1 888 989 2800


...or use our Case Request Form online

News

Video Evidence of an Auto Accident: What Can We See?

October 4th, 2019

In the insurance industry, we often find ourselves wishing that we could just see what exactly went down when the loss occurred from an auto accident.  Sometimes people are lucky enough to find someone had a dashboard camera recording the whole incident, but those instances are few and far between.  To be more realistic, it may be better to take a look at the businesses or homes surrounding the scene of the loss or see if any department of transportation cameras monitor the area.

The process of obtaining these videos that may have captured an auto accident can be a bit tricky and time-consuming, which is why private investigators are often hired in Video Evidence of an Auto Accidentthese instances.  When it comes to locating businesses or home in the area of the loss that may have videos, the first step would be to see who has cameras on the outside of their buildings.  As in the image above, the view and angle of the camera is key.  Many small businesses will have cameras angled just in front of their front doors, but others may have them angled at their parking lots which may give view to the streets nearby.  Private residences may have outward facing cameras in the forms of doorbell cameras or security systems.  Canvassing these businesses or homes, and speaking with the managers or owners to see if they will share the footage they have from that date is the best route to obtaining these videos.  Some businesses may require a formal request from an insurance company, just to track the interaction with their corporate offices.  To obtain videos from street cameras placed by the government or department of transportation, formal requests should be made through a Freedom of Information (FOIA) request.  Legally, any resident can have access to these videos unless a police investigation is underway or if it may violate a person’s privacy.

Another side to this investigation is the “what if” questions.  What if the businesses don’t have video or refuse to share it?  What if it’s too late and they’ve already copied over the tapes?  What if our request was denied?  What if you can’t verify who was in the cars?  Most of the private sources for security camera footages, such as businesses or homes, will retain their video for 30-60 days depending on their equipment and storage space.  Many small home security systems will begin overwriting footage after a few days.  Bank ATMs may retain footage up to 90 days, as set by standards in their industry.  Public access cameras on the other hand can often extend beyond all of that, and it is up the local government to determine how long they save video for.  So, as you can see, if you want to get copies of auto accident footage, it’s better to act quickly.

Another aspect to consider is the quality and range of the video.  A video from a home’s doorbell can be some high quality footage but the range of the video may only be a hundred feet or so.  Parking lot cameras or highway cameras may be lower quality, but you may be able to see more ground coverage.  Keeping that in mind, having footage of the auto accident is better than having none at all, so you can get a clearer image of what went down at the scene.  It is noteworthy that not all cameras in an area may be recording.  In the state of Michigan, freeway cameras are set up only to monitor traffic and road conditions.  Traffic light cameras are often used to just to capture still images of people driving through that red light.  Cameras set off by sensors will often only record if something happens within a certain number of feet from the location.  Keeping all of that in mind is important when requesting footage.

You may find yourself wondering why anyone would hire a private investigator in this situation?  Isn’t all of this footage public record or data that can be requested?  Yes, public security camera footage can be requested and contacting businesses or homeowners for their footage is just something you can ask for.  As professional investigators, we handle matters like this everyday because we know who we should be requesting footage from, and the time sensitivity involved.  Going in person to request footage tends to make the process a little smoother and we can work with staff at the businesses to pinpoint what we need and what it will ultimately be used for.  Adjusters and attorneys in the insurance industry hardly have the time to go out canvassing the streets to get auto accident footage from security cameras, so that is where investigators come in.  We can save time and get all of the details squared away, so you can go back on the defense to prevent fraudulent claims from cheating legitimate claims for the money they need.

 

 

Sources:

https://abovethelaw.com/?sponsored_content=local-government-and-privacy-are-security-videos-public-records

https://radenso.com/blogs/radar-university/what-s-the-difference-between-traffic-cameras-red-light-cameras-and-speed-cameras

An Inside Look into Fraud Prevention: Two Different Extremes

August 7th, 2019

fraud preventionHere at Sherlock Investigations, we take claims investigations very seriously. As one might imagine, fraud investigators have the pleasure of seeing both the good and the bad
in the insurance industry. In some cases, claims we investigate don’t even have a fraudulent component. Injuries, financial losses, or even vehicle replacements in auto-liability cases are all viable and reasonable needs to file a claim with your insurance provider. However, in many cases, we see fraudulent claims that often times have no basis at all for needing additional compensation from an insurance company. In this blog, I’d like to cover two recent cases that we, as research investigators, see situations similar to on a regular basis. To give a better idea of how these investigations work in our field, I’ll cover the extremes: a claim that was obviously fraudulent and a claim that was obviously deserving of being validated.

