Five ways liars stall before answering a question – and why they do it

March 8th, 2010 → 2:58 pm @ // 29 Comments

As you might be able to tell, my boss is a former police officer with a lot of experience interviewing bad guys. As for me, I became a Cincinnati private investigator only after I worked for years as a corporate investigator. My job was to conduct forensic interviews whenever there was an incident, such as theft, sexual harrassment, or other major issue that corporations (and even small businesses) don’t tolerate well.

In that role, I traveled to various stores, or a distribution center or other work site to interview company employees to find out which of them was telling the truth and which was lying. Typically I investigated major theft cases, where people had a huge incentive to lie, because if they got caught, they knew they might end up in jail.

Naturally, I had years of experience and a lot of training in how to conduct a controlled interview. We were trained in the art of neurolinguistics – that is, the study of subtle brain functions and how those functions manifest themselves under specific circumstances.  In my case, I was interested in the involuntary bodily functions that show up when a person is lying.

But one of the signs of deception that is easiest to recognize is the “strategic stall.”  When a person is about to tell a lie, they know there are serious consequences if they get caught.  So before telling a whopper, most people want a few extra seconds to think carefully about what they’re going to say, because they have to be certain they aren’t stepping into a trap.  In fact, a strategic stall before a big lie is most common when the person being questioned hasn’t had time to think of a good answer ahead of time.  In those cases, they often will subtly create opportunities to buy themselves a little bit of extra time – in some cases just a few fleeting seconds – while the synapses in their brain are firing back and forth to try and stay one step ahead of you.  And that’s when the sweating starts…but we’ll save those other signs of deception for another post.

Here’s a quick list of five ways a person stalls before telling a big lie:

  1. Repeating the Question (or asking you to repeat it for them) – When asked a direct question, the other person doesn’t answer immediately, but attempts to cover the stall in a deceptive way.  The respondent may ask to have the question repeated, or may often repeat the question themselves.  Example – Q: Did you do it?  A: Did I do it?  Of course not!
  2. Creating a Job – This behavior is designed to momentarily distract attention, if only for a few seconds, to allow the respondent a few seconds to think of a good answer.  One of the most common created jobs during a difficult conversation is that of taking a sudden interest in a piece of lint on the person’s pants.  I can remember doing this one years ago during one of those dreadful question-and-answer sessions with my parents.  When my father asked a probing question, I suddenly grew very concerned about a small sticky spot on the kitchen table that simply could not wait another second to be scraped off with my fingernail.
  3. Changing the Subject – This one isn’t always as obvious as it sounds, but it’s self-explanatory.  Often, a person will provide a convoluted answer to the question in an effort to hide the fact that he or she didn’t answer the actual question.  Politicians are masters of this tactic.  In this case, simply repeat the question again, like this:  “I’m not really sure what your answer is – I only asked if you were at this location at 8pm last night.  Were you?”
  4. Belittling the Question / Questioner – We’ve all seen this tactic, when asked a simple question, and the respondent says something like, “That’s outrageous.  I can’t believe you would even ask me that!”  It’s a common tactic that is designed to buy a few moments and allow the respondent to take control of the discussion.  The key is to stay focused on getting an answer to the question you asked.  Don’t be sidetracked at the insinuation that you insulted the person you’re questioning.
  5. Playing Dumb / Asking for More Information – Often, when the questioner doesn’t ask a direct question, it opens up the opportunity for the respondent to claim he or she doesn’t know what you’re talking about.  When possible, remove all doubt about the subject matter of the questions you’re asking.  Being up front and direct takes away the opportunity for a good liar to use this technique, as you can see from this example where a wife asks her husband: Q: “Were you with Sue at a hotel last night?”  A: “What are you talking about?”  Obviously, she is talking about her husband being with Sue at a hotel.  No explanation required.

Keep in mind that a person giving an honest answer is usually straightforward and direct.  In the case of the husband being asked about being with Sue at the hotel, a person with nothing to hide would simply answer the question like this: “No.  Why do you ask?”

