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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.

Sherlock Investigations: Tricks of the Surveillance Trade – Keith

April 18th, 2019

Helpful surveillance tips and tricksSherlock Investigation’s Tricks of the Trade

Keith Stotts has seen a thing or two in his years as an investigator. He comes from a law enforcement background based in the military, specifically the U.S. Army. Keith has also held positions as a Field Surveillance Officer with the Court Services Unit in Virginia and worked as contractor for I.C.E. at the headquarters in Fairfax, VA. He majored in Criminal Justice throughout college, and still enjoys keeping up to date with new laws that are passed. He also enjoys the outdoors, fishing and hunting as much as possible. This has worked to his and Sherlock Investigation’s benefit in the past, as he has been able to utilize his own personal sporting equipment during surveillance. This series is facilitated to give the reader a taste of the field investigator’s daily surveillance routine. Let’s get to know our third interviewee, Keith, better than ever!

How do you begin your workday?

My day actually begins the day before the case is to be worked. We receive all of our pertinent case information the day before. I study the information that is provided in the case information sheet, which includes description of the subject, addresses associated with the subject, possible vehicles that the subject may be associated with, workplaces, and a list of injuries claimed by the subject (if applicable). On top of this, I may be provided with previous surveillance efforts, and possible new addresses, vehicles, and subject suspicion level. All of these help me establish a basis for what I may encounter for the day. The day of surveillance I re-check addresses and program them all into my GPS in order of relevance to the level of activity which was previously obtained. I then make sure my vehicle is full on gas (you never know where some people will drive to), windows are clean, and all of my equipment is ready to go.

What does your surveillance setup consist of?

I normally drive a black Chevrolet Impala, with tinted windows. I like this car a lot for surveillance purposes as it’s a common vehicle found in most neighborhoods. I can go from very congested areas of Detroit, to more upscale neighborhoods with little regard from people that live in the areas. If there are times when I’m tasked with a more rural case, or a case in the northern part of the state I opt to utilize my truck, Dodge Ram 1500 with tinted windows. The truck offers me a more believable cover for these areas. Another vehicle that I’ve used a few times in the past is my boat. Several times our subject has been in a position that we were only able to obtain footage of them, or their residence, from the water. As far as equipment, I try to use as little as I think I’m going to need for any case. If I’m working in the greater Detroit area, I’ll bring a backpack with my camera, extra battery, spare camera, note pad, and a battery charger. If it’s more of a rural setup I’ll bring my magnetic stickers for my doors, a clipboard, and a safety vest. Always have binoculars with you, no matter where you set up!

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

Generally in the field, I’ll go with no disguise. To me they look phony, and fake is easy to spot. I go with what I, or the people in the area that I’m working, would normally
wear. If I’m approached by someone in the neighborhood I’ll generally use the cover as a process server waiting for someone to get home so I can give them a subpoena. This cover works really well, as most of the time people really have no idea how any of the process service works. It’s nice to have an old subpoena in your vehicle, just in case you need to show a really unbelieving neighbor – making sure to not show any names on the paperwork, as long as they see the seal you’re fine.

 

If I’m working a more rural area, I’ll have a magnetic placard on my door if I absolutely have to, but I’ll wear a safety vest and advise anyone that makes contact with me that I’m waiting for a surveyor to establish new cable service in the area. That has gotten more than one nosey neighbor excited that they might be getting better cable in their area.

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

When you have a company with many different types of people, from diverse backgrounds you can actually broaden your work area. There are a lot of diverse cultures in the greater Metro Detroit area that ranges from low income urban areas, to highly affluent big money areas. Being able to blend in to any of these areas will help our clients obtain the best possible bang for their buck, as we are able to provide the information that we need. I have always tried to become the “Grey Man” when working in areas with a lot of people. The “Grey Man” is someone that doesn’t stand out, or get noticed. If you are noticed, it’s usually just a glance, and passed off as nothing more than slight curiosity.

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

I try to retain as much knowledge from previous cases as possible. Is there a case that I had where my subject likes to golf, fish, hunt, or shop? Any little thing that I did on previous cases will always be helpful in the future. Being “On top” is important to me from a company perspective, but helping the rest of my team be the best that they can be is so very important. To me that is the best thing going. If we have a team that continually tries to make each other better every day, then THAT is what staying “On Top” is all about. Learning new things about the law, new technology, new ideas, and sharing them with the rest of the team. Never stop learning.