Situation #1 – A fraudulent disability claim in the making

As a member of the research team, I often see cases before they are deemed valid enough or before enough information is gathered to begin surveillance on a subject. In many cases, our clients don’t really know what is going on with a particular claimant, so they hire us to complete a background investigation and activities check just to see how or what the particular individual is doing with their life following the loss in question.

In this case, a big city public transportation operator (bus driver) filed a claim after being involved in an accident while on duty. We received the information detailing that the claimant in this situation couldn’t “preform the abilities of her job” to the same level as before the loss: assisting passengers on and off the bus, carrying items on and off, turning the bus wheel to steer, etc. To start out, we always conduct background investigations first where criminal and civil records are checked, along with any bankruptcies/liens/judgements that the subject may have files in the past. We additionally file FOIA requests with jurisdictions in which the subject lives to gather pertinent information related to law enforcement contacts, or even to discover if the individual has been involved in any more recent motor vehicle accidents. Following this, we conduct a through social media investigation, followed by discreet activities inquiries to discover evidence about a subject’s current levels of activity. Right off the bat, we located several dismissed motor vehicle claims against different insurance companies in the subject’s civil records, along with a spotty financial history when it came to filing bankruptcies and other small claims judgements where or subject was the defendant. When we began our social media search, the situation behind this investigation became even more clear. Our subject was what one would call the “party type:” throwing weekly “themed dance parties” at private clubs in her hometown, where she appeared in multiple videos dancing, running around, and jumping on and off of tables in the early hours of the morning. In addition, posts were collected where the subject mentioned how much she “loved her job” and was more deserving of a raise than any of her other co-workers. After discreetly speaking with a friend who informed us that she didn’t believe the subject to be suffering from any injuries after the loss, we closed the case and returned our file to our client.

Cases will often be re-opened by our clients in the pursuit of more specific information as it relates to a claim; in this case, our clients wanted to subpoena the subject’s workplace for video of her operating the bus, just to observe her while she was at work. Records like these are not public, and in some cases, need a court order to be released. We reached out to the employer to see if we could send a FOIA request for this information, where we were told that we would need the subject’s bus number to find the correct video. Unfortunately, we knew that our subject was on a regular route, however, we were informed that workers weren’t regularly assigned to specific buses, so locating her records would be a lengthy process.

Situation #2 – little-to-no information turns into a valid claim

In when conducting these investigations, little to no information about a person or a claim may seem like a problem or an indicator of fraud—this is often not the case. Sometimes a file is opened with us to see what is going on with a subject in anticipation of a claim, and sometimes a claim is filed with information so puzzling that it makes more sense for us to figure it out.

In this case, we knew that the subject was a late 20s or early 30s white male, veteran & engineer that was involved in a motor vehicle accident on an interstate. The police report detailed “incapacitating injuries” and that the subject was transported from the scene. Records searches and a thorough background investigation was conducted, where our subject was relatively clean in terms of criminal records, civil suits, bankruptcies, liens, and other judgements. Other than a few traffic tickets and a prior divorce, our subject seemed to be your regular, hard-working individual. When we completed our social media searches, we learned what actually happened with this situation: the subject received traumatic injuries to one leg and his abdomen, resulting in an amputation above the knee and had over 10 surgeries to repair damage to the stomach and intestines. After being put into a medically induced coma to heal, the subject’s future was uncertain. Several GoFundMe campaigns were located that detailed these facts of the loss, along with facts about the subject’s wife who was pregnant with their first child at the time of the incident. While social media references detailed that the claimant was healing at a slow pace, many of his friends speculated that he may never leave the hospital again.

A close associate indicated that he was actually at the hospital with the subject for a couple weeks following the accident. No one was sure if the subject would be released in the near future and to what extent he would be able to return to his normal, daily life. A report was created with this information and then passed along to our client.

