Trailblazer Investigations Inc Long Island Suffolk County Private Investigators

Trailblazer Investigations Inc is a NYS Licensed & Bonded Private Investigtion Agency. We specialize in matrimonial investigations, pre-marital checks, pre-employment checks, background investigations, worker's compensation insurance fraud and finding people. We have contacts throughout the United States and Europe. Ask about our Special Services. Visit us at: Tel#: 631.921.5036

Tuesday, October 25, 2005


Protecting yourself from identity fraud is possible, but the wisest approaches aren't always obvious.

Doing a thorough job means thinking about concepts like hard drive wiping, file system encryption and phishing detection--not everyday fare for many of us. To help you protect yourself from identity fraudsters, CNET has compiled the following list of frequently asked questions and their answers.
ID Theft Resource Center

This FAQ on protecting yourself from identity fraud is part of a project designed to be bookmarked as a one-stop center where readers can repeatedly get the latest information and participate in various forums. • See all stories and features
• Separating myth from reality
• Calendar: What Congress is up to
• More stories on identity theft

How could identity fraudsters get my personal information in the first place?
It depends. Fraud artists can bribe employees of banks or credit card companies who have access to confidential records, or they can pose as an employer or landlord to get a copy of your credit report, or simply steal a wallet, purse or your mail. One of the most common ways that information is snatched is through lost credit cards. All of those techniques are more frequent than any methods using the Internet.

Once my information is nabbed by a crook, how is it typically used?
Plain-vanilla credit card fraud is the most common way information is used. It gets more serious when criminals use your information to open up new bank or credit card accounts, take out a loan or obtain mobile phone service. Often, you won't realize until much later that you have become a victim, because the criminals don't use your home address for statements.

A more worrisome technique involves someone posing as you in person: Obtaining a driver's license with your name but with their photograph and giving your name to the police during an arrest, for example. If you miss the court date, a warrant will be issued for your arrest.

How about my credit cards and ATM cards--am I legally liable for their use if they're stolen?
For ATM cards, the answer lies in a federal law called the Electronic Fund Transfer Act. If you report the loss within two business days after you discovered it, your losses are limited to $50. Wait 60 days, and you could be responsible for $500. If even more time elapses, you might not have any legal recourse. Check your bank statements regularly.

However, all the major credit card companies have said that they have instituted "zero-liability" policies that mean they will not hold their customers responsible for any amount at all. The Federal Trade Commission has suggestions on how to avoid credit card fraud.

How can I protect myself?
Remain vigilant. That means reviewing your credit reports at least once a year, and preferably every few months. If you have good reason to suspect mischief, you can subscribe to a credit-monitoring service (such as Experian's, at $10 a month) that sends e-mail alerts of changes to your accounts. Beware of the scam Web sites that can pop up when you search for "credit reports" or "credit monitoring" on Google and other engines.

Be careful with the passwords for your bank, credit card and utility service accounts. When using online services, make sure to type in the correct URL for the site you want to visit. Never click on links in an e-mail or on a Web site that you don't know to be reliable. These could be part of a phishing scam, which typically use forged e-mails and faked Web sites that pretend to belong to trusted service providers like a bank.

Putting a lock on your mailbox and not placing outgoing mail in an unsecured mailbox is smart. So is buying a paper shredder--identity fraudsters have been known to rummage through garbage or steal mail, and the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that police don't need a warrant when trash-diving. Still, Dumpster diving was linked to only 2.5 percent of identity fraud cases in 2004, and mailbox theft to 8 percent, according to research by Javelin Strategy & Research.

Am I eligible to get a free copy of my credit report?
Almost certainly. Thanks to the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act of 2003, U.S. residents are entitled to one free credit report a year from (the corresponding phone number is 877-322-8228). Experts suggest ordering one from a different agency every four months. Check the number of open accounts on the report to make sure that the total agrees with what you would expect. You're also entitled to a free credit report when you have reason to suspect identity fraud.

What should I do if I think my identity has been misused?
Contact one of the three major credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax, TRW) to place what's known as a "fraud alert" on your credit report. You need to call only one of the companies; it in turn will contact the other two. An initial fraud alert stays in place for 90 days. If there is an alert on your record, businesses have to take extra steps to verify your identity when issuing credit. A credit card company could phone you, for example.