As with all how-to guides, you should never assume a person is lying just because they exhibited one of the behaviors I listed above.  One of the key pieces of my training as a forensic interviewer was to look for multiple signs of deception, as no single act is a conclusive indicator.  Remember, you’ll need a lot more evidence to prove your case than the fact a person picked some lint off his pants!

If you find yourself in a tight spot and need some guidance on how to confront someone you think might be dishonest with you, please drop me a line by using our contact form.  We’re happy to provide advice and guidance at no charge.

P.I. Blog &P.I. Tips and Tricks

Asking to be robbed? Don’t be ridiculous.

February 17th, 20105:00 pm @ // 98 Comments

Pit Bulls...don't use social media

Pit Bulls...don't use social media.

A new website called Please Rob Me launched today.  The takeaway is that those who use location-based services (internet based tools that publish your location) are essentially “asking to be robbed.”

The internet is abuzz with hype about the site, but it’s all overblown.  As a Cincinnati private investigator, I can tell you with the utmost confidence that using a location-based service such as Foursquare, Gowalla or any number of upcoming location-based mobile games does not substantially increase a person’s risk any more than crossing the street makes one more vulnerable to being hit by a car.  Could it happen?  Sure.  But the odds argue overwhelmingly against it.

So-called personal security experts (who are in the business of demonstrating a need for their services) continue to point to the increase in crimes that are connected to the use of social media services like Facebook and Twitter, where, for example, a victim publishes a status update saying he or she is leaving town for a week, and later came home to find they’d been robbed.

But objective statisticians would be quick to point out that while such instances are increasing, so, too, is the use of social media.  One could just as easily argue that lottery winners who use Facebook are also on the increase.  That doesn’t mean using Facebook makes a person more likely to win the lottery.   The same thing could be said of cars and crashes.  It goes without saying that as traffic increases, so, too, will traffic accidents increase.  But that doesn’t mean it’s unsafe to drive a car.

I’ve yet to see any actual data about the percentage of people who use social services versus the percentage of those same people who were victimized because of their use of those services.  My guess is that the “social media crime rate” is about the same as any other crime rate.  But until we have data to back it up, nobody can say for sure – and that’s my point.

The Please Rob Me website goes a step beyond simple social media, though.  With Facebook and Twitter, one has to purposely disclose location data.  But with location based services such as Foursquare or Gowalla, that’s the very point.  Please Rob Me makes the case that broadcasting your location is evidence that the user isn’t home, and thus the house is empty and waiting to be robbed.

That would be a false assumption.  A 100-pound Pit Bull doesn’t use location based services.  For that matter, neither does Mrs. White, who packs a 9mm Glock in an undisclosed location.  Would-be robbers and other criminals would be utterly foolish to depend entirely on location-based services and/or social media to pick their victims.

And they don’t.

Real bad guys use a full range of tools, and social media and location based services are, at most, just one of many tools they could try to use against you (assuming they have access to your profile – but that’s the subject of another post).  The real question is whether or not the social and entertainment value of services like FourSquare, Twitter and Facebook are greater than the tiny additional amount of risk one assumes when using those services.

Judging from the hundreds of millions of users of these services, it’s safe to say that their value far exceeds the tiny additional risk.

P.I. Blog &P.I. Tips and Tricks

Flat Fee Pricing Investigation Model

February 1st, 20108:17 am @ // 34 Comments

One of the great competitive advantages we have competing against other Cincinnati private investigators is our flat fee pricing.  Most private investigators charge a retainer of at least $1,000 + expenses.  Then they charge against that retainer at an hourly rate sometimes as high as $100 per hour or more.  Once the first 10 hours are charged against the retainer, the cost to the client begins to skyrocket.  If the P.I. needs 15 total hours to complete the investigation, the final bill will be $1,500.00 plus expenses.  If the investigation takes less than 10 hours, the P.I. should refund any amount not charged against the retainer you paid.

We decided that one of the things clients disliked most about hiring an investigator was the open-ended aspect of the cost – you just never knew how much the final bill was going to be.  That’s why we developed our flat fee pricing guarantee.  The price we quote you is a guaranteed price for a complete investigation.

Our years of experience  in the field has given us a pretty good idea of how long it takes to conduct surveillance investigations.  We use that experience to project the total number of hours it will take us to complete an investigation.  If we go over that time, we eat those hours, but we guarantee we will complete the job.

