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IPFGB News during 2017

Jan/ Feb 17, Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter

Archives from 2015 click here, Archives from 2016 click here

November 2017 ~ Fiction reflects a stark image of the facts

"The subject-matter may be fiction, but through his meticulous research into Police procedures, best-selling author Peter James accurately replicates the rapid decline of resources available to the real forces of law and order in this country," says Dick Smith. "The best-selling 'Roy Grace' novels, written over the past thirteen years, also provide the reader with the harsh realities of policing in the UK. In my regular dealings with today's police country-wide, there is no disguising the fact that the first consideration on receipt of a report of crime is not the victim, but the budget."
Read Dick's article published on the Association of British Investigators website:
www.theabi.org.uk/news/fiction-reflects-a-stark-reminder-of-the-facts

October 2017 ~ IPFGB Darkweb counterfeit investigations

During the summer, joint action by seven EU Member States, coordinated by Europol, has resulted in the arrest of 53 criminals active on the Darkweb. Those arrested were trading counterfeit euro banknotes. The activity was planned ahead of international operations by the FBI and Dutch police, focused on taking down two of the most popular Darkweb marketplaces.. .. Alpha Bay and Hansa Market.

“For most people, the Darkweb is a scary place,” said Greg Smith “and they would be right to consider very carefully before venturing into the unknown. For some time now, we at IPFGB have been discreetly launching attacks against Darkweb distributors of counterfeit goods and are pleased to report a discernible degree of success. Strategic action of IP rights holders working alongside law enforcement means that the Darkweb can no longer be claimed as the exclusive domain of criminals.”

For further information regarding the Europol raids, see:
www.theabi.org.uk/news/joint-action-day-targets-counterfeiters-on-the-darknet

September 2017 ~ The continued risks of non-regulation

HMG continues to ignore calls for regulation of private investigation despite previous promises of the present PM, the recommendations of the Leveson Inquiry and legislation having been in place since 2001. Consequently, repeated instances of ‘rogue’ investigators cheating and fleecing the public continue to occur. Such a case involves one Simon Paul Delow who, on behalf of a mother, undertook to investigate the death of a young man in France. The experience he relied on to set himself up as an investigator? A disqualified director whose house maintenance and drinks distribution businesses collapsed! He conned her out of £20,000. He is prison awaiting sentence at Lincoln Crown Court.

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August 2017 ~ Burglary victim resorts to its own ‘Crime Watch!’

In the professional investigation industry, we are increasingly called upon to assist victims of crime who are sadly ignored by the progressively diminishing forces of law and order.

A typical reaction of law enforcement these days towards the reporting of commercial crime occurred when £250,000 worth of building materials and machinery were stolen over a weekend in July. The report was met with an 11-day response delay by Essex Police. The loser, Weston Homes, which stands to lose up to £1m from the incident from subsequent building delays and legal costs, has decided to publicise the burglary. A video, showing clear images of the persons responsible and the vehicles used has been commissioned and a £20,000 reward offered for the ID of the offenders and recovery of the stolen goods. www.theconstructionindex.co.uk/news/view/weston-homes-offers-20000-reward-after-break-in

A search of the Essex Police news website reveals no reference to the matter. Today the site leads on the force wishing everyone fun at the “Chelmsford V Festival”.

July 2017 ~ More European control over employers?

In yet another attack on employers’ rights, employees may soon be afforded more ‘protection’. An EU data protection working party has ruled that employers should require "legal grounds" before snooping. Employers, recruitment companies and due diligence investigators may soon be barred from carrying out simple social media and search engine checks to screen job applicants. It begs the question, “Is the public really aware of the enormity of change which is potentially descending on this country next May when GDPR comes into force?” When it is generally accepted that most companies face losses or corporate credibility from the criminal activities of insiders balanced with external attacks, then the risks in offering that job to someone you know nothing about may well influence the decision to offer the job in the first place!

July 2017 ~ “Software crime might be closer than you think!”

“Making an impact in combatting software crime in the UK is something which I’ve been personally involved with for almost twenty years,” said Dick Smith at a recent Association of British Investigators meeting. “At IPFGB, our core business is worldwide undercover test-buying . . . either physical purchases or via the internet and, more frequently these days, on the Dark Web. Much of that involves high-grade counterfeit software or unlawful downloads. However, we still come across even substantial businesses, often unwittingly, using unlicensed software. The most common cause is employees downloading from peer-to-peer sharing sites or online discount stores. The company remains responsible and there are some easy steps to take ensure full compliance.”

“Heed what I say,” he continued. “The penalties when caught are pretty stringent too . . . UK SMEs paid over £900,000 in legalisation costs and damages for software copyright infringement during 2016, according the Business Software Alliance, which polices the industry.”

June 2017 ~ Identity theft reaches new high

“A fine balance needs to be achieved,” said Dick Smith of IPFGB, addressing an informal Friday afternoon Pall Mall gathering of business contacts. “Providing your clients with a fast service might appear to be a basic requirement in promoting repeat business, but not at the expense of spending time checking out both those customers and indeed suppliers. CIFAS, the counter-fraud trade association, reported 60% of the 325,000 recorded frauds last year related to identity theft.  Failing to spend time checking out those new individuals could result in catastrophe!”

June 2017~ GDPR is coming . . . . a fraudster’s charter?

At the same Pall Mall meeting, the thorny subject of General Data Protection Regulation was raised. Irrespective of Brexit, the UK will adopt these European regulations on 25th May 2018. Organisations such as insurance companies and credit services are already preparing themselves for restrictions on their operations.

