December 9, 2013
U.S. Government Working to Bring Tax Havens to an End











Switzerland has been known for a long time as a tax haven, and banking privacy has always been a priority. It´s no secret that many illicit fund flows did eventually end up in Swiss banks, away from international treaties or laws that could put them in danger or that could put its owners in an awkward situation. The fact that the government didn´t make the banks disclose any information about assets to any international organization made this place ideal for the wealthy and private people of the world, where no explanations were ever needed. However, things are changing now.

Last week Switzerland reached a tax agreement with the United States, ending its status as a tax haven country. As a part of the deal, the Swiss government is expected to disclose information about its American clients and crack down on any Swiss bank that helped wealthy Americans "hide money" from U.S. tax authorities.  What is this really about?  The U.S. government is nearly bankrupt, printing dollars and pushing the country into financial oblivion, with record amounts of national debt.  So, the Obama administration is looking for new ways to pay the bills, taking from those who have.

The new policy pretends to help international organizations fight against illicit crime, terrorism, corruption and money laundering, all part of today´s biggest problems around the world. Many other countries considered as tax havens will be taking steps to avoid being bullied by the IRS and forced to comply with the U.S. demands.  In fact, complying with the U.S. demands is such a burden, that in Switzerland, banks no longer want U.S. citizens' money.  They're no longer welcome.

The Swiss government has directed banks and other financial intermediaries to comply with enhanced requirements in order to prevent the inflow of untaxed assets. Taxes are the base of a government budget, the means in which politicians say social progress occurs. But for big wealthy companies, taxes are a huge expense that prevent growth, and limited the amount of hiring and expansion possible.  Individuals who pay more tax, have less money to spend in the markets and economy.  Most economists now agree that higher taxes are counterproductive to economic growth and ultimately leads to lower government revenue, but it seems governments are slow to learn this lesson.

International due diligence services are essential to help individuals and companies expand and protect their capital in the global marketplace, and to properly navigate through all the domestic and international laws that face international investors in today's high tax world.  When you expand or invest abroad, don't think about taxes alone, but safely evaluate all the risks.


S. Birch
© 2013 S. Birch



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November 19, 2013
Oil, Land and Gold: The Perfect Baits for Dubai Scams














Represented by skyscrapers, man-made islands and luxury living, Dubai symbolizes wealth at its highest level. Although Dubai's economy was built on the back of the oil industry, revenues from oil and natural gas currently account for less than 3% of the United Arab Emirate's total revenues. For being a desert, this is impressive.  Dubai's oil reserves have diminished significantly and are expected to be exhausted in 20 years, and this is one of the main reasons why scammers use oil as a bait. As the world is getting closer to an energy crisis, the greater value the “last oil reserves” get. Higher prices of oil mean more profits. Oil investment has become a take it or leave it deal, no time for analysis.

Dubai has been preparing for the post-oil era through diversification. The main revenues today come from tourism, real estate, and financial services. The government's decision to diversify from an oil-reliant economy to one that is service and tourism-oriented made property more valuable, therefore the real estate industry has shown a lot of growth. It is also known as City of Gold because a major part of its economy is based on gold trades. So whether you´re an intrepid investor looking for big ROI in the oil and gold business or looking for a safer investment in the always profitable real estate business, Dubai is one of the most attractive places for investment, and scammers are well aware of that.

Investment scams sound and look completely believable. Most of the time, it takes a professional private investigator to uncover fraud or properly minimize your risk. There is a whole system designed for ripping you off, with smooth talking sales agents, super pro websites and a whole lot of forged documentation. When you add up the eagerness of being part of that next big deal, you´ll end up recognizing that falling for a scam is easier than you thought. The worst part is that many scammers remain anonymous and out of the reach of law enforcement, making loss recovery almost impossible. This is the time when consumer education is key, and it's very important way to minimize the threat first, rather than lose big. 

