February 10, 2011

Embassies See Rise in Complaints on Investigators

Embassies in Manila have received an alarming number of reports from their citizens complaining of fraudsters posing as private investigators in the Philippines. Officials at the US, Canadian, British and Australian Embassies in Manila confirm a sharp rise in the number of complaints of scams involving private investigators or PI websites in the Philippines. Sources familiar with the reports say that Embassy complaints are up two fold compared to 2009 levels. Both individuals and companies routinly hire Philippines private detectives for assistance with avoiding fraud and scams. Now, say experts, clients are finding themselves at risk for a new scam. In some cases the investigators make an effort to do the work, but simply are not qualified or trained. As is usual in the Philippines, law enforcement has been slow to respond.

Investigators say the Philippines is overwhelmed with fraud, dating scams, romance scams, internet fraud and marriage scams. Many Western men seek brides here, and many corporations and small businesses invest in Manila to take part in the country's commerce. This is a developing country, full of opportunity and risk. Businesses, investors and individuals should consult the services of a professional Philippines private investigator to minimize the risk. In order to avoid the pitfalls, background checks, due diligence, private investigations and surveillance are often essential. The difficulty is finding a true professional.

Given the political and economic climate in the Philippines, and the high demand for investigators, many criminals and scammers are now posing as professional investigators. They put up a website and claim to offer a professional service, at a surprisingly low price. Whatever evidence or information you need, they can get it, they claim. They advertise on message boards, websites, and appear to be legit. The fact is, very few have professional training in law enforcement or military programs. Most are not college educated, and nearly all lack the equipment required to investigate properly. Lastly, scammers posing as investigators often ask for money via Western Union or bank transfer, since this payment option offers little protection for buyers.

Some general rules to follow:

Be very skeptical of an investigator who prefers bank transfers, Western Union or PayPal.
These payment options offer the least protection for buyers. A real company accepts payments directly via its secure website using your credit or debit card. If something goes wrong, you can call your credit card company and report the fraud, and maybe get a refund.

Choose a firm that is based in the US, Canada, UK or Australia. The reason is simple. These highly developed countries have strict laws and accountability for business, and you can expect a higher standard and more professional results. Companies based in the Philippines are much more likely to deliver inadequate service and unprofessional work.

See if the investigation website is verified by McAfee, the Better Business Bureau, and Truste. A local Filipino won't pass the qualification standards set by these organizations. You can check the BBB to see if there is any history of complaints. (Click on the BBB logo on the Philippine PI™ website, for example, and you can see the firm has zero complaints in the past 4 years.)

Know that professional private investigation services for Philippines background checks, due diligence, surveillance and investigations can be costly. Expect to pay more for a quality service. Choosing by price alone is a bad idea, and can even result in being the victim of scam.

Ask the company where the investigators were trained. If the Philippines investigator has had no training in the Philippine Army, National Bureau of Investigation or Philippine National Police, the FBI, U.S. Military, or similar, keep shopping.

William Carter at Philippine PI™ agrees. "We see a lot of cases where a clients choose solely on price, and we later see the client come back explaining that he or she was scammed, had their money stolen, or the investigator didn't do a professional job. Professional services cost more." Some Embassy websites now even have warnings about such scams. Clients should be very selective when shopping for a private investigator.

Deciding on an unskilled private investigator can be a disaster. Many times, the work is not confidential or discreet, leading to serious repercussions for clients. Be sure to choose a professional firm, and get the job done right the first time around.

All the Best,

S. Birch
© 2011 S. Birch

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