Once you've created the fraud alert, review copies of your credit report to make sure that all the accounts listed are yours. Close any that are unauthorized. The best way to do this is to fill out an ID theft affidavit (Click for PFD).

Do I need to give out my Social Security number?
Sometimes. Your employer and financial institutions have a legitimate reason to ask for it. But many other companies use the SSN as a convenient way to give you a unique ID number in a database. In those cases, you may not be required to divulge it. The Social Security Administration advises: "You should treat your Social Security number as confidential information and avoid giving it out unnecessarily."

In some states, such as California, state governments offer useful tips about how to invoke a state law restricting the use of SSNs on ID cards.

I know I'm supposed to shred my trash, but what about my computer? What if I want to throw it away or give it away?
Don't even think about getting rid of it until that hard drive has been thoroughly wiped. A typical hard drive--complete with tax returns, e-mail and cached Web pages--can be a treasure trove for identity fraudsters. Two MIT graduate students found a shocking amount of sensitive information on used hard drives they purchased.

Under Microsoft Windows, even formatting the hard drive isn't enough. Windows programs like CyberScrub can ensure that the data is completely overwritten. On the Macintosh, newer versions of OS X offer a "Secure Delete" option. Use it.

That's fine for when I'm planning to get rid of a old PC. What if my laptop is stolen with all my files on it?
Encrypt your data. That once was an onerous process involving command-line arcana worthy of C inventor Dennis Ritchie. Not any more.

Anyone with a Macintosh computer running the OS X operating system is in the best shape, thanks to Apple Computer's built-in FileVault utility. It transparently encrypts and decrypts your home directory and other important areas of the hard drive. Windows users should consider purchasing an add-on such as that from PGP, which announced an expanded "Whole Disk Encryption" product line this month. Microsoft plans to offer more encryption capabilities in the next release of Windows, called Vista.

How can I tell whether e-mail claiming to be from my bank or credit card company is actually a "phishing" scam?
There's often not an easy way: The current, insecure design of Internet e-mail permits scammers to pose as legitimate businesses. American Express offers some tips, which include questioning whether the e-mail's purported urgency really makes sense.

Unless you're sure of their legitimacy, avoid clicking on links in e-mail that seem to be from banks or credit card companies. Instead, manually type in the Web site's address in your browser. Also, consider obtaining an e-mail address just for bank and other statements--that way, if you receive e-mail from a "financial institution" sent to your normal, public address, you'll know it's a scam.

There are tools that can help you detect phishing scams. U.K.-based Netcraft offers an antiphishing toolbar that plugs into your Web browser; Netscape has protection built into its latest Web browser; and Microsoft also provides technology in its MSN toolbar.

What should I do to protect my computer from Trojan horses, viruses and worms that could be used to get into my personal files?
If your computer is running on Windows software, you've got some work to do. The latest version of Windows, Windows XP with Service Pack 2, is most secure. However, do check Microsoft's Windows Update site to make sure that your operating system isn't outdated and vulnerable and that you are automatically receiving security fixes.
Buy antivirus software from a vendor like McAfee or Symantec. Avoid clicking on attachments if the message text sounds odd. Perform regular backups. AT&T Worldnet offers even more suggestions.

But if you're using Mac OS X or another Unix variant, congratulations! You should always make backups, of course, and keep your system software up-to-date. But you're likely to be much safer, since there are fewer malicious code attacks that target those operating systems. However, using Mac OS or Linux won't protect you against phishing scams, which require vigilance and common sense.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Drug Users supporting Terrorists

If you need a reason to stop using it is!!!!!!!

According to the indictment, Mohammad said in 1990 that selling heroin in the United States was a form of jihad because they were taking the money of Americans and the heroin was killing them.

He was recently brought into this country to stand trial.

Well.......there it is. Need I say anymore?

Wednesday, October 19, 2005


Your cheating spouse resource center TRAILBLAZER INVESTIGATIONS INC

Wednesday, October 19, 2005



So you have that inkling your loved one may be cheating on you - what are some signs that correlate with a cheater?

Below we have listed some of the major and minor signs that cheaters generally display whether they know it or not. No matter how hard a cheater may try to cover up their cheating actions some things just cannot be held back and usually they do not even realize they are giving you red flags that might as well be painted on their forehead!


