The good ole' days - the 90's - when finding someone's employer was easy. When we ran credit header reports, the employer was listed. Not any more. So over the years, PI's and Process Servers had to improvise, coming up with new ways to find an employer. It's not at all easy any more but can be done.
These are my successful actions in finding an employer of a target, defendant or a respondent. I have found the employer every time implementing these actions.
Every case is different, there is no set way to go about getting employer information. The basic and most important attribute you need is street smarts. A street smart person has a lot of common sense, knows every type of person, understands people and how to act around them. This person knows how to deal with different situations and has his own independent state of mind - able to switch pretext stories in a second.
I recommend two books that discuss a wide range of cases with bright ideas and websites to use in your profession. These books are:
Chuck Chambers, PI - The Private Investigators Handbook
Link: Chuck Chambers, PI
Valeri McGilvrey - The Most Useful Websites
Link: Valeri McGilvrey
Not to be mundane or talk "down" to you but we need to cover the simple and easy ways to locate an employer. Always do the simplest thing first. Check out all the social media websites, Facebook, Linked In, and the city/county/state business licensing bureaus, etc. The key here is, if a person does not list an employer on his Facebook page, he might list a profession. Then you can check the state licensing boards for that profession and see if he is licensed and who he is working for. That is one idea and has been very successful for me.
Do not underestimate Facebook. One time, I swear to you, I checked a person on Facebook, he did not list any profession BUT in checking his friends list, (he didn't have any privacy settings on his Facebook page), he and I had a friend in common. I contacted our mutual friend, made up a story and found out where the guy worked. My story to our mutual friend was that I was looking for a good insurance agent and thought "Joe" was in the insurance field. The mutual friend stated not insurance, he worked for the State of California. I checked the employee's roster for the State of CA, (this is public information), and there he was listed, he had recently gotten hired. Always check the friends list if you can, you never know.
Keeping it simple - here is another way to find the employer of someone, and I am sure you are aware of this: Follow them. If your client has the budget, use two investigators, two cars and two-way radios. This is a hit and miss as it could take just 2 hours or it could take some time waiting for the guy to leave his house. Most people work at 7 AM, 3 PM and 11 PM. Beat the odds by watching the house prior to these times and see if they leave. I do not sit all day but if by the second day there is no movement, no cars visible or no lights on at night, something is wrong, maybe the person is on vacation. I would then do a drive by at night and not resume a stakeout until you see lights. In the meantime I would also go to the post office and verify the person you want to follow is still living at the house and still receiving mail there. I learn this the hard way one time, I watched the house all day for two days then found out from the post office that the place was vacant and my guy moved.
When following targets to their work place, with two cars, has been successful for me.
You would think, with all the news about identity theft and protecting ones privacy, that people would be more secure with their documents but some still don't shred their personal data. I have found payroll stubs and employment info in people's garbage - to this day. Chuck Chambers, in his book, covers the art of Dumpster diving. What I can add is this: in certain California counties and maybe in other states, taking ones garbage, even if it is on the street for pick-up, is illegal. California has a lot of problems with the homeless people and recycling guys going through people's trash, so local laws were passed. Here are some different ways that I circumvent this kind of situation:
1. I actually call the city or county garbage agency that has jurisdiction over the address I want to get the garbage from. They will tell you what day of the week the garbage is picked up from that address. The agency doesn't ask you any questions, they think you just moved in or something. I tell them: "Where I used to live" we had trouble with homeless going through our garbage, and ask the agency if at this address, is it illegal to dumpster dive. If they say no, you don't need to do anything else, say goodbye and go get the garbage.
