The Reason You Got Burned: Following Too Closely
Have you ever had your Subject look in the rearview mirror at you?
Slow down on the highway?
Do a U-turn right in front of you?
You might be burned and it may have been because you were tailing your Subject too closely.
As a disclaimer, if you’re not licensed as a private investigator, please don’t go out and start following people. Just cause you watched this, doesn’t give you the right to tail someone. Serious consequences will follow if you get caught.
Additionally, this is for training and practice purposes only – just use it for entertainment.
Watch the video above for details on how to follow your Subject on surveillance.
The Four Big Takeaways
First, use a buffer car. Avoiding your Subject’s ability to see your car’s profile in their rearview mirror is huge. A buffer car is a car between you and your Subject. Use them whenever you can.
Second, to avoid staying behind or getting too close, use other lanes. And then circle back as I did.
Third, don’t stop unnecessarily just because they did. The guy pulled a u-turn, and just parked in front of his house. The temptation was to stop, capture some video, and perhaps make it obvious that he’s being followed. Instead, I proceeded onward, knowing he was parking and allowed him to exit out of view.
Fourth, know your map. Have a GPS or your phone mounted on your dash up so you know the lay of the land. Is your Subject turning down a no-outlet street? Getting near the highway? Heading back home? You’ll need to know in advance, and knowing the roads in your city and state is a must.
Over to You…
What ways have avoided getting burned on mobile surveillance?
What methods have worked for you?
Comment below. Let me know.
If you’ve ever done surveillance, many times it’s not the Subject who ends up burning you – it’s the neighbors.
In this post, let’s talk about:
Legal disclaimer. Never construe anything I say to be legal advice. I’m not a lawyer. Also, personal disclaimer: you don’t have to believe a damn word I say. You should have your own opinions on how to conduct surveillance and never rely on mine.
Surveillance is an art form.
And I’ll back up anyone who copies or steals my ideas. Go for it!
But start to develop your way of doing things.
I made these posts and videos for my investigators, the ones who work for me. It’s training for them. But if you gather any value, knowledge, or like the content, keep reading.
You’re out on surveillance, parked in a perfect spot, staking out your Subject. You’re in a tinted-out vehicle, maybe sitting in the back, maybe in the front. But you’re parked in front of one of your Subject’s neighbor’s houses. After a few hours, a resident runs out of the house and knocks on your window.
Pop quiz, hotshot. What do you do??!?
Well, it’s easy to get hostile. The neighbor might already be that way. But, I’m of the mind to never get confrontational or power-hungry with neighbors. Again,
You get more flies with honey, not vinegar.
As we’ve said in previous posts and videos about notifying the police, be cordial and respectful. With neighbors though, the goal is to use some “verbal judo” on them. Use a ruse or guise, to get them to go away and leave them thinking nothing of it.
But, be nice and respectful. Avoid saying “mind your own business,” because you know they won’t. It’s their neighborhood after all, and magnifying things could lead down a bad road. The exact pretense can be up to you. There are countless ones you could use.
First…never impersonate an officer of the law. This should be in all of your licensing bylaws as it is. We in OH and KY cannot carry a badge, because a person could interpret it as a police badge.
Successful (and legal) Pretexts
In rural areas, I’ll say I’m a contractor for a trucking company. With an “official” clipboard in hand, I’ll look the neighbor straight in the eye, and say I’ve been hired to look for semis that have used this route against our company policy. We’re getting noise complaints from ones using their engine brake. And then ask the neighbor if they’ve heard any loud semis.
Putting the question back on them takes them by surprise. You’ll not only see people believe the ruse but say that they’ve heard loud engines before – chances are they actually have. People want to believe and if you appear harmless, they’ll tend to agree. Then assure them that the police know you’re in the area and you should be there the whole day and a few days in the future
In other situations, I’ll say I’m a private investigator, but never let on exactly what I’m doing.