6-8 months following the loss, we were asked to re-open the file to check on the subject’s situation. Social media references were updated with activity being posted again from the subject’s personal accounts, detailing that he had healed and was working on new business ventures following his accident. Photos depicted the subject using a wheelchair, along with business cards detailing that he has started his very own landscaping business for both residential and commercial customers. Discreet contact was made with a neighbor around the source’s home, where we learned that our subject was doing much better following the accident and appeared to be in good spirits. Our source confirmed that he was active in his lawn mowing business and otherwise was going about his life to the best of his ability—with some major changes made in his life after the fact.

Day in and day out, we see varying cases like these. It keeps us on our toes; not knowing what to expect and going into an investigation with an open mind is something that may seem difficult to do but is actually a necessity in our business. When it comes to reporting the facts of a situation, we never assume anything to be true or to be false—if a claim moves forward to litigation and unvalidated information is used, it can make or break the case for our clients. These are just a few rules we live by when doing research, and as always, our end goal is to make the best of any situation that comes across our desks.

A Surveillance Master’s Guide to Selecting the Proper Vehicle

July 2nd, 2019

surveillance vehicles

Just as important a decision of what camera to use as an investigator, is the choice on what vehicle to use for your surveillance. Besides a red Ferrari, which could probably be debated, just about any vehicle could be used as a surveillance vehicle. We could have a debate about whether a Dodge Grand Caravan or a yellow Ford Mustang, but in reality, both could have their place. The location and situation are the biggest determination on what makes a good surveillance vehicle, but the goal here is to help break down some key components into selecting the right tool for the job.

A wise investigator once coined the phrase “anonymity through conformity.” As he put it “if everyone was driving a pink taco truck, then a pink taco truck would be the perfect surveillance vehicle.” Obviously, most people don’t drive pink taco trucks, but the sentiment still works. Coupe or sedan, truck or SUV, the vehicle choice needs to match the area you are working. Some vehicles blend better just because they are so non-descript and look like any other vehicle on the road, and some blend better because of just how many of that model of vehicle are ACTUALLY being driven.

After selecting the correct vehicle for your surveillance job, its important to focus on the little things that make a big difference in you being able to accomplish your task of staying on surveillance for an extended period of time. We all know that every assignment is different, and the time you are on site in your vehicle may only be a few minutes to a full day and beyond. The small little details about your vehicle are going to be the difference in just how long you can stay undetected over the course of the day, or multiple days if you are working the assignment again. Vanity license plate, bumper stickers, damage to the vehicle or the windshield, or aftermarket badges or wheels. All of these are little details that might not mean much at the start, but the longer you give someone the chance to see them, the more likely they are to notice or remember you. For example, a Chevrolet Trailblazer could be an ideal vehicle to use for surveillance, however, is you select the ‘SS’ model with the red badges and black rims, it becomes one of the most easily picked out vehicles on the road.

A sometimes-overlooked aspect of the vehicle though, is the vantage points the vehicle provides you when you are trying to film what is going on around you. With as many Dodge Challengers as there are on the road in some areas these days, the argument could be made that one of those could make a good vehicle selection. They have plenty of power to be able to follow almost anything on the road and depending on your color choice may blend in perfectly in an area. However, the inside is reasonably cramped and with the small windows and limited lines of sight that are common in muscle/sports cars, keeping yourself in position to continue to documenting activity could be a struggle. Going with a smaller SUV or even a minivan not only gives you more open space in the front and large windows to film through, it also gives you the possibility of utilizing the rear compartments of the vehicle thus giving you more concealment and the image that there is no one in the vehicle. The extra storage space for equipment, food, and water to survive the day is an added benefit.

At the end of the day, the surveillance vehicle you select needs to be one that fits you. You are going to be spending anywhere from 4 to 6, maybe even 8 or more hours than that at a time, sitting in the driver’s seat waiting on something to happen. If you cannot do that in the vehicle you select, it does not matter whether it meets all the prior criteria’s as have been talking about. Choose a vehicle that works for you in the area you need to be in, while remaining as anonymous as possible, and is comfortable enough to sit in all day. Oh – and having some tint on your windows is probably a sound strategy as well.

