International Backgrounds & Private Investigators

Global investigation coverage and scam prevention from experienced private detectives.

  1. Many people are wondering what´s going on with hackers and online dating sites lately. It suddenly seems like things are shifting, and banks or government websites are no longer interesting hacking targets. Attacking online dating sites is the new trend. And, there´s a reason for that.

    First of all, we would have to start by saying that people´s personal data is nowadays more valuable than credit card numbers. In the black market personal information like addresses, phone numbers, family names, etc are valuable. Why is that? Criminal networks have a big database of potential scamming victims, and many of them have something in common: they are users of online dating. It´s more profitable to lure someone into giving their money voluntarily –because they´re in love- than trying to steal money out of their bank account all at once. Internet criminals with experience can scam thousands of dollars each week, and the victims send them the cash voluntarily!

    The more a fraudster knows about his victim, the easier it will be to manipulate him/her.
    The other reason is that this information can also be used to create fake profiles, using real people´s information. Identity theft. It´s harder to discover that someone is lying to you when you can check online that this person really exists, that he lives where he says he does, and has a daughter with that name. Sound tricky?  It is.  Thanks to people who share too much online, criminals can now take a real profile of a real person, and assume a real identity.  In Asia, for example it often takes a Philippines private investigator to uncover the truth, and by that time, it could be too late.

    These 2  facts have boosted the prices that criminals are willing to pay for the personal data of people, and of course this has led to hackers attacking the online dating sites. What is worse is that the security of most of these dating websites is very poor. Banks invest a lot of money in making secure websites, because they know they are a target and there will always be hackers trying to access people´s accounts. But, online dating sites don´t feel the same about security. Since they don´t deal with money, their concept of safety is posting an article on avoiding scams, but there is little or no security regarding users' data.  Some websites like are being sued for such security issues.

    What can you do as a user? Don´t share too much information online.  Be skeptical. Try creating profiles that don´t say much about your personal information, and before giving out anything personal, make sure you verify the company, individual or website is legitimate and real.

    A. Hathaway
    © 2013 A Hathaway

  2. If you ever thought that getting ripped off by your online date or by finding out that he or she was not who she claimed to be was a shock, prepare yourself for the new and improved scams! Internet criminals are getting more creative all the time, and finding new ways to drain your bank account is what they do best. One of the newest schemes in online scams involves death threats and blackmail, and they are highly effective in getting victims to cooperate. Romance scams are reaching new levels, and law enforcement in Johannesburg saycrime syndicates operated by illegal immigrants from Nigeriaare leading the way in South Africa. The growing fraud is causing serious harm to South Africa's reputation.

    Despite being Africa's most advanced country, South Africa has been ranked among the highest risk in the world in this2012 Cyber Crime Report, right after Russia and China. This country has become not only a focus of attacks, affecting local people with phishing and fake websites, but it is also a school for many others on the arts of scamming.  Illegal immigrants often come from West Africa for a better quality of life, and then create shop in South Africa, where they can apply Nigerian crime tactics from South Africa, where victims perceive less risk.  Nigerians are migrating all over the world in fact, conducting fraud from Malaysia, U.K. and even the U.S.  Although it is hard to account for losses, 2013 will see significantly higher losses as cyber-crime continues to grow at a rapid pace.

    Online scams continue to be very lucrative for fraudsters.Millions of dollars from love scams are sent every month from the U.S., U.K. and Australia to Nigeria and Ghana. West Africa is the hot zone for cyber criminals, and it is the highest risk zone in the world.  The problem is, criminals are now exporting their activity and working with accomplices in other countries, so a Nigerian scam, for example, can now take place from the U.K. or South Africa, or nearly anywhere on the globe.  Most of the con artists continue to be the nice person you meet on an online date, who suddenly has financial trouble and needs help. But, some fraudsters have found that threatening can be a more effective way of getting what they want. Imagine how would you feel if you suddenly received a death threat or blackmail from someone you met online?  Ever do a video chat or send a nude photo?  This is the perfect blackmail, and criminals can threaten you that your entire family and co-workers will see the content if you don't pay.