I’ll change the story up and say it’s a confidential matter but the term we use is it’s a domestic case. Make sure they don’t think it’s their next-door neighbors, but someone way a few blocks away and they might pass by this spot. Let them fill in the blanks with their imagination on who it is. A lot of times they’ll play detective themselves and think it’s such and such who had an affair years ago…
Again, assure them, the cops know you’re there, and there’s no need for alarm.
A big key is to be ready for any situation. A dead giveaway is if you start stuttering over your words and avoiding eye contact.
Make the story believable.
Additionally, park on public property. I’ve had two cops allude to criminal trespassing charges because I was on private property.
But I’ll always park on the public street or the easement and never on private property unless I can help it.
The last thing we want is to get the whole neighborhood heated up and then let on to the Subject. We’ve all heard horror stories with the Next Door app or your neighborhood’s Facebook group.
And with these pretexts, use your creativity here… come up with something unique to the situation and have it ready. If I’m in a construction area or downtown, I’ll get a hard hat and safety vest. Put it in the front window. There’s always construction going on downtown. You’ll fit in.
Play the part. Have a little fun with it.
What ways can you play the part?
What pretexts have worked for you?
Comment below and let me know.
I’m a private investigator and I need a new car.
But, I hate car shopping.
So, I asked my fellow bloggers and auto junkies at Jalopnik, “What Car Should I Buy?”
It’s a weekly segment they do: these dudes (NOT SALESMEN) help REAL people find ACTUAL vehicles for sale.
And then they hilariously write about it.
Check out their advice for me.
“Adam is a private investigator who spends hours behind the wheel getting the scoop and tracking bad guys. He needs a ride that is good for work and family, something that can blend in but still looks professional. What car should he buy?
Unlike Magnum P.I., Adam doesn’t work in Hawaii, and for him to nab the bad guys, stealth, patience, and diligence are key. Therefore, he needs one that he can spend a lot of time in, but won’t be noticed easily.
Here is the scenario:
I’m a private investigator and business owner who needs both a surveillance vehicle for tracking down bad guys out in the field, but one that also doubles as respectable business owner’s ride for when I pull up to sales calls and client meetings. My current SUV (a 2006 GMC Envoy Denali) is at 200,000 miles and like any one at that mileage, needs to be replaced.
I’ve got a budget of about $20,000 and the biggest thing is this car must be unremarkable. It’s got to blend in. No sports cars, nothing weird or funky. Also, in addition to hauling my gear, I use the car to tote my family around to events and such so it needs to be practical as well.”
Tell me which one I should BUY in the COMMENTS below!!
Click here to read the full story: http://jalopnik.com/im-a-private-eye-looking-for-a-stealthy-ride-for-20-00-1793549299
Which one should I buy? Reply in the comments!
Learning from failure. If you go to the recovery room at the hospital, you’ll see a lot more people with gunshot wounds in their legs than in their chests. But that’s not because people don’t get shot in the chest; it’s because the people who get shot in the chest don’t recover.
As private investigators and business owners, there’s an important parallel: Autopsies done on the patients who made it back to the ER aren’t worth as much as those who never made it back. Likewise, learning from successful companies may not be as important as learning from failed private investigator firms. Understanding what fatal mistakes led to the failure is as important, if not more, than what made successful companies great.
So, what are those mistakes? How did specific PI companies go out of business? And more importantly, what can we learn from those mistakes?
For valuable insight on this topic, we polled private investigators from across the nation for insight into how their colleagues had failed, or, how they had failed and learned. Nearly a dozen PIs chimed in to help. And, though the resulting stories may be grim, they are telling.
Here are some of the insights they shared, along with a few of my own:
In 2015, I opened the doors to Gravitas Investigations, a Cincinnati-based private investigations firm.
But why did I start this company?
Sure, I’ve been a “private eye” for over 10 years and have solved some incredible cases, but that’s not why I do it.
The truth is that this company was started many years ago, based on the influence of two important people. Here’s that story: Read more
A new workers’ compensation claim hits your inbox, littered with red flags. But your spidey- sense kicks in. Why?
Well, several warning signs pop up; the claimant was injured on a Friday before a holiday weekend, they’ve already booked appointments with a chiropractor, and nobody witnessed the injury.
