Knowing if you are being investigated can be the difference between sleeping at night or constantly looking out the window for unmarked vans. While it may be difficult to determine if you are being investigated by the police, the FBI, or a private detective, being aware of your surroundings and using some common sense may help you to find out.
Your House is Bugged
A common way to keep tabs on someone's activities and conversations is through the use of electronic surveillance, like bugs and wiretaps. Listening devices, called bugs, and video cameras are extremely small today and hard to detect if you don't know what you are looking for. They are usually wireless and self-powered to make them more difficult to spot. One way to bug someone's house is to simply hide a cellphone that doesn't ring or vibrate when called. You can look for electronic monitoring devices yourself by buying counter surveillance equipment. These devices, usually available for a few hundred dollars, can detect bugs and video equipment by the radio frequencies they emit. You may also wish to hire a private investigator or an expert in surveillance to sweep your home for you.
Your Finances Are Being Checked
If you are being investigated, there may be traces on your credit report. While there are laws protecting your privacy from people accessing your credit report without your permission, this won't stop an unscrupulous investigator. When someone asks to see a copy of your credit report, it is listed as a credit inquiry on the report. Get copies of your free credit reports from the three major credit bureaus at a website like AnnualCreditReport.com (see Resources). Examine them for inquiries from any company you don't recognize. While it's not a guarantee that you are being investigated, this may be a clue.
Word of Mouth
If you have been investigated, then there is a chance that someone has approached people you know to ask about your activities or your character. Make a point of opening conversations with friends, neighbors, relatives and co-workers. Depending on the person, you may want to begin with simply asking what is new. If that doesn't work, try asking him directly if anyone has been asking about you.
The Police Are Interested in You
The most common way people who are under investigation learn about it is when the police come to their door and ask to talk. This often occurs early in the morning, before you have started your day. Law enforcement officers will identify themselves and ask to talk to you. If the officers are asking questions about you, rather than a neighbor or a coworker, you are probably under investigation.
The second most common way to discover you're under investigation is when law enforcement officers appear at your home to execute a search warrant. This is a sure-fire sign that you are under investigation.
If law enforcement subpoenas your workplace to obtain documents, this could also mean that you, or someone you work with, is being investigated. In some cases, a prosecutor may send you what is called a target letter, informing you that you are indeed the target of an investigation and inviting you to meet with her.
If law enforcement does want to talk to you, you have the right to talk to a lawyer before accepting the invitation.
- U.S. Small Business Administration: Performing Pre-Employment Background Checks
- Detective Training Institute: The World of the Private Investigator
- White Collar Criminal Defense Resources: How Do You Know You're Under Federal Investigation?
- Michael Kramer Law: How Will You Know If You Are under Criminal Investigation In New York?
- Experian: Unrecognized Inquiries and Fraud
- Family Lawyer Magazine: How to Locate “Bugs” and Wiretaps Without Special Equipment
A published author and professional speaker, David Weedmark has worked as a consultant for many small businesses and non-governmental organizations, including several law firms and bar associations. David has also has written hundreds of articles on legal matters and small business trends for newspapers, magazines and online publications including About.com and American Express.