5 ways to protect yourself against catfish in 2017
What does catfish mean? What is a catfish? How to catch a catfish?
One in 5 relationships now starts online, over the last 10 years there’s been a huge rise in the number of online dating sites and apps. Last year (2016) the U.K saw its highest ever number of recorded ‘online dating scams’ and over £39m was handed over by the victims of so-called ‘romance fraud’.
The motivation for people lying about their identity can vary from boredom to revenge, they may be seeking what they consider to be entertainment or trying to fool you for financial gain.
There are obvious techniques for protecting yourself when physically meeting somebody such as going to a public place and taking mutual friends but how do you ensure the person your talking to is actually the person you think they are?
What does catfish mean?
Catfish is a term used to describe somebody who lies about their online identity, you are most likely to hear the word catfish when talking about online dating
Here’s our 5 simple tips to protect yourself against catfish
1. Use Phone Calls/Facetime – Speaking to somebody over the phone can be a great first step in confirming somebodies identity, it doesn’t guarantee they are as slim as their photographs but it is a start. Phone calls can also show a much more realistic side to somebody as the conversation flows naturally where as text conversations can be separated by minutes or even hours that allow the other person to calculate their answers.
Things to consider when speaking to somebody on the phone:
– Are they male/female?
– Do they have the accent you expected?
– Do they sound about the right age?
2. Check Social media profiles – Social media can provide a wealth of information and if you met this person on a dating site you may be able to identify their profile through mutual friends or their pictures even if they have restricted privacy settings.
Things to consider when looking at somebodies social media profile:
– Do they have a very small number of friends?
– Was their profile created recently? (look to see when their oldest post was)
– Are their friends from the area they claim to be from?
– Do they have a lack of engagement on their posts?
– Is anybody tagged in any of their group photographs?
3. Choose which apps you use – Choosing to use Whatsapp rather than Kik means you need a mobile phone number to speak to somebody rather than just a username, Catfish usually try to avoid giving out phone numbers as speaking over the phone may reveal their identity. If you want to send photos/videos to each other then use Snapchat as it shows the photo was taken by the person sending it to you and it was taken recently. If somebody sends you a photograph via iMessage or WhatsApp you have no guarantee that the picture was taken recently or even if it was taken by the same person.
– You can send photographs or open a text chat in snapchat, if somebody is sending pictures in the text chat they may not have been taken recently as they can be sent from your photo library
– A phone number is often enough for a ‘reverse lookup’ and may provide valuable information about the person you are talking to
4. Never send money under any circumstances. Financial gain is the motive behind many cases of online fraud. You should never be sending money or goods to somebody you haven’t met unless it is entirely your decision. People are often socially engineered (tricked) into showing their wealth or how much they care by sending money or goods to somebody online.
Things to look out for:
– Asking to borrow money
– Elaborate reasons they need the money such as illness or family trouble
– Elaborate reasons why the money can’t be sent direct to them
– Being pressured into buying a gift
5. Question why they avoid meeting in person – Have you tried to meet up with this person and been given an excuse or found they have had a reason to cancel multiple times?
People get a false sense of security when they arrange to meet up with somebody because they think ‘well they can’t have anything to hide or they wouldn’t want to meet me’. This is a common technique catfish use to build trust because simply the intention to meet up can be enough to remove some doubt from your mind.
Things to look our for:
– Unfortunate reasons for last minute cancellations
– Convenient excuses that they are working out of the country or city for a long period of time
– Repeated illness
It may not be obvious why the person you are speaking to has lied about their identity initially or ever, trust your gut instinct and don’t be pressured into doing something you are uncomfortable doing.
Question on everyones mind: Is Vehicle tracking Legal?
I’m a Private Investigator as I’m sure many of you reading this article will be, and even I have found myself confused trying to get to the bottom of the question on so many peoples minds.
Is vehicle tracking legal?
“We are talking about covert devices attached to a vehicle without the drivers knowledge not telematics or fleet management although we will touch on that later”
In the U.K there are various pieces of legislation that protect our privacy and ensure our personal data is handled responsibly to prevent it from falling into the wrong hands or being misused. Unfortunately they are incredibly long-winded, tedious to read and often require a legal professional to make any sense of (leave you confused as to whether you are coming or going). I have spoken to other industry professionals about particular statements in these pieces of legislation and found that even those incredibly well versed could still be unsure about their answer when the right questions were asked.