You ask yourself, “Is it fraud?!?”
Though not every claim you see is fraudulent, this one appears to be. But, what now?
You know that proving fraud could save your client tons of money in insurance premiums.
What if you had a comprehensive list of red flags to check against your suspicions? A list that was compiled by a fraud investigator with the help of claims professionals like you?…
..well, we did it.
We asked a dozen claims adjusters, examiners, insurance professionals, attorneys, and others for their workers’ compensation claim advice and compiled the results into a comprehensive list.
Here is the list of red flags (67 total) they provided:
The Timeliness of the Injury Report
- The injury occurred immediately before a holiday or a long weekend (many “injuries” occur on Fridays). – The most common red flag is the injury without a timely report of injury – Lisa Fike, Staff Attorney
- The claimant was injured after a holiday or a long weekend (this repeatedly occurs if the claimant is ineligible for holiday or paid-time-off).
- The claim was filed prior to a planned vacation allowing the claimant to collect disability during their trips.
- The claimant reports the accident days, weeks, months, or years after it occurred.
- The claim is filed after the claimant becomes aware of their imminent termination.
- The claimant is injured shortly after initial hiring (this is especially true after the initial probationary period for full-time hires).
- The claimant recently purchased personal disability insurance (a.k.a. gap coverage).
- The claimant hires an attorney immediately after filing a claim.
- The claimant instantly asks for a settlement.– Amy Rodallega, Claims Representative, Nationwide Insurance
- There were no witnesses to the accident.
- The accident occurred on the employer’s premises but out of view of security cameras.
- The claimant was helping another employee despite being asked not to do so (not their department or job duties) by management.
- The claimant’s version of the accident is inconsistent – there are multiple variations of the story.
- The claimant experiences a psychological injury, which is hard to substantiate.
- The claimant experiences a back injury, which is hard to substantiate.
- The claimant engages in physical activities inconsistent with the limitations they claim to have due to their injury.
- The claimant has a pre-existing injury.
- A hospital canvass determines that the claimant has been treated elsewhere for the same condition and/or an Insurance Service Office (ISO) check reveals that the claimant had prior injuries to the same body part. – Lori Terry, Claims Examiner, Careworks Consultants Inc.
- The claimant has a history of subjective injuries, psychological, mental pain, undisclosed pain, or general pain.
- The claimant seeks to open or start a new claim based on a flow-through injury (an injury developing in a body part not originally alleged) or from the result of an old injury. – Jean McEntarfer, Human Resources Manager, Teleperformance USA
- The claimant is never available to answer calls.
- The claimant has limited availability for exams and/or appointments.
- The claimant has a preference for receiving emails from claim representatives rather than phone calls.
- The claimant’s voicemail box is always full.
- The claimant screens or avoids calls.
- The claimant frequently changes appointments or does not show for appointments to avoid field case manager or nurse case manager. – Debbie Lantman, Manager – Workers’ Compensation, Formica Corporation
Circumstances Around the Job
- The claimant files a claim for job security – the claimant knows the employer will not terminate the claimant while on disability.
- The claimant performs seasonal work that will end soon.
- The claimant is approaching retirement and files a claim.
- The claimant has absenteeism problems.– “They ‘earn and burn’ their time by attempting to get off work when they’re out of PTO or off-days.” – Brenda Scalf, Client Services Manager, Sheakley
- The claimant has frequently used the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA).
- The injury occurred as a result of the claimant’s side job.
- The claimant has a personal vendetta against management or fellow employees.
- The claim occurred just prior to or after a strike.
- The claimant shows up in pictures or in person with indications of having worked another job:
- they have calluses on their hands, or
- grease under their fingers.
- The physician of record (POR) does not mention checking the state pharmacy website for the claimant’s narcotic prescriptions.
- In states where it’s permissible to do so, the claimant refuses to seek medical treatment or physical therapy.
- Multiple workers’ compensation claimants seek out the same physician. -“It’s suspicious when employees of the same organization magically go to the same doctor when they are injured.” – Kelly Flynn Reimer, Claims Manager
- The claimant refuses to go to vocational rehabilitation.
