It’s Monday night. New Year’s Eve. Work was good. But I’m in this funk that I can’t seem to shake. I really hope I can get myself out of this emotional rabbit hole in 2019. I’m at home lounging in my sweat shorts and tee shirt with Chauncey by my side. Chauncey is a White West Highland Terrier, a little larger than the norm. According to the American Kennel Club’s snooty standards, he should be between fifteen to twenty pounds. He’s a solid thirty but not chubby at all, just a big ol’ farm boy bred in Arkansas. I’m watching the latest popular true crime docuseries streaming on television. Continue reading
When I was freshly-landed in Hollywood and enamored by a number of my screen legend heroes, one of them was Wesley Snipes. At that time, he had been on a hot streak with hits like Major League, Mo’ Better Blues, Demolition Man, and Passenger 57. When his next film, Drop Zone, came out, I was living two blocks away from the famous Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. On opening night, back in 1994, I made sure I was there. The plot of Drop Zone was simple and fun. Wesley Snipes and company needed to parachute into a fortress that could not be infiltrated by land or any other means. Continue reading
Suicide can happen to anyone. Especially on the worst day of a person’s life. Experts, pundits, and all others who want to pretend that it is something that only happens to ‘other people’ say that there is a sickness or syndrome that causes a person to clock out. The truth… the real truth… is that the same person who made this claim is probably one step from the act themselves (now or in the past), but decided to mask it out of shame or superiority. I’m here to tell you that you need not feel shame about contemplating suicide, nor sympathizing for friends or family members who have decided to commit this ultimate act. Of course it is not a choice to aspire to make, or to be happy of the outcome. However, understanding the choice and sympathizing for those who consider or commit this act is most important to our humanity. Continue reading
In the early nineties I drove from New Jersey to Los Angeles by myself in order to pursue a career in stand-up comedy and screenwriting. I performed my stand-up routine about a hundred times, wrote two screenplays, and produced a well-received short film called “Spytown”. During that time, I also pursued a career in the family business: private investigations. Turns out, I found myself making a lot more money catching bad guys than making people laugh. So now, fast forward more than two decades, I’m the CEO of a successful private investigation firm and still have the bug for being an entertainer. In addition to developing a few writing projects while running my company, I’m also in the Los Angeles comedy scene performing the occasional stand-up spot. Continue reading
There are very few things more important to a company than reputation management and Roseanne Barr has inadvertently helped rewrite the handbook. I was in my early adulthood when Roseanne’s ground-breaking television show was in its prime. In its original nine year run, “Roseanne” led the charge in advocating homosexuality. Not only was “Roseanne” the first show to feature prominent homosexual characters, but she backed it up by stating that her two real-life siblings are gay. As ground-breaking and inclusive as the show was, I never cared for it. Continue reading
Growing up as a kid in Southern New Jersey in the late-1970’s and early 1980’s, I was exposed to some of the coolest athletes of all time through the local television stations in Philadelphia and New York. I remember being in the grocery line while food shopping with my mother and, as any child, I was looking at the candy section by the cash register when I spotted the greatest candy bar of all time. Chocolate covered caramel and peanuts in an orange wrapper bearing the name and likeness of five-time World Series Champ and two-time World Series MVP Reggie Jackson. Still to this day, the Reggie Bar is the best candy bar I’ve ever had. Not just because those ingredients are the perfect combination of snackdom, but because Reggie Jackson was the first, and (in my opinion) only, personality in that era that transcended sports. One Sunday afternoon a pre-adolescent me was watching the kid’s television show The Baseball Bunch featuring the San Diego chicken. Continue reading
In 2004, I was thirty-three years old and just lost my father to suicide. That next year, I went through a period where I was trying to find myself and, in doing so, made a pilgrimage to visit my grandparents and other family who moved to Florida in recent years. I reconnected with my mom’s mom and stepfather (whom I know as “Grandmom and Grandpop Peterson”), my uncle Dave Smith and his family there in Panama City, in the Florida panhandle. As my Uncle Dave put it, “This is L.A. Lower Alabama.” This trip was exactly what I needed and I was able to recharge my batteries and become centered again. I learned a lot about myself during that time. Not only did I refresh my interest in being a better man, but I also came home wanting to become a Freemason like Grandpop and Uncle Dave. During the trip, I learned that Dave was Master of his Lodge and Grandpop said becoming a Mason was the best thing he ever did. That pretty much sealed it for me. I’m going to be a Mason. Continue reading
With all of the news stories being published in recent days about social media data and privacy, I cannot help but be reminded of a not-so-great, yet brilliantly prophetic, film of the 1990’s. Let me first set the table. I was twenty-four years old and had just moved to Los Angeles to become a stand-up comedian. Months earlier, when I was a busboy at a Jersey Shore bar, I was constantly barraged by drunks shouting “Fire Marshall Bill!” This was due to my uncanny resemblance to Jim Carrey, referencing his recurring character in the critically-acclaimed sketch comedy show of the time “In Living Color“. My resemblance to him was not the only connection. Ever since I saw Carrey impersonate the entire cast of “My Three Sons” on Johnny Carson in 1983, I was hooked. I wanted to be him. Continue reading