From the Investigator: The Seasonal Affect – Keith

June 20th, 2019

The Seasonal Affect

Investigator Keith Stotts has been the man with the plan for many, many years at this company! He began his journey with Sherlock Investigations in September of 2012. In his time with us, he has been through five different surveillance vehicles, all of which have served their purpose well – he is currently searching for a new addition to his current Chevrolet and Dodge collection.  Keith has two German Shepherds at home, which he adores!  People often tell him that he should take them out on cases, but for obvious reasons he won’t let that happen. This series aims to address the different work conditions that investigators run into throughout the year. Every day is different out in the field, and we all handle it in our own way! Let’s get to know how our third interviewee, Keith, conquers the four seasons!

 

Michigan surveillance is full of challenges. How do the climate and state conditions prepare an investigator for work adversity?

Working in Michigan can be challenging. Being that we are a state that offers all four seasons, more so than some other states that I’ve lived in, I try to anticipate each day’s events. Each of these seasons offers pros and cons. Winter for instance is typically darker than the other months and allows you to blend in more. Also, with no foliage on the bushes and smaller trees this allows you to sit on streets with a vantage through properties. Springtime has a lot of unpredictable rain, making surveillance difficult at best. No one wants to be outside in the rain, and if they are, obtaining quality video is not exactly easy through the drops on a windshield.

 

What is your favorite season to do surveillance in?

Fall and winter are probably my favorite times of the year to work in the field. Fall, because the temperatures have dropped to a more reasonable level, and there’s a very high chance for quality activity and video. Wintertime for the reasons stated above. Both of these seasons offer the investigator opportunities to obtain quality video proof as there are high possibilities that our subject is going to be outside either raking leaves or clearing snow.

 

How does your routine change with the seasons?

Changing from winter to spring can be tough. Like winter, you must make sure that your vehicle stays clean. We all know how the salt looks on a car in the winter, and makes you stand out. The same can be said with the rain of springtime. Video footage through a dirty windshield or window never turns out a professional looking product. The days in the springtime can go from cold in the morning, to blazing in the afternoon so it’s a good idea to make sure that you have the necessary clothing and vehicle shade.

 

Are there any cases that you know would have only been possible to accomplish in fair weather?

Cases where we know or have good intelligence that the subject is going to be performing yard work/landscaping in the springtime can be a big win. With that being said, it all depends on the weather. We really must keep an eye on upcoming weather i.e. rain, flooding. It’s difficult, at best, to predict what Mother Nature is going to throw our way, but with advances in radar technology we can come close most of the time.

 

How do you prepare mentally and physically for the vast changes in schedule that come with surveillance?

The changes in the seasons have a big effect on how our finished product comes out. During the colder months the days are shorter offering a limited window for obtaining quality footage. Also, during the winter there is a very real chance that some streets may be blocked or impassable due to snowfall. Some urban areas do not clear snow as regularly as other neighborhoods. Mapping out travel routes beforehand is always a good idea. During the warmer months our case rate increases, meaning there are days when an investigator can work multiple cases in a single day. These can be exhausting and making sure that you have all the items needed i.e. water, change of clothes, etc. is imperative.

From the Investigator: The Seasonal Affect – Natasha

June 13th, 2019

The Seasonal Affect

Investigator Natasha Popovska has had no trouble adjusting to the crazy ups and downs in surveillance. Natasha has an avid love for people watching, which is why she absolutely loves this job. Natasha also has a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice from Madonna University. While at Madonna, she was the poster girl for the college’s flyers! After applying for her surveillance position on a whim, she was surprised to get a call from Sherlock, who had recognized the great talent she could bring to our company. This series aims to address the different work conditions that investigators run into throughout the year. Every day is different out in the field, and we all handle it in our own way! Let’s get to know how our second interviewee, Natasha, navigates the Great Lakes state!

 

Michigan surveillance is full of challenges. How do the climate and state conditions prepare an investigator for work adversity?

The very first thing I do when I wake up is check the weather, even before I roll out of bed. Being prepared in any sort of weather condition is one of the keys to making sure that you can be the best investigator you can be. You don’t want to stand out so that you’re easily recognizable. For example, I am constantly hot and even in the winter I just wear a sweater without a winter coat, but when I have cases during the winter I always make sure to have a hat, scarf, gloves, and coat to make myself “fit in” because you never know where the day may take you, which is another reason why I love my job.

 

What is your favorite season to do surveillance in?