Sometimes, we underestimate the amount of time it will take to complete a job, but never by much.  More often than not, when we go over our planned time, it’s due to a mistake that we made as investigators (i.e. we temporarily lost contact with the target, etc.).  Other P.I.’s will charge you for those mistakes (and yes, despite what they may tell you, they sometimes lose targets, too).  We believe the guaranteed flat-fee pricing gives our clients peace of mind about their budget, and it gives our investigators an incentive to do a good job the first time around – because we know we’re not getting paid to do it twice, even though we are obligated to our clients to finish the job.

P.I. Blog &The P.I. Life

Advice on confronting a cheating spouse

January 25th, 201010:30 am @ // 35 Comments

As a Cincinnati private investigator, it’s frustrating when clients call back after getting our report and say their cheating spouse said the evidence we provided doesn’t prove anything.  Clients should never reveal photos and video evidence to their spouse or partner.  Doing so only reveals to them the limits of what you know, and allows them to craft a story around the photos.

The most common excuse I hear from a cheating husband is that he was holding his co-worker’s hand/ hugging her / kissing her / because she was going through a terrible time with her family and was having an emotional breakdown.

More often than not, the husband tells his wife it was a “one-time thing,” and he probably shouldn’t have been that close to her but it won’t happen again.

But take the exact same evidence, and confront the exact same husband a little differently, and the results will be far different.

In the example below, the husband plays dumb and tries to draw information out of his wife before admitting guilt.  But the wife wisely avoids giving away any specifics while confidently asserting that she knows a lot of details.  She makes it very clear that it’s up to him to reveal details, not her:

  • Her: I know you’re cheating on me.
  • Him: What? <–(stalling question)  Ha ha…I get it, you’re kidding, right?
  • Her: Let’s stop the games.  Come clean right now.  I need to know I’m dealing with someone who can be honest.
  • Him: What are you talking about?
  • Her: I’m going to give you one chance, and one chance only, to do the right thing and tell me the whole truth.  But be warned, I know a lot of the answers to the questions I’m about to ask you.
  • Him: Okay, fire away.
  • Her: When is the first time you cheated on me?
  • Him: What is this about?  <– (this is an attempt to avoid the question)
  • Her: One chance.  Answer the question.
  • Him: I don’t know what you’re talking about.
  • Her: You’ve made your choice, then.  At least do the decent thing and tell me her name (chances are you already know this).
  • Him: Who?
  • Her: The woman who you’re spending time with when you’re away from me.  <–(good and vague, but still very pointed).
  • Him: Are you referring to the night I was working late with Sue from work? <–(beginning to draw information out).
  • Her: You know exactly what I’m referring to.  Please just be honest with me.

In the example above the only detail revealed by the wife is that she knows her husband is having an affair with a woman, and cracks are beginning to form in the husband’s defenses as he slowly realizes he is at an informational disadvantage.

Remember, you would not be confronting your spouse without rock-solid proof.  You aren’t trying to find out if your partner has a good excuse for holding hands with another person as they entered a hotel room together.  There is no excuse for such behavior.  And your partner will know exactly what you’re asking about.

The absolute worst thing you can do when you confront your cheating spouse or partner is to lay all your cards on the table.

Let me repeat myself: the absolute worst move you can possibly make when confronting someone is to reveal all of your evidence to them.

Don’t do it, no matter how tempting it may be to show you have the upper hand. It will come back to haunt you.

Here’s some basic guidelines for confronting a cheating spouse:

  • Decide in advance the goal of your confrontation
  • Pick a time when you both can talk privately.
  • Calmly inform your spouse or partner that you know for certain that he or she has been unfaithful to you and then flatly state the goal that you set for this confrontation (full confession of the facts, come to an agreement on the status of the relationship, or whatever you decided in advance).
  • If you need to reveal details from your investigation, NEVER, under any circumstances, provide details of dates, times, or places where he or she may have cheated.  Revealing this type of information will provide your partner with some idea about how much you may or may not know about his / her infidelity.  That, in turn, can be used to construct excuses, lies and / or cover stories which can be used to deceive you further.
  • It’s best to reveal that you know the identity and description of the person your spouse was cheating with, rather than specific details about times, places, etc.
  • Your partner may play dumb – don’t fall for that trick.  He or she is simply trying to draw out additional information before deciding what to admit or deny.
  • Never reveal the source(s) of your information, as that, too, can provide the cheater with clues about how much you know.

