Private Investigators Look Online to Fight Fraud

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Davis & Associates Professional Background Services, a Denver PI, is mining social media sites, not only for vetting veracity, but they are taking it to a new level to prevent fraud, particularly in the insurance industry.

We Friend ‘em on Facebook and, voila, here’s where they work or where they are going to be hanging out Thursday night. People put their whole lives on Facebook and Twitter.

Private Investigator Steve Davis of Davis & Associates was featured on Eyewitness News and in other blogs and media outlets throughout the country for offering new investigation services that comb through social sites to find answers and fight fraud. Insurance companies are turning to his services to sniff out suspicious claims and find evidence that will blow their cover. For example, anyone feigning an injury for compensation could now be busted for posting winter skiing photos on Facebook.

Private investigators have long been engaged by employers, insurance companies and law firms to check the backgrounds and veracity of employees and clients, but PIs are increasingly turning to social media sites filled with useful, and often detrimental information posted by the subjects of investigations themselves.

Social media mining, says Denver private eye Steve Davis, CEO of Davis & Associates Professional Background Services, LLC, is “an amazing tool for investigations,” providing a mother lode of information instantly online that once might have taken weeks to obtain.

“People put their whole lives on Facebook,” says Davis. “We’ll find bios that contradict resumes and patterns of behavior that belie injury and workers’ comp claims. For a growing number of background checks we go to Facebook and find all we need to report back to our clients that the subject is a red flag.”

Social media are such powerful generators of personal information, in fact, that Davis says his many personal injury law firm clients tell their own clients to stop using the sites completely while their cases are pending.

“You’d be amazed at the kind of really stupid things people will post to their Facebook wall, in particular at the most inappropriate times,” he says. “Law firms don’t want to be surprised when they get to court -- like a client charged with sex assault who posts sexually suggestive photos or comments, or a client supposedly injured in an auto accident who gets ‘tagged’ in a friend’s photo playing football or skiing.”

Davis and his investigators specialize in background checks, ranging from the simple to the complex, of prospective employees and executives, and also in checking the criminal and employment histories of prospective clients on behalf of law firms. Insurance companies also hire Davis investigators in claims cases where there is a suspicion of fraud.

Davis has for years been checking the backgrounds of people using a variety of public, open-record and subscription-only data bases – as well as old-fashioned leg work, phone calls and interviews. However these days, Davis notes, Facebook, Twitter and other social media outlets are often an investigator’s first and last stop on the trail of information.

“We have process servers who can’t locate someone for a subpoena,” he says. “We Friend ‘em on Facebook and, voila, here’s where they work or where they are going to be hanging out Thursday night.”

Davis, who graduated from Boulder High School in 1976, spent the better part of 30 years as a police officer, first in the U.S. Army Military police, then for 10 years as a Denver police officer, followed by stints as a security officer for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and as an officer in some smaller Colorado towns. His last job in law enforcement was as Chief of Police in Lochbuie, CO, in Weld County in the northwest plains of the state, which he left in 2006 to found his own private investigation agency in Denver. He has an associate’s degree in Criminal Justice from Metro State College in Denver, completed training programs in both the Denver Police Academy and the Colorado State Patrol Basic Training Academy, and holds a certificate from the prestigious School of Police Staff and Command from Northwestern University in Evanston, IL.

As part of his investigative routine, Davis says he regularly “mines” Facebook and Twitter to stay current on trends in social media, to “friend” investigative targets to glean information for background checks, and to verify information in resumes or to fill in telling gaps in employment histories.

One law firm, holding a substantial check for a missing client, asked Davis to locate her and in a few minutes on Facebook she was found and the check was delivered. “Piece of cake,” says Davis.    

“We still use the tried and true investigative techniques to find information,” says Davis, “but today social media mining reaps informational rewards that often raise red flags for employers, insurance companies, lawyers, business partners, spouses in divorce proceedings, even parents worried about teenage behavior online. The message is clear: If you don’t want someone else to see it, don’t post it.”

For more information on professional investigations, background checks and social media mining visit Davis & Associates Professional Background Services, LLC on the web at http://www.davisbackgrounds.com or call Steve Davis 303-861-1707 or toll free at 888-861-1707.

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