I run out of gas often. Not figuratively, as you might expect from a post like this. Literally. No kidding. There is almost no thrill greater to me than seeing the fuel gauge blink for days. I believe, in life, that risk is the reward. Yes, risk is the reward, and I will stand by that. For many years I drove an SUV and had only a few days mileage on a twenty gallon tank. What a thrill! I’d run out of gas at least once a year and I’d love it. Thanks to AAA, rescue was only thirty minutes away. In 2007, I decided that my impact on the environment was bugging me. I had just seen the documentary “Who Killed the Electric Car” and decided to stick it to big oil. Continue reading
One of the greatest reads in my entire life was Robert Louis Stevenson’s 19th century novella “Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde“. In this, Stevenson tells the story of an attorney who is investigating the evil acts of a man who calls himself Edward Hyde. The investigation leads him to find that Hyde is actually an alternate personality of his old friend, Dr. Henry Jekyll. Since the publishing of this story, the Jekyll/Hyde concept is one of the most celebrated and imitated in all of literature. This is because it is, in my opinion, the most relevant piece of fiction in all of sociology, psychology and criminology. Ever. Without exception. Continue reading
I saw the classic Hollywood disaster film The Towering Inferno in my twenties, two decades after it was released. I watched it after I read Steve McQueen: Portrait of an American Rebel by author Marshall Terrill. In fact, after reading TerriIl’s book, I watched just about every Steve McQueen film that I had not yet seen. One tidbit from the book that I found interesting was that McQueen and Paul Newman were such fierce competitors that it led to McQueen counting the lines in the script and demanding to one-up his rival in order to flex his new-found star power by having one more line than Newman. Continue reading
Have you ever wondered where your next meal was coming from? Or where you’ll be sleeping next month? If you haven’t, you may not be a member of the contingent who can understand this blog. If you can’t relate, please do us both a favor and tune out now. If you are still here, and can think as deeply as required, let me fill you in on why I believe what I do.
I was born in South Jersey in 1970 and my mother committed suicide right after my eleventh birthday. I spent more than two decades trying to make sense of it until my father does the same. I guess to follow her down. I don’t know. But all I know is that, back in 2004, I was a man in his early thirties with major issues. Again, no pity. Just journey. Continue reading
It should go without saying that, in every situation where a crime is taking place, it is most desirable to catch the perpetrator. Doing anything else, including merely disrupting their operation, is simply a consolation. With this in mind, I find that best practices are not always laid out properly so that professionals going into this situation know how to meet the desired end. Even though I specialize in online investigations, I come from the old school and believe that those skills are sometimes a lost art in the new world of online investigations. We will always be investigating people, not their tools. If I hear another firm tell me they are “investigating a website” I’ll pull my hair out. Continue reading
Background Checks – Who are the Slytherin anyway? And why is Hogwarts teaching them the ancient and forbidden magic arts? My wife is going through the process of re-watching all of the Harry Potter films. She’s read all of the books ahead of the films, watched the films in the theater and now she has decided to see them all again. Perhaps this is in preparation of the grand opening of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter next year at Universal Studios Hollywood. Besides the first one that had Gary Oldman in it, I always encouraged Wifey to take a niece or nephew to see these movies. Mission accomplished. Somehow, though, I have a feeling I’m not going to be able to weasel out of attending the theme park. To quote a great song of the 1970s “The Things We Do for Love”. 10cc had it right. Continue reading
The Haystack Principle of Counterintelligence – Anyone who knows me or follows me online knows that I’m a pretty open person. I share almost everything I’m up to. Anyone I know (or any stranger for that matter) can experience with me my lunch, thoughts on a number of odd topics, and even what I’m doing with my dog, Chauncey. In fact, right now you can click any link on the right of this page and learn a plethora of details about my exploits, both past and present. You may say that this is bad for someone in the investigative profession. You are not alone. Overwhelmingly, security professionals of a certain level preach this concept as gospel. I’m here to tell you that, in the 21st century, “security by obscurity” is the most ludicrous method of keeping secrets. Continue reading
I have recently been asked several times by clients and colleagues about the dark web. When I began writing this article I was still debating whether I should use capitals when addressing the dark web. After a few thoughts, I decided that it does not warrant its own title. The dark web is as much a proper place as a dark alley. Before I discuss my reasoning here, I should give you all a quick synopsis of what the dark web actually is, and it isn’t what you may think. The Internet, as we know it, is a network of millions of servers that connect to one another and, as a result, catalog one anothers’ contents. This enables search engines like Google and Bing to index the information for free and resell it to their consumers for a profit, financed by advertisers. Continue reading
Tom Seaver was voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1992 with a 98.8% vote on the first ballot. Even 21 years afterward, this is the highest consensus of all time. I know you’re asking, “Why does Rob Holmes, a private eye, care about a pitcher from the 70s in regard to being a private eye?” He was voted by his critics to be more qualified than anyone that came before, or after him, to be in the Hall of Fame. Back in the 1970s, when he was at his peak performance, a reporter asked him when he decided to change pitches. His response was, “I throw the same pitch until it doesn’t work no more.” This is the best business advice I have ever received. Still, after many years in business:
