The Pinkerton National Detective Agency (formally known as the North-Western Police Agency) was the first detective agency in the United States. If the name seems familiar, we have discussed some of the work of the agency through Kate Warne's life, but for today's fun fact, let's explore further the life of her employer and head of the Pinkerton Agency, Allan Pinkerton.
Allan Pinkerton was born in Glasgow, Scotland on August 25, 1819. Even though he left school at the young age of 10 after his father's death, he was an avid reader and became a barrel maker apprentice. He was a political activist and member of the Chartist movement, which made him a target from law enforcement as a traitor of Great Britian's Crown for speaking for the rights of the working class. Pinkerton escaped by emigrating to the US in 1842 at approximately 23 years old.
He settled with his wife in a small cabin the woods of Dundee, Illinois as a cooper. Continuing his predisposition for political activism, Allan was a slavery abolitionist, using his home as a stop in the Underground Railroad. One day while searching through the woods for materials for his trade, he stumbled upon a suspicious campsite. He returned later that night to find a suspicious group. Sensing these individuals were up to something, Pinkerton began to track their movements from afar over a period of time. Through his observation skills and keen eye for detail, he discovered the group was a ring of counterfeiters. He reported his findings to the police and the group was sequentially arrested. As a result, he was appointed as the deputy sheriff of Kane County and in 1849 the Chicago police hired him as the first police detective. After a year with the police force, he resigned to become the founder of the North-Western Police Agency, which would eventually become the Pinkerton Agency. The agency specialized in train robberies, counterfeiters, and security services for the government, businesses, and the community, during a time when police forces were unwilling to go outside their jurisdiction or corrupt.
Pinkerton Agency worked several notable cases. In 1861, during the investigation of a railway case, Allan discovered a plot to assassinate president-elect Abraham Lincoln at a railstop on his way to the inauguration in DC. He sent Warne to gather intelligence in the Southern sympathizer's ring, and he notified Lincoln of the plot. After Pinkerton and Warne successfully escaped Lincoln from the assassination attempt, the President hired Pinkerton during the Civil War, to take on the pseudonym of Major E. J. Allen and gather intelligence from the South. The agency captured many notable criminals, including the Reno brothers gang, known as the first organized train robbers in the U.S. They also broke up the Molly McGuire gang, who were Irish terrorists, and pursued Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid to South America, where the assailants were eventually killed by local officers. After the Civil War, Pinkerton expanded his agency more nationwide, opening offices in New York City and Philadelphia, rebranding his firm as the National Pinkerton Agency.
Pinkerton continued his work until he died on July 1, 1884, and is buried at Graceland Cementary in Chicago. He was described in his obituary as "a bitter foe to the rogues" for his lifetime of work squashing the most notorious of criminals. After his death, his sons took over the agency. Pinkerton Agency grew as they transitioned to security services, accumulating 2,000 active agents and 30,000 reserves. This caused the state of Ohio to ban the agency in fears of becoming a private army or militia. The Agency's guards and agents were hired by prominent industrialists during the 1892 Homestead Strike to break the riots. Their use of violence to contain the riots was controversial, causing congress to ban their agency from being hired by the government, known as the Anti-Pinkerton act. This early use of security services from the Pinkerton Agency was the predecessor for organizing the United States Secret Service.
Allan Pinkerton's legacy and contributions to the field are still prevalent in modern private investigation. His stories still live on in notoriety, providing inspiration for several private detective and mystery novel series. In response to the Chicago fire that destroyed Pinkerton's documentation in 1871, up until his death he began working on a central system of criminal records. This system is still used as the basis of the database for the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The Pinkerton National Agency still exists today, now named Pinkerton, located in Ann Arbor, Michigan, under the Securitas AB parent company. They provide security consulting and services for governments and businesses. Pinkerton is proud of their history, donating over 100 boxes of historical archives to the Library of Congress to preserve Allan Pinkerton's work in private investigation.
Sources: Smithsonian: Outlaw Hunters
This year marks the tenth anniversary since the founding of Radius Investigations by Matthew D. Seifer. In that time, our firm has flourished, with valuable knowledge picked up along the way. In the last year, our investigative team has been working tirelessly to provide more educational resources to the public on private investigation and security. Our topics of expertise range from risk management, anti-crime and survival, cybersecurity / cyber investigations, background check investigations, locating missing persons, TCSM bug sweeps, surveillance, insurance fraud, and more.
