Insider Interview: Private Investigator David Johnson

Do you give us permission to include this interview in our products?

Yes.

Can we use a photograph of you in our materials? (If so, please include.)

No.

What name should we call you?

David Johnson.

What do you do professionally? Do you have any certifications? How did you become an ethical hacker/security expert? What is your background?

I am a licensed Private Investigator in Florida and a former Police Detective from the United Kingdom where I worked at Scotland Yard.

Where do you live? Why did you choose this particular country/region/state?

Orlando, Florida. I now live here for personal reasons.

What is the state of personal privacy as you see it?

Overall much of what is available as public record in the U.S is not available in the U.K.

(Such as vehicle information, owner of what vehicle, complete vehicle ownership history, and criminal convictions.) I, personally, do not object to the current status of access to public records here in the U.S. because it is so much help to me in my occupation as a P.I. In the U.K, there is not as much information available as in the U.S. because of a law called The Data Protection Act (Of 1986, I believe).

Tell us about some of the tricks you use (or others you know use) to find out confidential information.

I once heard a story of a P.I. accessing a credit report of a subject which was not public record. In order to obtain a credit report, the P.I needed the subject’s permission — and that was not available for obvious reasons. The P.I merely obtained some court records on the subject — his mortgage agreement and his credit card account info from the lawsuit of the credit card company suing the subject. The P.I. then pretended to be the subject and asked for “his” credit report. When asked for the account number of one of the subject’s credit card and mortgage, he had that information available.

What steps do you take to track people who have gone the extra mile to protect themselves?

You see it as protecting yourself. We as P.I’s see it as hiding to avoid financial responsibilities. We would not be tracking them otherwise.

There is always a victim to get these cases started in the first place: ‘A dead beat Father.’ A defendant or Respondent in a criminal or civil case. A cheating spouse. Someone who hasn’t paid the bills and is being chased for a debt.

Sometimes, though, we track people for good reasons and by hiding they hurt themselves: a missing heir,  there are millions being held by local government and the Federal government awaiting people to come forward and claim money they forgot about, insurance claims, deposits they put down and never left a forwarding address for the utility company to refund them. A relative dies with a life insurance policy and the insurance company cannot find the next of kin, the family unaware of the policies existence and the money in many cases over $100,000 sits in a government account somewhere waiting for the P.I. to find them. They are being traced all the time and there are literally millions of people out there with missing money with P.I’s trying to find them.

What are the top two or three questions you get asked about security and privacy, and what are your answers?

I have rarely or ever been asked questions about security or privacy within my current occupation (except by you now.) Does this demonstrate how few people see it as an issue? Or do they find their answers from other sources (the computer geek at work, the head guy in their I.T Dept.)? If I was asked questions I would direct them to an Investigator that specializes in Computer forensics. They would be far better than the I.T. guy at work.

Can you give us two or three simple things that Americans can do today that would dramatically increase their personal security and privacy?

  1. Don’t use credit cards (I know that sounds like a  drastic measure) but with so many ways for a person to fall foul of hackers, identity thieves, and fraudsters it seems the only sure way to prevent your card or card details being stolen.Scam example: People are gullible (would there be this many fraudsters online from places like Nigeria and the rest of West Africa, China and the rest of Asia telling you they are going to send you  $6m dollars and more if you pay them $5k dollars to secure safe passage of the funds. If people weren’t gullible these fraudsters would have disappeared years ago.
  2. Do not use the last four digits of your social security number as a pass code for your credit cards or bank account details.Next scam: Someone calls you and asks, “Do you want a job?” You say “yes.” They “hire” you over the internet by e mail and tell you they live abroad (red flag) and the best way to pay you is by automatic transfer of funds to your bank account. All you have to do is give over your: Full name, DOB, Address, Social Security number (for back ground check purposes of course), and bank account details (in order for the transfer.) Once you give them this information, they can take money out of your account.
  3. Do not open e mails in your spam folder.Most of the above type scams come to individuals by e mail which arrive in your spam folder don’t open them. They sometimes contain harmful viruses to your computer and when opened can contain hidden information which allows access to your address book and other account info.

 

For someone new to this, what is the one thing you would want them to know about their own privacy?

All information can be found about you such as your social security number. It just depends on how much it will cost to get it. So, do not make it easy by giving out information unnecessarily. If an offer sounds too good to be true it probably is, so leave it alone and err on the side of safety.

What is the one thing that you recommend that people are continually resistant to actually do?

Use cash instead of credit cards and do not flash your cash.

For someone that has very little money to spend, is concerned about their privacy, and doesn’t know where to start, what advice would you give them?

I would hire a Private Investigator for one hour and that would probably cost $100 (one hour would be all that would be needed) for a consultation and advice on personal and business privacy and security. This would be valuable to most people because it would be catered to that individual’s needs.

Can you give us three things that people can do to dramatically help protect themselves?

  1. At the ATM put their hand across the number keys when entering their pass code or block the view of the next person in line.
  2. Do not tell anyone not even your boyfriend your 4 digit passcode or PIN — even if you love him and you don’t keep secrets from one another.
  3. On Facebook:  You don’t have 968 true friends. We all in life only have about three real friends — the rest are family and acquaintances. So, stop allowing all of these people into your Facebook page where you tell everyone your life history past and present. It can be used against you.

 

Most importantly do you have any horror stories about online privacy and security? Funny stories? Stories about the ridiculous/dumb/bad things that people do online or in terms of privacy and security?

A true Facebook page story:

When things at work were rosy, a nurse in a small department of her company allowed her boss to befriend her on Facebook. The boss, unhappy with her Facebook page, started a new Facebook page and they were friends on the new page also. Over time, the nurse forgot the old Facebook page.

The situation at work changed and things were not as rosy as they once had been. The nurse unfriended her boss on the new Facebook page (and still forgot about the old page). She then proceeded to vent her anger about her boss and the company she worked for. Other nurses were still friends of the boss and he ‘caught wind’ of the nurse’s feelings. The boss did remember the old Facebook page and went in and looked at the nurse’s comments. The H.R. Dept was not amused. You know what happened next. There is a position for a Nurse at…..

Another Facebook page story:

A guy was on his Facebook page when he received a friend request from an attractive girl about his age who, surprisingly, had a lot of the same interests as him.

Although he’s in currently in a relationship, he accepted the “friend’s” request. After two weeks of chatting on Facebook, the pretty 20-something girl (who was actually a 52-year old overweight male P.I.) had all the information he needed on the case and dumped the guy saying, “I cannot be your bff any longer, it’s complicated.” It certainly was!

 

 

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