Investigations have gone mainstream. Conducting background investigations on spouses, boyfriends, neighbors and employees seem all the rage of late. Companies like Intellius, Peoplefinders, Checkmate and others do a booming business. If you know what you are doing, you can do the same sort of background checks through an Internet search for free. Many cities, states and municipalities have great search engines that allow you to find divorce records, criminal records, marriage license information, etc. Facebook, LinkedIn and others are also free and provide an incredible amount of information on an individual (which is why I do not have an account with any social media site!). The amount of information out there for all to see and use is amazing. Even reverse telephone look-ups, some free, provide the user with virtually instant access to your address, telephone numbers and allows you to use that data to find out even more.
Finding out information on foreigners, however, is not so easy. Most countries have very restrictive privacy laws. You cannot, for example, conduct an online criminal investigation on someone in an EU country, the Middle East or elsewhere. If you try to use old-fashioned methods, like going door-to-door and asking around, you will probably be arrested.
The efficacy with which you can conduct investigations abroad depends on a number of factors: the country, the culture and, most importantly, your contacts.
Conducting background investigations in a foreign country almost always involves a third party. You need the help of someone who understands the local laws, language and culture and has the right connections.
There are companies out there that specialize in conducting investigations for you or your company outside the United States. All of them rely on their local contacts. In the Middle East, for example, it is virtually all “who you know.” A local mid or upper level security official will often provide you the information you seek. The personal relationships that the investigations company representative has determine whether or not they can obtain the information you seek. American firms usually employ, or are owned by, former CIA or FBI or others with extensive experience and connections in the particular country or region.
Some points to remember whenever you engage a firm to conduct research on someone outside the United States:
- Choose the firm carefully. Make sure they are reputable and are licensed.
- Ensure the firm has the appropriate local connections. Ask for references. Make sure the bios of the principal officers reflect international experience.
- Ensure you have iron-clad, or as iron-clad as you can make it, confidentiality.
- Remember that the information you receive may not be actionable. Use it carefully.
This last point is particularly important. For example, if you employ a foreign national, and later find out that he or she has a criminal record in a foreign country, you may not be able to fire them automatically. Likely the criminal record you uncovered is not “official.” If you hire the right firm, the information likely is credible. Since, however, the data was likely obtained using “who-you-know” methods, you will not be able to reveal where the information came from or even that you have it.
“Foreign investigations are a specialty that requires unique experience and connections with the country where you want to conduct the research. It can be done, but how you do it and how you use the information must be carefully considered first.”
There are several ways around this. One may be subtly confronting the employee using good interrogation techniques. Another may be to use the information to obtain “formal” documents or evidence that will permit you to take appropriate action.
Foreign investigations are a specialty that requires unique experience and connections with the country where you want to conduct the research. It can be done, but how you do it and how you use the information must be carefully considered first.
Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.
As Vice President of a Security Fusion Center, Bill has provided risk management advice and direction to major Fortune 100 defense industry, ultra high net worth and other clients.
As Global Director for Security, Alem International, Bill planned and directed all facets of the security and risk mitigation strategies for the 2004 Olympic Torch Relay that took place in over 34 countries.
Bill was commissioned as an Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) Officer in the US Army immediately after college.
Mr. Gaskill has a Bachelor of Science degree in Ancient History with a math minor from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.He has a current Top Secret/SCI clearance.He has professional fluency ratings in Spanish, Greek, Hebrew and French, and has a working knowledge of Russian.