What is your firm’s investigative edge/specialty that places you above your competition?
First and foremost, our staff likes to be investigators. They derive personal satisfaction in gathering useful information for our clients to combat fraud, and reduce abusive and malingering claims. With a shared appetite for investigating there is cohesiveness in our company that is illustrated in the production of our consistent ethical investigative results.
Defense Investigators Group, Inc. has specialized in video surveillance since its beginning. Our investigators are trained to be observant of what is and isn’t seen. In some cases a claimant may not be active but the investigator is trained to look beyond the surface. When does the lawn need to be cut? What day is the trash taken to the curb? The investigator can then arrange surveillance around when it is most likely that the claimant will be active. These observations may necessitate changing the surveillance schedule. Our investigators are trained to check into personal networking sites to see if the claimant mentions upcoming events they are planning on attending. We do not just sit in our surveillance vehicle waiting, we proactively gather information to get a solid composite of a claimant’s activities not only while we are on surveillance but over the course of time. We then follow up on the information that we obtained and then provide an update to our clients with our findings and a recommended course of action.
How have you implement your specialty during specific surveillance assignments?
An example would be the claimant who was going camping. The investigator had observed a large camper in the claimant’s yard. While on surveillance an associate of the claimant had come to visit the claimant. We ran the plate of the associate and obtained his address and then located a phone number. After surveillance that day, the investigator drove by the associate’s home and noticed that he too had a camper. The investigator derived that associate likely camped with the claimant. The investigator devised a pretext and called the associate to obtain information regarding the next camping trip with the claimant. This allowed us to gather information from an obtuse angle without contacting the claimant directly.
We contacted our client with the information. Because the location of the campsite was four hours away; we got permission to use the budget accordingly, to insure that the expense was authorized. The investigator then booked a reservation at the campsite at the same time that the claimant was there and obtained video of the claimant setting up his camper. The physical movements were inconsistent with what the claimant stated he could and could not do.
When a period of surveillance results in following a claimant to a place of employment, until there is probable cause to suspect fraud, video would be obtained of at least the claimant’s arrival time. Then depending upon the security features and set up of the location, video would be obtained of the claimant engaged in activities that document the extent of the medical impairment. An outdoor job or one that happens in an open garage bay or window would be monitored from a surveillance vehicle. A job in an office, restaurant or other interior setting would require entry under believable reasons so that covert video could be obtained. The reasons can be as varied as the potential employment opportunities, but as an example, the investigator might go into a location as a prospective client, a job applicant, a vendor of services, a graduate student working on a thesis that involves that company’s demographic, etc. The reason is just to provide as much time in close proximity to the claimant as possible. The reason would also try to build in an excuse to come back on another day or two so the claimant can be observed for determination if the claimant is just visiting; if the claimant is a client of the business; if the claimant is associated for some other function; or if the claimant is employed.
If there was no way to document or even determine the claimant’s activities within a private work environment, from outside of the building the claimant’s departure would be monitored so that the length of the day was documented. This with other facts of the file might indicate potential fraud.
How do you deal with difficult surveillance locations?
Most of our surveillance is conducted by one field investigator at a time, per assignment, but there are situations that arise when using two investigators at once more than halves the time and expense. An example of when this could occur is when a claimant’s mode of transportation in the city is unknown. It is necessary for one investigator to be ready to jump out and ride a train while the second investigator responds to the destination, ready with surveillance vehicle to follow the claimant as they get in their own car or receive a ride from a friend. The use of two field investigators at one time is done only with authorization from the claims handler.
Not all challenging surveillance locations are in cities; rural areas present their own obstacles. We have utilized a pilot and a two man team; with one investigator following a claimant from the air while the other investigator was on the ground following the claimant at a distance. We have donned camouflage to go into wooded public areas to obtain video of a farmer cutting a hay field. We have even used a bicycle to get to a surveillance location discreetly, so that we could sit under a tree to obtain video of a claimant mixing cement. Although these were not common, they highlight our ability to adapt to situations as presented.
To verify the identity of an individual for surveillance it is first important to note the factors that can affect the proper identification. By being cognizant of what can go wrong, it reduces the chances of making a mistake.
- A relative can look like the claimant’s photograph.
- The claimant’s appearance can change, dramatically.
- The sources contacted can lie about the claimant’s identity dependant on the reason asked.
These situations arise when the provided description of the claimant is too general, there is a lack of access to someone who can identify the claimant first hand and sometimes the claimant’s residence has security that forestalls our efforts.
A photograph provided or found online is a good source of identification. We also take note if the claimant is living in a single family home operating a vehicle registered in their name. But field techniques can be as simple as calling the claimant’s cell phone when the claimant is in view. Observing the claimant answer the phone and then stating who they are – is about as good as it gets. A claimant can also be identified by neighbors, employers and relatives.
What would you do/say if you are confronted by an injured worker? What about if you are contacted by law enforcement?
If our Investigator is confronted by a neighbor or subject, they are trained to provide a plausible explanation for their presence in an area. Unless prohibited by law, an investigator might say they are working for a delivery company to monitor the delivery times. In more rural areas the investigator may be bird watching; a prospective home owner looking to buy in the neighborhood, a surveyor, or an engineer doing a traffic survey. After an investigator departs the area they immediately notify management who in turn communicates with the Point Of Contact to the circumstances of the situation. There is no spin put in place, the bare facts are presented so there is full disclosure and a dialogue as to how best to proceed for the maximum results.
If confronted by law enforcement, our investigators provide a business card and the number for management to verify the credentials and legal purpose of our investigator being in the area. When feasible, our investigators give local authorities notice of our potential presence in the area to avoid drawing unwanted attention to our surveillance by the presence of a patrol car. No confidential or proprietary information about an assignment is disclosed.
How do you handle surveillance in a rural setting or other difficult setups?
When encountering a difficult area for surveillance we might find it beneficial to use a magnetic sign to justify in the minds of the neighbors why our vehicle is present in the area for extended periods of time. Signs are generic and indicate professions such as surveyor, realtor, engineer or environmental services. In more rural areas our investigator may be collecting trash, conducting a wildlife study, or soliciting landscape/snow plowing jobs.
We switch surveillance vehicles and locations regularly to reduce the conspicuousness of the same strange vehicle being present in an area. Our surveillance vehicles are off the lot mini vans and SUV’s so that they come with standard factory tinted windows that do not raise suspicions in and of themselves.
Not all surveillance needs to be done from a vehicle. A walk in cemetery, a canoe in a pond, a bicycle in a park, or airplane over a corn field have all been successful platforms for us in nonconventional and difficult spots.