How can you avoid biting the bait? Get informed. Investing wisely depends on having accurate and quality information. International due diligence is a must, not a plus. Verify the company and the people involved before putting money into it, it´s the only way to know for sure your money is safe.

S. Birch
© 2013 S. Birch


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October 22, 2013
Private Investigators Warn on Lack of Online Privacy
















Online privacy has probably been a myth since the start of the internet.  Maybe one of the things we have to understand is that from the moment we decide to share information online, we´re accepting its public. We agree that it can be shared and seen by anyone. Just think about who has control of what you publish online. It has never been the user. Even the U.S. government can't seem to keep their highly classified information private.  And the more you share online (or in public), the greater at risk you are for scams, fraud and identity theft.  This is the reason why professional private investigators are warning people and trying to educate the public on the risks of declining privacy, and your risk from sharing.

Social networks and other websites have privacy policies, and terms and conditions that claim they are safe and reliable, and that they respect and protect your information, etc.  But, websites are hacked, policies change, information is stolen or copied, and in one way or another, anything you share online can end up in the hands of criminals.  Think Google Maps and Street View is neat?  So do criminals.  Many robbery, assault, rape and even homicide cases now reveal that criminals often uses the internet in preliminary research to learn where you live, where you work, and how to get there.

If you publish or share your private information on the internet, such as your date of birth, address, place of employment, vacation schedule, and more, you are a the perfect victim, and it's only a matter of time before a criminal will take advantage of all those pictures and information you're sharing on Facebook, Match.com or Twitter.  What starts online can cause real world problems, and sharing too much information and the lack of privacy leads to serious crimes such as identity theft, romance scam, dating fraud, and much more serious in person, physical crimes.  Many thought they were safe on Facebook, until recently the recent Facebook changes to decrease privacy for its millions of users.

The bottom line is that most websites want you to share, because your information is valuable.  That's right.  The more a website knows about you, the more they can sell your data to advertisers.

When it comes to hackers, or the National Security Agency, or who knows what other international agency, the truth is there are no secrets.  If you share something online, assume you are sharing it with the world, and it's important you know the risk.  If you want to be safe, remember the less about you online, the safer you are.  Search for Google for your name to see what is out there about you for your worst enemy to see.  If you're alarmed by how much you can find, it's time to fight back!

There are a lot of tips and best practices available on the Stay Safe Online website.   Privacy experts say when you're doing business with website on the internet, look for trust seals, such as McAfee, the Better Business Bureau, Truste and Verisign.  It's no guarantee that your information will be safe, but it's a good sign the website is taking steps to show that they are serious about protecting your privacy.
Services like Facebook´s GPS feature let us share with our friends the places where we go. So we check in when we arrive at work, check in when we pick up our kids at school, check in when we get home. Anyone with a basic computer knowledge can find out what we do, if we´re home or not, the places we frequent and the kind of lives we live.  Think about your own safety, the safety of your family, and lower your risk for dating scams, identity theft, robbery and many other types of serious crime.


S. Birch
© 2013 S. Birch


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September 30, 2013
The Dating Scam Evolution in the Philippines














Philippines has been listed in the past few years as a high risk country when it comes to internet fraud, including dating scams. A reliable Philippines detective can tell you that the number of fraud cases is very high compared to most countries. Although this scheme is nothing new and many are aware of the risk, the number of victims continues to climb. The fact is, that most victims don't realized how important it is to be well informed about their romantic partner and to perform dating background checks that can help avoid serious financial losses and heartache. Investigators say there is no foreseeable future of this crime coming to an end. Several reasons support this.

The first reason is that new technologies are constantly emerging and making things easier for all of us, but this also means that scammers get it easier too. The Philippines is a country that stands out for having a tech-savvy population. More than 33 million Filipinos, mainly in the big cities like Manila, are very poor, speak English, and have access to the internet and there is an exponential rise on mobile usage as well. With technology and internet penetration comes increasing risk. Con artists have easy access to devices and many tools available on the web to hide their real locations, to steal information from their victims’ computers, to forge documentation and to develop very complex plots that make it harder for you to figure out who is real and who is not.

