Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Sifting through the Investigators

The Philippines has seen a strong demand for background checks, surveillance and investigation. With more and more people dating online worldwide, and the high percentage of Filipinas looking to meet someone foreign, the demand is expected to continue rising. In addition to personal cases, business activity and foreign investment in the Philippines is rising as the country continues to develop and gain access to global and capital markets.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
The question for many companies and individuals with relations and or investment in the Philippines is, how can I select a prudent and professional private investigator? How can I determine who is the real investigation company, and who is the local with limited or even no professional experience?

To answer that question, we have reprinted the below information with permission from Philippine PI™, one of the most reputable Philippines Private Investigators operating in the Philippines. The Company's advisory is excellent advice for those considering a private investigation anywhere in the Philippines.

Investigator Advisory for the Philippines
Widespread fraud and corruption reaches all levels of Philippine society, including private investigators. There are many cases where clients seek investigation services or consultation from a so-called "professional" or "private investigator" in the Philippines, only to be scammed by the investigator. It is not uncommon for the local or amateur investigator to take the client's money, and in return provide unacceptable service, or even no service at all. With the high level of unemployment and poverty in the Philippines, many locals have tried to take advantage of foreigners seeking investigation services. Other locals sincerely attempt to do the investigative work, but simply are not qualified or properly trained to conduct the case.

What you should know:

1. If it's too cheap, it's probably too good to be true.If an investigator claims to offer a remarkable service, at a very low price, it's safe to assume you will get what you pay for. Real, professional and private investigation can be expensive.

2. Buyer beware of investigators that only accept Western Union.A reputable company or private investigator should have a website where the investigator accepts various forms of payment, including a secure site where you can pay by credit card.

3. Stear clear of investigators with no references.Prior to paying for an investigator, search the internet for references of the investigator or company. Chances are you can learn what others are saying about the company. If you can't find enough information on the internet, you might ask the investigator or company for a reference.

4. Be weary of any investigator who doesn't speak English.English is commonly spoken by the educated population in the Philippines. It is also necessary to conduct a proper investigation in the Philippines, since most people speak English in addition to their native language. An investigator who doesn't speak English fluently is unqualified.

5. Choose an investigator who is available to discuss your case over the phone.It can be hard to tell who you're dealing with over the internet, so check to see if your investigator is available over the phone. Often a brief phone conversation will allow you to ask important questions and determine if the investigator is right for you. It will also quickly show you what kind of service you can expect, since good customer service means being available for a phone call.

6. Avoid websites that look unprofessional.If the investigation company's website looks unprofessional, chances are, the services are also unprofessional. Insufficient budgets and training for development of the business, which can be detected when viewing the website, will likely be reflected in other areas as well, such as reports, surveillance equipment, vehicles, etc. Expect to pay more for quality service.

7. Look for privacy seals and secure websites.Since private investigation can involve sensitive information and details of a very private nature, look for an investigator with a website that displays privacy seals such as Truste. In additon, to be sure your information is safeguarded with adequate technology, check for additional seals such as McAfee security seals which ensure the website and your data is safe and secure.

8. Expect to pay a fair price.Professional private investigation can be expensive. Rather than trying to save a few dollars by choosing an unknown or unqualified firm, try to work with a reputable company about the best option for you, and if an investigation will likely provide you with the evidence you need. Too often choosing a cheap investigator means money down the drain, so choose carefully.

9. Ask if surveillance photos have time-date stamps.Surveillance photographs during any professional investigation should have time-date stamps on them. This is industry standard and this type of photographic evidence should be included in daily reports to clients. If for any reason the investigator does not offer this service, you know this is not a professional, but rather a local or amateur lacking the proper experience and equipment.

10. Choose a U.S., Canada or European managed company.Due to the high level of fraud and corruption throughout Philippine society, try to find and use an investigation company that is managed or owned by a U.S., Canadian or European company. This will ensure the company is managed according to stricter standards, and is held accountable for safer business practices and ethics of the United States, Canada or Western Europe.

11. Never use a "company" with no business address or phone number.Perhaps the easiest way to distinguish the real investigation firm from the local individual or shady operation is to check their contact us page. A real investigation company has a secure contact us page on their website, with a business address. In addition, a legitimate investigator will be happy to provide clients with a business telephone number where he or she can be reached. If any given investigator refuses to provide this information, it would be very wise to look elsewhere.

12. Buyer beware of any investigators who only accept PayPal.While PayPal is a legitimate and secure payment option, a red flag should be raised if this is the only way to pay your investigator via a credit card. A professional investigation firm should offer various forms of payment options, from wire transfer, PayPal, to submitting your credit or debit card data directly via their secure website. A website that only offers PayPal for credit card payments is almost always a clear indication that you are dealing with an individual and not a real company.

Best of luck,

A. Hathaway
© 2006-2009 A. Hathaway
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This copyrighted article was written and published by the editor and site author, A. Hathaway, or other guest private investigator, expert or contributor as noted.