Claude Bookout is President of United Investigations International, a private investigations firm located in Austin, Texas. ( Texas license number: C9472

Blog updated monthly.

United International Investigations is an experienced private investigations firm with a reputation for integrity, dependability, and thoroughness. The firm provides its clients with a broad range of investigative assistance. Corporations, law firms, and prominent individuals have relied on its professional team of investigators to obtain power and control over their particular situations.

Protect yourself when selling online (and a few other ramblings).

Selling personal items and services online can be a way to earn a few extra bucks. However, the dangers of advertising and selling expensive items online or in traditional print classifieds became all too apparent recently. James Sanders advertised a 1.07-carat diamond ring with an asking price of $1,050. He arranged for a couple to come to his home to look at the ring, and hopefully purchase it. During the transaction, James and his wife were ambushed by four people. By the end of the altercation, James had been shot. Click here for full story.

While it would be easy to suggest Craiglist be monitored, controlled, or shut down, this would come at the loss of a great, free, and easy service. It would also not solve the problem of people creating these dangerous situations. This tragic story only highlights the need for people to better plan for the dangers of interacting with strangers and engaging in online (social) networks.

Here are just a few tips to keep in mind in dealing with online and offline interactions:

  • Never post personal details, home phone number, or addresses online, especially when engaging in a high-value transaction. With phone number reversal sites and the online white pages, it’s easy to figure out where you live, especially if you still use a landline. Cell phones are more difficult to trace, but it’s possible. Create a free email address or use the Craigslist anonymous email posting option. When doing an online transaction, ask people to supply their full name and number in the initial email response. Then you can check them out before you make more personal contact.
  • Meet in public spaces, with lots of people and surveillance cameras, and during the day. This does not require further explanation, does it?
  • Arrive first and leave last. This will reduce the possibility that you’ll be staked out by potential thieves.
  • Meet people with your (big) friends present. Again, no further explanation needed.
  • The incomprehensive list above applies to all types of off-line interactions that originate online or via advertisement. If you’re on a social networking site, never post that you’ll be leaving town and wait to return before sharing the photos and updates from your trip. Many people whose homes are burgled oftentimes have a direct or indirect connection with the thieves.

For added security, especially on big ticket items like cars, you may want to consider hiring a private investigator. Here are just a few things he or she can do for you.

  • Attend the sale with you. Some private investigators are certified in doing security and are licensed to carry a fire arm.
  • Complete a background check on a potential buyer.
Protect your online persona.
As far as your online persona goes, many private investigators are being hired to complete comprehensive on-line security analysis. Just like a home security analysis can be used to identify potential security weaknesses in your home, an online analysis can identify the areas where you are open to identity theft or exposing yourself to personal risk. Fortunately, there are now many ways to control what people are able to find out about you through search engines (e.g., Google) and a professional private detective can identify and deal with these for you.

There is no reason for tragedy to strike you. There is no reason for you to be passed on an excellent job offer because your friends tagged a photo of you doing a shot of vodka at that bar you don’t remember and posted it without your permission to their Flickr account. There is no reason you should expose yourself to identity thieves and predators. Just keep these things in mind and you’ll be much safer: If you won’t do it offline, don’t do it online. If you wouldn’t plaster it on an interstate billboard, don’t post it online. Finally, expect what you’d find offline (e.g., violent criminals and stalkers) to be more pronounced online. Call a professional investigator if you have any concerns, chances are he or she can help you.

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