In the last decade, bug sweeps are now one of our most requested services. With the rise in technology becoming more affordable, compact, and adaptable, it is more accessible for those with nefarious intent to eavesdrop on a victim to steal valuable intelligence. A victim of being bugged could be blackmailed by the suspect or have their information sold to a competitor.
Common reasons a client is susceptible to being bugged include:
- Involved in a lawsuit
- About to or have downsized
- In a competitive industry that relies on insider knowledge (marketing, fashion, automotive, product development, medical, technology, advertising, etc.)
- Is involved in government affairs or politics
Personal affairs: Is filing or in the middle of a divorce
- Involved in a custody battle (it is common for the children to have devices hidden in their things or during visits)
- In the process of getting married
- Filed an insurance claim
- Is or previously was in a position of power or influence, in business or politics
- Is a minister or religious leader
- Suspects the person eavesdropping is someone close to them who work in law enforcement, security, or the judicial system.
While you should always conduct due diligence beyond the face value of what a client tells you, if a client doesn’t disclose any of these warning signs and are not a high-risk client, there is a very high chance they are not being tracked or eavesdropped through devices.
However, when you do an intake with your client, if they note any of the warning signs below, it is advised to gather more information and move forward with a bug sweep or TCSM inspection:
People have found out about personal matters or confidential business secrets, or just seem to know too much about their activities.
This is the most telling sign that they may have been bugged: The client has noticed people they have never disclosed to know about their personal and business affairs. If it is a business, there are signs that a competitor or vendor has obtained the business’s internal information.
In the Home and Office
Evidence of a break-in, but nothing was stolen
Even if there is no overt evidence, the client may notice that something “seems off,” such as furniture or objects have been moved slightly, closets and drawers seem to have been rummaged through, or dusty areas have been disturbed. Additionally, a client may note that suddenly a new object was added to the home after the break-in, such as clocks, signage, picture frames, tissue boxes, lamps, and radios.
Wall fixtures have been shifted slightly
Some of the most popular hidden surveillance devices are designed to go inside or behind electrical outlets, light switches, smoke alarms, and lighting. Hidden camera lenses can be as small as the head of a screw, making them ideal to conceal in common wall fixtures.
Notice a strange vehicle parked near the home or office frequently with no one inside
Devices that transmit the recordings via wifi or RF may require the eavesdropper to be stationed nearby. Service or delivery trucks are commonly used: If you see the same or similar vehicle more than three times, there may be an eavesdropper. Vehicles with black or tinted windows allow the perpetrator to conceal them in the back of the vehicle to monitor the devices. Ladders or pipe racks on a vehicle can help conceal and antenna or beacon.
Interference in landlines, radios, or televisions
The client has noticed that their radio, landline, or television has been acting “weird.” This includes increased interference, a solid faint tone or high-pitched squeal on the phone, (note that beeping or high pitched noises could just be a result of a fax machine dialing the wrong number) or their radio loses signal in areas it never lost signal before.
Common objects have a small hole or reflective surface
Many spy stores sell a popular common home and office products such as lamps, clocks, tissue boxes, plant boxes, or exit signs, with a camera or microphone pre-installed, containing a small hole or reflective spot to hold the camera lens. A client has noticed that these products “just appeared” or these things have changed slightly in appearance.
In the Office
Ceiling tiles appear disturbed, discolored, or damaged, or have ceiling dust on the floor
A common installation location for hidden listening devices is inside the ceiling tiles: Their accessibility makes them a prime target. The client may have noticed that tiles have shifted, are not properly set in the frame, or recently were damaged. Note any recent maintenance issues in the building: These signs could be a result of a pipe leaking or new construction.
Bump in the vinyl baseboard
The vinyl-style baseboards are more popular in offices than in homes. A small bump or deformity in the vinyl baseboard along the floor may be a sign that someone hides and adhered to a wire or microphone behind the baseboard.
A client recently received gifts from vendors
If the client suspects that a competitor or vendor is spying on them, a common tactic is to place listening bugs inside “gifts”, such as pens, clocks, briefcases, adaptors, etc., Ask the client if any gifts have been given to them, and what specifically.
In Their Vehicle
Their car appears to have been broken into, but nothing was taken
Something inside the vehicle seems “off”, but nothing was taken. The client may have noticed that the seating was moved, (even though they are the primary driver and have not lent the car to anyone or any service technician recently) the car was rummaged through, or there are new items in the vehicle. This may have occurred multiple times, as the eavesdropper may need to retrieve the device to download the data or recharge the battery.
