysis of the date factors. For e.g., a real estate asset search may return with a negative hit for current property ownership but check the sale dates of the subject’s latest residences.  All too often we’ve come across a recent home sale, leaving the subject with a large sum of money.  Always pay attention to timelines.

So now you, the attorney,  have the subject’s tangible assets information. The subject owns a CPW pied-a-terre, a home in the Kensington section of Great Neck and a boat docked at the Huguenot Marina. The next step, from an investigative standpoint should be to determine if the subject has any liens, judgments, bankruptcies and other pending litigation, and from there, conduct a full criminal background check.

So how far is far enough with an asset search? Assess the potential settlement/judgment. For a large settlement/judgment, request a full background and asset search (certain convictions can prohibit a person from holding officer position in a business); medium settlement/judgment: basic background and asset search and for a small judgment: a basic asset search.

BNI Operatives: Situationally aware.

As always, be safe.

Favorite Tools Of The Professional P.I. – And Others Who Work For A Living

pi-tools

I’m often asked which tools simplify my life as a private investigator. The top three on my list are:

  1. Truthful witnesses
  2. Forthcoming clients
  3. PayPal for Business

Aside from that:

Evernote – I scan and save important documents and things I may want to refer to later when browsing the web.

Bitly – I share links on social media, in emails and when writing reports dozens of times daily. Bitly helps me shorten those long, ugly links. I also have a cool branded link for my business if that is interesting for you.

Zapier – This helps me automate tasks between web apps. So if I put a new client into QuickBooks, Zapier automatically adds their contact details into my client newsletter in MailChimp or WordPress. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Social Media and Content Marketing

Constant Contact – With Constant Contact, you can schedule, publish and analyze all your social media posts in one place.

Canva – I use Canva to create images for social media, blog posts and just about anything else. It can instantly turn you into an amateur graphic designer.

Feedly – Add your favorite blogs and websites to start filling up your feed with content that rocks.

Google Analytics – Easily track site traffic and visitor behavior to see how your content is performing.

File Sharing

Dropbox – Dropbox has become synonymous with online file sharing, and for a good reason.

Business

QuickBooks Online – We switched from QuickBooks to QuickBooks Online about four years ago, and have not looked back. It’s become better and better every year.

Google Docs – I use Google Apps for Work and Google Docs to collaborate with other investigators on documents. It’s the best collaborator that I have worked with for things like word processing documents and spreadsheets.

Microsoft Office 365 – Even though I am huge fan of Google Docs, I still use Microsoft Office to write reports. In part, because Google Docs does not have all of the advanced formatting options that Microsoft Word does.

Security

LastPass – With access to hundreds of databases and websites, it’s not easy keeping track of passwords. But LastPass stores difficult-to-crack, encrypted passwords in the cloud that can be used on multiple platforms.

Google Authenticator – I am a huge proponent of two-factor authentication, which protects your accounts with a second form of authentication by adding an extra layer of security to your account. Google Authenticator protects your account with both your password and your phone, by providing a “secret” code so that nobody can get in.

StrongVPN – A VPN secures your computer’s internet connection to guarantee that all of the data you’re sending and receiving is encrypted and secured from prying eyes. I have been using StrongVPN for several years without a glitch, primarily because it allows me to have a static IP, but there are a number of great services out there.

Website Hosting / WordPress Theme

Synthesis – I used a number of different web hosts for the first few years until I came across Synthesis. It’s probably not the cheapest service out there, but it’s reliable and fast, and the support is great.

StudioPress Themes for WordPress – If you like the way this website looks, then you need to have a WordPress site from StudioPress. These are the best WordPress themes out there.

Editing

ProofreadNOW.com – I can write like the wind, but I am no grammarian. I leave that up to ProofreadNOW.com. For a nominal fee, they will have professional proofreaders make sure that every blog post I write has every “t” crossed and every “i” dotted.

BNI Operatives: Situationally aware.

As always, stay safe.

Uncovering the Bullies: Monitoring Your Child’s Cell Phone

It is rare that we release information that can be used in a negative manner but our concern over the sharp rise of child suicides – often due to bullying –  has caused us to take this unusual step to inform those who need to know: how to monitor their child’s cell phone.  (For those who choose to use this information for nefarious purposes – don’t be a jackass. That you need to rely on this article to spy on someone proves that you are clueless. You will be caught – your spying activity on others, without their express permission, is illegal.)

mSpy (Spy App for iPhone)

mSpy is very easy to use. All you have to do is install the mSpy app on the target phone and then activate it using your license code. Once that’s done, you’ll be able to monitor the phone’s activity remotely through the mSpy online portal.

