Atlanta has been a haven for investment scams. A business makes a purchase for construction machinery, only to learn later it’s a complete fraud. A large judgment is awarded but good luck on collecting. A couple wanted to build their dream pool in their newly purchased home, only to be left with a giant mud hole. Finally, a well-known university books a high-profile musician for an appearance, so they thought. Could the crimes have been prevented or assistance provided in the civil matter? Prevention calls upon society to perform their due diligence.
With a few exceptions, companies and non-profit organizations do not employ professionals to perform due diligence or background examinations prior to an engagement. Consumers of products and services look at reviews but even then, aren’t immune from fraud. What is in the mindset of both a business and consumer regarding the validity of a company or service provider?
The answer is twofold. The internet and their judgment. On occasion, a referral. All can be highly flawed. The internet, well is the internet and fake websites are continually posted. A personal referral seems strong and it can be. Personal judgment? On most days it may serve us well but then so many smart individuals are taken in.
A boys and girls club takes bids on a building renovation. They select a local contractor who has lived in the area for years and well established. The contractor takes thousands of dollars for a down payment and stops returning phone calls. Later, it’s learned the long time local had a number of complaints and financial problems. He was not so “well established.” At one time he was credible but something changed.
Younger consumers are being taken in by scammers on Instagram and investment schemes. Their parents caution them but the youngsters feel that mom and dad just aren’t up to date with technology. Parents fail to understand the modern ways. Afterwards, the destruction takes a nice little nest egg they had saved. It is the young person who now looks foolish.
Earlier mentioned, is a victim university. Rewind and a supposed music broker has taken advantage of so many. Red flares have been sent up and notifications made but the bogus website remains open. Our university takes a huge loss. Only then is federal law enforcement called in.
More and more sad stories could be told but a common thread is present in that most, if not all the crimes and civil wrongs could have been prevented. One issue is that many incidents labeled as a civil matter actually rise to that of a crime; therefore, the frauds continue to operate. A bold law enforcement officer in a small town recognized this in a case of a “local contractor.” The law enforcement officer got the contractor on the phone and said, “You’ve got one hour to get here with the money or I’m getting a warrant for your arrest and I will arrest you myself.” Shazam! Our victim was made whole. Sadly, this is rare.
One solution that is disregarded is using a professional to perform a background or due diligence examination. An Atlanta private investigator emphasizes this need with regularity. The investigator actually had a client victimized by the previously mentioned music broker but action wasn’t taken in time. “The internet is a great tool for research but knowing what to look for and understanding you may have to travel about, is crucial,” he says. “It’s difficult to impart years of knowledge and the trends of the latest scams. In addition, a small miniscule of information can indicate an honest provider from a scam artist.”
At a chamber of commerce event the investigator is asked what he does. An elevator speech is readily given and a victim of an unscrupulous building contractor (see a pattern?) relives the pain of their financial loss. The victim says, “I wish I had known you.” Fast forward and a friend of the investigator is close to hiring a contractor for a home addition. The investigator asks his friend if he wants the contractor checked out. His friend declines because of a positive referral he received. Can you guess what happened? The outcome was not good. The friend’s wife later said, “We should have hired you.”
There lies with both the refined and unrefined decision maker that they don’t need a professional investigator. In the defense of everyone, they may not understand the service exists. A financial investment firm calls on the investigator and tells a story of a motivated investor. Bells begin to go off in the investigators mind but he doesn’t rush to judgment. In a rare case the investigator was able to determine in about 15 minutes, the supposed investor was not who he portrayed to be. Certainly, its not always that easy. A thorough due diligence check may take several days, as the company often uses a set of unique tactics.
How does one decide on whether or not to rely on internet reviews or ask for professional assistance? The investigator attempts to put it into perspective. “It’s one thing to hire a bad plumber, although my plumber friends don’t like me using them as an example. It’s an entirely different matter if you’re considering making an investment, a large purchase, choosing a critical vendor, hiring a home improvement contractor and sadly, even deciding if the person on the other end of a dating app, is genuine.”
He goes on to say that some don’t want to give the appearance of being distrustful and potentially insulting the other. There are ways to subtly or not so subtly address those concerns. Honest providers will not mind professionally posed inquiries.
“Often when we find risk points, we report them to our client and ultimately it’s up to the client to decide on whether or not to move forward. Having the client informed is the goal. However, at times there exists so many glaring flags we can’t pick up the phone fast enough and tell our clients to run and don’t look back.” For professional assistance contact Astinel.