The problem lies with the interpretation of these documents, many of the statements can be construed differently dependant on your understanding or interpretation of certain factors so I have done extensive research and spoken to countless industry professionals to shed some light on the matter and finally provide the other private investigators asking these questions some clear answers.
This article is going to be quite long so if you don’t have time or you don’t want to listen to me going over the basics then skip through to the relevant section below:
1. What is vehicle tracking?
2. How does vehicle tracking work?
3. How accurate are vehicle trackers?
4. Is vehicle tracking Legal?
5. Is it legal to monitor employees vehicles?
The basics: what is vehicle tracking
Firstly lets distinguish what we mean by vehicle tracking, in this article when we refer to vehicle tracking we mean ‘discreet’ or ‘covert’ tracking, which implies that the driver of the vehicle is UNAWARE of the device.
This is very different to telematics and fleet management as these are long-term tracking solutions used by companies to monitor company vehicles and insurance firms to reduce or calculate premiums based how careful the driver is and how many miles they cover. If you want to know about the legality of tracking your staff and your company vehicles skip to Is it legal to monitor employees vehicles?
To some people the concept of vehicle tracking is mind-blowing and they don’t understand what it is let alone is it legal, I’m frequently asked:
‘does it mean somebody will physically follow the car round day and night?’
‘Is it done by watching the vehicle through satellite cameras?’
A large percentage of the population have no idea what it is and a large portion of the people using them or offering it as a service as still unclear about the legality of their actions.
Vehicle tracking is the process of remotely monitoring a vehicles movements, it is usually done with a GPS tracking device that is attached to the vehicle magnetically.
How does vehicle tracking work?
Remember we are talking about discreet or covert vehicle tracking and not telematics but I’ll briefly explain the difference for those of you still confused.
Discreet Vehicle Tracking .v. Fleet management and other tracker
Discreet/Covert vehicle tracking is a service that is usually offered by investigators to monitor a vehicles movements or assist them in pursuing a vehicle without following too closely or risking losing them in traffic.
They are generally attached to the vehicle magnetically, this allows them to be fitted to the exterior of the vehicle. The major benefits of being able to fit the device externally is that it does not require internal access to the vehicle and it can be done in a matter of seconds! You can imagine it would be very difficult to discreetly fit a tracking device if you had to ask for the car keys to fit it!
Fleet Management / Telematics and other tracking solutions are a more permanent solution and they require internal access to the vehicle or the vehicles engine bay in order to connect. Most of them will attach to the ODB port which allows it to read detailed vehicle diagnostic information such as how harshly driver is accelerating/breaking and cornering.
So the major differences are the way that the devices attach to the vehicle and the information they allow you to retrieve however they both use the same underlying technology to calculate the devices location – GPS.
GPS’ or ‘Global Positioning System’ is a satellite-based navigation system that allows a device to calculate its exact latitude and longitude. These co-ordinates are combined to plot a position on a map.
The device then uses cellular networks to send its location to a server that records its positions. That server is usually accessible through a web portal or an application so it can be viewed from a remote location anywhere in the world allowing the user to monitor the vehicles movements in real-time but also view its historic movements.
How reliable are vehicle trackers?
As you would expect with any technology the quality will depend on the device that is being used. There are cheap and cheery devices available on eBay from around £20 and there are specialist devices that can cost up to £1000.
The higher end devices are more reliable because they have higher quality antennas allowing them to have better signal strength so they can still relay the vehicles position even in areas with poor reception. Another feature provided by the higher quality trackers is the ability to store locations on-board, this allows the device to keep a record of the vehicles movements even when there is no cell reception to transmit them.
A good example of this would be when travelling between tall buildings in cities -the device will struggle to gain coverage so a cheaper device with a smaller antenna would not transmit any data until it regained signal. To the user this would show a large gap in the tracking data, this could be the crucial moment when the subject parked and left on foot. The device with the more powerful antenna would continue transmitting even in a built-up city and if it couldn’t connect it would store the movements on board.
How accurate are vehicle trackers?
Similarly to reliability, the accuracy of a vehicle tracker depends largely on the device being used. You should expect your vehicle tracker to be able to provide a position accurate within 5 metres providing it has been fitted in a location that still allows it to maintain some reception.
Some vehicles, especially newer models have less space underneath meaning the tracker has to be tucked away into a more discreet location which affects the signal strength. When the signal strength is low it can cause the device to give the impression the vehicle is moving around within a small vicinity, this is because it has to connect to different GPS satellites causing the position to vary slightly.
