Friday, June 28, 2013

MedHelp's My Diet Diary

This has been one of the best apps I've downloaded so far and it doesn't help me with my job at all. Of course, with sitting in your car up to 70 hours a week, it's important to monitor what you eat and don't eat. Food becomes even more critical when you have less opportunities for exercise and you lead such a sedentary lifestyle.

This app links up with the MedHelp website so you can get the full user experience, access to help and resources online and the convenience of being able to enter foods into your phone when you don't have access to a computer. The app tracks just about everything you could need to track, exercise, water intake, calories and weight. You can set goals for losing, gaining or maintaining weight. I find the app has a healthy amount of foods already entered into the program so you won't have to enter a lot of your foods, including fast foods!

Here are some screen shots to give you an idea of what it looks like when you use it.

In this shot you see what it looks like after you've entered a full day of eating. When entering your foods you put in the time you ate, where you were when you ate, who you ate with. This is a great feature as it lets you see trends in your eating. If you tend to eat more while you're alone, then you know what you hve to work on. Being able to look at the times you eat also lets you know if you're spacing your meals properly and it gives you the calories you at at that time. So if you tend to binge in the evening, you can see that. Obviously skipping lunch doesn't pay off for me, as you can see, since I had 2 snacks that evening.

Track your water intake to know if you're staying hydrated. While most people need roughly 8 glasses a day, as PI sitting in your car in the hot summer heat, tracking your water is critical. While you may not drink while you're in your car, you need to make sure you're getting enough the rest of the day to compensate for the exposure to the heat.
I've covered my weight up but this is a screen  shot of the main screen. It tells you how many calories you have left for the day at the top. Underneath it shows you how many calories you've eaten and burned followed by your current weight. When you click on the large number at the top, this screen comes up to show you how it determines how many calories you have left.

When entering exercises, this is a small sample of the list that comes up. This helps you get more accurate results and a more accurate calorie reading. The food list is just as extensive.

It's important to know what you are consuming when you sit in your car as much as we do. Please keep in mind you should always consult a physician before beginning any diet or exercise program. This program also doesn't seem to incorporate concerns for special needs patients so you will have to manage those on your own. (I.e. thyroid patients, diabetics)

Friday, June 21, 2013

Caller ID Faker

One of the most useful Android Apps I've found is Caller ID Faker. You don't have to pay anything to use it and you get 2 free phone calls, up to 2 minutes long, each day. To use the program you put in the number you are calling, then a fake number that you want the recipients caller ID to display. You can change your voice to that of a man or a woman (or none). Click "send call" and wait a few seconds for the call to connect.

Your recipient's caller ID displays the fake number you put in. This is called spoofing. It's useful because many people will not answer the phone for a number they don't recognize. I always put in a number that is local to them (using the same area code and prefix) to maximize the chances they will answer. This gives the impression someone local is calling them and they may think a friend is calling to give them a new phone number or something of the sort.

Here's a screen shot of what this looks like on my phone.

If you need to, you can record the phone call.

Considering most of our calls to confirm presence are short and to the point, the free 2 minute mode is sufficient. If you need more for a more involved or serious case, you can purchase credits for longer phone calls.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

10 Tips for Parking While On Surveillance

I spend a good amount of time listening to and reading the work of other investigators. I think it's a great way to make me better at my job. I'm learning from others. I also have some common sense and standards on how I prefer to conduct my work. Being a woman in this field poses some challenges that a man may or may not face. I can't comment on that because A.) I'm not a man and B.) I don't know what it's like for a man out here. Regardless, here are some of the best tips for deciding where to park while on surveillance, some learned from other investigators and some coming from my own personal point of view.