Remember, you hold all the cards.  The two questions every cheating spouse is dying to ask (but can’t) are these:

How much do you know?  And how long have you known it?

If you want as much of the truth as possible, do your best to protect the answer to those questions.  If your spouse chooses to lie about his affair without knowing those answers, chances are he’ll minimize his guilt and will leave out key details in the hopes you aren’t aware of them, and then you’ll know when he or she is lying to you.

Here’s another good article on how to correctly confront a cheating spouse.  It’s good advice.

If you have questions or need advice on specific circumstances, contact me and I’ll give you the best advice I can at no charge.

Family / Marital Investigations

Valentine’s Day and Cheating Spouses

January 21st, 20108:35 am @ // 85 Comments

Cheating spouses often make mistakes that get them caught on Valentine’s Day.  In fact, our Cincinnati private investigation firm traditionally stays very busy on that day. It seems that an unfaithful spouse always feels compelled to spend some time with the person he or she is cheating with, and that makes them very easy to catch.

The news clip below tells the story:

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Valentines Day is coming up fast. If you think your husband, wife, boyfriend, girlfriend, or partner is cheating on you, a good Cincinnati private investigator can find out for sure.

Contact us immediately if you need answers. We have a limited number of investigators available and our schedules fill up fast on Valentine’s Day.

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Family / Marital Investigations

Working for the boss

January 18th, 20109:14 pm @ // 56 Comments

The boss removes snow from a target vehicle so we can run a tag

Since we’ve launched this blog, I haven’t really taken the time to introduce myself. My name is Jim White, and I work full time for a Cincinnati private investigation firm called Accelerated Solutions. I specialize in surveillance and forensic interviewing (more on that later), while others have their own specialties they concentrate on.

All of us do surveillance from time to time, often on the same job. And we all work for “the boss,” a former police officer who knows undercover work very well – he once spent a year on an undercover assignment so dangerous that even his chief didn’t want him to do it.

The boss has given me the added responsibility of maintaining the PI Blog, which you’re reading now, because he “doesn’t do computers.” The boss specializes in “problem solving.” If there’s a piece of information that you need to get – ask the boss. If he doesn’t know how to get it, he’ll sit there and think about it for a while, and then he’ll come up with a plan that seems crazy to just about everyone else. Often, he’s conjured up a crazy idea and then dragged me out into the field to help him – and when it’s all over, he makes it seem easy.

If this post sounds like I’m sucking up to the boss, well, I am. That’s one of the perks of being the designated web site content manager – I have a great outlet for sucking up, all under the guise of “marketing the private investigation firm.”

And for those of you who doubt the boss ever gets out from behind his desk, here’s a great shot of him knocking snow off a surveillance target’s license plate so we can run the tags and figure out who was hooking up with our client’s cheating wife. While I often brag that I’m the best Cincinnati private investigator, I’m not counting the boss. He taught me everything I know about this business.

P.I. Blog &The P.I. Life

Before you hire a lawyer, consider this

January 18th, 20102:22 pm @ // 5 Comments

I’m sure I’ll make a lot of my lawyer friends mad, but they can’t argue with facts.  And here’s one undeniable fact: sometimes people hire lawyers way too soon.  And it costs them a lot more money than it should.

Before I get too deeply into all of that, let’s get one thing out of the way right now – there are times when you absolutely must hire a lawyer.  For example, if you’ve been charged with a crime, are being sued, or expect immediate legal action on some issue you are involved with, seek the help of a lawyer.  You still might end up hiring a private investigator, too, but legal counsel is critical under certain circumstances and not hiring a lawyer when you need one could be a much more expensive mistake than hiring one too soon.

That said, there are a number of situations where you control the timing of when legal action might commence – issues such as child custody, divorce, or other legal situations where you need information before deciding a course of action.  In the business sector there are issues such as workers compensation, employee theft and fraud, etc., where you may expect to take legal action but you’re still gathering information.