2. If the agency says it is illegal, you have to now switch gears, tell them a story. You already have the day of the pickup, so call the agency back the night before the pickup day. You want to get this conversation on the record as they tape all phone conversations. I tell them this: "I need permission to go through the garbage along this street as I think a wallet was lost in this area and I need to go through the garbage in case someone threw the wallet (or purse) out." The agency will say sure, go ahead and now you have permission. Get the name of the person you spoke to and give him/her your first name. If a neighbor happens to see you and inquires about what you are doing going though garbage cans, tell them the same story about the lost wallet and that you got permission from the city/county They will feel sorry for you and leave you alone. Everyone knows a woman who has left her purse or wallet on top of her car and driven off right? No? Well, that's my story....
At no time did I say "my wallet" or give any specifics, keep your statements general when speaking to these agencies. They have never asked for my name or phone number, so there you go.
3. Just knock on the door of the targets neighbor.
This is the worst option, (you have to be able to pull off an excellent pretext), but if you do not have access to one's garbage and you have exhausted all other resources and bright ideas, this is what you do - knock on the door of the targets neighbor. Just be upfront, even give them your business card.
FIRST, make sure your target is not home before you knock on the neighbors door. I usually do this at night time, then I can see if any lights are on at the targets house or a car in the driveway. If there are lights and a car, come back again during the day time to speak to the neighbor - as long as there is no car at the targets house, or speak to the neighbor at night when there are no lights on or car present.
Here is my pretext:
The next door neighbor answers the door -- have a little notebook/pen and your ID visible.
"Hi, sorry to bother you but my name is Christi Losh with LEGWORK (hand them your card) and we are looking for a missing witness for our trial. We understood she/he lived around this neighborhood." I let this statement hang in the air for a moment so I can size the person up.
They usually say "um....ok."
Then I say:
"Two years ago there was an accident down the street, on the corner of Elm & Oak (find a couple of real streets around this address). Use street names that have a busy intersection.This accident involved 2 minor children who were hurt by a hit & run driver and our witness saw the accident, saying the vehicle ran a red light. Our witness was behind the hit & run driver. We thought the case was going to settle a couple of years ago but it didn't so now we are looking for this witness, Joe Smith, we think is his name." Make up a name, not the targets name.
Talk at a medium pace and look relaxed.
Then I say:
"We thought Joe Smith, like I said, we could have the name wrong, lived next door and worked for Federal Express...is that true, does your neighbor or any neighbor work for Federal Express? The person says, No, the guy next door works for JB Manufacturing but his name is Steve Roberts. (the name of the guy you are actually looking for).
BOOM, there's your employer.
If you didn't get the employers name from that neighbor, try another neighbor.
Be prepared for anything as there can be variations to this - one time after a neighbor told me my target worked at COSTCO, she insisted on helping me further, so she called my target for me on his cell phone to find out if he knew a Joe Smith that used to live at his place. My target told her no, he didn't know Joe Smith. Kinda funny...get it?
I am interested to know the successful actions of others, where they have found employer information. Let's share some of those.
Monday, March 31, 2014
This story is about the first legal case I ever worked on. It was the very beginning of my career, and while I planned on going to law school at night, little did I know that this experience was going to change my life.
San Diego – 1982
Our law firm was the attorney of record for a large pizza franchise corporation being sued by a former corporate employee who supervised all the franchises. This pizza chain encompassed over hundreds of pizza parlors all over southern California.
The pizza corporation was susceptible to some attack over the years, and they scrambled to resolve this susceptibility. Previously, they didn't have their hiring policies fully intact like companies definitely do these days. They didn't regularly perform background checks, or verify social security numbers, or verify previous employment, and there were errors in how they paid overtime.
To rectify these errors, management went through every present employee file and cleaned it up, making sure all pay and benefits were in order. If any past overtime was owed to an employee, they paid it. Background checks were done as well as making sure current employees had no ill-will feelings or problems with management.
There were at least 450 former employees who needed to be located, contacted and their time sheets gone over to correct any errors. Management was advised to try and track down as many of these former employees as possible, and resolve any issues that might expose them to future lawsuits – smart decision.
Before this project of locating past employees started, a nasty lawsuit landed on their door.