Due Diligence Failure

Salman Farooq Sheikh, had been the Tory candidate in the Pickering-Scarborough East riding until just before he was arrested on 14 charges in cases of identity theft, credit-card fraud, stolen and forged cheques, and fraud related to mortgages obtained in people’s names without their knowledge.

From media reports his entire background was a sham that would have been apparent had a proper due diligence process existed in the Tory party.

Implications of Organised Spam Taking Over Google

Manipulated Search Terms

Huge amounts of money is being spent to manipulate highly competitive search terms in Google. I’m not talking about the normal link-building or link-buying and other normal efforts. The trend is related to criminal organizations trying to sell counterfeit goods through the US search results, and to a lesser degree, the results for UK, France and Germany.

The spammers do this through keyworded anchor-text heavy links provided by automated forum and blog spam along with hacked websites. These gangs create such large numbers of these sites and links that Google is having quite a hard time catching up with the spam. The Caffeine update that ranks sites faster may be degrading overall search quality as this trend seems to go back only 7 months or so.


  • Don’t trust what you read on the Internet; it may be planted data
  • If you don’t find anything interesting on the first few pages of Google, then you’re doing it wrong!  Set-up the search preferences properly and make them persistent.
  • Press releases and promotional websites are not a source of reliable data
  • The Internet is not a “neutral” source. Fact-check and evaluate everything you find.
  • The Internet is only one research venue

DIY Research is Not Practical

Over the last two years we have seen a DIY trend really take hold due to shrinking budgets. This has appeared in the areas of Due Diligence and Background Investigations particularly. This is false economy because the DIY Researcher doesn’t recognise changes like those described above, let alone what to do about such a distortion of the results.

The solution may be as simple as using OptimizeGoogle directed at a version of the search engine that does not implement Google Instant or it may mean conducting the search using a proxy in another country.  If you don’t understand how to do this and why you should do this, then don’t give money to somebody based upon your research.

How NOT to get Conned

Victims believe what they are told when someone says that a high rate of return is guaranteed. They don’t understand that a high rate of return equals a high risk.

Victims believe someone they know and trust. Familiar and trusted people are better able to victimize through their own ignorance or stupidity, or through concealed malice. Never let down your guard against this menace.

The victim thinks laws, regulators, and other government mechanisms will protect them. Nobody gives a damn about the individual victim. Educate yourself. If you don’t understand the investment, then don’t give them your money.

Victims don’t check the background of the people involved. Don’t give your money to people without the appropriate education and employment history. Don’t give your money to people with a history of bankruptcy, law suits, criminal prosecutions, and name changes.

Case-Sensitive Google Search

This application is  particularly useful for searching for a person’s name in Google as it returns results in the same case as given by the user.  The Query Box supports phrase search (quotes) but no other advanced search options.  If you want to use advanced search options, then type your advanced Google query in the Query Box and use the second input box to provide case sensitive filter terms as in this example.

The user can set the maximum number of Google results that will be scanned through in the “Limit” drop down box. This is an upper limit for the depth of a search and it’s maximum value is 1000. Google does not serve more than 1000 results for any query. Actually the search will stop when 10 case-matching results have been found. The user can click on the “Next” button to get the next page (continue with scanning through the Google results).

Social Media Meta-Search Engines

Meta-search for Social Media Sites

The following social media meta-search engines let you search social networking sites by a person’s name, nickname, phone number, email address and more. Here are some of these search sites and my notes on their utility.


This searches social networks, search engines, photo/video/audio sites, and personal/professional reference sites. Canada isn’t in the country selection drop-down list this may be a problem for common names in a search for a Canadian. Nothing special, but consistently useful results.


This real-time search engine instantly combines results from Twitter and Facebook in an easy-to-read format organized by date stamp. It doesn’t help much if the person doesn’t have one of the above, or if his name isn’t associated with the Twitter account. The best search is for the Twitter @name such as mine @LocusCommunis, Otherwise, you often get nothing.


I have written about this one before.  It’s a real-time search engine searching over a hundred sites from blogs and comments to images and video. When searching names you really must put the name in quotation marks or you get useless results.  Of the three, this is the Investigator’s best choice in my opinion.

Changes to Canadian Pardons

Clarification on Bill C-23A

There is some confusion going around about Bill C-23. It was split into two parts, and because the second part, C-23B, has been the most debated, people associate C-23A, which received Royal Assent on 29 Jun 2010, with the changes proposed by C-23B, which has not yet been made law.