  1. Don't park in front of your claimants home. This sounds easy enough but in some places there doesn't seem to be any other option. If the only parking space on the road is right in front of his/her home, then park on another road.
  2. Park at least 5 houses away from your claimant if at all possible (Ref. 1). If that's not possible, consider parking in a business lot near their home where other cars will be parked as well. Quite often you can get a view of their home from here and if not, you can at least see their vehicles when they leave the neighborhood. I typically try to park at least a block away and I thoroughly love houses on the corner where I can park 2 or 3 blocks away and go completely undetected by my claimant.
  3. Park in between two houses along the road. Not literally in between them as if you drive up in their yard but, look for a parking spot that isn't in front of either house, but situated so that you're not directly in view of either house when they open their front door. This can be tricky but look for a spot like this anyway, even if it means you're only 3 or more than 7 houses away from your claimant.
  4. Never park your car in such a way that you can't make a quick exit. By this I mean back into parking spaces or park near the exit. This works for many reasons, the most important being your safety. If someone tries to block you in, you will be able to take the exit and flee. You can also get out easier if your claimant goes mobile. 
  5. Try to park in a public parking lot with more than one exit. This makes it increasingly more difficult for anyone to block you in. I've backed into spots and still had people angle their car in front of me in such a way I could not leave. This is not a comfortable situation, trust me.
  6. Park in full view of a camera when in public parking lots that have them. Look for the camera, they're very common these days. This will protect you should any court action come of your watching a claimant/suspect. The camera could capture any incident, verify your whereabouts and activities, etc.
  7. Be mindful of how you park. If every other car in the parking lot faces north, then face your car north as well. Don't double park, don't go over the lines and don't get too close to the cars beside you. All of these little things will make you stand out or draw unwanted attention.
  8. Don't park near or under street lights. This is essential early in the mornings or after dusk. You do not want that light reflecting off of your car and giving away your position. 
  9. Don't park in the same spot twice. If you're on an investigation on two or more consecutive days then make sure to find a new parking spot each day. This way if someone notices you one day you won't be there the next. People are always more suspicious if you come back. 
  10. Obey parking laws. You have to be extra careful of where you park when the sun is not up. It's much more difficult to see a yellow, blue or red painted curb when there's no light in an area. Be mindful of where you can and cannot park. In some localities, it's illegal to park within 30 feet of a stop sign. To make sure I follow all the local laws, I observe the way other cars are parked in the neighborhood and follow suit. This avoids any unwanted (and non-reimbursable) tickets and potentially getting burned when the meter maid writes them.
Share your tips with me via comment below!

1. Private Investigator Advice Headquarters

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Paranoid Much?

I often don't sit too close to my claimants home. I try to find a view from some other location so as not to arouse suspicion in their neighborhood. This also gives me the opportunity to watch more of their area for trends, such as which way the traffic goes if there is more than one possible direction. It also keeps me from getting burned prematurely or being noticed by the claimants neighbors.

One downside to insurance fraud investigations is that you typically wind up watching the same claimant multiple times. Such is the case with this individual. At the time I'm writing this I have been out on this claimant 8 days, not consecutively, over the last 2 months. I park in different places each time but I had found a nice little turn around spot in a nearby neighborhood in which I could see her house without going near her. So I used that same route just about every time I went out there.

I wrote here about being mistaken for the FBI in this neighborhood on a previous work day. I alerted work to this issue but since I wasn't even in the claimants neighborhood, they were not worried. I hadn't been burned. Fast forward to the last time I went out there.

I parked at a local church. I had already spoken with the lady who lived in front of it and we were on good terms so I wasn't worried about being there. The church people didn't seem to mind me being parked their either. I couldn't see the claimants house from this church but it was the best parking space around the whole area and, as needed, I could always drive my little circle and see her home.

I didn't believe my claimant to be home that day and so I hadn't done any spot checks. I sat there from 7 AM to around 1 PM. That's when it happened. A woman came walking down the street looking like she had a mission. She came up the road by the church, into the parking lot and walked straight toward me. I knew what was about to go down.

I rolled down my window and with the sweetest sounding southern hospitality she could muster the woman said "excuse me ma'am, but are you watching me?" I wanted to laugh. I really did. I had no idea who this woman was or where she came from but laughing would have been plain out wrong. Instead I replied "ma'am, I don't know who you are."

She proceeded to tell me that several people in the neighborhood had told her I was watching her house. She almost cried when she told me she was a single mom, separated from her husband and didn't even own a car. She was upset she couldn't go grocery shopping when she needed to and now that everyone thought I was watching her house, her husband wouldn't even come over and mow the grass! She went on and on and then she hit me with a good one. She insisted I had followed her around a Wal-Mart in a nearby town. I assured her I had never been to that town, much less followed her.

I think she figured if I wasn't watching her, maybe she could get some information out of me. She kept on talking. So I decided to take the bait...sort of. I told her I was following a man and my car was pointed in the direction that it was for a reason. She then started looking around the neighborhood at who all I could see - none of which were my claimant but only I knew that.