The main two reasons Radius Investigations has made education their initiative: 1., The Private Investigation field is widely misunderstood. In previous posts, we have begun to bust some of the common myths, but we know there are more misconceptions out there that we hope we can clear up. 2., Our duty as private investigators and security consultants is to protect and save the lives we serve. We hope that our educational resources will help you and your loved ones. From our fun facts to vital survival skills, our goal is to Promote Safety and Security through Knowledge and Education.
In line with our educational initiatives, we invite you to ask us questions about private investigation. As "No Bull" private investigators, we stick to the facts and give it to you straight; We are happy to answer your questions and give advice, like we have done in the last decade. We have had several cases over the years where a client can easily perform what needs to be done for their situation, but needed a nudge the right direction to do so. We've never accepted money in those cases: We want to be paid for the jobs our clients can't do.
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With phone and mobile scams on the rise, and the recent Equifax data breach, people are concerned for the security of their financial accounts. Unfortunately, there is an increase in phone scammers who are impersonating major banks to try to obtain your financial information. These scammers can be difficult to detect: They can obtain information from hacking your online account or on hard inquiries you have had done. (while the banks may have quality security, there is no guarantee that the company running the credit check is completely secure) They then use this information to make themselves look more legitimate. After all, it's hard to question when they correctly tell you when your next payment is due as well as the balance on the account. From there, they may ask for your social security number, account number, and/or routing number. While they have become more cunning, you can prevent them from taking advantage of you and your accounts.
Here are some tips to avoid having your identity stolen and financial accounts compromised:
Resources from Infographic:
Fox Business: Study: 27 Million Americans Fell for Phone Scams in 2015
There is a common misconception perpetuated by numerous news outlets and prominent political figures that crime in the U.S. has increased in the last decade and Americans are less safe than ever before. With the advent of the internet, access to worldwide breaking news on sites such as Facebook and Twitter, and 24-hour news cycles, it is easy to have confirmation bias on this claim. However, the data provided by The Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law reports the contrary:
The Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law analyzed crime rates from over 25 years from 30 major cities in the US, including Chicago, New York City, and Los Angeles. They accumulated reports and data from the Federal Bureau of Investigations and the police departments throughout the 30 cities analyzed. As seen in the graphs and in a previous study done in 2016, they revealed that the overall crime rate has decreased by over fifty percent since 1990. Recent data found that most major cities are experiencing a decrease in crime and murder from 2016 to 2017, with notable decreases from New York and Washington D.C. The violent crime rate for 2017 is projected to reach its second-lowest point since 1990, beaten by one percent from 2014's crime rate.
The bottom line, researchers note that while there may be fluctuations in crime rates from year to year, it is not sufficient evidence for the overall downward trend in crime, violent crimes, and murder. The United States has become demonstrably safer in the last two decades: it is imperative that these facts be presented when there is a debate on the current status of public safety and security in the U.S.
Smart Devices have become an integral part of our lives: Many of us use them as a form of communication, entertainment, reminders, and event planning. However, in the last few years experts have warned of the numerous security vulnerabilities that smartphones and devices face, with very little protection available for these devices.
The University of Washington recently released a paper testing the abilities to use smartphones as a sonar "beacon" to track individuals' locations and movements within a room. The goal of this research was to study low-cost covert physical sensing and further bring to light the serious privacy and security vulnerabilities that smartphones and smart devices (such as smart TVs and hubs like Amazon Echo) face. Researchers would create a sonar beacon by embedding a high frequency signal into music, inaudible to the average human, and play it on several devices (including a Samsung Galaxy S4 and Sharp TVs) through the speakers. By using a system to tap into the device's microphone, the system can track how the signal bounces, detecting positions and movements of anyone near the audio.
The accuracy and range of this method is disturbing: It can accurately track from 8 centimeters up to 6 meters (approximately 20 feet) if the device is in line of sight, or 3 meters (approximately 10 feet) if there are barriers. (such as walls) Those who were being tracked in the tests were not able to identify the signals coming from the music on the devices versus songs without the signals. Researchers noted that placing the sonar code into the devices was a relatively easy process, adding the lack of security measures in place.
