News from 2017

December 2017 ~ Why still no regulation within the industry? 

In a case against insurance brokers, two private investigators have been convicted of DPA breaches. These same two PIs were previously convicted in 2012, having pleaded guilty to fraud. They and two others from the PI sector received prison sentences; the case against a fifth collapsed. You can get full details of the case on the Association of British Investigators, website, click here.
So how did they get caught? One of the defendants, who was the ‘blagger’, unaware he was the target in an ICO investigation, generously put his old PC up for sale . . . . and guess who bought it? It is from that PC that the infamous SOCA’s list of ‘Users of the Dark Arts’ was extracted. The historical list, which comprised around 120, was referred to the Parliamentary Home Affairs Select Committee Inquiry in 2012/13 when its Chairman demanded publication. The list included some big industrial and professional names. Due to fears of litigation, the ICO and SOCA then played pass-the-parcel in respect of responsibility, but eventually ICO agreed to investigate. Slowly the list was whittled down to a dozen or so. The story persisted until the Chairman of the PHASC, (who was then chairing the review on the drugs law), fell on his sword in an unrelated scandal involving a male prostitute and the supplying of cocaine.
Last week in the House of Lords, Baroness Henig challenged why licensing of investigations has still not been implemented, speech. She was the previous Chairman of the SIA and a good supporter of the ABI and its lobbying for regulation and business licensing.

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:

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:

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.

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.
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”:
“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.

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.

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.”

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.