While this list gives all the warning signs of a cheater make sure to proceed with caution. Just because your loved one might display a few or many of the below signs does NOT mean they are cheating on you. It could be any number of reasons outside of cheating be it a problem at work, with family, etc that maybe they have just not wanted to share with you yet.

These signs are only meant to give you an idea of how cheaters act after and during the cheating process. It is a very good tool when used correctly, but the last thing you should do is accuse your loved one because of this list alone.

1 - When they no longer want sex or makes excuses to not have sex.

2 - When they will not allow you access to their computer or they suddenly shut down the computer when you walk into the room. They may password protect their laptop or computer to keep out suspicious eyes. Or they stay up to "work" or "play a game" on the computer after you go to bed. Excessive internet usage, especially late at night, is a red flag.

3 - When they begin to put distance between you or show a lack of interest in what has been the routine with few, if any, excuses for the change in their behavior.

4 - When they suddenly have to work late and have all kinds of new obligations that take them away from home repeatedly or for long periods of time. Or. . . they tell you they are working longer hours and discontinue allowing you to view their paycheck or pay stubs.

5 - If your loved one works with people, such as at a bar or restaurant especially as a waitress or bartender they might suddenly tell you not to visit them at work. This usually means they are hiding something at their workplace whether it be with a co-worker or a regular customer such as at a bar.

6 - When they suddenly need a cell phone or pager and you are discouraged from ever looking at it or using it. They also may make certain their cell phone or pager cannot be answered by you by hiding it or taking it with them wherever they go. They are secretive about their cell phone or pager bill and pay it themselves when you have always paid the bill in the past.

7 - When they arrive home smelling faintly of perfume/cologne or another person's body.

8 - When they arrive home and head straight into the shower or bath.

9 - When they have lipstick or strange hairs on their clothing or in the car. Finding strange phone numbers, receipts or condoms can also be clues.

10 - When they suddenly begin to treat you extremely nice; more so than usual.

11 - When they begin to make "kinky" requests or suggest wildly erotic play during sex including things you have never done before. They may also show an increased interest in sex or sexual things, including porn.

12 - When they talk to you they treat you abusively or with disdain, disrespect or excessive sarcasm. They may also demonstrate an unexplained aloofness or indifference in the relationship. Or. . . they may begin to find fault in everything you do in an attempt to justify their affair.

13 - Her: When she gets spiffed up and dresses provocative to "go grocery shopping" or to "get her hair done." She may also show up with a sudden change of hair style. Him: When he showers, shaves (cologne, deodorant, etc.) and dresses up more than usual to "go out with his buddies" or to "go fishing."

14 - When they break their established routine at work and home for no apparent or logical reason.

15 - When they become suddenly forgetful and you have to tell him/her everything several times; their thoughts are obviously elsewhere.

16 - When they are always tired or demonstrate a noticeable lack of energy or interest in the relationship.

17 - When they begin to intentionally look at or flirt with the opposite sex when in the past, this is something they would not have done.

18 - When you notice that they are reluctant to kiss you or accept your affection.

19 - When they ignore or criticize your affections and thoughtful ways. Example : "Why are you so luvy duvy? I'm just not like that."

20 - When your phone bill shows an increase in unexplained toll or long distance charges. Often when a partner is acting too close or flirting with a best friend of the opposite sex, you will find their phone number listed excessively.

21 - When the passenger seat in the car has been changed and is not in the usual position or the mileage on the car is more than usual. Also increased gas purchases that are inconsistent with the amount of miles on the car.

22 - When they begin to keep a change of clothes hidden in the trunk of the car or an unusual amount of clothes changes at the gym.

23 - When you notice credit card charges for gifts (such as florist or jewelry) that you didn't receive.

24 - When they begin to make sudden and excessive purchases of clothes or an unexplained change in clothing style. Beginning to purchase sexy underwear or lingerie may be a clue.

25 - When you notice an increase in ATM withdrawals. Cheating costs money! To play you must pay!

26 - When you notice that your partner loses their ability and desire to show the children the attention they need or a lack of desire to do any fix-ups around the house, e.g., lawn care, painting, cleaning the garage, house repairs, etc. They might turn this around on you at the same time and accuse you of never doing anything or treating the child/children badly.

