This article was prompted by a recent issue that we had regarding a Private Detective agency (not their name) based in Essex.
They advertise their services through hundreds of websites, claiming to have offices in most, if not all towns and cities throughout the country. The trouble is they don’t. They flood the internet with websites littered with bad grammar, spelling mistakes and false testimonials. If you take the time to read the content of their home page, it is just a jumble of nonsensical rubbish containing their keywords to enable a google search to direct even more victims to them.
This particular Private Detective Agency came to our attention because we received a letter from a client of theirs. Their client was complaining about a forensic examination service they had paid for. They had been charged a significant amount of money to have evidence examined by an ‘expert’. The client was led to believe the Agency was a local based company. A report was sent to the client after the evidence had been forensically examined. The report did not have the name or qualifications of the ‘expert’ and was vague to say the least. The report was supposed to be used in evidence in a court case, however, it could not be used because it was effectively useless, of no legal value whatsoever.
So why did we receive the letter? Why complain to us?
I received the letter because unbeknown to us, this particular agency was using my address as their local office address. I was unaware of this, and so it turned out was their client. They were unaware that the local office they thought they were dealing with didn’t exist. Their client (who I have been in touch with) was led to believe on several occasions that the person they were dealing with was in an office local to them. The client even asked if they could visit to speak with someone regarding their complaint.
Their client was repeatedly ignored. Emails, calls and messages were not responded to. The client being extremely frustrated sought advice from Trading Standards. They advised the client to write to the Private Detective agency and lay out their complaint and set a time frame for a response. The client posted their letter and had it sent recorded delivery. The letter arrived at what the client believed to be the office of the Private Detective agency, only it wasn’t. It was my home address!
We have never given permission for our address to be used by this Private Detective Agency.
This appears to be a common practice with one or two companies who are nothing more than call centres.
They will have a local phone number on their website, which unbeknownst to the caller is diverted to their offices in Essex, or the Midlands for another company. I rang one of the numbers on a website local to me and asked if I could visit to discuss my case. They call handler said “due to the sensitive nature of the industry we don’t encourage our clients to visit our office”. So I persisted and said I had some pictures and documents I needed to show them, and again I was fobbed off, this time with “all of our agents are extremely busy, if you want to post them, or scan and email them that would be ok”.
I persisted further and said I was in town, I could call in now. Yet again I was fobbed off and asked for my phone number so a case manager could speak to me. I politely refused and hung up.
I delved a little further into the website that had contained my address and followed up the testimonials. I found every one of them was fake. They all come from ‘Sash Window company’, ‘Aluminium Window Company’, ‘Blocked drain company’, ‘Skip Hire Company’.
Eight testimonials were listed, all were followed up. Only two calls were answered, one was a drainage company, one was a skip hire company. Neither had ever heard of, instructed or ever needed a Private Detective. The remainder of my calls were directed to an answerphone service which no matter which option you choose eventually routes you to a voicemail with the same male voice. Six out of eight testimonials from six allegedly different websites went to the same voicemail; could be a coincidence right?
Wrong; we carried out the same follow up on two other web pages of the agency and got the same results, no one I spoke to had ever heard of the Private detective agency. They had never given a testimonial to a Private Detective agency and had never given them permission to use their details on a Private Detective agency website.
I looked at the testimonial websites using the links from different pages belonging to the Private Detective agency. The pages were identical, the layout, the images everything apart from the phone number at the top.
I spoke with the MD of the Private Detective agency and when I pointed out that the testimonials were fake they replied “no they are not, they are genuine”…..
In an industry where honesty and Integrity are paramount it seems quite ironic that this company, and one or two others display none of those attributes.
If you do find yourself in contact with one of these companies; my advice is, hang up and shop around.
We are happy to meet our clients and prospective clients face to face. We will talk through the options available to you.
If you are looking to instruct a Private Investigator you might want to ask yourself and them some questions;
- Ask them if they are a member of the Association of British Investigators, although this is not a legal requirement it does give you someone to contact in the event that you have a complaint. (The ABI will investigate complaints made against their members.)
- Ask them if they are registered with the Information Commissioners Office
- Ask them if they are insured.
- Ask them how they intend to carry out the work you are enquiring about. How will they report their findings? Are there any hidden costs.
- Ask them how many will be in the team if you require surveillance.
When you instruct a Private Investigator you are passing on sensitive and confidential information. You are paying for a service. If you employed a building firm to build a home extension would you be happy with them just leaving their apprentice to get on with the job?