 

Last Month in Surveillance

April 16th, 2019

March was one of those fun months regarding surveillance.  We had quite a few really nice (50+ degree) days sandwiched between small stretches of garbage weather, causing flurries of claimant activity!!  Apparently, I wasn’t the only one that was itching to make the most of those breaks in the weather!  The war stories continue…

One case, very close to home for me, made it pretty easy to keep a close on this guy.  Fortunately for him, his injuries were not in question.  As a matter of fact, they were described as “an absolute awful situation” by our client.  Unfortunately for him, his claims to the physical restrictions and the ability to no longer carry on a normal way of life, were very much in question.  Many days of surveillance were conducted on this claimant; stationary and manned surveillance.  Most days yielded plenty of subject activity…and most of which yielding very damning evidence against both his physical restrictions and normal functionality claims.  The claimant was able to drive almost every day.  This was an activity in question.  Not only was driving not an issue, but it was later proven that he was, in fact, driving young children to school, among other destinations!  If this wasn’t quite enough to disprove his claims, or at the very least create a strong argument, we watched a bit closer.  Lo and behold, driving was just the tip of the symbolic iceberg, making our client’s argument concrete against his claims.  The claimant was found to not only split wood, utilizing a large gas driven log splitter, but he then made it a routine to collect the fallen pieces of apparent firewood and stack it.  After stacking firewood, the claimant would wrap small bundles in plastic and load them into the rear of his pickup truck.  He would then drive around and deliver his product to gas stations along the M-59 corridor.  A nice little business for a man with no ability to function normally…but I digress…

Up north Michigan is a great place to visit; however, not always the most fun to conduct surveillance; however, Tawas, MI was very favorable in this one!  Injuries to this claimant, to include driving anxiety, did not keep him from working with the tree service company, but it did keep him from driving company vehicles.  Well, under his own admission anyways…  We were informed that the claimant still continued to work, but now just as a brush pick-up man and other types of minor clean-up labor.  The first morning the claimant was driven to meet a fellow employee, things looked grim.  He rode as a passenger to a collection area of tree service trucks at a local gas station.  No surprises…yet…  The claimant then jumped into a large truck, hauling a trailer and piece of heavy equipment, and drove he and another employee to a job site!!  What a turn of events!  Now, if that wasn’t enough, the claimant was observed on site for hours as he conducted brush pick-up, along with conducting tool maintenance, assisting in anchoring the piece of heavy equipment and hauled large branches and logs across neighboring lawns.  Needless to say, further surveillance did not seem necessary to this client…

One more “quickie”, this one from the center of the mitten.  Multiple injuries to this claimant had kept her from going back to work.  Okay, this one actually was an ongoing surveillance (or case re-open) of the same surveillance file conducted in February; however, the shenanigans continued!  She made all of her scheduled medical appointments last month.  Good for her!  Well, good for us too as it made establishing surveillance a bit easier.  Yep, she showed to all of her appointments, driven to each by a friend or family member because driving was “just too difficult.”  I think she meant driving was just too difficult on her days of scheduled appoints because she was found driving, dining out, shopping and maneuvering in a normal fashion on ALL subsequent days of surveillance.  That may be a pretty tough “good days/bad days” defense…

March picked up right where February left off, right where January left off…anyone see a pattern here in regard to insurance scam/fraud???

Until next month….

Sherlock Investigations: Tricks of the Surveillance Trade – Sean

April 11th, 2019

Surveillance investigators have tricks up their sleeve to get the job done

Sherlock Investigation’s Tricks of the Surveillance Trade

Investigator Sean Taig is back with more insight! Sean has been with Sherlock Investigations since Spring 2018. He recently supported local law enforcement and raised money for the Special Olympics by participating in our 2019 Polar Plunge! A fun fact about Sean, he hunted his first (and only, so far) deer back in 2011 at the age of 15 – a four-year-old doe that weighed a little over 200lbs and was delicious!  This series is facilitated to give the reader a taste of the field investigator’s daily surveillance routine. Let’s get to know our second interviewee, Sean, a little better!

How do you begin your workday?

I generally will start my workday by looking over all the surveillance documents that I have been provided with, again. Having already reviewed it prior, this go around acts as a kind of refresher. I always double check my equipment to make sure it is fully charged and in working condition. Once I head out, I always stop at the gas station and fill my gas tank because you never know where a day of surveillance will take you. The last thing you want is to have to end a good day of surveillance because you run out of gas!

What does your surveillance setup consist of?

My surveillance setup is quite simple. I drive an SUV while on surveillance for two reasons. First being, it’s my only vehicle! And second, it’s just perfect honestly. Smaller SUVs offer similar mobility that a car would give, while having a slightly bigger back seat and the interior trunk space. This is handy especially if you have tinted windows, you can almost park wherever you want and so long as you turn off your vehicle – you can hang out in your back seat and no one will even see you! Personally though, I prefer to stay in my front seat. On the off chance you do get caught in your back seat – that can make for an awkward conversation.

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

Being a male, it can be difficult to change up your appearance. Wigs aren’t as effective for men as they can be for women! I am kind of a minimalist in this sense. I have been lucky enough to not have to drastically change my appearance. There have been instances where I have changed clothes such as a shirt, coat, or even changing hats. Other times during mobile surveillance it can be good to help change the appearance of your vehicle by alternating the illumination of your vehicle’s lights, putting a rag, book, or hat in your windshield, you can also hang things from your rear-view mirror, or even use your sun visors to your advantage. Many things can be done to switch up your appearance; you just have to find what works for you!