27 - When you notice an increased attention to losing weight or paying more attention to their appearance.

28 - When they begin to volunteer to go to the post office, rushes to check the mail before you do or opens up a new P.O. box perhaps without even telling you.

29 - When your partner shows up without their wedding ring or suddenly stops wearing it and makes lame excuses as to why. This also goes for jewelry you might have purchased for them and you catch them not wearing it when they go out when usually they wear it at all times.

30 - When they get mysterious phone calls or when they hurry to answer the phone, leave the room to talk on the phone and when you ask who called, they say, "No one", "Wrong number", or "Why do you care?"

31 - Simple trips, such as to the grocery store or bank, take hours rather than the time it should take.

32 - Your loved one suddenly deletes all emails from the computer where as they used to accumulate. Same goes for calls on the cell phone or caller ID.

33 - Your loved one seems to pick fights or finds reasons to fight only to stomp out of the house and away from you.

34 - You find a diaphragm, condom, birth control, etc., however, you have had either a vasectomy or she has had a tubal ligation.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Part 2 Identity Theft

IDENTITY THEFT Part 2 continued from previous post....
Banks and credit card giants, meanwhile, are routinely writing off as much as two per cent in fraudulent charges as "the cost of doing business," according to Jim Melnick, a former U.S. Defence Intelligence Agency analyst who leads geopolitical threat intelligence research at a Virginia-based consulting firm, iDEFENSE.

"The credit card companies are so powerful, they're making so much money, this is still just a nuisance," Melnick said. "But you can't hold that attitude forever because the cyberworld is completely different. There's nothing to prevent that two per cent from going to 20 as more vulnerabilities are found and more people get into the game. The (numbers) could change dramatically."

Lawyer Scott Christie is photographed in the computer room of McCarter and English in Newark, NJ. Christie was the prosecuter on Operation Firewall. "It's not a stretch to say (the financial loss) was in the hundreds of millions," he says.

Beware of Identity Theft

IDENTITY THEFT.... It's a problem. Don't let it become your problem. A word of advise from Trailblazer Investigations Inc 631.921.5036.

Internet-based criminal rings are 'the organized crime of the 21st century,' according to a police expert.
Canada is home to members of highly organized credit card and identity theft rings operating with impunity online, say investigators who have spent more than a year sifting through evidence in the largest international undercover sting operation in Internet history.
The U.S. Secret Service, the Vancouver police department and private security investigators hired by companies and Canadian banks believe major cities across the country harbour members of an online credit card fraud and identity theft ring that came to be known as Shadowcrew.
Its name comes from the website, where the thieves gathered to trade stolen items and plot their crimes. was shut down, and 28 of the alleged highest-ranking members of the gang were arrested Oct. 26, 2004, during simultaneous raids carried out by the Secret Service, the RCMP and Europol, and local police forces in North America, Latin America and Europe.
Three Canadians were arrested as part of the sting but have yet to be charged.
An investigation into Shadowcrew's Canadian connection is continuing, according to Tom Musselwhite, special agent in charge of the U.S. Secret Service's western Canadian operations.
'I think it's safe to say there are people that were involved in Shadowcrew who are in most, if not all, major Canadian cities,' said Musselwhite, who works out of a field office in Vancouver.
Internet-based criminal rings are an emerging and dangerous manifestation of organized crime in this country, according to investigators,"

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Tools of the Trade

Tools of the Trade
Better leave the surveillance to the professionals............TRAILBLAZER INVESTIGATIONS INC

Images of the private investigator lurking in dark alleys, rummaging through garbage and conducting his business from a smoke-filled office are starkly different from reality.

The 1940s gumshoe was the iconic detective, a whisky-swilling Sam Spade, armed with a sharp wit, a nose for danger and a gun when occasion demanded.

Modern-day sleuths are more likely to use a range of spy gadgets, the latest digital photography and advanced tracking devices, rather than rely on a conspicuous trench coat and an upturned collar.

Mark Grover is one of about 1500 licensed private investigators operating in Victoria. He has managed Victorian Detective Services for more than 15 years. As for clients, Mr Grover quickly laid to rest any notion of gorgeous femme fatales pleading for his help.