- The claimant refuses to go to an independent medical exam (IME).
- The subject explores “doctor shopping,” where they seek out physicians who substantiate their injury claims. –“I would say that anyone who gets released from the physician, or is told they can’t have any more narcotics/meds, who then immediately starts ‘doctor shopping’ is a big red flag.” – Jill Thomas, Director of Claims, V&A Risk Services, LLC
- The claimant seeks narcotics and once their prescription runs out, they shop for another doctor who will fill that prescription.
- After a doctor’s appointment, the claimant cannot describe the types of medical services that were performed on him or her.
- The claimant has a doctor that is a great distance from their residence for no reason at all.
- The claimant tells the doctor what kind of treatment they need.
- The claimant tells the doctor their employer has no light-duty work.
- The claimant immediately seeks treatment with a doctor or chiropractor that is known to automatically take patients off work. “Some doctors are on the suspicious provider list if claimants go to them for initial treatment. Suspicions increase when employees of the same organization frequent the same physicians” – Anonymous Claims Professional
- The claimant sells their prescriptions to others or seeks out various medical providers to obtain multiple prescriptions.
- The injured worker immediately schedules a meeting with a chiropractor. -“Even if I’m not familiar with that chiropractor, that’s always a red flag to me because it means the injured worker (IW) is familiar with chiropractors” – Jackie Spring, Self-Insured Manager, Alternative Risk Management
- Social media pictures and profile information indicate that the claimant is active and moving normally against their restrictions. – Lisa Ball, SIU, Allstate Insurance
- The claimant has a history of filing Worker’s Compensation claims in the past.– “I have seen people do this because most employers will not get rid of someone that has filed a workers’ comp claim.” – Debra Goetz, Spooner Inc.
- Employees that are friends or associates with the claimant observe the claimant conducting activities that are in contradiction to their limitations.
- The injury occurred during a side sporting activity.
- The claimant is a nomad; they live in multiple places, and/or drive around from job to job.
- The claimant uses a PO Box as their mailing address, rather than an actual address, and/or refuses to provide a physical address.
- The claimant lives in an economically depressed area.
- The claimant has a history of bad credit, monetary problems, or is always in debt.
- Several of the claimant’s relatives and friends have similar Worker’s Compensation claims. This is what some investigators call ‘fraud school,’ where fraud/abuse methods are passed from relative to relative.
- When taking a claimant’s statement, the claimant feels inclined to provide information on their personal character. For example, “I’m a good person, and I am not looking to scam the system or get something I don’t deserve.’ I can tell you that 9 times out of 10 when someone makes a comment like that to me they end up trying to scam the system!” – Adriane R. Thompson, SCLA, Senior Resolution Manager, Gallagher Bassett
- Claims representatives suspect the claimant’s character or personality traits determine the claimant is engaged in workers’ compensation fraud or abuse (The claimant’s demeanor is very calm or savvy).
Other Red Flags
- The claimant does not have medical insurance.
- The claimant opts out of employer-provided health insurance and soon after files a workers’ compensation claim.
- The claimant has a high-deductible insurance meaning they’ll pay a lot in out of pocket expenses.
- The employee will file a claim before going out for a non-industrial health reason (i.e. major surgery) & their PTO time won’t cover the entire period of time they’re off.
- Employees who plan to visit their out-of-the-country/town family members for extended periods of time will file a temporary total disability (TTD) claim, allowing them to collect a Workers’ Compensation check if their doctor writes them off on a Physician’s Report of Work Ability. “For example, someone from a foreign country who is planning to visit their family for 1-2 months will file a claim the week just before they leave thinking they will be paid TTD the entire time they are gone.” – Holly Miller, The Ohio Manufacturer’s Association
- The claimant has shown an overall pattern of behavior that indicates fraud.
- The claimant had a recent auto accident or has had multiple auto accidents where they were injured.
When that next claim with red flags hits your inbox, do your clients a favor – check it against the list above. If it saves them money, they’ll be happy you did.