My favorite season for surveillance is in the fall. It’s perfect because it’s not so cold that you feel like you’re nose is going to fall off and you don’t get too hot to the point where you absolutely have to have the air conditioner on, (the less gas you waste, the better). Also, in my opinion, people are more likely to be out and about because it’s not freezing or scorching hot, which allows for good activity for the day and makes our clients very happy; the chance of possibly having to follow someone into the cider mill makes me a happy camper as well.

 

How does your routine change with the seasons?

My absolute favorite thing about working in the spring/summer is the sun. I bought a sun blocker for your front windshield and I have my windows tinted so when I put the sun blocker in my front window, no one can see that I am sitting in my vehicle. It may sound creepy, but it allows for me to avoid the extra attention of someone who just sits in their vehicle for hours at a time without any interaction; the less attention an investigator can draw to themselves the better so that the person we are doing surveillance on does not start to become suspicious. The last thing any investigator wants is to burn a case.

 

Are there any cases that you know would have only been possible to accomplish in fair weather?

Living in Michigan where there is never a steady weather pattern and always makes for an interesting day of work. The days when surveillance is affected the most, in my opinion, is when it’s either too hot or too cold/snowing outside. No one wants to do yard work when it’s 90+ degrees outside, so some days you’re sitting in your car waiting for someone to cut the grass or plant flowers with absolutely no activity and then you’ll have people outside shoveling snow when you would think that they would be inside due to the extremely cold weather. I don’t think you can ever be 100% certain as to what will happen, so you have to be prepared for anything that gets thrown your way.  

 

How do you prepare mentally and physically for the vast changes in schedule that come with surveillance?

I prepare everything I am going to need for the workday the night before. I check the weather for the next day both before I go to sleep and again in the morning, so I am prepared for whatever nature throws my way. Making sure I get plenty of sleep the night before and coffee before I start work is the major key for me. I always have extra clothes and shoes on hand just in case my case takes a turn; the last thing you want is to be wearing oversized sweats and a baggy hoodie and then having to walk into a very prestigious restaurant. In the summer I carry flip flops, and make sure to have TONS of water on hand, even though you must drink in moderation. During the winter I carry a shovel in my trunk just in case I end up getting snowed in (makes me miss my four-wheel drive so much). Even though it’s only been a year since I have worked in this profession, I am still learning new things every day. All the investigators are great when it comes to seeking answers to questions or advice in general. The investigators in the office help a lot as well; by adding in notes we may find helpful or telling us facts we may need to know about a case before we get there, it allows for the field investigator to be better mentally and physically prepared for what the day has in store.

From the Investigator: The Seasonal Affect – Samantha

June 6th, 2019

The Seasonal Affect

Investigator Samantha Castillo has been through all of the surveillance conditions that Michigan has to offer. The season that she has the most fun with outside of work is Fall; Halloween and cider mills are her thing!  Apart from being in love with being a new Auntie and a dog mom, Samantha also enjoys live music on the regular at all of the local Detroit theatres. This series aims to address the different work conditions that investigators run into throughout the year. Every day is different out in the field, and we all handle it in our own way! Let’s get to know how our first interviewee, Samantha, tackles this Michigan terrain!

Michigan surveillance is full of challenges. How do the climate and state conditions prepare an investigator for work adversity?

One of the things that remind me of how differential our work conditions are is the fact that every day I have to check the internet for what the weather conditions were while I was in the field. We can go a whole week with different conditions every day, or multiple conditions in one day! I never assume that the weather will remain constant and predictable. That being said, small things like the amount of gas you have in your tank, keeping up on oil changes, having healthy tires, etc. are even more important when you live and work in Michigan. There are some road conditions that can greatly impact surveillance, such as potholes and flooding. These conditions require knowledge of the local terrain, as many locals will avoid high risk areas and mobile surveillance is impacted by this. With all of these odds against us, we are forced to take extreme care because of the risks and also due to the price of insuring our surveillance vehicles.

What is your favorite season to do surveillance in?

My personal favorite parts of the year are the late-Fall and early-Spring. They are my favorite because of the temperature and overhead conditions. I really enjoy days where I do not have to heat or cool my vehicle, saving on gas. There are a lot of cloudy days during these times too, which does not allow the inside of my vehicle to superheat and taking video is much clearer without the blare of sun rays. These times of the year are also leading into and coming out of periods where people are not outside as much, making neighborhood suspicion less likely. Also, there is not a crazy amount of snow during these times! Snow is awful in Michigan because it slows our commute times and makes mobile surveillance more dangerous. Also, I’m just not a fan of super-hot days, they make me thirsty and as you can imagine finding a place to use the restroom is not easy sometimes when you are a female!