Mr Grover's clients are usually government bodies, insurance companies, large corporations and the occasional suspicious spouse. His business does everything: screening employees, tracking industrial espionage, internet investigations, monitoring spouses' activities and finding items and even people.

He says advances in digital photography have had a huge impact on how his company goes about surveillance.

"The most important tool an investigator will carry is a good quality digital camcorder with night vision, which can be used to record footage directly or take photographs," he says.

One of Mr Grover's favourite digital video cameras is the tiny Mustek DV3000, which fits snugly in the palm of his hand. With a digital still image quality of 3.1 megapixels, the camera is also capable of producing decent photographs, which Mr Grover says are often used for identifying potential criminals or philandering lovers.

Mr Grover's company was also quick to adopt GPS tracking devices for detecting stolen objects and would-be thieves.

"Recently a nursing home had a nurse who was stealing from the patients. She would take their mobile phones and even the rugs from their legs," he says. "We hid a tracking device in a laptop, knowing it would be stolen. Through GPS technology we were able to track it."

Mr Grover says assignments often require thorough background research to modify gadgets appropriately. Each job requires a unique application of technology.

For jobs requiring mobile surveillance, Mr Grover has had tiny digital cameras customised to fit in the most unlikely places, such as neckties, pagers and even pens.

Footage and still images are then transmitted wirelessly to receivers on camcorders or back to the office.

"We often put video cameras in MP3 players now, so while we're following someone, they think we're listening to music, but we're not," he says.

Discreet use of cameras and gadgets is particularly important when shadowing subjects for an investigation. Surveillance jobs can sometimes require private investigators to work in pairs, with one investigator following the subject while their partner sits in a van decked out with a variety of modern technological devices.

Mr Grover says cars or vans must be kitted out to deal with a range of possible situations. Surveillance operations can be wildly unpredictable and often stretch out into many hours at a time.

A common set-up in a car used by investigators can include up to four cameras, a laptop, printer, scanner, fax machine, DVD recorder, TV, GPS tracking devices, pager and two-way radio for keeping in contact with the office or partner.

The internet has also opened up Mr Grover's business to overseas customers. He says his company conducts up to 10 investigations each week for people who want to know more about Australians they have met through internet chat rooms.

"We work for a lot of international clients and we can just email them a photo straight out of our car," he says.

Some investigators have little need for digital photography or GPS. Charles Rahim has more than 10 years of experience as a private investigator. In recent years he has focused on lie detection.

I sit nervously in Mr Rahim's boardroom as he attaches five small sensors to my chest and fingers that feed into a slim data acquisition unit. The system is compact, mobile, and connects directly to a Sony Vaio laptop. It is my first experience with polygraph technology.

On the screen I can see my blood pressure, heart rate, respiratory and electrodermal - skin conductivity - levels rise and fall gently as he asks simple, unobtrusive questions. Then he surprises me. "Have you ever stolen anything?" The soft peaks turn into mountains that cannot fit on the screen.

Respondents often don't even need to answer the questions to reveal if they are lying. Physical reactions are plotted onto a four-tiered moving graph, using polygraph software.

"Before it was analog and it had four needles," he says. "You had to read it manually. But now the computer system is digital and it's very accurate."

The digital lie detector also takes the guesswork away from interviews. The software calculates numerical values from responses, making it easier to identify what questions make respondents nervous and when they are likely to be lying.

Ex-police officer Steve Murray has been a private investigator for more than 19 years and now employs six full-time investigators. Staking out compensation claimants and suspicious lovers make up a large proportion of his assignments.

A common surveillance set-up used by Mr Murray simply consists of a tiny camera lens with a transmitter that sends footage back to a miniature LCD screen connected to a small battery or camcorder.

"We can put a camera into a bag or a clock radio and nobody would know. That could be sending a signal to my handycam or car. I could have my briefcase open and be watching what's going on," he says.

But for most assignments requiring surveillance, Mr Murray uses a Sony DCRTRV460 Digital8 handycam. He was attracted to the digital camcorder's touch screen, on which he can edit passages of unwanted footage during dull periods in a stakeout. He also insists that a camcorder must perform well in low-light conditions.

"There's no point filming people at night if your camera doesn't go down to one or two lux," he says.

