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.
While we never hope to be in this situation, the reality is that mass shooting in large public areas are on the rise. The tragedies that occurred in Las Vegas in late 2017, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in early 2018, and countless others, are sober reminders that these situations can happen anytime, anywhere. In reaction to this, while there will be much political debate on gun control and mental health for months to come, (whether anything comes of it is another story) the best thing you can do today is be proactive in learning about what to do to survive a mass shooting, even if you don't have any training. Knowledge is power.
Our key contributor today is Long Island Licensed Private Investigator, Registered Armed Security Guard, and NYS DCJS Certified Instructor, Matthew D Seifer, who gives his expertise in outlining five key things you need to do in order to get out of an active shooter situation:
1. Use Situational Awareness:
You know those bland and boring safety demonstrations you have to sit through on a plane or in a movie theater? Don't dismiss them, pay attention and use that knowledge to your advantage. Any time you enter a space, note the exits and emergency exit locations, as well as any obstacles that may be problematic. Always be aware of what is happening around you, and act upon that information. Our minds tend to associate sounds or stimuli that are a threat as innocuous. For example, many concert-goers in the Las Vegas mass shooting thought at first that the gunshots were pyrotechnics malfunctioning or fireworks. It wasn't until country music singer Jason Aldean ran off the stage and victims began to drop while bleeding, that the crowd realized something was amiss. In another mass shooting, on that fateful Valentine's Day at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, some students reported that when they heard gunfire, they at first thought the sound of gunshots were balloons popping. When in doubt, get out.
2. React Immediately to a Threat:
Every second count in an active shooter event. According to a 2013 report by the U.S. Department of Justice, approximately 70% of Active Shooter incidents ended within 5 minutes. (Although the Las Vegas mass shooting was an outlier, lasting 10-15 minutes) It can take law enforcement an average of 10 minutes to respond, enter, and engage the shooter, with the same report stating that 60% of active shooter incidents ended before police arrived.
As seen in Las Vegas, in a short amount of time, a devastating amount of damage can be amassed. Your best chance at ensuring survival is in your actions. Having the knowledge from using the situational awareness techniques mentioned earlier can help you make the most informed escape route:
If you are able to safely escape, do so. Employ tactical moves such as using cover as you make your way to an exit and escaping the "kill zone." Do not stop moving until you reach a safe place. Many victims in the Las Vegas shooting dropped to the ground to try to avoid gunfire, but unfortunately, due to the lack of cover, they were hit by the gunman's high vantage point. If you cannot run......
If a safe escape is not possible, find a safe place to hide. If there is not a designated safe room, or cannot reach it, find a room that locks from inside, then lock and barricade the door. Arm yourself with any improvised weapons you can find. Use large protective objects to block yourself from potential gunfire. Most importantly, remain quiet.
Additionally, you need to find cover, not concealment. Concealment will only obscure you from view, but not protect you from bullets. These can be things such as wooden fences, garage doors, car doors, fabric walls, sheetrock, or other weak materials. The cover will block you from view and provide you with protection from gunfire. Look for cover behind things made of concrete or heavy steel, such as barriers, columns, vehicles, (stay near the engine block and front wheels to avoid being hit by gunfire that ricochets under the car) and thick walls.
This is an absolute last resort, after exhausting the run and hide options. At this point, you need to decide to survive: If you encounter the shooter, your only hope is to fight for your life. Commit to taking them down, with whatever means necessary. Use improvised weapons, aggression, and do not stop until the shooter has been neutralized. Your success hinges on your will to live and a survivor mindset.
Matthew Seifer provides anti-crime seminars to the public, including: schools, places of worship, corporations, businesses, entertainment venues, hotels and resorts, libraries, and non-profit organizations. His renowned active shooter seminars go more in depth to cover topics such as:
- How to prepare and plan for an active shooter incident (also known as an Emergency Response Plan or ERP)
- How to recognize indicators of an active shooter before overt action occurs
- Known behaviors of active shooters during an incident
- Actions to take when confronted with an active shooter
- Effective response procedures for escaping, hiding, and fighting
- Proper alert procedures
- Establishing and using Safe Rooms
- Correct responsive actions upon arrival of law enforcement personnel
If you would like more in depth knowledge of how to survive an active shooter situation, you can get more information or request a seminar with our new training division, Guardian Security Training, for your place or work, worship, school, local library, or public space.
Request a Seminar from Anti-Crime Tactic and Technique Expert Don Longo to protect yourself and your loved ones from an active shooter situation.