You can download a document issued by the Information Commissioner’s Office titled “12 steps to take now”: https://ico.org.uk/media/1624219/preparing-for-the-gdpr-12-steps.pdf

“On the whole, the rights (which) individuals will enjoy under the GDPR are the same as those under the DPA but with some significant enhancements,” the document boasts. Nowhere in the document does it warn the public that criminals in general and fraudsters in particular will benefit from the added protection from investigation which these regulations will afford them.

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May 2017 ~ Human Resources ~ using professional investigators

Dick Smith was the guest speaker at the launch of HR Network West Wales, hosted by Redkite Law. He addressed employers and lawyers across the Pembrokeshire region, highlighting the use of professional investigators, particularly in respect of employment law.

Peter James

May 2017 ~ New patron for Association of British Investigators

Top crime-fiction writer, Peter James, has accepted ABI’s invitation to step into the position of Patron of the Association. The international award-winning, best-selling British writer was born in Brighton in 1948. His popular Roy Grace crime novels have sold 18 million copies worldwide. “The role of the PI has long played a glamorous role in law enforcement and delivering justice in crime fiction, and a slightly less glamorous but essential one in gritty real life,” he said. "In our era of increasingly ingenious and widespread cyber fraud, combined with a diminished background of police officers and policing budgets, I can see the role of the PI becoming ever more important in preserving equilibrium in our society. I’m immensely honoured to step into Colin Dexter’s enormous shoes, and be made your patron at such a very exciting time in the long history of your profession."

April 2017 ~ New Data Protection regulations next year ~ act now!

There will be a huge shift in how Data Protection will be legislated. An EU directive, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will be introduced on 25-May-18 . . . . irrespective of Brexit. It is likely to have a dramatic effect on the manner in which personal data is processed with regard to the investigation industry. A guide to preparation has been published by the ICO with 12 steps to take . . . . now! The link is here.

March 2017 ~ ABI patron Colin Dexter passes on

Colin Dexter was, for many years, the patron of the Association of British Investigators and attended the annual gala dinner whenever his health allowed. The ‘Inspector Morse’ author died peacefully at his home in Oxford on 21st March. “He was inspirational in his writing, incredibly witty and great company,” said Dick Smith.

March 2017 ~ Do your due diligence first!

“So often we are called in ‘after the event’,” said Dick Smith of IPFGB. “It pays to know who you are doing business with. Last year, in the UK alone, over 600,000 new companies were formed and over 23,500 were closed with debts topping £1 billion. More than 6,000 directors were disqualified. The figures speak for themselves . . . . the chances of being caught out are increasing and for a modest investment in advance, we can help you form a rational opinion about new business partners.”

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February 2017 ~ Crime wave: “banks should shoulder some blame”

Since 1980, people in England and Wales were more likely to fall victim to a bag-snatcher or burglar than to any other type of criminal. That’s no longer the case! Official figures indicate fraud and cyber-crime is now the most commonly experienced offence. Half the 11.8m reported crimes related to fraud or computer misuse and banks are partly at fault by failing to make adequate checks when opening accounts for crooks.

“If banks allow fraudsters to open accounts with fake identification and that account is then used to receive victim’s money, they should shoulder at least some of the blame,” said Dick Smith of IPFGB.

“Three years ago, a Barclay’s customer paid £3,400 to a crook who had produced fake documents to open a TSB account. Barclays consistently refused to help because the customer had authorised payment. What’s more, the Financial Ombudsman Service, which is funded by the industry, backed their decision, even when presented with a Police report which proved that TSB had failed to make the required checks before opening the account. The FOS gave the lame excuse that they could ‘only usually look at complaints from a consumer about their own bank.’ However, when the victim recently obtained the police report and presented it to the TSB, then TSB immediately made a refund.

“In yet another example of the Data Protection Act protecting crooks and not victims, banks will not reveal details of the holder of a bogus account to you. How can that possibly be justified?”

January 2017 ~ Alibaba takes action against counterfeiters

In an immediate response to being blacklisted by the US industry watchdog, China’s biggest online retailer is suing two vendors for selling counterfeit Swarovski watches. The watches appeared on Alibaba’s online platform Taobao, reports the BBC. “The action by Alibaba is a first for the e-commerce giant,” said Greg Smith, who runs the test purchase programme at IPFGB.

US authorities put Alibaba back on the ‘notorious markets’ list for failing to control the sale of counterfeit products. Having long been accused of being a platform for piracy, Alibaba had been taken off the blacklist in 2013, but high levels of fake goods constantly appeared on Taobao. In May 2015, the company was suspended from the International Anti-Counterfeiting Coalition.

“The Chinese giant clearly needed to be reminded of its responsibilities,” continued Greg. “The counterfeiters were found out during a test-purchase programme when the watches they sold were confirmed by Swarovski to be fakes. This is precisely the type of project which we at IPFGB have developed into a fine art over many years; most regularly for US-based clients.”

January 2017 ~ After the horse has bolted!

Looking back over 2016 IPFGB casefiles, once again instructions to investigate the unlawful activities of employees ‘after the event’ outweighed those to conduct due diligence before employment was offered. What does that tell us? Perhaps that some companies imagine that it is not worth the cost of checking the authenticity of identity, antecedents and qualifications of potential employees. Are they right?