You might be wondering what can be done to prevent this-unfortunately, as this was a preliminary study, there are currently no security safeguards in place to prevent such a method from being used. The best preventative measures you can use are to not download any music or videos from unverified sources and to use headphones when listening on smart devices. (However, this would be difficult with smart televisions and hubs)
Most of us at one point or another have dealt with viruses on our computers: 40% of households have dealt with a computer virus, with 16 million homes affected by serious viruses in the last two years. As technology has spread, viruses have increased and become more complex. However, computer viruses had innocent and humble beginnings. The first appeared in the 1970s in labs as computer scientists tested the ability for programs to self-replicate. However, the first time a virus was used outside of a controlled lab was not until 1982.
Fifteen-year-old Richard Skrenta was a ninth-grader at Mt. Lebanon Senior High School near Pittsburgh. He was known by his friends as an incurable prankster and they always on guard to his schemes. Skentra, a computer whiz, was known to put little taunting messages by altering the software and games he would swap with his friends. As a result, many of them stopped accepting any disks from him; He had to think of a new way to mess with them. During one cold winter break, Skentra worked furiously on his Apple II computer to create what we now know as a 'boot sector' virus. His creation, known as the "Elk Cloner," was designed that when an infected floppy disk was inserted into the machine, at startup it would infect a computer's memory. From there, the virus would replicate to an uninfected floppy accessible to the computer, which was an easy task as the Apple II had two floppy disk ports. This virus was designed that on the 50th boot up after the virus was placed in the computer's memory, the following message would display:
Elk Cloner: The program with a personality
It will get on all your disks
It will infiltrate your chips
Yes its Cloner!
It will stick to you like glue
It will modify ram too
Send in the Cloner!
Since these disks were frequently passed around his friends, the Cloner quickly spread. Even a decade later, Skentra found out that a sailor using an Apple II computer during the Gulf War got infected with the Elk Cloner. While this virus was harmless and a humorous annoyance, it was the first time a computer virus had spread across home computers. Despite it being a simple prank, it showed the early power and capabilities of computer viruses. Unfortunately, today viruses are not simple pranks but can encrypt or destroy valuable data.
Richard Skentra moved on from his adolescent days of pranking his friends, into developing countless computer programs that are still used today and found online new business. Even with his success as a computer programmer, his infamy will always be placed as the one who spread Elk Cloner throughout the world.
Sources: Tech Target: Elk Cloner Definition
NBC News: School prank starts 25 years of security woes
Sir Arthur Doyle created the iconic character we know today as Sherlock Holmes: The quick-witted, observation skills that err on the side of a supernatural, private detective. He has been referenced and depicted in countless pieces of literature, film, and television since Doyle's release of his Sherlock Holmes book series in the late 1800s. While Holmes' extraordinary observant and deductive abilities are under the unanimous agreement that they require some suspension of belief, Sherlock Holmes was based on a real man with a unique set of observational skills.
Joseph Bell was a Scottish surgeon and university professor at the University of Edinburgh. Born into a family of surgeons, Bell had developed an observant eye for his patients. He would use all of the senses and find minute details that he could conclude a person's occupation, residence, medical condition, cause of death, or travels. For example, Bell deduced that a patient was a bell-ringer near Tweed based on his accent and the callouses on his hands from the rope. He could also identify a sailor by their walk and identify their tattoos to where they have traveled. His students were constantly in awe of his ability to find these facts based on such small details, who later on would explain his reasoning to his students in a way that made the answer sound obvious. News of Bell's investigative skills reached the Edinburgh police. They came to Bell for help in solving cases, such as the Ardlamont murder mystery, and an attempt to identify the person behind the Jack the Ripper murders through analyzing handwriting.
From 1876 to 1881, Sir Arthur Doyle attended Bell's courses at the university and worked under Bell as an assistant during Doyle's studies, a "Dr. Watson" if you will, to Bell. Like Bell's other students, Doyle noted his observational skills, as well as his eagle-like nose and face, and the jerky manner in his gait. (Caused by diphtheria Bell contracted from a patient.) Doyle had been in a creative slump in his writings but gained new inspiration from his time spent with Bell. Joseph Bell became the inspiration for Sherlock Holmes, his character taking on Bell's deductive abilities, jerky movements, and unique mannerisms. He was aware of Doyle's work; Doyle would send him a copy of the Holmes stories once they were published. Bell was flattered by the depiction of him in Doyle's work, but as the press gave him attention, Bell clarified that he was not Sherlock Holmes: “I hope folk that know me to see another and better side to me than what Doyle saw!”
