Rob’s Jobs Series: “The Seaver Method”

The Seaver MethodTom 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.

Replica Handbags and Black Hat SEO

Google Gives Update on How It’s Combating PiracyAs I do in a normal day, I was patrolling the mean streets of the web looking for websites selling fakes.  On this particular day, one site came to my attention.  How does a church website with no e-commerce component show up as a top search engine result for replica handbags?  When I examined the website’s source code, I observed that there was a javascript injection placing links into their website unbeknownst to them.

Below is an example of what I observed:

     elementId = Math.floor(Math.random() * 10001);
‘); document.getElementById(‘block’ + elementId) .style.display=’none’; <a href=” icons/brandname/brand-name-products.php”>brand name products</a>

Search engines rank websites based on inbound links from legitimate websites.  A javascript injection like this created invisible links to the bad guys’ website the search engines can see but the viewer cannot.  The way this is done is by finding an open doorway into a legitimate website that does not have the latest security updates.  This is an example of a black hat technique that helps increase search engine results for their illegal site.  The lesson to be learned (besides keeping your software updated) is that there are many hidden efforts behind marketing contraband products and, in turn, many clues left behind if you know where to find them.

Now I’m going to finish my coffee.

Branch Offices for Counterfeit Luxury Goods

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  Instead it looked like this: _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  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  He has an unlimited supply.  Now I’m going to finish my coffee.

Brand Protection and Social Media

In the era of telecommuting and coffee shop branch offices, Facebook has replaced the watercooler, LinkedIn is the new resume and Skype is the new boardroom. Let’s face it. Your online ‘brand’ has become your most public persona. Along with the vast benefits that social media bring a new world has opened up for fraud, misinformation and brand abuse. Holmes is not only a top brand protection investigator. He is also the one-man marketing department for his firm. Combining his two passions of trademark investigations and social media, he will take you on his journey from creating his first blog, designing his firm’s website, and planning a social media strategy and then arm you with brand protection tactics that he employs for his clients.  Rob gave this talk, entitled Brand Protection and Social Media in June 2012 in Dallas, Texas.

Even Some Prisoners are Chinese Knockoffs

Throughout the years in the anti-counterfeiting business there have been a few times where we, and our clients, have lauded our victories when a raid was accomplished on a factory making Chinese knockoffs.  Once, I remember, back in 2006 our client’s attorney actually saw thirteen people in handcuffs.  Chinese nationals, in China.  In cuffs for making fakes.  Not bad for a case that started with some handbags sold by a Purse Queen in Missouri!  Every time I tell that story, I finish it with the punchline that “I’m sure the cuffs came right off when my client boarded the plane.”  I’m not faulting China and that really isn’t my point here.  But the disconnect between cultures is.  There is obviously a totally different meaning of ‘authenticity’ when you cross oceans.  You may recall the incident during the opening ceremony of the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympic Games when the seven year-old vocalist who was commissioned to sing ‘Ode to the Motherland’ was replaced by a prettier lip synching faker.  A recent Slate article reports on a whole new kind of counterfeiting: fake prisoners.  No kidding, guys.  People who are facing jail time in China can hire a less-fortunate guy to confess, or just replace him in the can.  This brings me to a whole new thought on the counterfeit enforcement business.  While diplomacy with China is important in the fight against counterfeit goods, raiding their factories and jailing their owners is probably not effective.

The  most important facet of my solution is to curtail the demand in the United States and other countries with a massive consumer base.  The way to do that is to enforce against all sellers of this product in those countries.  Contrary to the spirit voice in Field of Dreams, wise businessmen will tell you that supply does not dictate demand.  Stop promising your client you’re gonna get the “big factory” and focus on stopping the mid-level distributors here.  I promise your performance numbers will increase and, most important, you will help restore value and dignity to the client’s brand.  I know from great experience that many people who became huge sellers of counterfeit goods here in the United States would have stopped if they had just worn a pair of handcuffs early on.  One night in jail works wonders on the soul.  Enforcing the smaller crimes is part of the plan that makes many of our inner cities safer.  Curtailing vandalism in your neighborhood leads to less violence down the line.  In tough economic times it is easy to cut costs and focus on the biggest problems.  The problem with the latter is that no big problem started that way.  My suggestion to my readers is to simply place most of your efforts on the cities and countries with the highest retail sales of genuine product.  I’m not talking about the people selling fakes at swap meets or in the bad neighborhoods.  I’m speaking of the mid-level distributors who are getting their product directly from China and supplying those folks.

Now I’m going to finish my coffee.

Why Seizing Domains is Reaping Failure

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.

Rob’s Jobs Series: “The Hero”

Living by Accident - The HeroAs 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.

Living by Accident

Sometimes Risk is the Reward

Hi-Tech P.I.

Helping people see the forest for the trees, online.

Holmes, P.I.™

The Many Ramblings of a Not-So-Mad Man

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