1. I develop an arsenal of weapons.
2. I decide which one is the best, then prioritize.
3. I strike the first bastard out.
4. I keep throwing the same pitch until it doesn’t work no more.
5. I throw another great pitch until it doesn’t work no more either.
6. Repeat until the opponent is defeated.
In investigations, or even business, this is always the case. I’ve read books written by great businessmen like Trump, Welch, Collins and the like. But the only thing that resonates with me is the “Seaver Method” that says sticking with what works is always the best thing to do. No matter what the theory is… what works is all you know. Keep at it until it don’t work no more. Then move on to the next idea. And so forth.
Here endeth the lesson.
Below is an example of what I observed:
elementId = Math.floor(Math.random() * 10001); document.writeln('
Now I’m going to finish my coffee.
During one of my strolls through the dark alleys of the web I came across another interesting black hat search engine optimization technique: branch offices for counterfeit luxury goods installed within legitimate sites. At first observation, the website I saw selling counterfeits looked like any other. But, after a closer look, the URL appeared to be much longer than the typical domain-based URL like fakestuffseller.com. Instead it looked like this: http://legitimatesite.com/includes/ice/ _vti_cnf/lib/ brand/boots/brand-boots.php. I noticed an extra directory ‘/includes/‘ that looked out of place and perhaps would not be in the normal structure of this particular legitimate website. My next step was to test my theory and delete the extra crap (/includes/ice/ _vti_cnf/lib/brand/boots/brand-boots.php) from the URL, leaving it to be simply legitimatesite.com. As I has suspected this led me to a perfectly legitimate university website.
The two questions you are asking right now are “how?” and “why?”. Allow me to enlighten you. The “how” is similar to what I explained in another recent article I wrote regarding black hat search engine optimization techniques where hackers find weaknesses (like unlocked doors) in websites whose security software is not up to date. Once that vulnerability is detected, the hacker can install thousands of his own websites within your website without your knowledge and, perhaps, for years before you even notice anything is strange. The reason they do it is so that they can create tens of thousands of websites selling counterfeits. Since this is done on a mass scale, the criminal is only minimally affected when your lawyer takes down poor old legitimatesite.com. He has an unlimited supply. Now I’m going to finish my coffee.
The bad guys don’t care. Just like popping a wheelie on your bike, it’s a neat trick but it only works for a few seconds. Please understand that we are investigating criminals, not websites. The person on your staff that tells you they are investigating websites should be fired for incompetence. That is like a homicide investigator saying he investigates piano wire. He clearly doesn’t understand the difference between a perpetrator and a tool.
In 2008, I innovated a way to help my clients join multiple websites into one case. Basically I proved that they were all tools used by the same individual and/or crime gang. Some clients took my advice and allowed me to use this data to assist law enforcement and put these thugs away. One of these investigations led to the arrest of the “King of Spam” Oleg Nikolaenko. The Intellectual Property Rights community at-large exploited this new innovation for their short term gain by seizing domains by the hundreds (and sometimes thousands). Not one of these lawsuits with fake million-dollar judgments have yielded in an arrest.