It is safe today that without the incredible Joseph Bell, and Sir Arthur Doyle working with him during his time at the University of Edinburgh, the beloved Sherlock Holmes would not have been conceived, or at the very least, could not have withstood the test of time with countless interpretations and adaptations of such an iconic character.
Sources: The Irish Examiner: Fiction imitates real life in a case of true inspiration
Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Joseph Bell
The Internet has opened a wide net of resources for people to research, find, and gather information across the world, in a way that simply did not exist just a few decades ago. The internet has become a powerful tool for the public and in private investigations, and a way to network and solve cold cases.
The Doe Network is an online resource that lists cold cases of those who have disappeared or are unidentified decedents. The purpose of the network is to help bring any information to the public in the hope that they can be identified or matched. The files detail physical estimations, age approximations, any tattoos or markings, facial reconstruction or pictures, circumstances around the disappearance, any sightings, and recovery. Through volunteers on the internet and private investigators, any information on a potential match can be submitted to the network, which is reviewed by 16 volunteers. Once enough information on a possible match has been gathered, the findings are sent to the appropriate authorities for further investigation. Countless frequent members, from stay-at-home mothers to bankers, factory workers, and waiters by day, spend their evenings scouring endless reports, newspaper articles, and public information to try to identify countless Does.
As of December 2016, The Doe Network has solved 74 cold cases through its network and assistance. There have been many notable cases from their network, such as a man who vanished after telling his employees his desire to go to Texas to become a cowboy and became a ranch worker for 21 years. After crashing a tractor in 2007, an insurance agent assigned to his claim researched information on the gentleman and found his picture on the Doe Network. Several cases have been solved through the network's members' phenomenal memory and research skills, including a member being able to amazingly recall a tattoo they saw on a decedent on the Doe Network when reviewing a missing person report, solving the 4-year-old case, and another member identifying 10-year-old unidentified remains from Maryland, based on the congenital brain condition listed on the autopsy matched a scar on the back of the neck in a missing persons report. A cold case on a victim who was murder two years prior was solved through the network by identifying a unique t-shirt on the body and a family reunion event.
These methods of discovery in these cases are bizarre and at worst, coincidental, but were vital in finally placing these unnamed Does to rest. While law enforcement was leery at first to trust these amateur sleuths when the Doe Network launched in 1999, as their solved cases increased by the dozens and they received more media attention, law enforcement agencies are now more open to their help in the most perplexing cold cases that haunt the police's precincts. With the ability and accessibility to closely network and research on the internet, organizations like The Doe Network are finally bringing light on some of the oldest and toughest cases.
Source: Doe Network
DNA profiling is a recent discovery that has only been used since the 1980s. DNA fingerprinting was discovered, like many scientific breakthroughs, by accident.
Dr. Alec Jeffreys is a geneticist from the University of Leicester in Great Britain. The original project that led to his discovery that DNA can have similar repeating patterns happened through Dr. Jeffreys performing a study on myoglobin genes in seal meat, then comparing it to humans. He noticed that despite the different species, there were similarities in the genetic patterns. His team developed a radioactive probe that would extract and reveal these patterns onto x-rays as DNA "fingerprints." Through further testing of human DNA, he also discovered that children shared half of the DNA from each parent, which is used for paternity testing. His DNA fingerprinting technique was used for the first time to settle an immigration case, bringing worldwide attention to Jeffrey's work. After this discovery, he found that even with DNA having familiar sharing, the lengths of these sequences were unique to each individual and each pattern cannot exist anywhere else in the world except for identical twins.
DNA Testing to Find the Truth
In a small village of Leicestershire, not far from where Jeffreys was doing his studies, occurred a double rape and murder in 1983 and 1986. Both victims were 15-year old young women. A Mr. Richard Buckland confessed to the second crime, but detectives felt that the details did not match up to the timeline of both murders: Buckland would have been 14 years old at the time of the first occurrence. Aware of Professor Jeffreys' discoveries on identifying individuals through DNA, law enforcement went to him to seek help on these cases. Jeffrey took them on but was not fully confident that he would be able to crack it: no one had ever done a DNA analysis for a crime scene before. Despite his concerns, his testing confirmed that the DNA blood and semen samples found on both victims matched, thus both were raped and murdered by the same person. Following those results, through comparative testing of the blood and semen of Buckland to the fluids found at the second murder, Jeffreys' DNA fingerprint technique revealed that the blood and semen from the murders did not match Buckland. This would be the first case of DNA testing exonerating a person from conviction.