A 2015 UK study came up with an overarching conclusion; that internal fraud is an increasing threat to firms both large and small and has a huge impact on finances, morale and customer reputation. 63% of those later discovered to have benefitted by theft or deception had provided misleading job applications. Further, on average, the final loss to a company is around 3.6 times the amount actually stolen by the employee. Once the employee has been sacked, suspended, gone AWOL, or sick, it is often impossible (due to Data Protection legislation) to check the veracity of their original application.

2017 is upon us and the situation is no better. The answer: make the checks during the recruitment stage when an individual can be asked for personal data release. Those who would rather not cooperate can simply be sifted out.

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Archives from 2016


Jan/ Feb 16, Spring, Summer, Autumn, Dec 2016

December 2016 ~ switch in ABI responsibility for Dick Smith

In changes to the Governing Council of the Association of British Investigators (ABI), Dick Smith is switching from Membership and Selection Chairman to responsibility for Law Enforcement Liaison. “I am currently updating the police in respect of fraudulent companies offering misrepresented investigator training courses coupled with guaranteed work opportunities,” he said. “Over the past two years, this has become an increasing problem for those wishing to enter the profession . . . an issue which would not pertain were the promised industry regulation to have been delivered by the Government.”


November 2016 ~ Scams costing £260m-plus to UK SMEs

Research by Bristol law firm, Slater and Gordon, indicates that nearly one in five small businesses who have been defrauded fail to report it. Expanding further, they conclude that escalating scams and poor prevention have led to hidden annual losses of more than £260m to UK businesses. This data was based on a survey of 500 SMEs. Fraud committed by employees was found in a third of cases and by a contractor one in four times.

October 2016 ~ “If the price is right” ~ a voice from the past!

Norfolk PI, Barrie Peachman, claimed in a press interview that lawyers were employing private detectives with dubious backgrounds “provided the price was right!” The Law Society naturally denied the claim. The encounter might have been written yesterday, but the quotes were spotted this week surfacing in an “Eastern Daily Press” article dated 23-Nov-82. Barrie was incoming Principal of the Institute of Professional Investigators (IPI) and on the Governing Council of the Association of British Investigators (ABI). Dick Smith of IPFGB has been a member of both organisation for many years and is currently on the GC of the ABI. He said, “Thirty-four years later, we still learn of lawyers who come unstuck by using ‘cowboys’ masquerading as professional investigators. Government regulation still looks a long way off. Nowadays, the ABI insists on strict background checks, appropriate qualification and a code of conduct. As such, the association is endorsed by The Law Society. But other than The Law Society’s recommendation for their members to use ABI investigators, there is still nothing preventing law-firms scratching around for the cheapest option. That runs the risk of setting into motion unlawful activity which can bounce back on the law-firm and its client!” he said.

October 2016 ~ Movement from THO . . . at last . . . maybe?

A Home Office review of the security industry as a whole is now to be submitted to Ministers for their consideration and agreement or otherwise on recommendations. On the SIA website, the following is included:

. . the scope and appropriateness for us taking on additional functions including those that may already be provided by other organisations, or functions that could further enhance our role in the future. These will include business licensing and the licensing of private investigations.”

If the Ministers agree, then they will need a legislative slot. THO will publish a report after or before the Ministerial response, but they hope to do so before the SIA’s annual conference; the date of which appears to be unpublished.

October 2016 ~ “UK has taken a step backwards on licensing”

41 years service Addressing the ABI autumn seminar at the Union Jack Club in London was Paul Scanlon, the Chief Executive of the Private Security Authority in Ireland. Having been given every indication by the Home Office that the UK was introducing Investigator Regulation by 2015, the Irish Government swung into action to introduce its own licensing legislation. “We imitated much which had been prepared by the Security Industry Authority in Britain,” he admitted. From instigation to implementation it took the PSA in Dublin just ten months to issue the first licence. Now less than a year after introduction, he was proud to say that it had already made great strides in realising its goal to remove the cowboy element from the industry; the public and commerce in Ireland today being protected and provided for by professional operators. Asked if he was still liaising with the British Government, he said, “We have continued our contact with the SIA and far from licensing in the UK being on the agenda, it is now plain to see they have taken a step backwards.”

October 2016 ~ “Failure to Prevent” offences by employers

The Attorney General is proposing to expand ‘white-collar crime’ laws to include money laundering and false accounting by employees. This could result in senior executives being prosecuted for offences, including fraud and money-laundering, carried out by their staff. Jeremy Wright has revealed that consultations are taking place on the expansion of “failure to prevent” offences, which currently cover only bribery and tax evasion committed by employees. In questioning who is responsible for economic crime, he said, “The answer is to be found at every level, from the boardroom down. Both corporations and individuals are responsible.”

October 2016 ~ Brexit and General Data Protection Regulation

The ICO believes that Britain’s decision to leave the EU will have little impact for companies in relation to GDPR, which is scheduled to be implemented across Europe in 2018. Many organisations in the UK, most obviously those operating internationally, will still need to comply with the new EU regulations. The GDPR has several new features . . . . for example breach notification and data portability. The ICO has announced it will be speaking to government to explain its view that reform of UK data protection law remains necessary.