For insurance investigator Peter Hiscock, a digital camera with a decent macro setting is his most important gadget. A typical job might require him to find the "hotspot" at a fire scene or the point where burglars entered a home or warehouse. He regularly conducts investigations for well-known insurance companies.

He recently bought a Casio EXZ57, which allows him to capture fine details at crime scenes, such as marks left on locks. He will then enlarge and examine the images using CorelDraw software. He also uses his camera to photograph papers that cannot be copied or reproduced.

"Quite often I'm at a place where I need to examine original documents. People won't let them out of their hands, so I need a camera that can photograph them exactly as they are," he says.

But Mark Pastor, owner of two Melbourne Ozspy outlets, suggests growing numbers of consumers are taking surveillance into their own hands and buying high-tech spy gadgets.

High-end digital video recording systems, mobile phones with GPS and digital voice recorders with large storage capacities are just some of the products in high demand, Mr Pastor says.

One of the latest products available at the store is the Skyview closed-circuit television surveillance system, which can accommodate up to 16 cameras, all of which can be displayed simultaneously on a computer screen. The cameras can also be viewed remotely via a personal digital assistant or online.

"Someone might want a four-camera system and they want to view it from their PDA, at home on the internet or across the world with Internet Explorer," he says.

Tools of the trade

Digital binoculars

Saxon 8X22 DB200, $179

These three-megapixel digital camera binoculars provide a close-up view of the action as well as taking still photographs and video footage. Video can be replayed at 15 frames per second and the continuous shooting mode captures three still images every two seconds. The binoculars have an internal storage capacity of 16 MB and 8x magnification. The device comes with a USB cable and software and takes two AAA batteries.

GPS mobile

Benefon Esc, $1399

This device combines both GPS and mobile phone features. Other Benefon Esc users can be tracked and have their position and movements displayed with a detailed map. The Esc is protected by stainless steel casing but is lightweight at just 177 grams. The handset uses up to 12 satellites, and emergency messages can also be sent to a monitoring centre. Information on positions can be sent and received via SMS.

Keystroke logger

KeyGhost, $240

Requiring no external power source, the KeyGhost records up to 500,000 computer keystrokes and stores them on its internal flash memory. The KeyGhost can be installed in a few seconds and no software is needed to record everything that has been typed into a computer. The tiny device cannot be disabled using software and is claimed to be impossible to detect. The KeyGhost is compatible with any PC and operating system.

Infra-red monocular

OzSpy NZT-300EX, $660

This night vision monocular has push-button controls and 3x magnification. With its built-in infra-red illuminator, the NZT-300EX is designed to view objects in complete darkness. A re-adjusting system also allows for focusing on nearby or distant objects. Batteries are built to last for up to 55 hours.

Investigators Make It Their Business To Catch Cheaters

A bit of advise from a New York Private Investigator Trailblazer Investigations Inc

Investigators Make It Their Business To Catch Cheaters
Cheaters Typically Not Discreet In Meetings

POSTED: 1:52 pm CDT October 10, 2005
UPDATED: 9:55 am CDT October 11, 2005

HOUSTON -- The women of K Griff Investigations & Civil Processing, Inc. spend their time busting cheaters.

So what have they learned over their 15 years in business? Affairs can happen anytime, anywhere and with anyone, KPRC Local 2 reported Monday.

"You got her voicemail, which means she is not there. She is probably with him," owner Kathy Griffin said.

"This one was a day-care owner. The woman was a day-care owner and the gentleman happened to be the father of one of the children she watched," investigator Tina DeFiore said. "She actually meets him in a parking lot in the day-care van and precedes to kiss."

The investigators said couples sneaking away for a rendezvous in some clandestine hotel room on the outskirts of town are only in novels and the movies.

They said people are getting together in the most common of places.

"This one wife contacted us who got very suspicious of her husband playing golf all the time," Griffin said. "She got very suspicious because none of the guys were calling for tee times but yet he was playing golf all of the time. He was actually playing golf with his girlfriend. (On tape you can see) he is actually giving her golf lessons and a little kiss."

The detectives said more often than not, the lover is found close to home or close to work.

"(One) was actually in the employee parking lot," Griffin said. "Right now, they are kissing (on tape) but then they preceded to go little bit further and perform sexual acts in the car in the parking lot."

