Officials at the U.S., Canadian and Australian Embassies in Manila report a significant rise in the number of complaints involving websites or persons claiming to be private investigators in the Philippines. The problem is not new, but contacts at the Embassies say that complaints are up more than double the levels reported in 2009, which is an alarming rate. Individuals and companies are hiring private investigators in the Philippines for help, and all too often say experts, they are fastly becoming a victim of fraud, scam or theft. In some cases consumers report that the investigators attempt to do the work, but simply aren't qualified. The fact that many people are seeking an investigator to avoid being a victim of a scam in the first place, is a frustrating situation, and law enforcement has been slow to act. Caution is advised.
The Philippines is a nation rife with fraud, online dating scams, romance scams, marriage and internet fraud. Corruption and exportation of brides in the Philippines are entrenched in the nation's history and culture. Many Western men seek to find a bride here, and many companies seek to invest in the country via Manila. However, there is significant risk for investors, businesses and individuals. As a result, the services of a professional private investigator are often essential. Background checks, due diligence, private investigations and surveillance is in demand in the Philippines. The problem is finding someone competent.
Because of the lack of law and order, and the high demand for investigators, many criminals and amateurs are now posing as professional Philippines private investigators, offering their services on online message boards and creating professional looking websites. The truth is, less than 5% have professional training in a law enforcement academy, or military program. Most do not have a college education. Most lack the necessary and expensive equipment to investigate properly. And many of those claiming to be investigators are just plain fraudsters.
Experts offer the following guidelines:
1) Beware of an investigator who prefers bank transfers, Western Union or PayPal. Once the payment is sent, there is no way to get the money back. A real company accepts payments directly via its secure website using your credit card. If something goes wrong, at least you can call your credit card company and report the fraud, and possibly issue a chargeback.
2) Go with a company that is based in the U.K., U.S., Canada or Australia. The reason is that these highly developed countries have strict laws and accountability for business, and you can expect a higher standard and higher quality service. Companies based in the Philippines are 10 times more likely to deliver substandard service and unprofessional results.
3) Check to see if the company's website is verified by McAfee, the Better Business Bureau, and Truste. An individual or local Filipino won't pass the strict qualification standards set by these organizations. Also, you can check the BBB to see if the company has any history of complaints. (Click on the BBB logo on the Philippine PI™ website, for example, and you can see the firm has had zero complaints in the past 4 years.)
4) Understand that professional investigation services for background checks, due diligence, surveillance and investigations can be expensive. Expect to pay more for a quality service. Choosing by price alone is a bad idea.
5) Ask the investigator to tell you specifically where he or his field investigators received their training. If the investigators have no training in the Philippine Army, National Bureau of Investigation or Philippine National Police, the FBI, U.S. Military, or similar, it would be best to keep shopping.
William Carter at U.S. based Philippine PI™ agrees. Consumers should be very selective when shopping for a private investigator in the Philippines. "We see a lot of cases where a client chooses an investigator based on price, and we later see the client come back explaining that he or she was scammed, had their money stolen, or the investigator didn't do a professional job. Professional and reputable services cost more." Embassy officials agree, and some Embassy websites even have warnings about such scams.
Choosing an unskilled investigator can have disastrous results. In many such cases, the work is not confidential or discreet, leading to major complications for clients. As always, go with a professional, and get the job done right the first time.Best of luck,
© 2011 A. Hathaway