September 2016 ~ SIA Deputy Director gets suspended sentence

Embarrassing revelations have dogged the SIA since its inception. (We can all recall they issued thousands of licences to illegal immigrants, claiming it wasn’t their job to carry out checks.) Fabulously-paid directors and deputy directors have come and gone with amazing regularity. Being a self-financing organisation, it pays for its way through the imposing of licence fees and fines, the latter most often levied against other Government departments, i.e. public money. Yet the generous salary proved insufficient for Charlotte Jennings, a Deputy Director, who fraudulently claimed £37,000 in travelling allowances in a brief 18-month ICO posting to London. When challenged, she created fake bank statements in an effort to cover up her crime. City of London Fraud Squad were brought in and Jennings was weighed off with a suspended prison sentence at London Crown Court. In referring to the case as “disappointing,” the SIA CEO described Jennings as “not a model citizen.”

September 2016 ~ High Court overrules ICO on Data Protection

“Once more, the Information Commissioner’s Office has been shown to be over-cautious in the way it interprets data protection law,” said Dick Smith of IPFGB. In a High Court ruling in the case of Bangura v Loughborough University [2016] EWHC, it was held that a University which, without his consent, released personal data to the Police in respect of a rape suspect, was acting lawfully, even though the s29 request was made verbally. “This common-sense decision flies in the face of advice from both the ICO and what was ACPO,” he continued. “In rejecting the claimant’s arguments, the court held that the disclosure was in connection with the prevention and detection of crime and there was nothing in the Act specifying the request had to be in writing. With the abrogation of responsibility by the authorities to investigate crime becoming much more common, data processors may well expect an increase in requests from investigators in the private sector.”

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August 2016 ~ Will CoHo destroy valuable records?

Companies House is considering destroying all records after a six-year period, so it is reported. “If sanctioned, this will greatly reduce the ability to carry out comprehensive due diligence in respect of companies and individuals with whom British industry is expected to do business,” said Dick Smith of IPFGB. “Under the guise of ‘Data Protection’, a CoHo spokesman has admitted that this crackpot move, something that the man on the Clapham omnibus would consider an erosion of transparency, is being seriously considered.

“If successful, this would present further opportunities for unscrupulous or failed business people, (apparently from whom the pressure on Government is being applied), to hide their past and present themselves as clean, honest individuals. There is no doubt in my mind that HMG will not listen to commercial investigators or their clients, but journalists of all political persuasion are picking up the cudgel; so let’s hope they can knock this crazy idea firmly on the head!”

August 2016 ~ Latest from HMG on Investigator Regulation

Latest HMG

July 2016 ~ Fraud costing UK economy £193bn per annum

The University of Portsmouth’s Centre for Counter Fraud Studies has issued a report which has produced this estimate. Accepted to be Europe’s premier fraud research centre, it has revised and renewed research undertaken by the Government up to 2013. It reveals the staggering true cost of fraud – an average of more than £3,900 per adult in the UK, with losses taking place at the rate of £6,000 per second.

July 2016 ~ Regulation of the Private Investigation industry . . . . .

“To ask Her Majesty’s Government what progress they have made on the introduction of a system of regulation for private investigators as announced by the Home Secretary on 31-Jul-13.” Baroness Henig (Hansard 26-Mar-15)

Response from Lord Bates . . . “We are not refusing to act. In case it has escaped the noble Baroness, lots of other pieces of legislation have been going through during this Parliament. We have not managed to get this regulation in. It is a priority, it is something that we are committed to and it will happen early in the next Parliament.”

That Parliament commenced in May 2015. The Home Secretary who made the announcement in 2013 was Theresa May. Will her position as Prime Minister accelerate the process? As has been the case since 2001, we can but wait and see!

July 2016 ~ Identity fraudsters targeting the young

New figures indicate a 52% increase in young people falling victim to crime. In fact, in six years, under-30s victims have more than doubled to 24,000. On the Action Fraud website is a 100-second video which demonstrates how easy it can be with just a little bit of knowledge to build up a profile sufficient to steal an ID. Recently filmed in a London coffee shop, it uses covert cameras to capture baffled reactions from people caught in a stunt where their personal data, all found on public websites, is revealed to them live on a coffee cup. It’s worth a look . . . . .  
actionfraud.police.uk/news/identity-fraudsters-targeting-young-people-jul16

June 2016 ~ “Taking client records is a criminal offence” . . . ICO

So says Steve Eckersley, Head of Enforcement at the Information Commissioner’s Office.

“Employees need to be aware that documents containing personal data they have produced or worked on belong to their employer and are not theirs to take with them when they leave. Taking client records that contain personal information to a new job, without permission, is a criminal offence.”

The statement followed the conviction of a Shropshire-based individual who took 957 emails from his employer as he was leaving to start a new job with a rival company. He was fined £300 with £405 costs for the s55 Data Protection Act 1998 offence.

“This sort of behaviour is far from rare. IPFGB has been called in many times to prove that individuals have, for example, lifted client databases to assist them starting up in competition,” said Greg Smith. “Due to the reluctance or refusal of the Police to act in such matters, civil litigation has been the customary remedy. But it is encouraging to see existing law being enforced on this occasion. IPFGB can provide an essential service, working in conjunction with victims’ lawyers, to deliver the critical evidence.”

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May 2016 ~ Dick Smith addresses Albion Chambers seminar

Around 75 employment lawyers from around the southwest were at the prestigious harbour-side @Bristol Conference Centre to listen to a day-long series of presentations entitled “Practical Considerations in Workplace Investigations and Disciplinary Procedures.”

Albion Chambers provided expert barristers:

  • Monisha Khandker: covert recording and its use in Employment Tribunals;
  • Simon Emslie - Emails and electronic data, a gold mine of information;
  • Alec Small - HR and formal hearings; how involved is too involved?;
  • Richard Shepherd - Legal and litigation privilege; testing the boundaries of admissibility.