Once mSpy is activated, you can log in to the online portal to access information collected from the target phone such as messages (texts, WhatsApp and other messaging apps), phone calls, browsing history, and GPS location. mSpy is easy to use but also has many advanced features including social media monitoring, keylogger, no-jailbreak version, parental controls and more.

  • Social Media Monitoring: mSpy tracks your child’s activity on Facebook, Snapchat, Hangouts, WhatsApp, and Skype.
  • Keylogger: It records every keystroke made by the user. If your child uses an instant messaging app that mSpy can’t track directly, you can still see every keystroke typed.
  • No Jailbreak Solution: The mSpy iPhone spy software allows you to spy on your child’s iPhone without jailbreaking it. This technique works by pulling data from iCloud backups. You will need to know your child’s Apple ID and password.
  • Parental Controls: mSpy can be used as a parental control software for mobile phone. It allows parents to block inappropriate websites and incoming calls. In addition, you can control which apps can be used and when on your child’s phone.
  • Price: mSpy Basic costs $29.99 per month; mSpy Premium costs $69.99 per month or $199.99 per year.

 

Highster Mobile (Spy App for Android)

Highster Mobile is also simple to install and use.  Just download and install it onto the target phone, enter your license key, and you are good to go.  There are no settings or options to configure. After installation, you can log into your account and start tracking.

While Highster doesn’t have as many features as mSpy, but it’s a great app for those who want to spy on an Android phone without rooting or unlocking the phone. It has most of the features you’ll likely need.

  • Real-time GPS Tracking: Know where they are at all times and know where they are going. Track their cell phone location history & current location. Locations are displayed on a map on the company’s website.
  • Text Message Monitoring: Read their text messages, even those that have been deleted. Keeps a running record of all text messages sent and received.
  • View Call Logs: View the phone’s call history, including calls made, calls received, calls missed, phone numbers, and the date, time, and duration of the calls.
  • View Photos: All of the photos on their phone will be uploaded to your account.
  • View Browsing History: Track which websites they’ve visited and what they’ve searched for.
  • View Contacts, Calendar & Apps: View their contacts, calendar entries and installed apps.
  • Social Media Monitoring: Monitor different social media apps they use and who they talk to, including Facebook, WhatsApp, and even Snapchat messages. This feature, however, is only available on rooted devices. (If you do not know what this means (rooting or jailbreaking), or the consequences, don’t even think about it.)
  • Price: It only costs a one-time fee of $69.99 – making it one of the cheapest spy apps on the market today.

There are more high-end cell phone spy apps that have many more features: such as recording phone calls and even surroundings but we suggest training wheels at first.  This is your child, not an international, deep-cover spy.

BNI Operatives: Situationally aware.

As always, stay safe.

3 Tools To Easily Unsubscribe From Emails

emails
(Our tip today comes from PCWorld.)

3 tools that easily unsubscribe you from emails

Use these services to get rid of unwanted messages and reclaim your inbox.

 

Unroll.me: This free service uses a simple web interface to surface all your subscriptions and let you unsubscribe from each with a single click.

Unroll.me displays all your subscriptions and lets you unsubscribe from each with a single click.

Just go to Unroll.me and sign in with your Google, Yahoo!, Outlook, or AOL account (if your provider is not one of those, you can sign in with your email address). Unroll.me then displays a list of all you subscriptions with three options next to each one: Add to Rollup, Unsubscribe, or Keep in Inbox. Click the Unsubscribe button next to each one you no longer want to receive.

Inevitably there will be some subscriptions you want to keep. In those cases, click Add to Rollup to have them added to a daily digest of newsletters to be sent to you each morning, afternoon, or evening. Rollups can be viewed as a list or grid, and you can add or remove subscriptions from them at any time. You can also opt to have Unroll.me notify you monthly of your new subscriptions.

Unlistr: Unlistr lets you keep or unsubscribe to email with the push of a button.
Similar to Unroll.me, Unlistr finds all your email subscriptions and allows you to easily opt out of them on iOS, Android, or in Outlook.

