I was one of four experts on a panel at the International AntiCounterfeiting Coalition’s fall meeting in Santa Monica. This panel was entitled “The Investigative Game: Best Practices”. One issue I was reticent to address on the hot seat was the rampant issue of unlicensed activity.
Being one whose practice is based 100 percent online, I find many who offer services that compete with mine are unlicensed. “How is this?”, you ask. That is a good question. Each year, I supply every client with a current copy of my state PI license and proof of $1,000,000 liability insurance. This is required as a part of most major companies’ vendor policies for investigators. My company plays by the rules not only because it is my firm’s practice to obey the law, but also because nothing an unlicensed investigator produces is usable in court.
During this conference, I became aware of a gentleman who not only crashed meetings without paying, but claims to provide investigative services for many brand owners. Last Thursday evening, shortly after my panel, I met this character. He introduced himself to me and I asked him for a business card. He hesitated, then reached into his jacket pocket and handed one to me. After reading his business card and not observing a PI license # clearly displayed (required by law), I asked “Are you an investigator?” to which he responded, “No.” This is contrary to what he had boasted to an associate the previous evening. This led me to take a peek into him a bit. Not only is he unlicensed, but he has a history of criminal drug charges.
When did it become common practice for brand owners to hire these shady characters in a field full of highly qualified, law-abiding investigative firms?
A real Private Investigator has been trained properly and can provide services that are actually useful in real-life court cases. People, this is not an episode of “The Shield” and it is clearly not time for amateur hour. Your employers’ brands are at stake here. All of us in the brand protection business are hired to protect our employers. Please make sure you obey the law and hire contractors who do the same. The goal of this article is not to “out” these individuals, but to educate lawyers and brand owners and help you protect your reputations.
Most states’ laws are similar, and many impose misdemeanor charges and/or fines of up to $10,000 on both parties in each occurrence of unlicensed activity. Consistently, state-by-state, a private investigator is someone who accepts payment to obtain information on:
• a crime, wrong or threat.
• the identity, habits, conduct, business, occupation, honesty, integrity, credibility, knowledge, trustworthiness, efficiency, loyalty, activity, movement, whereabouts, affiliations, associations, transactions, acts, reputation, or character of any person.
• the cause or responsibility for fires, libels, losses, accidents, or damage or injury to persons or to property.
• securing evidence to be used before any court, board, officer, or investigating committee.
Friends, this is common sense. You don’t need McGruff the Crime Dog to tell you this.
I’m going to finish my coffee.