Did we leave out any red flags? Let us know in the comments below or email Gravitas Investigations at firstname.lastname@example.org with your suggestion.
If you’d like to discuss a plan to combat fraud, Call Us Now to speak directly with an investigator.
This interview was originally posted in Pursuit Magazine.
You are transported back in time as you walk along Via dei Calzaiuoli, Florence, Italy’s main pedestrian street. It is a wide, cobblestoned walkway stretching several hundred yards from the historic, domed Florence Cathedral, or simply “Duomo,” to the famous Palazzo Vecchio. Historical figures like Michelangelo, Dante, and Leonardo da Vinci called this place home. And so does Alberto Paoletti, private investigator (PI).
In Florence for my wife’s work assignment, continuing to attend graduate school, and operating my own private investigations business remotely, I looked up local private investigators online in hopes of connecting with one. There, I found Alberto.
So I threw on my suit and tie, and after a 20-minute walk from my apartment, mustered up the courage to knock on his office door. The goal was to simply drop off my business card, but I got much more than I bargained for. Alberto invited me into his office, and we sat down for an interview and talked shop for almost an hour. He turned out to be an incredibly nice and accommodating man.
A few days later, Alberto graciously took time out of his busy day for an interview. Here is an excerpt from that interview (special thanks to Google Translate for helping Alberto and me bridge the gap from Italian to English):
ADAM: Thanks for sitting down for an interview. Let our readers get to know you. Where are you from?
ALBERTO: I was born and raised in Florence, Italy. I hope to die here someday as well (laughing)!
ADAM: Where did you go to school?
ALBERTO: I went to a very good technical school in Florence, Duca d’Aosta Institute, and studied business. I have also taken master classes in crime and business, each lasting 2-3 months.
ADAM: How old are you?
ALBERTO: Too old (smiling). I was born in 1945.
ADAM: How long have you been a private investigator?
ALBERTO: I’ve been a private investigator since 1969. I started my own company when I was 25 years old.
ADAM: How did your career get started?
(Alberto points to a portrait of a uniformed man on his office’s back wall.) My uncle was Carabinieri or, Italy’s military police. He was counter-espionage in World War II and received his military pension very young. Using that pension, he was able to start his own firm investigating commercial businesses for bank clients. An economic boom in Italy helped my uncle’s business grow. In ten years, my uncle had enough business to buy three apartments!
This was a very big deal, as all of my uncle’s work was word-of-mouth. There were no license requirements back then, and he had no office. I helped my uncle during summers when I was just 15 years old (laughing). I would do surveillance on a Vespa even back then (revving mock handlebars), following behind my uncle’s car on cases. But that was the start of my career.
ADAM: I’m picturing you in a Fiat 500. Did you ever use one to do surveillance?
ALBERTO: Oh, yes! I would [shade] people in a Fiat 500, then later an 800, and eventually a Fiat 1000!
ADAM: What made you want to be a private investigator?
ALBERTO: At first, I didn’t really want to be a private detective, nor did I think I would end up as one. After I graduated from school, I wanted to be an employee at a bank or in a public office. But I found out quickly that I hated my bank job and the idea of being an employee.
So I traveled to Germany at 19 years old. I lived in Bonn for one year, learned about the import/export business, and took up the German language. After I came back to Florence, one day I was selling items in the street with my friends. And (snapping his fingers) the light bulb just went off, and I understood that doing private investigations was ideal for me. I could be independent, I could be free, and I could create something. I was willing to work at any hour – not just 10-6, as most Italians do.
So, I worked for two years as an employee at another firm to gain experience. Once I finished my two years, I asked for the company license, received it, and in one month I was able to open an office in the center of Florence. This was during another economic boom in Italy.
“I understood that doing private investigations was ideal for me. I could be independent, I could be free”
ADAM: How did learning German and English help you as an investigator and business owner?
ALBERTO: Speaking many languages helps to build relationships. We work so often with other countries in the European Union, not just with Germans. It is important to have many connections, and speaking their language helps support that.
The Business End
ADAM: Who was your first client?