The second reason is that as our society evolves, we are getting more familiar with being connected online. In developed countries like the United States, Australia or the United Kingdom, people are used to, and more importantly, are very comfortable with having an active online life. What this implies is that we not always know the boundaries, and we say too much about our lives on the web. Nearly all victims have a false sense of security and don't understand how they can be a victim until it is too late. Many victims say, "the subject never asked me for money", and don't understand how they lost money and/or had their identity stolen. Investigators and privacy experts agree the more you share online the greater at risk you are for fraud and scams.

The fact is that online scamming isn´t about anonymous spam emails anymore. Internet criminals are learning faster than the media and law enforcement can warn about the new risks.

Many Filipina scams involve a scammer who wants to get married to a "wealthy" foreigner in order to get a visa and to attain a higher standard of living. She wants to leave the country no matter what, with whoever she can. In the meantime, she is willing to lie, scam and cheat to increase her income and support her family. In most cases, the families are actively involved and even husbands pretend to be cousins when a foreigner and scam victims comes to visit.

Although the Philippines is not the only country which is an active participant in this phenomenon, it continues to receive a large number of the reports of online dating scams. The discussion on the cultural and economic background of this situation is long and complicated. The impact of romance scams is clear. Private investigators in the Philippines say there are many clean cases and that there are many good people in the Philippines. With the high risk, however, it pays to be safe and skeptical, and verify any new contacts in the country, especially those met online.

S. Birch
© 2013 S. Birch

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September 13, 2013
Top 5 International Investment Tips from a Private Investigator



Reliable and accurate information plays a key role in investments. Without, you're flying blind and there's no way to accurately measure the risk and the potential reward.  When investing overseas, company executives, small business owners and individuals try to obtain as much information as possible.  You review the market trends, you spend hours reading expert opinions, and to the best of your ability, you do your own due diligence.  Whether you're looking at the European economy, or what´s going on in China or India, sometimes it's hard to know the real story.  After all, how do you know the reports you're reading are accurate.  Does the factory or office actually exist?  Does the company actually have the revenues they're reporting?  Is the person you're communicating with really the CEO, and are they truly offering you the investment opportunity?

Do you really know who are you're dealing with? Could this be an investment scam?

Investing is a situation where looking back is a good thing.  Past performance can provide clues into the company's reputation, performance and track record, and how the company might perform in the future.  A reputable private investigator or professional investigation company can help you uncover these hard to find details, and give you the insight you need to make an informed decision.  In short, the right investigator can verify the information and minimize your risk.

These are some of the scenarios where a background check investigation, international due diligence, or company verification can help prevent you from being a victim.

1. Don't invest or do business with a false website. Fake websites are one of the easiest ways to steal your money, and have been on the rise in recent years. Scammers don´t even need to make an effort on creating a believable story. They will just take the existing information of a real company and build a phony and similar website. It is sometimes hard to tell apart a real website from a fake one. In some cases, the website can even appear identical, but have different domain name and be hosted from a different country.  Internet criminals are getting creative, so verify the website you're dealing with is legit. 

2. Don't buy shares in a fake company on a foreign exchange. It could be property, buying commodities at great prices or more commonly, on a foreign the stock market. The problem is that you may not know anyone in China, Malaysia or India, for example, who speaks the language who you can trust to verify the story.  You need a professional who not only lives and works where the company is located, but you need a professional investigator who is trained to verify that there is an actual company and revenues behind a ticket symbol.  China is gaining worldwide attention for its fictitious companies listed on exchanges.  Many victims think it couldn't happen to them, but investing in a false company is not as rare as it used to be, and being listed on the NYSE no longer means it's safe and verified. 

