Does your company or law firm have guidelines on the use of pretexting?

The government pursuit of private investigators, lawyers and corporate officers caught in the HP and Pellicano imbroglios have raised awareness of some off-color investigative practices. Many of these – pretexting for customer telephone records and obtaining personal financial documents without authorization – are illegal under federal and some state laws. Despite the close working relationship of attorneys and investigators, “42 percent of organizations responded that they currently do not have written guidelines against the use of of these methods”, according to a Deloitte Financial Advisory Services Online Poll, Many Companies Lack Formal Guidelines Against Pretexting In Internal Investigations.

Fraud and human resource investigations (which are often conducted in-house, not by licensed private investigators) are the primary areas where the illegal activities arise. Deloitte lists recommendations for companies hiring investigators, among which are, “be wary of investigators who say they can get bank account information or information only available to law enforcement.”

Many law firms are now requiring their private investigators sign contracts where there were none before and adding new language to agreements specifying, “investigator will comply with all federal, state and local laws concerning fraud, “pretexting”, privacy, wiretapping and the Fair Credit Reporting Act.” Before long law firms will issue their PI a checklist of acceptable and unauthorized practices!

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One thought on “Does your company or law firm have guidelines on the use of pretexting?

  1. Here again like the HP scandal, investigators are left to use their own judgement. The main problem I see is there are no uniform guidelines set forth by states to regulate and define this type of activity. There are legal and illegal ways to pretext for information. Over the years I have worked for companies that wanted me to wear disguises to pretext a residence or business for information. We all know that impersonating a business or worker can lead to lawsuits. Yet I still hear PI’s say it is OK to pretend to be the cable guy or the pizza delivery man. I have also found that some companies rely on their managers to set the standards used by their investigators. If the manager is not aware of acceptable business practices then how can their employees be expected to know any different? Even worse than that is the manager that asks their employees to push the envelope to get information. Yet if problems arise then the employee is blamed…

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