There is a common thread in all of these situations: you need more information before deciding a course of action.

Now consider this – most lawyers charge in the neighborhood $200 per hour, while most private investigators charge $100 or less per hour, some charge much less depending on the type of work involved.  And to underscore the point, even after spending a few hours reviewing  a case, many lawyers either advise their clients to hire a private investigator, or hire one on the client’s behalf!

A smarter course of action in a lot of situations is to hire the private investigator first, who can build a complete case that you can then take to a lawyer to initiate legal action on your behalf.  Such a move could save you hundreds, if not thousands of dollars.

As a Cincinnati private investigator working at Accelerated Solutions, I have personally handled dozens of cases and saved clients a small fortune.  And in a lot of cases, the client determined they didn’t need a lawyer after all.

Family / Marital Investigations &P.I. Blog

Always have a “Plan B”

January 13th, 20104:19 pm @ // 32 Comments

On a surveillance job a couple nights ago and got myself in a dicey situation in a bad Cincinnati neighborhood (not far from Over-the-Rhine).  Luckily things worked out, otherwise this blog wouldn’t be updated anymore…

The client was a typical wife who wanted to know the answer to a simple question: “How do I catch my cheating husband?”  She wanted to know what her husband was up to at night.  He had recently started “working” late.  One night she happened to note that his car wasn’t where he said he was, and she got suspicious and hired me.

To make a long story short, I followed her husband one night as he left work and drove to a bar in downtown Cincinnati.  There, he picked up a woman – from what I could tell, they definitely knew each other – and after a few drinks and quiet conversation at a table, the two of them headed to his car.

I tailed them to the parking garage of a nearby motel and when they headed for the exit I snapped the attached photo.  Since I didn’t have any info on who the woman was, and I knew the client would want it, I had no choice but to hang around to find out more information.  As you can see from the picture, I was stuck in a bad area with only one exit – not exactly the way a pro like me prefers to do business.

When a couple of neighborhood thugs walked through the parking lot and spotted me, I decided to switch to Plan B.  Now, I don’t want to give away any trade secrets here, but the bottom line is that there a several ways to figure out who this cheating husband was hanging out with.  Within a few minutes, I had relocated the car and found myself in the “lobby” of the hotel chatting with the night manager.  He was still processing the latest guest registration, which, as luck would have it, was in the name of a female.

From there, it was just a matter of doing some additional investigation to verify that the name I had was indeed the same person I had seen.  I terminated surveillance and went back to the office, contacted the subject’s wife, and filled her in.  Two days later, just a few minutes ago, in fact, the case was closed.

Another cheating spouse busted by the best Cincinnati private investigator (if I do say so myself).  And yours truly was safely blogging away from the safety of my office, which is way better than staying out on surveillance in a bad neighborhood.

If you think you have a cheating husband or cheating wife, contact us today.  We can get to the bottom of the matter right away.

Family / Marital Investigations &P.I. Blog &The P.I. Life

Five things to expect from your private investigator

January 10th, 20103:37 pm @ // 34 Comments

A lot of potential clients have never worked with a private investigator before.  All they know is what they’ve seen on TV or in the movies, and they are often surprised to learn that we don’t work in dark offices, wear trenchcoats and call women “dames.”  In fact, we’re just normal business people, with experience as former police officers or investigators and we know how to get answers to questions in a manner that is more efficient and effective than other people.

Hiring a private investigator is simple enough.  But knowing what to expect for the fee is just as important as knowing what you want the investigator to find out.  Here are the top five things every client should expect from a private investigator:

1. A firm contract

A professional investigator will execute a contract between the two of you.  And the contract will spell out exactly what to expect from the private investigator, and an explanation of what the investigators services will cost.  Because an investigation is a form of service, rather than a tangible product, it’s often difficult to quantify the exact nature of the services that will be delivered.  But a good investigator can give you a rough idea.