3. Don't hope documents and filings are true and valid; verify the facts.  You might have even checked with the SEC or business registration office in the foreign country where the company is filed and has its  claimed office.  But, do you know how easy it is to register a company?  Did you know that in most criminal operations involving fake companies and websites, the company is a registered and "legal" business?  Crooks know that many people only check business registration and fail to do real company verification.  They in turn usually file a registration to make victims believe they are real entities. A reputable investigation company can verify the business behind the paper filings. 

4. If a sales pitch sounds too good to be true, it probably isRelationships and investment do not always get along.   Especially when your interaction with your so called friend has been online only! You might “know” this person for a long time, or even have been recommended or referred to this person through a trusted contact on Linkedin, or maybe were introduced in person.  The truth is, these days, it pays to be skeptical and most professionals understand that due diligence is just part of business and nothing person.  Let your contact know you'll be reviewing the information and proposal, and will be in touch after you've had time to think things over.  Then, consult a professional regarding your options for background check investigation, company verification or due diligence. 

5. Watch out for red flags, and protect your wallet and private data.  What may seem safe to you, may seem like an obvious case of fraud to the eyes of a trained professional investigator.  Hiring a private investigator can help you protect your private information and add a barrier of protection between you and your potential investment.  Investigators are trained at uncovering risk factors previously unknown to you, and can verify reputation, offices, facilities, ownership, history of litigation or fraud, revenue, operations and more. Never send a dime or personal data to any unknown business or company until you're sure you know who you're dealing with.  Be safe, verify and then decide.

Let clear evidence and verified information be your key to profitable investing!




About the Guest Author: Maria Taylor is an Investigation Analyst for Wymoo® International, a professional private investigation firm based in Florida, specializing in international background checks, private investigation and due diligence. Visit the company website at Wymoo.com



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August 23, 2013
Company Verifications Shed Light on China Investments













Many people around the world have gone wild about riding the Chinese economic boom and stock market. There is an important reason for that. China is the fastest growing economy in the world, expected to surpass the United States´ economy over the next few years. Chinese manufacturing industry already exceeded the U.S. and became the largest in the world in 2010. Even though there has been a slow down on the economy’s growth in the past 2 years, experts say this indicates it is a solid healthy economy that is just cleaning up the financial system, not a bubble like some skeptics have forecasted. The small actions taken by the government are targeted to achieve a more sustainable growth, and there are simply too many Chinese to fail. With so many mouths to feed, and so many people with purchasing power, China will grow. For those looking to do business in China, verifying companies is now big business to avoid fraud.

Although China is still a communist country, its free market policies have encouraged a large amount of foreign investment. The odds are that Chinese companies will continue to do very well. With no fears of a "hard landing" for China's economy, the outlook seems perfectly fit for investing. However, the investors’ concerns should be less focused on the economy and more focused on the Chinese companies themselves. The economic boom has also brought into the picture a lot of fraudsters. China background checks and China due diligence is helping those who want to get into China's markets, do so safely and with lower fraud risk.

People have lost their money to “Coal companies” that didn´t even own a coal mine, to oil companies that didn´t deliver any oil, and so on. Recently, an investigation on Chinese investment scams showed that 70 companies that had been listed in the U.S. stock market were taken out because they were inexistent or fraudulent. Fake companies, one after the other, have managed to get listed on Nasdaq and the New York Stock Exchange. So if the stock market gets fooled, how do you avoid being a victim yourself? A company verification will provide you with reliable information not only about the ownership and the legal registration, but also about the operations of this business and the reputation it holds in other countries, including China.

Investment scams have duped retail investors when they try to buy electronics and commodities at prices so low that they become irresistible. Before investing in a Chinese company, be sure to find out how it operates and whether it is likely that its corporate executives will act in the best interest of its shareholders. Before buying any goods you would also need a screening of the seller. A professional investigator can help you verify the legal registration, ownership, legal filings, reputation and operations, and to screen the case for fraud before investing!

