Company Profiles

Private Investigation Sector Never Busier As Risks Proliferate

Tom Burroughes Group Editor London 10 July 2023

Private Investigation Sector Never Busier As Risks Proliferate

Driving forces
Recent events, including the pandemic, played a part in driving demand. An example is the working from home shift accelerated by COVID-19.

“With the hybrid transition spurred by the pandemic, we have seen a huge spike in digital fraud, specifically APP [authorisied push payment] fraud,” LaCorte said. “The multifaceted nature of fraud, means we are often called in to offer both proactive and reactive services, such as surveillance, asset recovery, risk management services, and information security training. The spike of fraud that we’ve witnessed over the past few years has led to a significant increase in demand for all of these services.”

“Regulation is on the rise with the Payment Systems Regulator [in the UK] proposing to give individuals better protection against APP scams. However, we are also slightly concerned that this could encourage further fraud and we somewhat expect that we will need to provide additional support in this space in the future,” LaCorte said. 

LaCorte said the structure of CI is designed to give wide coverage of expertise where it’s needed. 

“Through service-level agreements we can tap into a wide web of expertise when needed, ranging from specialist forensics, data analysts to accounting and auditing specialists. As such, we very much have boots on the ground in nearly every jurisdiction,” he said. 

CI has an advisory board that oversees the operations of its team and network of SLAs. 

Digital origins
LaCorte said that when the firm was founded in 2008 – the year of the global financial crisis – he had noticed a “huge spike in demand for more in-depth pre-employment screening and background investigations." 

“We developed the first-of-its-kind tool to be harnessed by individuals concerned by their social media history or employers looking to improve their due diligence,” LaCorte said. “Interestingly, teachers were added to the list of professions being asked to provide social media handles when applying for jobs at schools earlier this year. Given most people who have social media accounts are likely to forget what they wrote five or 10 years ago, we believe the tool can be used collaboratively by employers and individuals to work together to identify any red flags that can have a direct and damaging bearing on an individual or company's image.”

Talent 
“Training is dependent on the position, but we typically look to hire people with backgrounds in the PI sector or those with legal experience as this aids understanding of the court system, litigation and data management and data protection. Individuals can also work towards various accreditations throughout their time with us,” LaCorte said. 

AI has a role but human talent is essential.  

“Digital PI services such as social media background checks, fraud investigations, mobile forensics and penetration testing are in demand and most firms offer these services. But given AI is rapidly evolving, there is a shortage of talent when hiring in this space and we have our work cut out to keep up with it,” LaCorte said. 

“As AI and the digital landscape evolves, the skill divergence between experienced on-the-ground investigators and younger investigators who have strong digital skills is widening. We pride ourselves on traditional gumshoe investigations services, getting out and speaking to people, taking statements and making enquiries in the field. It is easy to uncover someone’s digital footprint through a laptop, but we believe human interaction and other traditional techniques can be equally, if not more effective.”

With regard to other threats, LaCorte talked about problems in growth companies and those with “new money.”

“If a business is experiencing a rapid expansion in a short period of time, we often find that their infrastructure and compliance standards are lagging, creating significant gaps in their information security and recruitment policies,” he said.  

“By skipping risk management and failing to develop robust compliance policies, these companies are often exposing themselves to a host of issues such as data fraud and theft. In a lot of cases, we have even seen them hire undercover staff from competitors, due to poorly thought-out rapid recruitment drives,” LaCorte added.

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