Then the woman left me with another comment. People in the neighborhood were watching me. She didn't have to tell me that lol. One of them had dang near wrecked his truck trying to see as much as he could inside of my car. Another had driven by me 5 or 6 times (though I don't know why because this same man had come up to me before and knew who I was and what I was doing there). The third
had driven by me a few times that day and a few a previous day, sometimes changing vehicles to try and keep me from noticing him. I noticed though lol.

A short while later, she finally apologized for bothering me and went back home. I then recounted the event to myself and thought about this. Her husband won't come over to mow the grass because they think someone is watching her house. This makes me wonder what he and she are both doing that they know about but don't want to get busted for?

If I've said it once, I'll say it 100 times. The people who come up to us worried they are being watched are the ones with something to hide. I've been out on my claimant 8 times now and she's not once realized I was there. So how is it this woman and a few others in the neighborhood are all sure they know who I'm watching? It's because they know who is crooked and I don't.

And guess what...I have to go back out on this same claimant at least one more time on this contract and they may just give me more time on her again in the future. LOL. I can only imagine what these people will say next. I'm not taking another car because quite frankly I'm not sure my other car will make it through the mountains where this person lives. I don't think the company would spring for a rental car either.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The Neighborhood BusyBody

There's one in every neighborhood. That one person who takes it upon themselves to watch everything and everybody. They have this incessant need to know everything as if it gets them some level of respect. Which it typically doesn't. It gets them an unprecedented level of untrust. Still, they do seem to know a lot.

I was on this case recently watching a house in a predominantly African American neighborhood. I expected (which really is the problem lol) some older, middle-aged woman to be the neighborhood busybody. This is typical in most neighborhoods regardless of race or color. I was dead wrong. I'm not ashamed of that, this entire job is a constant learning experience so I went with the learning on this one.

So I parked at a church. I love these. The parking lots are rarely empty and most people just instinctively dismiss any new cars parked there as being visitors, etc. This church just happened to be in full view of my claimants home. It was perfect. I climbed into the backseat of my car and sat there for quite sometime before it got too stuffy in the car and I moved up front to crack the windows.

I sat there a few minutes enjoying the breeze. (My claimant wasn't home and so I wasn't too worried about being burned by the way.) Then I noticed that there were several people walking in the neighborhood and some were going to the store and other close by locations. I just sat there an observed the human behaviors before me. Then I noticed a young man, maybe in his mid 20's came walking from behind my car and across the parking lot. He looked at me and I just kept on about my business, being careful not to look in the direction of my claimant's home.

The young man came back through the lot again about 10 minutes later. That's when I got suspicious. It's not common for anyone to walk to the store twice in such close time frames. Another thing that complicated his actions was that it was raining. The area was under a tropical storm warning and here he is walking around in the rain to go to the store twice? He didn't have that much in either bag so I have trouble believing that he forgot something important the first time and went right back.

A few minutes later my claimant came home and purposely did some things that lead me to believe he was expecting someone to be watching him. I caught on quick though and I followed him very briefly and then turned another direction and doubled back to his house. When I got back to his house, he was already there which just verifies I was right in my initial assumption.

So I didn't turn down his road, I took another road and went to a nearby business. There I parked under a carport amidst other cars and blocked from his view by some heavy machinery. I had a small hole in which I could see his house. I sat there about 30 minutes when the same guy who walked by me twice earlier walked through this parking lot, looked right at me and went toward my claimants home.

Yeah now I know he's the neighborhood busybody. What I couldn't figure out is how he knew I was there. I know people talk and word travels quickly but this seemed rather fishy indeed. I had entered this area from a back road, hadn't passed my claimants home or the church and no one was around when I did it. There were also no houses in this area. I didn't like it....AT ALL.

I immediately began scoping out other places to park. Once you have one person watching you, there are bound to be more. Busybody types don't keep their mouth closed for long and I'm dead sure he had told other people - even possibly my claimant. Changing cars at this point in the game wasn't an option. I felt like my safety was compromised at this point.

But where does a girl go who needs to hide in plain sight in these circumstances? Simply getting into the back of my car was no longer an option. I couldn't sit to far away on this case because there were too many options for where he could go. Dilemma, dilemma. It's like a battle of wits with the players in opposite rooms. I had a paycheck at stake though so I did not want to be defeated.

I finally decided just to drive around a bit and see if I could find anywhere else that was feasible that wasn't on this block. That's the beauty of the neighborhood busybody. He/she sticks to their block. So it only takes a short move away and they stop looking for you. The trouble is, it's not always easy to find an inconspicuous place to park that has an easy exit. I'll be writing more about why you need those soon.