Griffin said that most people are not discreet.

"Most people do not think they are going to get caught. It is the 'It is not going to happen to me' syndrome," DeFiore said.

The private investigators caught cheaters meeting at restaurants, grocery stores and even hotel parking lots. But the ingenuity of one couple even made them laugh.

"She's a teacher and she was meeting her student after hours and going to the movie theater. What better place where you can kiss and be in the dark and no one knows where you are?" Griffin said.

Plus, she said they had the perfect alibi.

"This was a child custody situation. Actually, we were looking for any lewd behavior she might perform," Griffin said. "Sure enough, they were at a concert. The children were 1,000 feet away watching the concert. She is in the bushes doing her business and then performs a sexual act with her boyfriend in the open-air concert right in front of everybody."

So, cheaters beware -- you never who may be watching, according to the investigators, who made it their business to catch those who do not want to be caught.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Malaysian PIs: 3) Who are the clients?

Seventy to 80% are wives checking on straying men, estimates the PIs.

“But we are seeing more cheating women cases nowadays,” adds Raju.

Jeya recounts, “Some women even hire us before they get married. They want to know if the guy is really who he claims to be.”

Ninety per cent of MJK’s clientele are Chinese, usually rich business people or professionals. However, they also have some Malay clients who are “very top level” Datuks, Datins and corporate people.

“What we’ve seen is that when a man is too rich, there are problems. He’s sure to attract lots of women. What do you expect? Can’t be eating chicken rice every day,” says Raju.

David once dealt with a case of a married Mat Salleh expat working for a phone company in KL.

“He was earning thousands in US dollars and used to frequent nightspots where he met this Sabahan woman. Even after he left the country, he kept on sending money to her, eventually up to hundreds of thousands of ringgit. His Mat Salleh wife called it Malaysian voodoo.”

MJK has had women from Singapore hiring them to check on their partners.

“We’ve found that some just come up to KL to have fun and then go back. We’ve also been to the Philippines and Indonesia to follow men keeping mistresses overseas.”

There are also situations where both partners are guilty. Kanna had a couple who were both cheating on their spouses. When the guy was about to go overseas, he hired the private investigators as he was worried his girlfriend was going to cheat on him too!

“We followed her right up to the hotel room in Genting Highlands. It was tough, because there were huge crowds during the RM1 room promotions. In the end, we found out she was telling the truth, that she went there just to enjoy with her girlfriends,” says Kanna.

Raju comments, “I’ve had situations where both partners are horny. Each wants to prove who’s better. The rich educated women can be very egoistical too and don’t see their own faults.”

“We see all these typical cases,” says Jeya. “He says he’s working in the office when he’s off to see the mistress, switching off the phone when he’s with her in a five-star hotel.”

“But we’ve also seen that sometimes it’s true, the husbands really are workaholics, married to the job. They’re not sleeping with other women but are in their office. When we tell our clients that, they are relieved that their suspicions are not true.”

“And then, oh yes, we’ve also had cases where hardworking men hire us to check whether their wives are fooling around, playing a double game!”


Malaysian PIs: How they work

Malaysian PIs: How they work

Suspect your husband or wife of cheating on you? Need evidence for a divorce case so that you can hit back? Or maybe, it burns you up so much inside that you want videos of your spouse ‘in action’? How about hiring a private investigator? StarWeekend goes behind the scene

Nope, there’re no trenchcoats and darkglasses. Instead, these two Malaysian Indian private investigators (PIs) look like regular macchas (buddies). One, let’s call him Kanna, is 42, plump and balding, like the police chief from NYPD Blue. The other, umm, Jeya, is 36 and good-looking. Oh yes, he’s a part-time TV actor too.

The pair, both brothers from MJK Investigators, based in downtown Kuala Lumpur, won’t allow photos of them during the interview.

“We have to keep a low profile while on the job-lah,” says Jeya.

According to him “business is booming” for PIs in the area of cheating spouses.


“People have lots of problems. In Western countries, every other thing also they hire PIs. It begun taking off in Malaysia in the past two years. People are more aware,” explains Jeya.

Raju, a PI from another company in his late 30s, puts it this way: “Things are getting worse. It shows what Malaysians are like under the sheets.”