The car seems to be taking longer to start
Some tracking and eavesdropping devices may be connected to the car battery, using the power source when the engine is off. While it may not completely drain the battery, it can cause the car to stutter a bit as the remaining power tries to start the engine. This is not as common now as devices are moving more to use internal batteries and going into an “idle” mode when movement or sound is not detected to conserve power.
Electronics in the car are behaving erratically
The electronics in the car, including the radio and displays, are acting strange, which could result of interference from a covert surveillance device.
Others seem to know the client’s whereabouts
GPS tracking devices can be attached to a car with something as simple and discreet as a strong magnet. Common areas include under the engine bay, rear bumper, inside the dashboard, and behind the wheel well.
Client suspects they are being followed while driving
If there is a hidden microphone or camera in the car, the suspect may need to stay within a certain range of the device to acquire the recordings. The client noticed that the same vehicle was following behind them, or frequently parked near their car.
While this list is not exhaustive or that these are definitive indicators that a client is bugged, it is enough to warrant further investigation. Seeing these signs in our own agency has resulted in finding covert devices approximately 80% of the time. It is imperative that you analyze the context of your client's situation and perform proper due diligence to ensure you offer the best type of services for your client's needs and give them peace of mind.
Whoever said you can't find your career and passion after your 20s either hasn't found it yet, isn't above the age of 30, or a stick in the mud. For me, I found my calling as a private investigator in my late 30s.
I had been working in the private sector for over 20 years. My day job working in sales, dealing with a grind that like many jobs, had a way to suck the life and soul out of you. Even though business was going well, I felt that my work was more for the company than my own success.
After nearly 20 plus years of the daily grind of selling automotive electronic equipment, I found myself burnt out and in need of a change in my professional life.
Since my spirit animal is the lion-the strong protector-I always strive to help and protect people, to ensure their comfort and safety. I began to search how I could protect others in the private sector and found private security. I researched the prerequisites needed to become a registered New York State security guard and got my registration. Shortly after, I began to work for a security agency on Long Island. I quickly moved up the ranks, eventually becoming the manager, overseeing a team of security professionals. While I had gained an immense amount of knowledge and connections during that time, I craved more.
I realized that the lion is more than a protector: He is a leader. I've always been someone who carves my own path, and knew that whatever direction I took next, I needed to be the person at the helm. I was tired of working for someone else's profits.
I took a jump: Run my own security agency. Many thought I was insane: I had only been in private security for three years. Do I really have the chops to run a security business? In the years of working in the security industry and establishing professional contacts with other individuals in the business, I called upon many of my highly skilled security colleagues to work with me in developing a network of trained security operators. This strategy worked out very well: When a contract came in, I was able to deploy myself and other professionals, to ensure the clients' needs and expectations were beyond satisfied.
In the years of working in the security industry, by fate I had the fortunate opportunity to meet an individual who had his Private Investigator license. In discussing my desire and his desires to grow our respective businesses, we chose to open a new business and further or professional footprint in combining both security and investigations under one roof.
Being a Private Investigator
I entered the private investigation field hungry for action: I craved time out performing surveillances, getting into the action. However, as time progressed, I began to learn about the other dimensions of private investigations. It's more than the thrill of following vehicles and taking covert video: Private investigations is about helping others and using every resource you have available.
As I progressed in my career as private investigator, I learned more about the tools of the trade: From online databases, how to verify your findings, conducting interviews, to due diligence. I realized that there was a whole world beyond fieldwork as a PI.
This is when I found my new love in private investigations: digital forensics. I never imagined that my hobby in purchasing and playing with the latest technology, as well as my background in tech sales could be integrated into my private investigator work. Over time, I phased myself away from the field an into the conference room with clients, figuring out the latest perplexing case with the arsenal behind my desk. I found that the satisfaction of cracking a month’s long digital forensic case or piecing together the rabbit hole in a person's social media activity was far more exhilarating.
Like life, private investigations is not all sunshine and roses. It is easy to become overwhelmed in an investigation, especially when you are not as experienced. Working as a private investigator requires organization and discipline to avoid falling into a pitfall of overworking the hours your client paid on the case. You will find yourself working extra hours into the night and weekends to do what it takes to solve it. It's important to learn when to push deeper and when it is time to step back and reevaluate your options. You need to know when it is time to move on, even though you may think the direction you are in is the right path.
