For the private investigation industry to weather the Covid-19 crisis, innovation, flexibility, and transparency are key.
Unless you’ve got a backup gig as an entrepreneur in the surgical mask and gloves industry, you’re probably concerned about the financial fallout of Covid-19. And there’s good reason to be. The world has changed, and serious economic uncertainty has affected nearly every industry and region.
Global quarantine measures may be keeping the virus from spreading at an uncontrollable rate, but they’re also bankrupting businesses and generating record unemployment rates worldwide. For industries to weather the storm, innovation and flexibility are key, and the private investigation industry is no exception.
One challenge facing private investigators right now is how to conduct surveillance when a third of the global population is on coronavirus lockdown and even more are voluntarily self-isolated. In international markets where demand is typically high for surveillance and infidelity cases — such as the U.K., Ukraine, Russia, Romania, Colombia and the Philippines — mandatory stay-at-home orders have been issued.
“While surveillance cases can often proceed as normal, clients should be made aware of any quarantine and self-isolation policies that may affect the findings.”
Investigators have to communicate clearly with clients about the government policies and social distancing in different markets, and the resulting challenges for surveillance. While surveillance cases can often proceed as normal, clients should be made aware of any quarantine and self-isolation policies that may affect the findings. For example, Manila and Bogota are currently locked down, but each lockdown looks a little bit different and changes week by week. If clients understand the challenges up front, they’re more likely to understand when a subject is less active, does not leave home or see people, etc.
Other places have stricter lockdowns. For example, Russia’s government is using mass surveillance and threats of prison to enforce mandatory quarantines, so clients are best advised to wait until restrictions have been lifted in places like this.
We can’t beat the quarantine rules, and we shouldn’t try. There’s no way around the fact that conducting surveillance when people are locked down at home is a serious challenge. It’s important to look at the specific pandemic response measures in each location and let the client know about the options and challenges.
If needed, advise your client to hold off on surveillance, then be sure to follow up later. Even if you have to put off a paycheck, that level of transparency can earn a client’s trust in the long term.
Challenges with Due Diligence
Surveillance and economic uncertainty are not the only challenges facing private investigators. While demand for employment background checks is down, requests for another kind of international background check have actually increased: screenings for online dating.
We can thank a rise in romance scam and internet fraud cases for that. It’s exactly the kind of fraud that tends to increase during a crisis; with social distancing and quarantine measures in place, even more relationships (business and personal) are beginning online.
And with online relationships, and especially international relationships, comes increased risk and unknowns.
Clients continue to turn to experienced private investigators to verify the backgrounds of peoples and companies worldwide. But it’s becoming increasingly difficult to verify and obtain records at government agencies, schools, and companies when so many have closed. Even contacting references is a challenge, with so many people at home and not at their usual office extension or email address. But amid all this chaos, private investigators can find creative ways to carry on and obtain the evidence our clients need.
Flexibility and improvisation go a long way. For example, if an employer can’t be reached for comment during a lockdown, try to track down an employee from the same company, someone who may have worked with the subject. Look for references in media records, press releases, and other third parties confirming the subject was employed there. If one government office is closed, or your regular contact is unreachable or has no access to records, contact another agency to ask for help verifying the records. If you can’t verify employment directly, it’s better to verify indirectly or via a third party rather than not to verify at all.
“If you can’t verify employment directly, it’s better to verify indirectly or via a third party rather than not to verify at all. “
Sure, this adds up to more labor and expenses, but going the extra mile is more important than ever, for both our companies and industry, and also our clients who face increased risk and unknowns.
The Near and Far Future
Remember: the global shutdown will pass, and the private investigation industry and global economy will bounce back. In the meantime, you should communicate with clients clearly about possible challenges, get creative in your investigation process when answers are tough to find, and offer discounts to potential customers.
Earn it, and steady the course until our industry and economies are back to normal. Keep in touch with your existing business clients. Let them know you stand ready to help reduce their risk when they resume their international hiring or international investments. Many companies will need to find (and verify) new suppliers, new distributors, and new business partners in order to survive. Investors will be on the lookout for emerging opportunities in the aftermath of this, and they will need a private investigator to help them invest safely.
“Investors will be on the lookout for emerging opportunities in the aftermath of this, and they will need a private investigator to help them invest safely.”
There will be a lot of international hiring once regular life resumes, and much of the new talent recruited may be working remotely. Now that companies have seen the benefits of having people work from home, they’ll be more inclined to hire the best talent, regardless of their location. Fortunately for us, this trend will only help support the demand for investigators in the long run.
About the author:
Marcela Davis is a business development professional at Wymoo International, an international private investigation company based in the United States. Wymoo® specializes in international due diligence and employment screening, background check investigations and discreet private investigations. Davis has extensive experience in international markets and helps global clients reduce the risk from fraud and scams. To learn more, visit Wymoo.com.