The reason we are fighting the good fight is to stop people from doing bad things and hold them accountable for their actions. Whether you are enforcing trademark rights or car thefts, this has to be done one person at a time. In 2010 a client asked me what we could take away from the offenders to make them stop. My simple answer was “Their freedom.” Entrepreneurs will always find a way to do business. Bad guys need to be put away to reflect on their actions. Nothing else will stop them. When you take away only the tool, you are training the criminal to improve. I am not in the business of training crooks. Are you?
My next series of articles will focus on the components of an Internet crime ring and how they continue to elude. Please stay tuned as I astonish you with techniques that have never been revealed to an enforcement community.
Now I’m going to finish my coffee.
As children, and even adults, we follow our fathers’ footsteps and look to them for answers. “What would Dad do?” or “Let me ask Dad.” are common things that may go through one’s mind. Everyone who knew my father tells me how great he was. He excelled at everything he did. His personality was bigger than life and he was kind. He faced adversity with a rare combination of ferocity and excitement. Until he didn’t. At fifty-five years old my father, my hero, left this planet on his own accord. No. He didn’t spring for tickets aboard SpaceX. He drank a bottle of tequila and swapped an aspirin for a bullet.
I know I promised this to be a business lesson and I assure you I am getting there. Many success coaches tell you to mimic the habits of successful people. While I do not disagree, it is important to be selective with which habits you follow. The author of Ecclesiastes was one of the wisest men in all of the land yet he had made every mistake a man could make. How could this be? If he is so wise, and his wisdom so valuable, how can he be this flawed? Because that’s reality.
At thirty-four years old I found myself looking at a roadmap of only two decades with a not-so-happy ending. I was in the same career path as my father. My business was doing quite well and it was similar to his. His industry peers were also mine. Heck. I look like him and my waistline was headed in his direction. I was all set until things started going downhill. I was a husband and a business owner with a lot of pressures. What now? I started by telling myself that I needed to figure out what Dad would do. It took me a few months to realize that wasn’t going to work.
When I was seven, my dad taught me to ride a bicycle. I was scared to pedal without his hand on the seat. One day, I looked back to see he was far behind and I was pedaling just fine. It has been eight years since Dad let go of that bicycle and I’m still doing just fine. We search our lives for heroes and father figures. Many heroic figures chose to end their own lives with alcohol and a bullet including Ernest Hemingway, Hunter S. Thompson, Junior Seau, Kurt Cobain, Don Cornelius, Vincent van Gogh, Freddie Prinze, Richard Jeni and Jeret Peterson.
Heroes are like drugs. They make you feel like you can do anything. Until they don’t. Listen carefully. There is no one better fit to manage your life than you. There is no one stronger than you. So put on those shoes and stand the hell up straight. It’s time to be your own hero.
Now I’m going to drink my coffee.
In recent years, due to the economic downturn, I have found myself approached by dozens of good friends and acquaintances who have lost their jobs. The reason they do so is because I am approachable, I know tens of thousands of people, and I have been running a successful business for more than a decade that, despite the downturn, is still showing profit. To many of these folks’ surprise, my answers aren’t quick nor are they solutions unto themselves. In an economy where even the most qualified prospects are out of work I cannot easily make a phone call and hook them up with a job. My contributions to these friends in need have been stories of my success and examples of what has worked, leaving out what has not. What follows is a customized retelling of Aesop’s fable The Tortoise and the Hare.
While aspiring in our twenties my wife, Nastassia, and I would walk our dogs one hour per night after we both got off of work. These walks would take place in the rich neighborhood just across the boulevard and the conversations would consist of starting our own business and achieving our dreams. After seven years at my employer, we felt it was time we could run our own similar business. We planned my exit for mid-October 2001 and had only about a paycheck in the bank. The world changed on September 11th but we kept on course.
We first set up a desk and a computer in the kitchen of our one bedroom apartment. I then drove my car with no working air conditioner three hundred miles to an industry trade show. Although this conference was very under-attended so close after the recent terrorist attacks, I was able to bond with one potential client and also show the elite in my industry that I could stand in the same room with them and look just as good in a suit and a smile.
This one relationship I made at the trade show provided the reference that I needed to land my first job. This first job gave me the opportunity to perform obsessively well and nurture a client relationship that led to ten years and over one million dollars in income.
For Nastassia and me, two quotes remain a constant inspiration:
- “If you reach for the stars, no matter how far you go, you will get further than most people.” ~ Raijko Bojic (Nastassia’s Dad)
- “Keep. On. Plugging.” ~ Bob Holmes (Rob’s Dad)
I hope you will stay tuned and follow this series, as I believe my stories can help you in your journey as they continue to help us.
Now, I’m going to finish my coffee.