Dick was the guest speaker; his talk described as “helping delegates understand what can be achieved in workplace investigations, where the pitfalls are and the legal framework in which he operates. This will be a practical, no-nonsense introduction into using private investigators.”

He strongly advocated using only investigators who have proved their integrity and are members of recognised associations within the profession; particularly the Association of British Investigators, the only organisation to be endorsed by the Law Society.

Dick unravelled some of the myths of what can and cannot be legally achieved in the UK, defined the many services available from the professional investigation industry and, in providing an insight into some of the tricks of the trade, described two practical cases in which absenteeism and breach of contract were the major issues.

Dick

April 2016 ~ “More use of outside investigators by law enforcement” ~ Sir Jon Murphy

41 years service Addressing the Association of British Investigators, who were holding their AGM in Liverpool, the Merseyside Chief Constable said, “There are 10,000 fewer Police Officers in England & Wales now than there were six years ago and one in four of those remaining are in London. Now more than ever, law enforcement will need to rely on the experience and cooperation of ladies and gentlemen such as yourselves in the fight against crime.” Sir Jon Murphy, who was guest of honour, will soon be retiring after 41 years’ service.

April 2016 ~ can UK law enforcement cope with SOC?

Serious and Organised Crime (SOC) threatens national security and is estimated to cost the UK at least £24 billion each year; (Govt figures). It includes: trafficking and dealing in drugs, people, weapons and counterfeit goods; sophisticated theft and robbery; fraud; money laundering and other forms of financial crime; and cybercrime.

“Sadly, the answer to the question is ‘No’”, said Dick Smith of IPFGB. “These days, fewer and fewer of our clients ever bother to report fraud or theft, whether they are the victims of SOC or from a one-off incident perhaps committed by an employee. Even if the case were to be accepted as a crime by the Police or ‘Action Fraud’, and the perpetrators and the evidence presented on a plate, it no longer makes commercial sense to go through the tortuous process of reporting and then to wait months and months for CPS to take the matter through the courts. It is far more expedient to instigate immediate civil action against the fraudsters/thieves, using expert law-firms working hand-in-glove with qualified independent investigators.”

March 2016 ~ “Frustrating wait” for Home Office review

“The Home Office team is working through the replies to the public consultation,” writes Peter Selwyn-Smith, the Stakeholder Manager with the Security Industry Authority, “It will determine when the publication of the report takes place. We anticipate publication in late summer, depending upon the parliamentary timetable, but there is a need to manage expectations realistically. The question of PI licensing was addressed in the consultation, and it will be a part of the final report. We will all have to wait for their recommendations. I do understand the frustration that the wait causes.”

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February 2016 ~ ABI maintains Law Society accreditation

IPFGB staff are members of the Association of British Investigators. The Law Society continues remind their members that the ABI “offers solicitors peace of mind when choosing investigative service suppliers.” See: http://www.lawsociety.org.uk/support-services/membership-extra/business-services/abi

January 2016 ~ ECHR rules monitoring of Messenger account did not break convention

On 12-Jan-16, the ECHR returned an interesting finding in respect of employers’ rights (or otherwise) to electronic surveillance of employees at work; ruling that a company acted within its disciplinary powers.

A Romanian sales manager had been dismissed from his job for sending personal messages during working hours. In supporting these accusations, the employer accessed the employee’s messaging logs. The employee lost his case in a Romanian court and took the matter to ECHR, claiming it to have been an unjustified breach of his right to privacy. In reaching its findings, the ECHR pointed out that his employer's internal regulations expressly prohibited any non-professional use of workplace equipment and the employee's Yahoo Messenger account could have been accessed on the assumption that the communication related to professional activities. It was held that it was not unreasonable for an employer to want to verify that the employees complete their professional tasks during working hours. The monitoring had been found to be ‘limited and proportionate’ since other data and documents on the PC were not examined.

In light of these facts, the Court considered that the Romanian judiciary did not exceed its margin of appreciation in finding that the employer acted within its disciplinary powers.

IPFGB is regularly retained to uncover evidence of employee misconduct. Dick Smith said, “Initially, this ruling appears to give some latitude to employers. However, they most certainly should not consider they have ‘carte blanche’. In previous telephony and email monitoring cases (particularly those of Halford and Copland), ECHR has previously ruled breaches of the HR Convention have occurred.”

January 2016 ~ “ABI offers peace of mind when choosing investigative service suppliers”

The Law Society continues to grant the Association of British Investigators its endorsement and recommends solicitors to consider this when instructing investigators.

Read more: lawsociety.org.uk/business-services/abi

The Association of British Investigators is now recognised as the premier professional body for private investigators working in the UK and beyond. A non-profit organisation, its national and international membership provides credibility and due diligence. IPFGB partners cherish their ABI membership. Dick Smith is the Membership Chairman on the Governing Council.

January 2016 ~ Balancing the cost of ‘internal company fraud’

Commenting on a recent ‘internal fraud’ case which IPFGB was instrumental in referring to law enforcement and successfully pressing for prosecution, Dick Smith said, “On this occasion, when confronted the fraudster did the ‘honourable’ thing by resigning on the spot. Nevertheless, many, many months later, the case is still awaiting trial due to the painfully slow progress of the police and CPS.

