Am I Being Followed?

The New Yorker October 5, 2020 pp61-66. |The Critics|Books|”SNOOP DREAMS” “How private investigation became and industry” “Globalization, deregulation, and rapid technological change have been a boon for the detective business.” by Patrick Radden Keefe.

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Summary of a book review

Book “The Modern Detective: How Corporate Intelligence is Reshaping the World” by Tyler Maroney (Riverhead)

If you’re like us at 2244, you are intrigued by private investigation. Keefe highlights and we share some of the pointers covered in Maroney’s new book. We have left out the stories-read the article or even better the book.

· While it’s rude to cold call someone by knocking on their door this day-in-age, it is harder for somebody to slam the door on a visitor than it is to hang-up on or ignore a phone call. Private investigator (PI) cold-calling usually involves a pretext and what works best is appealing for help. “I’m a private detective…I’m here to ask for your help on a case.”

· Some people will talk but why? “Sometimes they want absolution, or credit, or justice. Sometimes they’re lonely, seduced by a sympathetic ear.”

· There are more than 30,000 PIs in America. They come from many different backgrounds; law enforcement, accounting, journalism. “On any given weekday in midtown Manhattan ‘there are, I would estimate, dozens of surveillance teams shadowing people’” says Maroney.

· They are most often hired by attorney’s for private individuals and most often corporations for a variety of tasks; missing people, cheating spouses, corporate spying for competitors, investigating employees accused of wrongdoing, intimidation of whistle-blowers, understanding investment strategies and opposition research all among others. “Lawyers, even the world’s savviest, can be prone to a certain ethical flexibility.”

· If you didn’t know it, most of your personal information is available online free or for a small price. So modern PI’s use a hybrid of techniques including old-fashioned gumshoeing to leverage new threats and opportunities brought on by “Globalization, deregulation and rapid technological trends.”

· PI’s vary in terms of a “code of ethics” but they just work for clients they may or may not actually be aware of who they are and what their motives are. The ethical ones will claim they don’t have access to the tools enjoyed by the Police, FBI or CIA. “We cannot flip witnesses, blackmail agents, develop confidential informants, bug phones, offer protection, send subpoenas, or bribe sources.”

· White collar crime involving complex finance and accounting, private citizens and by-design, in some cases, politicians around the world are defrauding investors, countries and other organizations. “Asset recovery is a major staple of the [PI] business.”

· With few exceptions, employing a PI is unfortunately “mainly a prerogative of the privileged.” They can be very helpful in undoing unintentional or intentional wrongdoing by law enforcement.