Once you sign in with your email account, Unlistr asks you to choose an inbox or folder to clean up. It then scans that selection and presents you with a list of senders. For each one, you just tap the radial button next to it then select either the Keep or Unsubscribe button at the bottom of the screen. Be sure about your decisions, though, as Unlistr warns that any subscriptions you “keep” will be ignored in future scans.

Unlistr is free for iOS and Android but requires a $20 annual subscription for Outlook.

Unsubscriber: With Unsubcriber, there’s no new app to download or separate interface to use. It allows you to unsubscribe from senders from right inside your email client.

Once you sign in on the Unsubscriber website with your email account, this service adds a new “Unsubscribe” folder to your inbox. Just drag unwanted messages into it, and those senders won’t show up in your inbox anymore. The process is similar in your mobile device’s email app.

All the email senders in this folder are compiled in an Unsubscribed list on the Unsubscriber website, from which you can resubscribe to any email.

Unsubscriber is free to use.

I’m going to take my own advice and finally (perhaps) attack these 33,000+ emails I’ve ignored for a few months. Years.

BNI Operatives: Situationally aware.

As always, stay safe.

International Travel- Important Info

Parents are planning their family vacations, exhausted professionals scheduling their foreign getaways – good and necessary breaks to rebalance focus and energy.

Below are several tips for foreign travel that you should know.

  1. Local emergency numbers

 

local emergency numbers

 

 

      2. U. S. Embassies, Consulates Diplomatic MIssions worldwide

Homepage

 

     3. Real ID: What is it, who is required to have it to travel and the mandatory deadline set by the Department of Homeland Security for all travelers to have this type enhanced driver’s license or government i.d. 

The REAL ID Act establishes minimum security standards for license issuance and production and prohibits Federal agencies from accepting for certain purposes driver’s licenses and identification cards from states not meeting the Act’s minimum standards. The purposes covered by the Act are: accessing Federal facilities, entering nuclear power plants, and, boarding federally regulated commercial aircraft. Compliance by all states is mandatory by October 1, 2020.

See where your state stands n regard to compliance: https://www.dhs.gov/real-id

Get your documents in order and always have the consulate and emergency numbers info on hand when you travel outside of the United States.

BNI Operatives: Situationally aware.

As always, stay safe.

 

 

Definitions Of Defamation, Slander And Libel

Differences Between Defamation, Slander, and Libel

Credit: Brett Sember, Esq., reprinted by permission

Defamation, slander, and libel are terms that frequently confused with each other. They all fall into the same category of law and have to do with communications that falsely debase someone’s character.

Defamation Definition

What is defamation? Defamation is a false statement presented as a fact that causes injury or damage to the character of the person it is about. An example is “Tom Smith stole money from his employer.” If this is untrue and if making the statement damages Tom’s reputation or ability to work, it is defamation. The person whose reputation has been damaged by the false statement can bring a defamation lawsuit.

Defamation of character happens when something untrue and damaging is presented as a fact to someone else. Making the statement only to the person the statement is about (“Tom, you’re a thief”) is not defamation because it does not damage that person’s character in anyone else’s eyes.

Importance of Intent

Another crucial part of a defamation case is that the person makes the false statement with a certain kind of intent. The statement must have been made with knowledge that it was untrue or with reckless disregard for the full truth (meaning the person who said it knew that they were negatively shading the truthfulness but said it anyhow). If the person being defamed is a private citizen and not a celebrity or public figure, defamation can also be proven when the statement was made with negligence as to determining its truth (the person speaking should have known it was false or should have questioned it). This means it is easier to prove defamation when you are a private citizen. There is a higher standard required if you are a public figure.

Some states have laws that automatically make certain statements defamation. Any false statement that a person has committed a serious crime, has a serious infectious disease, or is incompetent in his profession are automatically defamatory under these laws.

Slander and Libel Definition

What is SlanderWhat is LibelLibel and slander are both types of defamation. Libel is an untrue defamatory statement that is made in writing. Slander is an untrue defamatory statement that is spoken orally. The difference between defamation and slander is that a defamatory statement can be made in any medium. It could be in a blog comment or spoken in a speech or said on television. Libelous acts only occur when a statement is made in writing (digital statements count as writing) and slanderous statements are only made orally.

You may have heard of seditious libel. The Sedition Act of 1798 made it a crime to print anything false about the government, president, or Congress. The Supreme Court later modified this when it enacted the rule that a statement against a public figure is libel only if it known to be false or the speaker had a reckless disregard for the truth when making it.