“In London, for example, it takes up to 18 months to get a fraud case to court. If the worker remains employed but suspended during all that time, then the cost of continuing his/her salary whilst engaging a replacement has to be balanced against ‘biting the bullet’ and dismissing immediately for gross misconduct, thereby possibly risking the cost of a future tribunal battle. The question is, ‘Which is the cheaper option?’

“Of course, prevention always being better than cure, comprehensive pre-employment checks in respect of prospective employees should be an essential part of company policy. But it does not stop there. That due diligence should be revisited periodically during the life of an employee’s term with the company, particularly when added responsibilities and opportunities for theft or fraud are presented through promotion or reassignment,” he said.

January 2016 ~ ABI continued accreditation by Law Society

“The Association of British Investigators offers solicitors peace of mind when choosing investigative service suppliers,” quotes the Law Society website . .

lawsociety.org.uk/support-services/membership-extra/business-services/abi/

“The Association of British Investigators is now recognised as the premier professional body for private investigators working in the UK and beyond. A non-profit organisation, its national and international membership provides credibility and due diligence.”

(Dick Smith is an ABI Governing Council member.)

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Archives from 2015


Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter 2015

December 2015 ~ Time for self-regulation?

“In 1952, a deputation from the Association of British Investigators lobbied Parliament for recognition and statutory control” said ABI Governing Council member, Dick Smith of IPFGB, in addressing a business meeting in Birmingham. “It then took 49 years for government to pass the Act and a further 14 years for the responsible statutory body to reach the trailblazing milestone of “maybe”.

“The Association of British Investigators already regulates its members in respect of appropriate checks on criminal convictions, insurance, data protection registration, practical ability and references, coupled with academic qualification, which it strongly encourages,” he continued. “As a starting point and as an example, if all lawyers insisted on instructing only ABI members, then this would form the basis for self-regulation. Those investigators who aspire to be professional and law-abiding would strive to meet those conditions and join the association.”

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November 2015 ~ SIA review . . . . . “PI regulation . . . maybe?”

Alan Clamp became the new CEO of the Security Industry Authority in the summer and in his first review, he totally omitted any reference to business licensing, which had been postponed by the coalition government. But it was in relation to Private Investigators that there was frustration with the word “maybe” creeping into the current mind-set.

It is 14 years since the Private Security Industry Act was passed and despite the Home Secretary having promised licensing following the Levison Inquiry into phone-hacking, Clamp is clearly admitting defeat. “The challenge is that no one can quite agree on what they (PIs) are,” he said.

There are conspiracy theorists within the Police Family who seriously contend that certain security industry conglomerates, already hand-in-glove with the Home Office, are encouraging a “stall” situation in relation to PI licensing. The motive?: they are waiting for the day when the stringent cuts to police resources, coupled with regular criticisms regularly “planted” in the media, will pave the way for policing in this country to be outsourced in its entirety.

November 2015 ~ “Change your passwords frequently!”

“Just a single event can result in brand reputation damage of staggering proportions.” said Dick Smith of IPFGB, addressing a meeting of business people in Bath, UK. “You need look no further than the events last week at TalkTalk. Eastern European criminal gangs are already buying their customers’ data at £1.62 a shot! These account holder details go to join others of offer on the Dark Web . . . for example Halifax, Vodafone, O2, EE, Sky, BT Sport and Amazon. But if you trade on the web, your customers can help you protect your business. They need to be educated to make it harder for the criminal. Encourage them to change passwords frequently and never use the same password across the spectrum of online services and stores.”

October 2015 ~ Cyber/IT crime now third biggest risk to commerce

In risk importance, Allianz has rated business/supply chain interruptions first, followed by natural disasters, significantly followed by cybercrime, IT failures, espionage and data breaches. With global cybercrime and espionage now topping $445 billion (£288bn), every company, large or small, is in danger of attack.

October 2015 ~ “7 million UK cyber-crimes a year!”

The first official estimate of the scale of offences in the UK suggests that more than 20,000 fraud and cyber-crimes are committed every day; (Crime Survey for England and Wales). In addition, there were an estimated 2.5 million incidents which fall under the Computer Misuse Act, such as hacking attacks. Police quote: “This shows how the internet is changing the nature of crime."

The announcement was made on the same day that a City of London Police backed official study suggested “hard decisions” should be made if victims admitted they did not follow security advice. “Victims who failed to take precautions against cyber-crime should be treated as a lower priority by police than others who have acted to improve their own security,” the report proposed.

September 2015 ~ "Around 26,000 incidents are currently reported to 'Action Fraud' each month" . . . .

. . . . said DI Chris Felton of the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau, addressing a seminar organised by the ABI at Oxford. "Of these, approximately 10,000 are converted into actual crimes and 6,000 sent for investigation by Police Forces etc. Around a third of these go the Met, where between 200 and 300 officers are detailed as investigators. Of the remainder, and due to resources available, on average only one in five get investigated!"

September 2015 ~ 'Action Fraud' reporting back on track

Following the collapse in July of the private company which was managing the 'Action Fraud' phonelines and website, a contract has been awarded to a new operator which has opened two dedicated call-centres in Scotland and N Ireland. From experience already, IPFGB can testify that this new system appears to be operating very efficiently. "The previous regime was generally accepted within Law Enforcement as an unmitigated disaster," said Dick Smith. "One can only hope that the standard of investigation from this point onwards matches this encouraging development."

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August 2015 ~ investigation training investigated!

At the behest of the Association of British Investigators, IPFGB has been voluntarily carrying out enquiries in relation to two business entities which have been offering detective training followed by a guarantee of lucrative work. Victims have been contacting the ABI, trying to establish the credibility of these outfits. IPFGB has been liaising closely with National Fraud Intelligence Bureau and Trading Standards.