How does your routine change with the seasons?

There are several things that I make sure to hit on when the seasons are changing. In the Winter, I have to make sure I am washing my vehicle often due to the mud and salt residue blocking my view. I always keep a full tank of gas in cold weather. In Spring, the warm weather props that I use such as sandals, shorts, and sunglasses are always within reach. In the Summer, I am making sure to get almost monthly oil changes and keeping spare water bottles just in case I find myself overheating. In the Fall, I am getting new tires and preparing my Chevrolet SUV for Winter. I do not change vehicles in between the seasons; my small SUV fits in year-round in most scenarios. My greatest changes come with how I setup for surveillance. In colder weather I find that I can park closer to my subject’s residence, and when it is warm I have to stay back a generous distance. You also have to be cognizant of the schedules of school children between early fall and early summer. Where there are children, there are alert adults!

Are there any cases that you know would have only been possible to accomplish in fair weather?

This being Michigan, there are many people that have a summer routine that they follow religiously. One of the great things about that is that we can pinpoint what that routine is from social media, surveillance or drop cam. A common scenario that we run into is that of the “second home camper”. We will follow a subject to their preferred campground from their main residence and this “home away from home” is a place that they think they are safe from observance. While they are at these places they can be observed swimming, fishing, going on nature walks, pitching tents, chopping wood, building fires, etc. These situations are a gold mine!

How do you prepare mentally and physically for the vast changes in schedule that come with surveillance?

I find that one of the best ways to deal with the mental and physical strain is to get enough sleep. Yes, our hours can be vastly different day to day, but if you set a hard rule for the amount of sleep you have to get, it helps. The surveillance lifestyle can sneak up on you if you don’t stay aware of yourself. For example, poor dietary habits can evolve and before you know it and you can find yourself feeling sluggish and not letting your brain get the nourishment that it needs. Your responsiveness in the field is what can make or break a case. Not letting yourself get burned out is on you, and working for a company that understands that is key!

 

Social Media Authentication Myths

May 30th, 2019

Metadata capture versus the authentication of social media

Could you explain this to the judge in your case?

Social Media Authentication Myths

 

There is no more simplistic way to put this into words, so here it goes; just because you can capture the hash values of a social media post does not mean you have identified where or when an image was taken.  Period, end of story.  I have sat through presentations on this topic where the use of hash value collection software was used synonymously with geolocation and metadata collection in a way that the audience believed that such tools would prove when and where an image was taken once extracted from a social media platform.

Posts and images found on Facebook, Instagram, VSCO, SnapChat and for argument sake Twitter do not contain metadata related to the time, date, device or location of the images found on an individual’s profile.  There is no way through metadata to prove when an image was taken once it is posted to most social media platforms.  For this we must get more creative…

The values contained in the MD5 of SHA hashes that can be pulled from a social media post merely verifies when and where an image or post was captured by the person collecting it, namely the investigator.  Tools to extract this data have been around for many years, and a good number of law firms use platforms with integrations that include the ability to do this in-house.  As investigators, we too have a toolbox full of ways to capture the hash values from our internet profile investigations.  Having such abilities is valuable, and may, one day, become mandatory due to a newish federal court rule (902) regarding the self-authentication of digital evidence.  At this moment, local circuit and district courts have yet to adopt this rule and even more importantly are simply unaware of the position of the federal district court update.  For now, given the current landscape and the process a court rule must go through in order to be adopted at the local level, we are better served combining this “new” collection process with a tried and true method, which ultimately includes a affidavit from the investigator, testifying to the collection methods and practices used in the investigation.

 

If you or a colleague are interested in obtaining a template of the affidavits we have successfully submitted to the courts or a copy of what the Federal Court Rule 902 investigation report looks like, please let us know and we will happy to send you samples.  Furthermore, if your team is interested in training opportunities on the techniques used to collect social media and beyond the surface web internet evidence, we would be happy to provide such training and consultation.

 

 

 

 

Why is Client Communication Essential to a Successful Investigation?