Damages for Defamation

Suing for slander, libel, or defamation brings a civil suit in a state court and alleges that under the slander laws or libel laws of that state the person who brought about the lawsuit was damaged by the conduct of the person who made the false statement. A libel or slander lawsuit seeks monetary damages for harm caused by the statement, such as pain and suffering, damage to the plaintiff’s reputation, lost wages or a loss of ability to earn a living, and personal emotional reactions such as shame, humiliation, and anxiety.

Defamation is an area of law that protects people’s reputations by allowing them recourse if false statements are made about them. This type of civil case is an effective way to protect your reputation.

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Our advice is simple:  If you’re being defamed, assess the source.  If the actions of your defamer have the real potential to harm you or your reputation, personally or professionally, consult an attorney and have your lawyer issue a cease and desist letter immediately.  If the harmful comments being made about you are from a source that is not respected and generally known to be an incompetent, jealous or otherwise petty person, your relationships with your family, friends and business contacts will not be affected.  Let the offender wallow in her undoubtedly miserable life.

BNI Operatives: Situationally aware.

As always, stay safe.

Facebook Quizzes, Cute And A Perfect Tool For Identity Thieves.

Just about everyone on Facebook has been drawn to taking one of those “Share with your friends” quizzes – the last widely spread lure being “What Is Your Elf On A Shelf Name?”.  Full disclosure: I was halfway through that one myself when I realized what I do for a living. <facepalm>  In my defense, who doesn’t love a good quiz?  Aside from my Elf name, I was curious to know which Disney princess I am and what food matches my personality. Not smart.

Quite a few police departments have issued a Facebook quiz scam alert, warning that those “harmless” quizzes may not actually be all that harmless after all.

Think about the security questions we have to answer to just about every one of our online accounts – banking, credit reporting agencies, even Expedia, etc.   Who was your first-grade teacher? What was your favorite pet’s name? What’s the first name of your childhood best friend?  By providing this information in a social media quiz, you may be handing hackers the keys to your identity.  Hackers then build a profile of you through several different data sources.

An example of how quiz scamming works:

This quiz uses the first letter of your first name and your birth month to determine your “Elf” name. So, when you post your response, online hackers can figure out your birth month and then click through to your profile page to get more information.

facebook quiz scam alert

A nugget of information in isolation may not seem like a big deal, but combining that with other data that may be out there can result in a greater threat,” says Rachel Rothman, Chief Technologist for the Good Housekeeping Institute. “Be mindful of photos or posts that could give away information about your location or self (like your birthday) and consider if you are posting something that could be used to locate you offline or make it easier for someone to figure out any of your passwords.”

While the person posting and sharing these quizzes usually has innocent intentions, your response puts the information out there for all to see. That can be scammers or, as the Better Business Bureau points out, data mining companies who sell your information to other businesses.

With Valentine’s Day coming up this week, please resist the urge to respond to “What Does Your Valentine’s Day Cookie Say?” or “What Will Happen To You This Valentine’s Day”.  I can answer those two questions for you right now: 1. “If all you got for Valentine’s Day was this lousy cookie, consider dating someone else.” and “A lot or nothing.” There you go: informed, safe and sound.

BNI Operatives: Situationally aware.

As always, stay safe.

 

The Safest Seats On A Plane, Train or Cruise Ship

As holiday travel begins, we are once again asked for hard data on travel safety- specifically, the safest seats on various means of travel.   To that inquiry, our research indicates the following:

 

The safest seat on an airplane:

A recently published Popular Mechanics study concludes that, in an airplane crash, 69% of rear cabin passengers are more likely to survive than those in the front rows (generally the first and business classes or in all-coach flights, the first 15 rows).  In the same situation, over the wing seat passengers experience a 59% survival rate, which then drops dramatically to 49% for those in the aforementioned front rows.  Statistics show that the middle seats in the rear of an aircraft historically have the highest survival rates.  (Bear in mind, however,  that many factors are involved in aircraft mishaps that shape an incident; these statistics are based on otherwise “routine” flights in a standard design planes (rather than military or supersonic aircraft).