2. An estimated time table

One of the toughest things to predict in the PI business is how long an investigation will take.  Often, a client may have a better idea than the private investigator.  However, a good investigator will be able to ask the right questions in order to make a rough prediction about when to expect results.  In most cases, the timetable is almost entirely dependent on the subject of the investigation and a number other variables.

3. Ongoing communication

One of the most important aspects of any investigation is the dialogue between investigator and client.  The client almost always possesses critical information that the investigator can use to bring the case to a rapid close.  Whether it’s a business fraud investigation, or a cheating partner case, or anything in between, the client can act as a second investigator by reporting observations to the PI.  Likewise, feedback from the PI to the client can often trigger a breakthrough.

An experienced investigator will be able to advise the client on how to communicate privately and securely with the PI without compromising the investigation.

4. A complete and thorough investigation report

Professional PI’s will almost always provide the client with a detailed investigation report that the client can use as needed.  Reports will often include video, still photos and other evidence gathered in the course of the investigation.

Most reports will include an explanation of who, what, when, where and how.  The question of “why” is not always something an investigator can answer.

5. Advice on next steps

Often, clients take the investigator’s information and confront their cheating spouse with photos or other evidence.  This is almost always a mistake because the spouse can construct an explanation around the evidence.  Investigators with experience know that you never lay all the cards on the table when confronting someone who may be inclined to lie.

Investigators can and should offer guidance to their client on how best to use the information gathered – not legal advice – but advice on what to do next.  Often, the advice is limited to “hire a lawyer,” or “call the police.”  But the investigator’s experience usually allows him or her to provide insights to the client on how best to proceed.

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If you find yourself in need of answers to some tough questions, and you aren’t sure of how to proceed, drop me a line using my contact form.  I’m happy to answer your questions at no charge.

Family / Marital Investigations &P.I. Blog

Who’s that girl?

January 6th, 20102:34 pm @ // 30 Comments

whosthatgirlOne of the most common requests I get as a private investigator is not just to find out what a client’s spouse is up to, but also figuring out who the spouse is spending time with.

The case usually starts out with doing basic background research on the subject in question.  The client was a woman who’d been married for more than 20 years.  Her husband had only recently started working late – or so he told his spouse.

A sudden, unexplained change in work schedule is one of the potential signs of a cheating spouse.

But no single sign should ever be taken alone as a solid indication of infidelity.  In almost all cases, more than one sign is present – and when there aren’t more signs, it’s important not to jump to conclusions.

In this case, however, there were more than enough indicators that something fishy was going on.

The client told me that her husband had been exhibiting several of the classic signs of a cheating partner:

  • Working much later than usual
  • Frequent business trips to the same place (when nothing else changed at work – i.e. no promotion, no new project, etc.)
  • Important calls he would only take in private

Perhaps the most significant factor that prompted her to hire me was the fact that his cell phone bill no longer was delivered to the house.  She noticed that she used to always get the phone bill at home on the 15th of the month, but in December, it didn’t show up.  When she asked about it, he said the company was going to reimburse him for business calls so he had it delivered to the office.

But when she noticed a debit out of the checking account to pay the phone bill (in the same amount as always), she knew something wasn’t right.

After she hired me, I gave her instructions to to alert me the instant he called and warned her he would be coming home late for work.  After only three days on standby, I got the call around 4:30pm and raced over to his office building.   From experience, I knew he likely wouldn’t be at the office for long, despite what he told his spouse.

I was right.  At 5:05pm, I snapped the photo above when he came out of the office with another woman and got into her car.  I assumed she was likely a co-worker, but it’s important to never assume in this business, as I soon found out.

After tailing the car to an apartment complex a few miles away, the subject followed the woman into the apartment complex.  They remained there until 7:30pm, then she drove him back to his office where he got in his car and drove home.

Knowing the client wouldn’t be satisified to know that her husband wasn’t merely at work, the next step was to find out the identity of the woman.  As a private investigator, that was the easy part – but what I found out was that she wasn’t a colleague at all – she was the man’s divorce lawyer!

Needless to say, when the client found out what was going on, she was able to take measures of her own to protect herself.

When you hire a private investigator, you should expect to get a thorough report – not just confirmation of the things you may already intuitively know, but also additional information you could never guess.

Family / Marital Investigations &P.I. Blog