S. Birch
© 2013 S. Birch

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August 6, 2013
Malaysia Investigators See Rise in Fake Company Websites















Malaysia has become in the last few years a high fraud risk nation. Although not every business or personal relationship from Malaysia will be fraudulent, it is better to be skeptical when it comes to certain transactions.  A significant number of reported crime cases involving fake company websites in Malaysia has sent local law enforcement scrambling to try to prevent the problem.

According to the U.S. Embassy in this country, there is an increasing number of Americans that are victims of Malaysia scams. Most of these victims have been tricked into giving financial aid to people who claim to be American citizens in a medical, legal or financial emergency. Even people who have purchased their goods or services in this country carry a higher risk of fraud or financial crime.  With business and personal relationships in Malaysia, it's more important than ever to verify the person, the company and website are real and legitimate businesses.

Since 2012, the number of fraudulent websites and servers that have been used to install malware worldwide has tripled. This malware is intended to acquire your usernames, passwords and banking details in order to access your accounts. More than 50 per cent of the cases filed in 2013 were fake copies of the websites of banks and other credit and financial organizations.  But, in addition to those designed to steal your passwords, there are a growing number of sites that are part of online scam or fraud, posing as a reputable company to scam internet users.  Their goal is to gain your trust, and get you to do business with them.  Once they receive your payment or investment, these internet criminals move on to the next victim.  Prevention is key.
Malaysia private investigators agree that the challenge to identity all of these fake websites engaged in fraud is no easy task.  Expert investigators in Kuala Lumpur can help by conducting a background check or due diligence investigation on the company and website.  

One of the main challenges companies are facing today is the fact that many of their dealings have to do with an online transaction. This does not mean that you can´t do business online, it just means that you would have to be careful.  International investigators recommend for individuals and companies to always verify the legitimacy of the parties involved in order to make informed decisions. A company verification should be done whenever you are starting a new business or business relationship.  Ignoring the risk can be a costly mistake and learning lesson.

S. Birch
© 2013 S. Birch

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Military Scams Targeting Dating Sites












Men and women of uniform, traditionally, have been those we can trust.  Those who put their lives on the line to protect our freedom.  There are many military men and women who use online dating sites and social networks such as Match.com, eCupid.com or Facebook to find love and new friends.  Many women subscribers are often approached by men claiming to be in the U.S. or U.K. military.  They often claimed to be stationed in countries like Afghanistan, Iraq, or even in Africa. Profiles show names, military ranks and photos stolen from real soldiers, some of them while still on duty, some of them who even died in service. Because internet criminals have had much success in the scam, the number of these cases are on the rise, and the risk is growing.

Dating background checks  have been a great solution for those who wish to verify their online contacts from online dating and social networking.  Scammers take advantage of the good will and naive nature of their victims. Many of these techniques would fail if internet users understood the risk and knew the warning signs.  Unfortunately, some scammers are so good that it can be nearly impossible to determine who is real and who is not.  In a growing number of cases, there is simply no way to know the truth without hiring a reputable private investigation company.

Military scams can be especially difficult for victims to detect and accept.  Many victims want to help the soldier and support their country, and in doing so end up losing thousands of dollars, or have their identity stolen.  Learning about military ranks and what different soldiers do can help educate those not from the military, and also is a great help in avoiding fake soldiers.

Hiring an international investigator can be a great option for those who have met someone they want to know better, or who think they may have met someone special, but that person happens to be a soldier who was met online.  Fraud experts and law enforcement agree that it's important to verify early in the relationship to avoid the dangers and damage from internet fraud.

There’s a special kind of magic to see those uniformed men, giving their lives to protect us.  Investigators say to remain skeptical online and remember any profile and photo can very easily be false, and in fact nearly half of all online profiles on the internet today are false!

Be safe online and watch out for the warning signs.  If you meet Mr. Perfect on the web, and you're thinking of starting a relationship with this person.  Be safe.  Get a background check.

S. Birch
© 2013 S. Birch

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