Screen shot of variation in tracker movement
The devices that we use are generally accurate enough to give us a door number providing the vehicle is parked outside the property, obviously in some situations a property does not have off-road parking or the vehicle cannot park outside the property due to parking restrictions so this has to be taken into account.
Are vehicle trackers legal and Is Vehicle Tracking Legal?
If you are worried that buying or owning a vehicle tracker is breaking the law, let me assure you that neither is illegal.
If you were to ask me is vehicle tracking legal? I would have to ask you under what circumstances were you intending to use the vehicle tracking device and were you being instructed to do so by somebody else.
If you are the person who is intending to fit the vehicle tracker or you are the hiring an investigator to fit a vehicle tracker and you do not work for a public body such as a local council then you are more than likely acting within the law, but you must still take the following into consideration.
Are you processing ‘personal data’? – Firstly what is ‘personal data’?
Guide To Data Protection
If you are processing personal data then you or the individual/company that is fitting the vehicle tracker should have registered with the Information Commissioners Office (ICO) and should be following the guidelines set out in the Data Protection Act 200 (DPA) to protect the legal rights of the individuals the data concerns.
Where will the device be getting fitted?
If the device is getting fitted on public property then there are no concerns but if the vehicle is on private property then you may be worried about trespassing.
Generally speaking we consider trespassing as entering somebodies property or land without their consent. If the vehicle tracking device cannot be fitted in a public place you should be careful as to where it is fitted, if the vehicle is parked at the subjects property on an open driveway that could be accessed by any member of the public then it would be difficult to consider the act trespass.
in a 2007 restricted report given by the Office of Surveillance Commissioners (OSC), the OSC’s Chief Surveillance Commissioner, Sir Christopher Rose, stated ‘putting an arm into a wheel arch or under the frame of a vehicle is straining the concept of trespass’ Government Officials Track Cars And Trespass Public Property
Assuming you have read and considered the questions above the next thing to establish is who is fitting or who is requesting the device be fitted?
I am fitting the device myself or I am hiring a private investigator to fit a vehicle tracker
If you are intending to fit a vehicle tracker, you have considered the two points above (Trespass and DPA) and you feel the purpose of the device is justified then the use of a vehicle tracking device is legal. It may be difficult to quantify what would classify as reasonable cause to use a vehicle tracker so I will give a case study in which a vehicle tracker was used and why it was ‘justified’.
Case Study: Mr & Mrs Smith are about to file for divorce
Mr and Mrs Smith have been unhappy for some time, they have now come to terms with the fact their marriage is beyond repair and are in the process of filing for divorce. Mr Smith feels very confident that the reason their marriage has broken down is because Mrs Smith has been having an affair for a number of years and he would like to prove this in court. The dilemma is that showing Mrs Smith with another man would be a problem as they are still legally married, however no court would see that as suitable enough evidence to prove that the affair had been going on prior to this event. Mr Smith hires a private detective to conduct some surveillance on Mrs Smith and find out how frequently she is seeing the other man, the couple live in a busy city and Mrs Smith will often be driving during rush hour traffic making it difficult to pursue the vehicle. The investigator suggests that installing a vehicle tracker on Mrs Smiths car will allow them to follow the vehicle during rush hour traffic with much less risk of losing them, Mr Smith agrees and the device is fitted. After a few days the investigators follow Mrs Smith to a property where she is seen letting herself in with a key. The property is identified as the property of the third party male who Mr Smith had suspected. The following day Mrs Smith was pursued to the same property where she picked up two children and proceeded to meet with the third party male. When the evidence was presented to both parties legal teams they agreed that the combination of having her own key to the property and picking up the third parties children without his presence was enough evidence to show their relationship had pre-dated the divorce proceedings and warranted reasonable grounds for adultery.
From a legal perspective: The vehicle tracking evidence was not used in court it was simply used to allow the investigators to follow from a safer distance with a decreased risk of losing the subject. They agreed that the use of the vehicle tracking device information obtained by the vehicle tracking device would not warrant as ‘personal data’ and that the information did not show anything that wouldn’t have been revealed by the surveillance.
When it comes to the legality of vehicle tracking we have a few golden rules
– You should not force entry or cause any damage in order to fit the device
– You should not have any legal reason preventing you from contacting the owner or any of the drivers of the vehicle
– You should not use a vehicle tracking device as an independent solution to monitor somebodies movements
– You should conduct a risk assessment and consider the alternative options before deciding if vehicle tracking is necessary
– You should take reasonable care to handle the data responsibly
– You should contact a professional with experience using vehicle trackers
Public Body I.e council or government body
If you are working for a public entity such as a council or government body then the rules are different because you must comply with the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA). This piece of legislation was written to regulate the powers public bodies have to carry out surveillance and intercept communications in order to obtain evidence to support a prosecution.