ALBERTO: My first client was Mercantile Bank, which went out of business a while ago. I did commercial inquiries for them. After one month, I had my first employee, a secretary. Her salary was about €30 (approximately $34 U.S. dollars) per month back then! I then bought my first typewriter and telephone, which are still collecting dust in my office today. I learned how to type on an old Olivetti typewriter.
ADAM: Where was your first office located?
ALBERTO: My first office was just north of the Duomo, and my second office is here on Via dei Calzaiuoli. It’s amazing to think I’ve walked past the Duomo every morning on the way to work for the last 50 years!
ADAM: What does your typical day look like?
ALBERTO: I am now more of a broker of investigations. I have employees who do the dirty work for me, and I am the … table worker?
ADAM: “Desk worker?”
ALBERTO: Yes. I am the desk worker. Of course, I used to do all of the work when I was younger, but now my young investigators do the fieldwork. I am always on the phone speaking with investigators and clients. I also manage the schedule because I feel it is very important. (note: Indeed, during our interview, Alberto leaves multiple times to take calls.)
ADAM: How many employees do you have?
ALBERTO: I have about 12 employees who do commercial work for me. For investigations, I have two full-time investigators, 2-3 part-time employees, and one or two interns.
ADAM: What was your favorite case?
ALBERTO: There are so many. We are currently investigating a tragic criminal case where a little boy fell and died. We have to determine whether or not the fall was intentional or accidental. It was very sad. Solving this case is not my favorite, but helping the family will bring us great fulfillment.
Another was a matrimonial (infidelity) case. A man’s wife wanted me to follow her husband. She suspected he was cheating on her. So, I sent my detective on the surveillance to follow the husband. After two days, my detective called me and said, “The husband is coming to the office to see you.” I said, “Did you get [burned]?!” The detective said, “Absolutely not!”
I was confused, but later that day the man showed up at my office. I sat down with him and asked what he wanted. He asked, “Can you follow my wife? I think she is cheating on me (laughing).” Naturally, I could not help this man and told him so.
We also had an international case. Our client was a very rich and important man. He was the CEO of a public company, and he had given some shares of his company and a personal company bank account to his wife. Therefore, she was now a shareholder and an employee of the company. However, the man found out that his wife had fallen in love with another person, the owner of a club in the Maldives, and had run off with this new man.
The client wanted us to fly to the Maldives and photograph his wife with the club-owner. I could not go, so I sent a rookie detective there to film them. The detective stayed on the islands for over a week and took many photos of the wife and the new man. With the evidence, we were able to stop the money and shares of the company from going to the wife. But my investigator believed that working in paradise was normal (laughing)! He thought the job was like this every day!
ADAM: What is your favorite aspect of the work?
ALBERTO: The human relationship with the client. I must be a psychologist and not just an investigator. Also, if I’m able to solve the case, I have a rush of satisfaction. There are many negatives of this line of work, but one of the best parts is that I get to work for those who have been scammed, the victims of injustice. We are different than [defense] lawyers in that way; we don’t defend the bad or criminals. We work for the victims. As a result, I feel I have a moral success.
ADAM: What is the least favorite part of your job?
ALBERTO: Stress from clients who call every moment on the phone and want to know what’s going on. They want always updates! So, we tell our clients not to call us, we will call them. Also, it is tough to separate emotion and anxiety from a case. We are passionate about solving the case, but we must remain strong. So, I don’t get too close to the case.
ADAM: What is your most common type of case? What type of work do you specialize in?
ALBERTO: We track down people who haven’t paid their bills. We do insurance fraud cases. We do copyright infringement cases, where people illegally make designer brands such as Prada, Gucci, and Dolce & Gabbana. We also do matrimonial (infidelity) cases. Our clients are mostly husbands looking to stop alimony payments or providing housing to their ex-wives. We also do child custody and divorce cases.
ADAM: What part of your career are you most proud of?
ALBERTO: When I was young, I was very timid. This job has helped me to open up, allowing my personality to grow. I also understand the negative and positive characteristics of people and the way people live their lives.