    Criminals are use online dating and social media sites as a means to obtaining your personal information. Once they have your name, address and information about your work and family, they can start with the threats, or even steal your identity if you share too much online. The less they know about you, the safer you are.  Investigators say a background check is your best protection.

    The chances of death threats and blackmail to materialize are low, but the panic is greater than anything and people end up sending the money. If you are a user of online dating sites, there are a couple of things you can do. First, protect your personal information and share less. Do not share anything that may be used to harm you. Second, if you are getting serious about someone, verify you are not being a victim of aSouth Africa scam.  Contact a reputable investigation firm with experienced investigators in Cape Town or Johannesburg, so you know the person you're talking to is the real.

     A. Hathaway
    © 2013 A Hathaway

  3. It is unfortunate, but true. Romance scams are one of the most common reasons why people need to hire a private investigator in today's world.  Of course, infidelity, pre employment screenings and due diligence are also common reasons, but the fact remains, romance scams have led to a steady demand for background checks.  Single people experience pressure from their friends, from their families, co-workers, neighbors, etc to meet someone. Just about anyone you know, if you're single, is trying to help you find that special someone.  Society and human nature indicates being single is just “not right.  This feeling and pressure to meet someone often leads people to start the search online, when the real world turns up no luck.  A quickreview of online dating sites shows the industry has flourished and many relationships are now started online.  With this popularity, has come a significant number of dating scams.

    Many private investigation companies in the U.S. agree.  When they receive a call or email from a new client, there's a good chance the call is pertaining to a romantic relationship.  And in many of those cases, the client has been a victim of romance scam or dating scam, whether they realize it or not.  The fact is, finding your match online is no easy task, and many people are unaware of the risk involved.  if you take a look atonline dating statistics, surveys conducted in the United States show 87% of people think online dating is a good way to find a partner. Social gatherings or dating someone from work is an option for many people, so with limited options, many try their luck online.

    With love scams now being widely published in the media, the general public and law enforcement agencies are more aware of the risk.  So, why is it that private investigators say the number of clients from dating scams continue to rise?  The answer is simple.  William Carter, Vice President of Private Investigation for Philippine PI™, explains that criminals are learning faster than the public, and are staying one step ahead.  In other words, as soon as law enforcement and the public knows about one red flag, internet scammers will change their tactics, and use new approaches to scam victims.  Dating scams, like all other fraud, continues to evolve and the internet is a great hunting ground. Philippines investigators know better than most, as the Philippines is a high risk country for scams.  Charles Alden, CEO of Russia PI™ agrees, and says "scammers routinely change their profile."

    For many, gettingonline dating checks has become a routine, must have form of insurance to keep you safe in the world of online dating.  This is certainly a good first step of precaution.  However, private investigators say that even when you meet in person, a dating scam or relationship fraud is always possible, so it's important to verify your potential mate in both online and offline worlds.

    A. Hathaway
    © 2013 A Hathaway

  4. There is a trendy topic in today's business world that is considered one of new and best management practices, and that business owners and executives not always understand very well. It is risk management. Risk management is certainly nothing new, but it's emphasis in the business climate has never been stronger. These days, no corporation or medium sized business can live without it for long. It is the process in which companies identify their risks, assess them, take action to minimize and monitor and control the chances of having an unfortunate event occurring. It may seem simple, but the reality is that it is quite complicated because all the process depends on accurate and quality information. Obtaining the right information is not so easy.

    Considering that countries like Russia, China, Malaysia, Ghana, Nigeria and Philippines have been listed as high fraud risk countries, some extra precaution won´t hurt. Professional private investigators do not limit their jobs to following unfaithful spouses. These days, an international investigation company can help business clients obtain the information and evidence they need to make an informed decision, and uncover pertinent information that will point out if there is any unknown risk in your operations, partner or investment that you're considering.

    Consider the following situations where investigators can add significant value:

    1. Hiring. Recruiting new people is always a risk regardless of the level. Discreet investigations can minimize the risk of a negligent-hiring lawsuit when hiring internationally. A pre-employment screening will help your business minimize the risk of hiring someone that is unqualified, unethical or not who they claim to be. Making sure you have an honest candidate is the first step and one of the most important in risk management.