 

The safest seat on a railroad passenger train:

A railroad car or two ahead of the rear car is the safest seat on a passenger train.  According to the U.S. government’s transportation accident investigation authority, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), a  majority  of passenger rail mishaps damage the front cars; secondly, the middle cars in derailment situations; with the least damage occurring to the near to end cars.  Of course, in the case of a front to rear collision between two trains, the first train will suffer rear car damage, obviously, the first car(s) of the second train will suffer the most damage but these are the rarest collision types.  Final tip: choose a rear facing seat (in the direction of travel).  In a crash, you won’t be thrown forward.

The safest cabin on a cruise ship:

From the Cruise Critic, the safest berths on a cruise ship are the mid to upper cabins, facing outward, in the ship’s aft (rear) section.  Cruise line accidents, while extremely rare, tend to damage the hull (usually in the  front part) first, thereby exposing the lower and inner cabins to immediate flooding as well as by positioning alone, these cabins have more restricted avenues of escape.  Overall, we recommend staying away from any cruises along the Somalian coast, regardless of cabin choice.

We hope the above does not engender paranoia; you are safer traveling than you are in your own home:

The most recent statistics from the National Safety Council show that death by falling from a bed, chair or other furniture is almost as likely as death by air transport.  As of 2016, your odds of dying from an in-home fall are about 1 in 379,000 while your risk in an airplane is about 1 in 484,000.  You are safer hurtling through the air at 530 mph in a  metal container than you are standing on a chair in your own home reaching for a can of tuna.

Our Operatives: Situationally aware.

As always, and especially when traveling, stay safe.

Real I.D., Have It Or You Can’t Fly – Mandatory Compliance By October 1, 2020

We’ve been announcing the necessity for complying with the Real ID Act of 2005 almost from the start.  Now, the deadline is fast approaching and for those who believe they have plenty of time left (think, long DMV lines) or that compliance is a choice, they will be unpleasantly surprised.

Summary of the Act: All states will be required to be in compliance by October 1, 2020.  In essence, all state-issue I.D., will have to meet the standards of a Real I.D. Basically, a Real I.D. is a state-issued enhanced driver’s (or non-driver’s id) license without which one cannot fly – even domestically without additional forms of identification – AND that pertains also to work visas, delivery bonds (for aliens, a form of bail, so to speak) and physical border barriers.

To provide a comprehensive understanding of this law, below are the basics:

Real ID Act

The Real ID Act of 2005Pub.L. 109–13, 119 Stat. 302, enacted May 11, 2005, is an Act of Congress that modifies U.S. federal law pertaining to securityauthentication, and issuance procedures standards for state driver’s licenses and identity documents, as well as various immigration issues pertaining to terrorism.

The law sets forth requirements for state driver’s licenses and ID cards to be accepted by the federal government for “official purposes”, as defined by the Secretary of the United States Department of Homeland Security. The Secretary of Homeland Security has defined “official purposes” as boarding commercially operated airline flights, and entering federal buildings and nuclear power plants, although the law gives the Secretary the unlimited authority to require a “federal identification” for any other purposes.[4]

The Real ID Act implements the following:

  • Title II of the act establishes new federal standards for state-issued driver’s licenses and non-driver identification cards.
  • Changing visa limits for temporary workers, nurses, and Australian citizens.
  • Funding some reports and pilot projects related to border security.
  • Introducing rules covering “delivery bonds” (similar to bail, but for aliens who have been released pending hearings).
  • Updating and tightening the laws on application for asylum and deportation of aliens for terrorism.
  • Waiving laws that interfere with construction of physical barriers at the borders.

On December 20, 2013, the Department of Homeland Security announced that implementation of Phase 1 would begin on January 20, 2014, which followed a yearlong period of “deferred enforcement”. There are four planned phases, three of which apply to areas that affect relatively few U.S. citizens—e.g., DHS headquarters, nuclear power plants, and restricted and semi-restricted federal facilities such as military bases.[5] On January 8, 2016, DHS issued an implementation schedule for Phase 4, stating that starting January 22, 2018 “passengers with a driver’s license issued by a state that is still not compliant with the REAL ID Act (and has not been granted an extension) will need to show an alternative form of acceptable identification for domestic air travel to board their flight”. Starting October 1, 2020 “every air traveler will need a REAL ID-compliant license, or another acceptable form of identification, for domestic air travel.”[6] As of November 2018, 38 states and territories have been certified as compliant, and 18 have been granted extensions.[7]

Save yourselves the last-minute, hours-long visit to the DMV in your respective states by applying for your Real I.D. as soon as possible.

BNI Operatives: Situationally aware.

As always, stay safe.