Once it was established that Buckland was innocent and that DNA fingerprinting can be successful, came the challenge of identifying the murderer. Police launched village-wide testing of all 5,000 men. Once they were narrowed by matches to the blood type found at the crime scenes, their semen was tested. Despite the DNA profiling successfully clearing Buckland, none of the samples from the village matched. The public and police were disappointed and concerned about the whereabouts of the killer.
For a year, Colin Pitchfork, resident baker, avoided having his blood tested. He swapped his passport photo with a colleague Ian Kelly, which police were using as identification in the massive search, to have Kelly's blood tested instead of his. A woman in the village went to the police after she overheard a man claiming to have given his blood on behalf of Colin Pitchfork. Pitchfork was arrested and had his blood tested, revealing a match to the crimes. Colin Pitchfork was convicted to a life sentence for both murders. This case was the first in history to use DNA profiling to free the innocent and solve crimes.
DNA Profiling revolutionized forensics and the criminal justice system. Thanks to this discovery and further discoveries in DNA forensics, countless convictions were overturned with DNA testing, giving the innocent the concrete evidence to go free. It also ensured that the accused were properly convicted for their actions.
US National Library of Medicine & National Institute of Health: Discovery, development, and current applications of DNA identity testing
BBC Newsnight: DNA pioneer's 'eureka' moment
DNA Forensics News: DNA Fingerprinting
A quick Google search of your name may reveal another person (or several people depending on how common your name is) who shares your name, which can lead to some fascinating (or horrifying) facts about these name doppelgangers. But what are the odds that the person who shares the same name as you also has common interests and backgrounds?
You already know "our" Matthew Seifer, the lead investigator at Radius Investigations, but there is another Matthew Seifer, with a similar and rich history in the military and law enforcement.
Who is the "other" Matthew Seifer?
Matthew "Matty" Seifer, from Hull, Massachusetts, had a long career as an agent enforcing federal drug laws. Seifer graduated from the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy with a degree in Pharmaceutical Chemistry in 1930. In 1941, Matthew began his career as an agent for the Federal Bureau of Narcotics in Boston, which is known today as the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. Shortly after starting as an agent, Seifer took a reprieve and served in the US Navy as a Pharmacist Mate during World War II, from 1944-45. He was eligible for deferment in the draft, yet proudly chose to serve his country. Upon his return from deployment, he was transferred to New York from Boston.
Seifer has been described as a "living legend" for his 33 years working for the Federal Bureau of Narcotics/Drug Enforcement Agency. Throughout his career, he held numerous posts and responsibilities, and he became an expert on narcotic intelligence. He was a vital resource for law enforcement agencies, who could go to him for answers and consulting, during a time when the narcotics world was changing and challenging. Matthew retired from the agency in 1977 at the age of 69. Even well after his retirement, Seifer's history with the DEA was treasured. He was invited in 1999 to cut the ribbon to mark the opening of the new DEA Museum in Washington DC.
Matthew Seifer was one of the founding members of the New England Narcotic Enforcement Officers' Association in Massachusetts. This organization serves as a resource for education and intelligence for law enforcement and the community in addressing organized crime and drug trafficking. In 2006, he received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the New England Narcotic Enforcement Officers Association in recognition of his dedication to the organization, law enforcement, and the greater community. He worked with the NENEOA throughout his life and became the oldest member of the association. In January 2012, he passed away at the remarkable age of 103.
Matty Seifer spent his lifetime serving the country, law enforcement, and the local community, imparting valuable intelligence on federal drug law. His family and friends recount his love to share his stories, memories, and wisdom to his loved ones, including 9 grandchildren, 8 great-grandchildren, and 1 great-great-grandchild. Seifer left behind a legacy of service; We are grateful and honored to have the chance to learn about Seifer's history. It is amazing to think that we found such a remarkable gentleman through a Google search using our lead investigator's name.
Sources: Matthew Seifer Obituary-Boston Globe