“When I was young, I was very timid. This job has helped me to open up, allowing my personality to grow.”
I am proud of the positions and appointments I have held in my private detective associations. Holding these positions has increased my love of my career, increased my knowledge and technical expertise. I really enjoy the relationships I have had with other members. It gives me self-worth.
ADAM: When you are thinking about investigating someone, what is the first thing that you should do?
ALBERTO: Speak with the client for a very long time. The client is the most important source of information. Recently, I had an interview with a client for two hours. My job was to be empathetic towards my client’s problem. His problem must be ours, but only in a small way, not too much.
ADAM: Is there anything you should not do before an investigation?
ALBERTO: Check for the crazy ones. If I find out that the person I am talking to is crazy, I tell them to go to the police instead. Two others: Watch out for clients that think the law is against them, and watch out for clients that ask you to do illegal things. I get asked to do illegal things all the time, but I could lose my license, so I refuse.
The Italian Job
ADAM: How do you get an investigator’s license in Italy?
ALBERTO: Before 2010, every city had a representative from the Minister of Interior. This representative could give out licenses based upon his discretion. Quite unfair. But after 2010, it all changed. FEDERPOL is Italy’s largest private investigator’s association (of which Alberto was president). We implemented license requirements.
First, applicants must have a three-year university degree in one of these areas: law, economics, crime, or journalism. Second, applicants must also have practiced investigations as an employee of a company for three years. Lastly, applicants must have a clean background check. No past criminal records.
ADAM: What is legal and open to investigators in Italy? And what is not open?
ALBERTO: In Italy, the data protection act is very strong. I am on the commission of FEDERPOL, the Italian Association of Private Detectives. Italy is the most regulated in all of Europe when it comes to privacy. You cannot access public information, like criminal records. Both the police and minister of the interior control what information private detectives can access.
In order to get criminal records, you must request it from an attorney. Police and the minister of the interior do integrity checks on our cases; they come to our office and note the name of each of our cases and the invoice amount. After documenting our cases, they stamp each page in our book. Very rigorous.
ADAM: Do you have a relationship with local police? Is it good or uneasy?
ALBERTO: There is very little relationship with the police. It is very tough. We are in competition, but it is a legal issue. If we are working the same case, for example, a criminal case, we are completely separated. There is no team. We must also develop leads without the help of the police. Police detectives have this benefit, but we do not. They have connections with other police, but we don’t. However, we help during counterfeiting cases. We do the dirty work, but they get the credit in the newspapers!
ADAM: In what other countries can you do investigations?
ALBERTO: Well, Adam, since you are now our United States connection, the U.S. (laughing)! We have used you to find U.S. criminal records for one of our clients here in Florence. We have done work in France, Germany, and at times a blend of many countries together. Due diligence cases take our work to many different countries.
ADAM: What books have you authored?
ALBERTO: One book is called The Private Investigations Operational Guide, which came out three years ago. My editor wants an updated version because we sold several thousand copies, so we may come out with another edition this year.
ADAM: What is the difference between actual Florence investigations and how investigations are portrayed in Hollywood?
ALBERTO: The reality is that we have a double life, a schizophrenic life. The public knows what we do in film, but they don’t know the reality. They think we do illegal detective work, rather than simply gathering public information. My clients think I bug people, but that is pretty much a fictional part of the job. People think we only work infidelity cases or matrimonial cases. The clients only have this view.
ADAM: One last question: I’m a huge movie fan. You told me that a movie was filmed here in Florence starring Tom Hanks. What movie was it and what was that like?
ALBERTO: Oh yes! We did have Inferno film here last year, and I saw the film crews in the nearby piazzas (town squares). Many movies have been filmed here. Hannibal was filmed here about ten years ago. And many more.
ADAM: I’ll be sure to watch them! Grazie Mille for your time, Alberto.
ALBERTO: Prego. Prego! Molto bene, Adam! It was wonderful for me as well.
About the author (and the interviewee):
Alberto Paoletti is a private investigator and owner of Informark S.R.L, a private detective firm based in Florence, Italy. This interview took place at Informark’s office in Florence.