Bill C-23A only covers certain aspects of the full bill, while C-23B covers the bulk of the changes. Part A, which has been made law, covers the following:

1.    Lengthens pardon waiting periods from 3 years to 5 years and from 5 years to 10 years for certain crimes.

2.    Puts the onus on the applicant for proving that a pardon would bring them measurable benefit.

3.    Gives the Parole Board of Canada more discretion for granting pardon applications.

Bill C-23B will bring a few more changes, but for now, these are the basic changes that have already taken place. C-23B is scheduled for its third reading on March 24th and will undergo clause by clause consideration in April. For more information on these changes, please visit: http://www.canadianpardons.ca/. The Pardon & Waiver Wiki and Blog pages should be very  useful if you need to understand the Pardon and Waiver process in Canada.

New Madrid Seismic Zone

In light of the Japanese earthquake and it devastating consequences, other developed countries should look closer to home and start planning.

One of North America’s most dangerous fault zones lies in the U.S. Midwest. The New Madrid fault line, named after the small town in southeast Missouri and covering areas of Illinois, Missouri, Arkansas, Kentucky, Tennessee and Mississippi, was responsible for several earthquakes in the early 19th century. Although several minor quakes have occurred along the New Madrid fault over the years, the last major disruption was in the 1811-1812 winter when a succession of four earthquakes over three months famously caused the Mississippi River to temporarily flow backward and had aftershocks travel as far as Boston and Toronto. These were estimated to be as large as 8.0.

In a report filed in November 2008, The U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency warned that a serious earthquake in the New Madrid Seismic Zone could result in “the highest economic losses due to a natural disaster in the United States,” further predicting “widespread and catastrophic” damage across Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri and particularly Tennessee.

Two hundred years ago this area was sparsely populated, today’s population density will make such an earthquake devastating, especially since the area does not possess appropriate building codes to reduce earthquake damage.  FEMA’s poor performance after Katrina leaves only one response possible. Whether you are a private citizen or large company, begin planning and preparations now, before you need them.

Only in the U.S. — Pity

The Identity Theft Evidence Trail

In June 2004, the Cantwell/Enzi amendment of a federal bill called FACTA finally permitted ALL identity theft victims access to the credit applications and the transaction records in accounts opened fraudulently in their names. The reality is that once an account has been identified as fraudulent, the credit issuer must provide application and transaction information to you and to the designated police, as long as you send a police report with your request. That law is FCRA section 609(e).”

Collectors and FaceBook

In Florida, a Judge ordered a debt collection agency not to use social media in attempting to locate woman or her family. In Canada, you may specify to the collection agency when and where it can call you. A collection agency is not permitted to contact you at times and in places where you’ve asked it not to, such as a place of work or presumably through Facebook for example. If you have asked the agency not to contact you at a certain location or time and the agency contacts you at that location or time, then the agency may be subject to prosecution. It is likely that this extends to using Facebook, though I have not seen any similar cases like the one in Florida here in Canada.

Ontario PI Licence Guarantor

Ontario PI & Security Guard Licence Guarantor Requirement

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) recently added a new requirement to its policy related to criminal record checks. This requirement applies to all agencies across Canada that access the Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC) to perform a criminal record check. CPIC is administered by RCMP. All agencies that access CPIC, including the Private Security and Investigative Services Branch (Branch) are required to comply with the RCMP CPIC Policy.

Effective March 21, 2011, all applicants for licences must have a guarantor confirm their identity by verifying the identification documentation (ID) that accompanies their application. Applications cannot be processed without this confirmation by a guarantor. This requirement applies to both individual licensees as well as agency personnel that are named in the application for an agency license. Typically these are officers, directors or partners of the company who, as part of the agency application process, are also required to have a criminal record check.

Anton Pillar Orders

Anton Piller Orders, named after the famous 1976 English case, Anton Piller KG v. Manufacturing Process Ltd. [1976] Ch 55 1 ALL E.R. 779, which defined the process of civil search and seizure under common law.