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

Being an investigator is all about fitting into your surroundings. Given the area we operate, it is very important that we have a unique group of investigators. Not only ethnically but also in terms of skills, hobbies, and interests. South-eastern Michigan is one of the most culturally diverse places in the Midwest, so having investigators that we can “plug and play” into different cases can be very beneficial for individual success on each case. For example, if we have a claimant that we KNOW is a boating/fishing aficionado, we have an individual who would say the same, and has a boat. We then would be able to follow the claimant onto a lake and continue to collect video footage, instead of being stuck on shore.

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

In this field we rely quite a bit on technology to do our jobs. Whether it is the method of case delivery or the tools we use to collect our evidence. As a team we are constantly searching for new and improved ways to help streamline our process and improve quality. By doing so, we often come across tips and tricks to help us in the field. It can be something as simple as a specific camera setting to a new or better software program. At the end of the day, doing your own research is always the best way to stay one step ahead of the competition.

Sherlock Investigations: Tricks of the Surveillance Trade – Brian

April 4th, 2019

Sherlock Investigation’s Tricks of the Surveillance Trade

Brian Coykendall has been with Sherlock Investigations for over ten years. He professes that he loves his job as much now as he did as a new surveillance investigator! As a former Marine and previous criminal justice study, he has been able to transition those skills of paying attention to detail and remaining alert, to the field of insurance investigations.  On days that don’t require his head be on a swivel, Brian enjoys light exercise, playing softball, mountain biking, hiking, hunting and fishing. This series is facilitated to give the reader a taste of the field investigator’s daily surveillance routine. Let’s get to know our first interviewee, Brian, a little more!

How do you begin your workday?

I feel that any surveillance file, even with all the help of pre-surveillance work-ups from our team of data collection experts and our expert scheduling guru, still requires a fair amount of intel collection before conducting any field work.  Downloading and familiarizing myself with all the pertinent correspondence regarding the surveillance file is absolutely necessary.  After that, a mapping website of the subject’s home, schedule appointment location and workplace (if applicable) is reviewed and studied to help identify decent setup locations and prescribed routes of egress. One last thing before going to bed the night prior, I will visit my Accuweather application on my phone to help determine if my initial plan of action will be affected by any extreme or ongoing deteriorating, weather conditions.

What does your surveillance setup consist of?

My typical surveillance setup is made up of what I like to call “my rolling office.”  I utilize a 2016 Dodge Grand Caravan, usually with the middle seats out for a lot of wiggle room when needing to “hide” while posted up in a great vantage position.  The tinted windows allow for me to move around in the rear of my van without giving away that I’m present inside. I have the ability to carry just about any equipment that I deem necessary for the objectives that I’m challenged with on that particular day of investigative work.  A large tripod can be setup inside with no acknowledgment by any outside person. I’m also afforded the opportunity of blending in with the “soccer Dad” presentation, giving very little suspicion to my vehicle of choice.

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

One general cover that I usually present to anyone that inquires of my presence, besides law enforcement, of course, is that I am a civil process server with paperwork that I need to personally deliver to a neighbor that does not appear to be home.  I inform the concerned neighbor that I may be present for a number of hours until I can complete my work and that their local law enforcement has been informed of my presence.  This gives the neighbors a timeline and a sense of security.  Uniforms (i.e. safety vests, i.d. tags, etc.) can assist with a number of additional covers.  I’ve personally found that the civil process story works everywhere, as summons and complaints, divorce decrees, subpoenas and all remaining court documents requiring process service is usually understood, and accepted, by most.

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

I find working with our team at Sherlock to be very beneficial in a number of ways!  The fact that we are big enough of a company to structure teams of subject matter experts really proves to be a major advantage.  Knowing that I can call on an expert investigator, with any specific investigative element, means that I call with confidence and that my needs while in the field will be immediately met, with positive results!  The uniqueness of such a structure, in an industry overwhelmingly flooded with one and two-man operations, provides an instantaneous flow of vital information needed throughout any varying type of surveillance file.

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

Ongoing education plays a major role in keeping ahead in this industry.  Connecting with career minded professionals via LinkedIn and other social media platforms helps sharpen my knowledge of the objectives, goals and overall opinions of our work.  The same can be applied to the technological advances that can benefit me while in the field also. As minimal and unnecessary some may feel, keeping physically strong with even limited physical exercise assists in much surveillance.  The need to exit my vehicle and sprint into a position that is inaccessible with my vehicle, the possibility of needing to utilize a piece of gym equipment next to my claimant, or something as simple as needing the stamina to stand for hours in the same position are all scenarios I have personally experienced, among others.  I’ve also learned, over the years, to always ask up front what the overall and specific objectives are regarding any surveillance file. This information can help when determining setup locations, vantage points and how aggressive I may need to be to complete those goals.