August 2015 ~ Fraud statistics show rise in value ~ KPMG

Analysis of fraud cases above £100k reaching UK courts revealed a rise of 22% in the first half of 2015 compared to last year. Whereas the number of cases remained the same, it was the value which rose. ‘Middle man’ fraud, where the criminal has inserted himself into the supply chain, accounted for a 242% rise to £99m. However, it is company managers, those with responsibility, who have driven the growth of fraud, accounting for 68% of fraud by value in the first half of 2015 compared with 22% in 2014.

August 2015 ~ IQ Level 3 awards

In anticipation of the mandatory training requirements of the SIA, IPFGB is pleased to announce that Dick Smith and Greg Smith have each achieved the national IQ Level 3 Award for Professional Investigators (QCF). There is widely held concept that the SIA will demand Level 3 as the standard for licensing.

July 2015 ~ Licensing . . . . new personalities, same old story!

SIA Chairman, Elizabeth France, held her first meeting with her new Home Office Minister of State and gave no indication that there would be an end to the 14 year delay in introducing investigator licensing. Mike Penning, the minister who has charge of the SIA, was meeting Mrs France and the new SIA Chief Executive, Alan Clamp, and heard her say that there was a need for a change to the law through Parliament. She described the 2001 Act that set up the SIA as “pretty old”. “We would love an opportunity now for some fresh primary legislation,” she said. The procrastination of successive Governments over the regulation of private investigators, not least considering Home Secretary Theresa May’s promise two years ago, appeared set to continue with Mrs France speaking of it in terms of “maybe”.

July 2015 ~ The Home Office “regrets” . . . . . . .

The Home Secretary having (again) promised and failed to introduce investigator licensing in the last Parliament, the Association of British Investigators wrote to Ms May asking for an explanation. In a written response, the Home Office expressed a “regret” that time available prior to dissolution of Parliament prior to the election had precluded the possibility of introducing the measures. A spokesperson further stated, “Once Parliament has approved legislative requirements, the SIA will issue guidance about the application process, including mandatory training, ahead of the new licencing coming into force, to enable applicants sufficient time to undertake any required training.”

July 2015 ~ National Crime Agency annual strategic assessment

"The ready availability of criminal products and services on the internet, especially on the hidden internet, has produced a marketplace where criminals can operate with a high degree of anonymity."

July 2015 ~ Sir Jon Murphy QPM addresses EPIC conference

The Chief Constable of Merseyside addressed the Ex-Police in Industry and Commerce conference in Liverpool;IPFGB was present. Sir Jon admitted that the ability of the Police to respond to crime in future will continue to decrease due to further massive cuts to their budget. He suggested that individuals within that industry, (particularly EPIC members), should make greater efforts to promote the integrity they have to offer and strive for a higher profile.

July 2015 ~ Innovation & Skills' 2015 Information Security Breaches

The Department of Business latest survey results have been published. The results could have been predicted and include:

  • 90% of large organisations reported suffering a security breach, (up from 81% in 2014);
  • 74% of small businesses had a security breach, (up from 60% a year ago);
  • The average cost of a large organisation's worst security breach is £1.46m – £3.14m, (up from £600k – £1.15m last year);
  • The average cost of a small business's worst security breach is £75k – £311k, up from £65k, (£115k in 2014);
  • 50% of the worst breaches in the year were caused by inadvertent human error, (up from 31% last year);
  • 82% of respondents reported that their senior management places a high or very high priority on security, (up from 79% in 2014).

July 2015 ~ ABI in talks with ICO

The Association of British Investigators has had further discussions with the Information Commissioner's Office, exchanging views on a range of topics impacting both investigators and regulators. The talks also focused on the lack of Police attention or assistance received by the industry's insurance and financial institution clients, which is why they turn to the private sector in such numbers. Read more at: www.theabi.org.uk/news/association-meet-with-information-commissioners-office

June 2015 ~ Selachii LLP blog ~ Licencing post-election

IPFGB has been pleased to carry out investigations on behalf of Selachii LLP, litigation and dispute resolution solicitors based in Notting Hill. Dick Smith writes about the continued lack of regulation in the investigation industry: www.selachii.co.uk/solicitors-blog/there-remains-a-lack-of-regulation-in-the-private-investigation-industry

June 2015 ~ UK fraud estimated at £2.1 billion per annum

The Annual Fraud Indicator produced by the Insurance Fraud Taskforce divides this figure into £1.7bn in hidden fraud loss, £392m in organised crash-for-cash fraud and £39 in unidentified insurance fraud.

June 2015 ~ Investigator Licencing ~ Scotland

BBC Radio announces it will be producing a documentary on the training of Private Investigators in Scotland. This follows indications from the Scottish Government that it would be pursuing a policy of bringing in new licensing regulations for Investigators in the UK “fairly soon”. Elizabeth Anne Duffy (BBC Radio Features) said, “I hope to be able to speak to someone about the training offered by the Association of British Investigators Academy about what licensing will mean for the industry and perhaps even reach out to some Scottish members who might be willing to talk to us about the training process.”

Comment: “Any progress in the battle to persuade UK Government to introduce our long-awaited licencing is welcome! We had Ireland announcing their intentions to proceed last month. If there is pressure coming from Scotland too, that’s just fine.” (Greg Smith, IPFGB director and ABI member.)