An Anton Piller order is obtained ex parte, and allows the moving party to access the premises of the other party to gather evidence that the court fears may be destroyed if the search is not conducted immediately. To many people this resembles a private search warrant but it is not.  The contempt power is used to enforce them rather than the normal criminal process where physical force may be used to execute the Order.  Nor does the Order authorize entry.  Rather, it commands the defendant to permit entry.  The defendant may deny entry, and thereafter face contempt proceedings.  The plaintiff’s agents may not use force to effect entry in the face of the defendant’s denial of permission.  The defendant may move to have the access limited after the search. Therefore, the order doesn’t necessarily give the moving party immediate access to the evidence, rather it preserves it, so that access can be determined at a later time.

With a search warrant, those strangers are police officers, who may use reasonable force to execute their search.  With an Anton Piller order, the strangers are not police officers (although they will usually include one peace officer from the Sheriff’s office or a Bailiff in Quebec).  They may not use force to gain entry, but rather the threat of jail or other punishment.

The premise of these orders is that (a) the defendant is likely to act to frustrate the order if given notice of it in advance; and (b) there is a strong prima facie case that the defendant has already acted very badly.  As Anton Piller orders play an increasingly important role in protecting businesses from disgruntled or departing employees (as in Ridgewood cited below), it is important for Investigators to fully understand their obligation to properly execute these orders.

A number of judgments have condemned the improper execution of these orders. An Ontario case,  Ridgewood Electric (1990) v. Robbie, contains an  excellent background of the Anton Pillar Order in Para [23] and demonstrates how not to execute the order. In Harris Scientific Products v. Araujo (2005), 54 Alta. L.R. (4th) 195, the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench ordered damages of $35,000 for trespass and punitive damages of $10,000. Furthermore, the Alberta Court of Appeal in Catalyst Partners Inc. v. Meridian Packaging Ltd. established that there had to be strong evidence showing a real possibility that the defendant would destroy documents, not merely an inference or suspicion in order to issue an Anton Pillar Order.  In Celanese Canada Inc. v. Murray Demolition Corp., 2006 SCC 36 the SCC ruled that Celanese had the onus of demonstrating that no prejudice would result from their solicitors carrying on in the file. As a result of the execution of an Order, the Celanese solicitors had come into the possession of confidential information attributable to a solicitor-client relationship, and the court said that the solicitors “bear the onus of showing there is no real risk such confidences will be used to the prejudice of the defendant.” This contentious case led the SCC to better define the  requirements for successful preparation and execution of an Anton Pillar Order. The following guidance is distilled from Celanese Canada Inc. v. Murray Demolition Corp.

  • An independent solicitor should act as a neutral officer of the Court to supervise the execution of the Order. This person should explain the Order to the Defendant and provide a objective report to the Court.
  • Limit the scope to only necessary material and no material should be removed from the site unless pursuant to the terms of the Order.  This is not a fishing expedition. However, allocate enough time and be methodical in your execution of the Order while documenting every step in the process.
  • The moving party should provide an undertaking and/or security for damages if the Order is unwarranted or improperly executed. The court does not want to deal with imposing fines etc. as in Harris Scientific mentioned above.
  • Include a procedure for dealing with solicitor-client privilege or other confidential materials. The court does not want a repeat of this problem as seen in Celanese above.
  • Return seized material as soon as practicable.
  • Commence the search during normal business hours when the counsel for the Defendant is available for consultation. Again, this was a problem faced by the Defendant in Celanese.
  • The premises should not be searched, or items removed, without the presence of the defendant or his responsible employee.
  • Persons conducting the search should be listed by name rather than just the number of people permitted.
  • A detailed list of all evidence seized should be made and verified by the Defendant before leaving the site.

The Olde Ways

I was summoned to a meeting with a client. The client firm is over a century old. This successful firm has learned a thing or two about security.

I was asked to surrender my electronic gadgets. Being of the old school, I had none. This pleased the gatekeeper. I was led to a room furnished with only a curious table and four old wooden bankers chairs. No telephone, no electrical outlets, one florescent light fixture above the table.  The gatekeeper had to unlock the room. She then waited at the open door until my contact arrived.

My contact enters and places pieces of chalk and a chalkboard eraser on the the table. Most of the table top is painted with chalkboard paint.

We eventually compose a handwritten Memorandum of Agreement regarding the engagement, sign it, and off we go.

These people understand the rules, especially Rule #1 — If you don’t want it overheard, don’t say it. But I must admit, I have never seen a “Magic Slate” table before.