    2. Assessing your value chain. Providers have a great weight when it comes to your business sustainability because they are part of your reputation. Your company is at risk when your providers decide to ignore anti-corruption and trade control laws, or international treaties on fair commerce. In a globalized world, where emerging economies like the Philippines, China and India are providing a great portion of manufactured goods and services to developed countries and clients, verifying your foreign business contacts is essential.

    3. Investment opportunities. Reducing risk when investing overseas starts by obtaining reliable, accurate and hard to obtain information. In most cases, getting the facts you need and verifying a reputation of a person or company in a foreign country, or checking to see if a factory or office really exists, requires the support of a private investigator in that country with access to local information, who speaks the language and can verify the facts.

    4. Company verifications. A company verification will provide information on stock ownership, legal registration, operations, reputation, verification of the management, court and litigation history, assets, and screening the case for fraud. If you're planning to put your money in South East Asia, Africa, China, Latin America or India, or even Eastern Europe, you had better be sure the company and contact you are dealing with are legitimate.

    5. Mergers and acquisitions. These might be the only situations in which companies are really aware of financial risk and really do their homework, but due diligence is often done in house and does not adequately identify risk and verify foreign contacts at the same level that experienced private investigators do. Think of an investigator on the ground where you need him as your eyes and ears, and a wise form of insurance to have. They can obtain independent references, photographs offices and facilities, conduct asset searches, and verify all business and legal filings, and properly screen the case for fraud.

    Risk management starts with being able to obtain useful and precise information at the right time. Be safe. When considering a new investment or new partnership, contact a professional.

    A. Hathaway
    © 2013 A. Hathaway

  5. When we think of romance scam victims, we usually picture senior men or women who fall for the gorgeous looks of a “supermodel”, and lose their minds –and earnings - to the dream of marrying Mr. or Ms. Perfect. Although this does happen, statistics on online dating reveal a different story. In the United States, 19 million women use the Internet to look for a romantic partner. Men use dating sites slightly more than women, but women are much more likely to fall victims of online dating scams.

    Most of the cases of scamming reported to the FBI sponsored Internet Crime Complaint Center last year come from women in their fifties, but the most surprising figure is the amount of losses: women in this age group lost an approximate of $34 million, which represents 61% of all reported losses resulting from romance scams. Keep in mind these figures are for the U.S. only, and private investigators estimate that the real losses may be 10 times this amount, due to the fact that very few victims report the crime. Sadly, most victims are too ashamed to admit or report being a scam to the authorities. Others understand there is little or nothing that can be done, so they deal with it and move on without reporting.

    It is true that the FBI statistics shed some light on the growing problem with scams and fraud, but it is only the tip of the iceberg. It is also true that by reporting the crime, very little or nothing will be done by the FBI or any other government agency. The numbers simply serve as a warning to the public.

    Middle aged women are the most vulnerable in the U.S., according to the statistics. In most cultures, women are raised to be very conscious about their safety. They are constantly warned of an innumerable threats that could endanger their lives. But, as time goes on, and older women become more active on the internet, the threat seems to fade away. Women feel safe inside the comfort of their homes, and don't always realize there are some experienced criminal targeting them for identity theft, romance scam or other crime. International investigators say the risk for scams is only getting worse.

    American society has seen a transformation in which women are often the breadwinners, so they have money and hence are an attractive target for online criminals seeking to target you for identity theft, romance scams and other crimes. Knowing that women are now primary targets of fraud on social networks, online dating, and other internet based crime, women need to be alert and highly skeptical when meeting people via the internet. When in doubt, a background check from a reputable private investigation company is a wise move, and can be a valuable tool to minimize your risk.

    Internet criminals need information about you to make become their next victim or steal your identity. Private experts and law enforcement agencies warn that many online and real world crimes start by individuals sharing too much information on the internet. If a criminal can find your birth date, address, photo, employer, and interests on the internet, you might just be the perfect victim.

    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