Find Your Path
Don't ever think it is too late to change your career. I went from a sales job under someone else's thumb, to running my own successful private investigation agency. Even in my lows, I always remained steadfast and moved forward. I took some risks, but you must when you want to start running your own business. It hasn't always been easy, but I wouldn't trade this for anything.
All in all, this career continues to be a ride like no other. The best part of my job is the feeling I get when a client says, "Thank you." Not in the "obligatory social cues" kind of way, but the thank you where they look you in the eye with a deep, heartfelt, genuine gaze.
I am proud to be a private investigator.
ABOUT INVESTIGATOR MATTHEW D. SEIFER, LPI, NYS DCJS Cert.
Matthew Seifer is the Lead Licensed Private Investigator at Radius Investigations, Registered Armed Guard, and NYS Division of Criminal Justice Services Certified Instructor. Seifer is a US Army veteran with over 26 years experience in the private sector. Matthew specializes in corporate due diligence, TSCM bug sweeps, security services and assessments, and digital forensics. He has been featured on News 12 Long Island and Inside Edition for his work in active shooter training and drills.
Bribery continues to be a major legal and ethical problem for U.S. businesses operating in overseas markets. The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which criminalizes bribery of foreign officials in order to access foreign markets, can have very severe penalties for U.S. firms whose employees or overseas agents are caught committing (or attempting to commit) bribery.
An article found at news.yahoo.com by Reuters reports on a recent case that highlights this problem...
Florida-based defense company IAP Worldwide Services Inc will pay $7.1 million to settle a U.S. investigation into an alleged conspiracy to bribe Kuwaiti officials to win a government contract, the U.S. Justice Department said on Tuesday.
A former vice president of IAP, James Michael Rama, 69, of Lynchburg, Virginia, also pleaded guilty earlier on Tuesday in a Virginia federal court to participating in the illegal scheme, prosecutors said in a statement.
A lawyer for Rama was not immediately identifiable.
According to prosecutors, in February 2006 senior executives at IAP, including Rama, set up a shell company called Ramaco to compete in the first phase of a bid to provide surveillance capabilities, including closed-circuit television, to Kuwait's Ministry of the Interior.
There are many ways that firms operating in the global marketplace can protect themselves from exposure to this kind of liability or minimize their liability if one of their agents violates the law. A comprehensive due diligence investigation of any new overseas vendors or agents can significantly reduce the risk by eliminating those vendors with checkered histories or serious conflicts of interests. Secondly, once concerns are raised that a company’s representatives may have bribed, or attempted to bribe, foreign officials, the best way for the company to minimize its liability exposure is to conduct a swift, thorough, and impartial internal investigation. Utilizing a reputable outside agency to conduct the investigation is an effective method for insuring impartiality and earning credibility with law enforcement.
For more information on how Radius Investigations can assist you in conducting international due diligence, and/or internal investigations, contact us or call 888-698-0077.
Conducting cross-border investigations is something that we do quite a bit of at Radius Investigations. In their recent article published at insidecounsel.com entitled, "4 Strategies to Improve Cross-Border Investigation Readiness", authors Tiffany R. Moseley and Amy Conway-Hatcher write:
Much like military campaigns, cross-border investigations are inherently complex, driven by unique facts, shifting priorities and necessarily shaped by local terrain. Both also require decisive leaders ready to make quick decisions and lead large teams. And, just as there is no way to predict every aspect of a battle, there is no one-size-fits-all cross-border crisis plan or a fool-proof cross-border investigation checklist. General counsel cannot possibly predict and plan for all of the unexpected pitfalls bound to arise in a complex, dynamic cross-border investigation, but they can take steps to anticipate likely issues so that they are not caught flat-footed.
The most crucial step is to engage in a planning exercise with key stakeholders that accounts for the company’s structure, priorities, geographic footprint and operational risks, and that clearly identifies the internal and external assets available to protect and defend the company. Create a core list of cross-border issues the company likely will confront to plan for the identifiable challenges but, more importantly, discuss how your team can work together to respond quickly, efficiently and creatively to unexpected pitfalls. Ultimately, preparation—not a cookie-cutter plan—will help make your company mission-ready for the next cross-border crisis. Below are four key topics to jump-start the discussion with your team of stakeholders to increase your company’s cross-border investigation readiness.
We agree with the authors of the above article that a cross-border crisis relating to a multinational business will create many unexpected issues that can catch you off guard if you're not prepared. However, through proper planning and preparation you can assure the success of the investigations that will follow.