Under this legislation public bodies have strict guidelines as to what they can do with and without a warrant, from more straightforward ‘directed surveillance’ to ‘intrusive surveillance’.
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Anybody in a relationship can find themselves worrying about their partner cheating from time to time, it’s human nature. Trust often relies on a stable pattern of behaviour that tells us how someone is feeling – drastic changes can ring alarm bells especially when your partner doesn’t seem to be themselves.
I want to hire a private investigator, but how does it all work?
‘Watch our explainer by clicking on the video below’
Our friendly team are always willing to talk and we respect your privacy so don’t be afraid to get in touch…
Private Investigator Reveals the truth behind the 10 Most Common Signs of Cheating
The holiday period has come to an end, the presents have been exchanged and everybody is back at work but you’re still concerned that your partner’s behaviour is unusual – Is it paranoia or are you missing something?
With a simple Google search you can find a variety of articles from people all over the globe confessing they know the definitive tell tale signs to prove their partner is cheating, some of them cover the obvious things such as coming home smelling of someone else’s perfume/aftershave right the way through to comprehensive lists that constantly contradict themselves and would leave you questioning the loyalty of the most devoted partner on the planet.
We specialise in investigating the behaviour of unfaithful/cheating partners and matrimonial issues so we speak to people from all walks of life and at varying stages of suspicion. Some people have seen it first-hand and others are simply paranoid but the issue is that being suspicious of your partner will likely affect the way you behave towards them and that can be part of the problem itself. It is unhealthy to constantly be suspicious and it quickly turns to bitterness and resent so it is important to get closure on the issue and not let it build in the back of your mind.
We deal with people who are either being cheated on or suspect they are being cheated on every day and we follow it up by investigations those accusations and uncovering the truth so we are pretty good at differentiating between signs somebody is cheating and random facts that have led a person to believe their partner is cheating.
Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act: What is the Snoopers Charter?
The ‘snoopers charter’ or regulation of investigatory powers act has been passed in the house of parliament and will become law once it has received royal assent, this is the final stage required to pass a law.
The bill has been very controversial and received criticism from many major tech firms who say it will be near impossible to enforce and could seriously affect customer’s security. Read More
Anyone in a relationship can be tempted to suspect foul play once in a while. Trust often relies on a stable pattern of behaviour that tells us how someone is feeling – drastic changes in this regard ring all sorts of alarm bells, and you may suspect he or she is cheating on you surreptitiously.
There are a number of options out there to test where a partner’s loyalty lies, but this brings its own set of ethical questions. Does hiring a fake flirter indicate they respond like this to everyone when you aren’t around? How seriously should a piece of ‘evidence’ be taken?
When the future of your relationship is at stake, you must consider the moral complexities of trying to entrap someone for your peace of mind. Let’s run through how to properly investigate whether someone is up to no good: Read More
In an age where we’re constantly glued to screens, the temptation to rebel against the working day – procrastinating, browsing leisurely websites, meddling with the staple gun so it fires blanks – has never been higher. And as we work more autonomously than ever before, people can easily gravitate towards non-ancillary tasks.
This blasé attitude, however, threatens the livelihood of both the employee and business owner. You’re paying someone to be doing a certain thing for a certain amount of time; any transgression from that trust is money down the drain. Let’s take a look at the issue, and where employers should draw the line: Read More
A Day in the Life of a Private Investigator: Part Two
Private investigators can bring justice to light and reveal skeletons that have been in hidden in the closet for years. However, if you’re wondering how an investigator goes about uncovering the facts, you may be a little bewildered as to how they reveal what no-one else has. Read More
A Day in the Life of a Private Investigator: Part One
The world of private investigation may seem shrouded in mystery at times, so it’s natural to feel dubious about using the services of an investigator. However, skilled and discreet though this line of work may be, it’s really not as confusing as it may appear.
Online dating site Ashley Madison targets individuals that are already in relationships, promoting affairs with the tag line ‘life is short, have an affair’.
Over 33 million members were scrambling to delete accounts and cover their tracks this morning as news broke that a group of hackers known as the ‘impact group’ had obtained members personal details from addresses to sexual fantasies and intimate conversations. Even members who had paid specifically to have all of their details from the site may still be at risk according the group.