May 23rd, 2019

Its amazing just how much a little client communication can benefit investigations. We have all seen the benefits of the early morning update, the day after surveillance, where the client can get an understanding of what is going on with their file. Not only do they get a better understanding of the state of their file, but also they can give additional information and clarify things the investigator is seeing, based on billing or direct contact / conversations they may have had with their claimant. Sometimes however, there are situations where that client communication happens as the surveillance is unfolding, and the outcomes can sometimes be remarkable.

Just recently, we had a request for surveillance to cover a meeting between our client and their claimant. Over the course of the last couple of years we have done multiple rounds of surveillance on this individual. We have observed them driving vehicles they claimed no longer to own, living at places they claimed not to, and observed places they list as a primary residence, having eviction notices and boarded up doors / windows. On this particular day, we observed the individual driving and running errands throughout the morning, but in heavy Downtown Detroit traffic we would end up losing visual with their vehicle.

As always, we conducted a canvass of locations we believed they might be going to, but we were never successful in placing them prior to this meeting. We arrived at the location, and after a scan of the parking lot were able to determine than none of the known vehicles to the subject or known family members were present. Through direct contact with our client and their office, we were given notice that the subject stated they were driven to the meeting by their significant other, who had picked them up from their primary residence, as they were unable to drive themselves. After being provided the name of the significant other, we located that persons address (which just so happened to match where we saw out subject leave from that morning…).

Our investigator then looked back through their footage from earlier in the day, identifying a vehicle that was associated with the address that we were unaware of before. A canvass of the meeting spot then identified that vehicle, as well as the driver. Had the client communication not been a top priority, I cannot guarantee we would have located the subject following the meeting. Nor would we necessarily have obtained the footage of them following the meeting, and returning back to the address that she most definitely does not live at…..

Last Month in Surveillance

May 16th, 2019

April was another of those fun months regarding surveillance.  With the weather warming up, as expected, so did claimant activity, collectively.  Apparently, recreational venues don’t seem to bother some injuries as much as, let’s say, working a full-time job, but I digress.  The war stories continue…

One case, near the very beginning of the month, was worked relatively close to our home office.  Back, neck and knee injuries had kept this claimant, allegedly, from continuing to partake in work, at any degree.  Because of his background in supervising construction work crews, this one made for a bit of a challenge.  You see, the claimant appeared to know the workers’ compensation counter measures and was on high alert for any type of surveillance or investigation near his home.  He managed to drive erroneously enough for us to terminate our efforts of pursuit on more than one occasion.  Near the end of the surveillance investigation, however, we managed to outsmart our claimant.  Setups were made in very conservative, strategically factored, positions and follows were made in the same manner.  Everything would come to light soon enough as to why his radar appeared on high alert!  This claimant continued to visit job sites where roofing crews and other construction venues appeared present.  He even drove a large trailer to one of the sites and leave it for the employees.  If that wasn’t quite enough, our claimant was observed as he carried large sheets of 4’ x 8’ lumber and appeared to instruct the crews.  And if that wasn’t enough, his climbing up and into the open trailer, tossing buckets and material about then jumping off from approximately 3 foot in the air to the concrete driveway beneath could NOT have done well for his back or knee…could it?!

Anything along the M-59 corridor can be a pretty challenging surveillance gig.  One April morning, I decided that a spot check of the home of a stationary surveillance job would help out a little.  You know, a little reconnaissance prior to the camera placement, if you will.  Upon arrival, the apartment complex and the subject’s residence both made for a pretty easy drop camera setup, I figured.  Prior to departure, I made the call to the office to relay my observations and wouldn’t you know it; the claimant decided it was a good time to leave her home for the day!  Well, I can’t make this stuff up… The claimant, and her (alleged) injuries to her back and leg, took me to a nearby car dealership, where her SUV would get serviced.  I sat next to her in the service lobby and observed her walk and move in a pretty routine manner.  It was the loud phone conversation that she was engaged with that really had my attention though.  She had told whomever she was speaking with, that she would “try and make it down there if I’m not working.”  Now, I really don’t know when the venue she spoke of was scheduled (it could have been after her long, drawn-out insurance claim), but I do know that following her from the dealership to a freight and cargo yard down in Detroit became very intriguing!  Oh, how I love random spot checks…

One more “quickie”, this one from about a mile of my home.  The awful eye injury to this claimant was supposed to keep him from maintaining his normal functionality and lifestyle.  Well, driving children to school, splitting wood with his log splitter and stacking it before wrapping bundles in plastic wrap for resale sure didn’t support his claims.  Okay, this one actually was an ongoing surveillance of the same surveillance file conducted in March; however, the shenanigans continued!  The drawn-out surveillance efforts help fight the old “good days/bad days” defense…

 

Until next month….