June 2015 ~ Covert Computer Monitoring Service

IPFGB is exploring alternative options to some of the Forensic IT services on offer. Naturally working completely within legal parameters, (e.g. with the authority of the owners of computers believed to be inappropriately used by others), IPFGB can arrange introduction of undetected software recording all actions on any relevant PC. Clients will be cognisant that they should take all reasonable steps to ensure they don’t see any personal information; no personal data will be included in any report. We can usually get the software setup within a few hours of the initial call if the matter is really urgent. The action is certainly cost effective as underperforming employees cost businesses thousands every year. This service gives clients information they need to make decisions but can sometimes show where employees are not following acceptable systems or procedures, allowing them to correct their behaviour rather than replacing them.

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May 2015 ~ Spoof PayPal Emails

Lancashire Partnership Against Crime (LANPAC) warn that fraudsters often target ‘goods for sale’ adverts on popular online auctions sites. They will contact a seller to say that they want to buy the advertised item. The seller then receives what looks like a genuine PayPal email, confirming that the money has been paid by the buyer into their account. With confirmation of payment, the seller will then send the item to the buyer’s address. Of course, the money has not been paid. In order to protect themselves, sellers should check their PayPal accounts to ensure that the money has cleared before sending the item.

May 2015 ~ Media Streaming Scam

Discounted rate “subscriptions” for sale via eBay include Netflix, Spotify, Sky Go and Hulu. Victims might be unaware they are buying compromised account information. In the majority of cases the victim will attempt to log into their account, only to find that their details have not been registered. In attempting to login using such details, the victim is at risk of committing a hacking offence by continuing to access an account that clearly doesn’t belong to them. To verify their authenticity, contact the genuine service provider before taking advantage of any discounts offered.

May 2015 ~ Investigator Licencing ~ Ireland

Ireland’s Justice Minister has announced that, with effect from 1 November 2015, contractors providing security services as a private investigator will require a license from the Private Security Authority (PSA). The extension of licensing to private investigators is a major milestone for the PSA, which is an independent statutory body with responsibility for licensing and regulating the private security industry. This follows two years of development work including consultation with the industry. During that period, a number of successful prosecutions against Private Investigators have been achieved by the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner following investigation into the activities of Private Investigators. “Some of the more undesirable activities and practices of the sector have been highlighted by these investigations and the need for regulation is evident,” said the Minister. “I am confident that the introduction of these Regulations will raise standards in the sector.”

Only those licensed by the PSA will be able to advertise or represent themselves as a Licensed Private Investigator. It will also be an offence for a person to engage or employ an unlicensed Private Investigator. The Authority maintains a register of both contractor and individual licence holders on its website, which is a useful tool for business and the public who can ensure that their security provider is licensed by checking the details on the register.

“Investigators operating within the law all want licencing,” said Greg Smith, IPFGB director and ABI member. “The ABI has been pressing for regulation for decades. We have had fourteen years of procrastination by successive UK Governments in implementing the Private Security Industry Act legislation in respect of investigators. We can but hope that this newly-elected lot will get their act together quickly!”

May 2015 ~ European Health Insurance Scam

European Health Insurance Cards (EHIC) entitles holiday makers to receive free or reduced cost care whilst travelling within the European Economic Area. These cards are free to European nationals, despite what some internet sites may suggest. When searching for EHIC card online, the most trustworthy sites do not necessarily come out on top; many search engines carry ads for third party websites, which often look like official government websites. Consumers who click on these ads often end up paying the operators of these ‘official-looking’ websites for something they could get for free from the National Health Service.

April 2015 ~ RAC warning over Auto Trader payment scams

IPFGB has been assisting the RAC in publicising and uncovering an ongoing scam, originating in Eastern Europe. “This has been going on for over a year and as soon as one fraudulent site is taken down, another appears,” said Dick Smith. “Used car markets are easy pickings for unscrupulous operators and here unsuspecting buyers are being drawn to bogus websites offering a secure deposit and payment system for private car purchases. The fraudsters will clone a genuine car ad so that any checks on registration plate etc will confirm the existence of the vehicle. Using an untraceable mobile number in the ad they will offer the vehicle at a knock-down price to attract a quick sale,” he explained. “Once contacted by a potential buyer, the seller will suggest they use the services of a well-known motoring or financial brand to ensure payment. At first glance, the proposed website will look pukka, but of course will be totally spurious; usually hidden away in Eastern Europe. The payment is accepted online and the scam is complete. Only when the buyer turns up at a false address does he discover he’s been conned! Even the RAC has been the target of criminals who have used the RAC’s trusted brand name to set up such a website,” said Dick. Several motoring and financial brands have had their sites copied, so it is vital that buyers maintain vigilance and report anything suspicious to the Police or Trading Standards. Press release at: www.rac.co.uk/press-centre/press-releases/rac-warns-buyers-beware-watch-out-for-used-vehicle

April 2015 ~ ABI Governing Council

At the Association of British Investigators AGM in Cardiff, IPFGB director Dick Smith, was elected to the Governing Council.

He will serve as Membership & Selection Chairman.

Membership & Selection Chairman.

March 2015 ~ Investigator Licensing ~ England & Wales

With regulation still in the pending tray, questions in the House of Lords evoked a response from the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Bates, Con): “My Lords, the Government remains committed to regulation of private investigators and we have made good progress. However, it is important to ensure that the regulations target those who present the greatest risk to the public. We intend to lay regulations as soon as possible in the next Parliament.”  

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