Sherlock Investigations: Tricks of the Surveillance Trade – Bodashia

April 25th, 2019

Sherlock Investigation’s Tricks of the Trade

 

Investigator Bodashia Grimm has returned with more experience to divulge! Bodashia continues to pay it forward by organizing charitable events such as our company’s participation in the Polar Plunge for the Special Olympics and by representing the company at recruiting events. Her bright personality and alluring smile make Sherlock Investigations proud to put her at the forefront. This series is facilitated to give the reader a taste of the field investigator’s daily surveillance routine. Let’s get to know our fourth interviewee, Bodashia, all over again!

Surveillance sometimes requires altering your appearance.

How do you begin your workday?

Good technique in working cases is to actually know the case. Receiving a case with a pre-surveillance workup is an advantage of working at Sherlock. Their research and background investigators prep the case and include the essential information needed to have a successful plan of action. Determining the subject’s address, type of area, any vehicles involved, social media postings, and the mission of a case is crucial. If a subject is working at a fitness gym, an obvious plan for the investigator would be to establish surveillance in the gym and dress in workout gear.

 

What does your surveillance setup consist of?                                                              

A “tool” bag is useful to keep in range while conducting surveillance. An investigator should prepare for a case with the essential “tools” to conduct surveillance. The bag can hold things like binoculars, extra camera batteries, different clothing to swap into, different style hats, sunglasses, sunscreen, extra shoes, an emergency car kit for bad weather, snacks, water, a portable phone charger, etc. I have a wig in my bag that is a different color than my real hair to change my appearance and continue to obtain footage. There were no instructions to wearing the wig, so I threw the wig on one day to maintain the integrity of the case. Shortly afterward, I started to sweat and had the feeling of ants crawling around me. I learned to have a wig cap in my tool bag and arranged my wig correctly for comfort. Therefore, whatever you choose to put in your tool bag to prepare for surveillance, be sure to try it out first and practice with it for maximum benefits. The worst feeling while conducting surveillance is when you’re not prepared to work or do not know how to work with your tools properly.

Do you have a go to persona or cover that you use in the field when on surveillance?

Going back to the gym scenario, I’ve followed a subject into a gym with the knowledge that he frequented the establishment. The surveillance lasted all day. Upon arriving at the gym, I switched to a workout jacket, shoes and wore a baseball cap to hide my face a little. The covert footage in the gym made the client very happy to add the video to their toolkit. A subject may frequent a mall, or a store and the investigator should prepare to inconspicuously shop to blend in with the crowd. The goal is to obtain surveillance footage and prepare to do so in any environment. 

Why is a company full of unique investigators beneficial for a diverse case load?

One of my favorite cartoons show years ago was ‘Inspector Gadget’. He always carried around his magnifying glass, dressed in a trench coat and brim hat, looking for clues and attempted to remain inconspicuous. Another family favorite show was ‘Scooby Doo’, in which they used a group of teenagers and a dog to disguise themselves in order to obtain information in a mysterious plot and subsequently solve cases. The goal in both shows was to create inventive ways of retrieving information, watch a “suspect”, put together clues and utilize them to make logic of the who, what, when, where, why and how. In a way, our company is comparable to these cartoons as it is full of vastly different characters, that all share a common goal. This benefits the work that we do immensely.

How do you keep yourself at an advantage in this line of work?

Experience in the field of surveillance is definitely at the top of the list. Some people may have confidence in their investigative ideals by watching famous investigator shows, hunting fugitives, being awesome in Jeopardy, attending mystery dinners, and being the eerie social media savvy creature – but this is no substitution for field work! Working in the investigative field can be a rewarding career for some, and others soon find out that the average Google search is not the only tool utilized to get the job done. One investigator may teach another investigator, who then converts those strategies into what works best for them, to be a successful investigator! Being present and communicating keeps you ahead.