And then there is David, another Malaysian Indian in his early 40s who charges up to RM5,000 for a week of surveillance on a “target” with a three-man team on two motorbikes and in one car.

Together, they tell the story of how PIs help clients who have cheating partners.

1) How they work
Good ol’ tailing
Fees for PIs are steep. Yet people are willing to pay to gather hard evidence as ammunition in divorce proceedings, where property or children’s custody are at stake. However there are discounts if the client “just wants to know” whether his or her partner is fooling around on the sly.

David had a case of a certain Puan Sri who suspected her son-in-law, a Mat Salleh lawyer, of cheating on her daughter.

“We followed the lawyer around KL. He would pick this woman up and go to nightclubs. One day they flew to Penang. I put an operative on the flight to follow them all the way to a five-star hotel in Batu Feringghi. Maybe they thought they were out of town and let down their guard. We took photos of them holding hands and of him teaching her how to swim.”

Videos and pictures

But it wasn’t enough evidence.

“Our operative was, umm, very creative,” says David. “With the help of housekeeping staff, he entered their hotel room when they went to town and then took pictures of their stuff. When we showed it to the wife, she easily recognised his clothes. It was good enough for the lawyers.”

“We don’t break the law,” he smiles. “We just skirt very near the rim.”

As for MJK, Jeya showed me video footage stored in his laptop, supposedly of a client’s wife’s car parked outside a hotel and of her apartment.

“We present the evidence to the client like a story board. Our surveillance camera shots with time stamps also prove that we’ve done our job.”

Hotel room receipts

According to Raju, other “proof” of infidelity includes hotel room receipts or footage from hotel security cameras. How do PIs get them?

“Money talks,” declares Raju. “It costs anything from RM50 to RM400 to pay off hotel staff to get hotel billing records. Sometimes, they may say, ‘Aisay, give more-lah, I have to share with others on the front desk-lah’.

”Sometimes, we will pay hotel security guards and ask, ‘Eh, this car got come, ah?’” reveals Kanna.

Phone bill records

“This may show that your partner is having a one hour conversation with somebody at 2am. Or very frequent SMS or calls to certain numbers,” explains Raju.

He acknowledges that it’s “not very legal” to retrieve phone or hotel bills.

“But you know-lah, everything has a price,” he quips.

Kanna notes that PIs have been jailed and phone company staff have been reprimanded for the sale of phone call records.

“It’s a common practice in this industry. But one day a high-profile Datuk may complain if he’s being monitored,” he adds.

Phone taps

Not a problem either, although it’s much more difficult and expensive to tap mobile phones compared to fixed lines, says Raju.

GPS car trackers

These are commercially available and can track car movements using GPS.

“Sometimes we’re involved in high speed car chases – from a distance, we can’t follow too closely. Some of these guys drive 7 series and just whack 160, even 180.

They’re in such a hurry to see their mistresses. It’s OK. We also drive fast cars,” he smiles, while declining to reveal the models.

Electronic bugs and hidden cameras

These are widely advertised on the Internet, notes Jeya. MJK Investigators also uses pin-hole cameras which can be attached to clothes.

“In one case, we went into a nightclub and we saw the wife there with another guy. We took pictures.”

Sex scenes

“We’ve recorded it only once before,” recalls David. “Only because they left the apartment windows open. They were doing it in the hall.”

Jeya avows that they install hidden surveillance cameras only in “extreme circumstances”.

“We’re not perverts or voyeurs. Some clients do request us to record their partners having sex with the other person.

We say no. What’s the purpose? It’s good enough evidence if your wife is walking into a hotel room with another man. Or if they are kissing and caressing.”

“The fact that they ask for sex scenes shows that they are seriously disturbed, gone overboard, lost it already-lah.”

Sperm samples

Nope, they don’t scour mattresses for that.

“That’s already a criminal investigation involving police forensics,” says Kanna.

Police connections?

MJK investigators claims to have “very good connections” with the police to facilitate their work. Jeya adds that some freelance PIs are ex-policemen.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Cheating Spouce? New York Private Investigator Trailblazer Investigations Inc 631.921.5036

Is Your Husband or Wife Cheating?
Five Reasons to Hire a Private Investigator

GREENVILLE, SC -- (ArriveNet - Sep 28, 2005) -- If you suspect your spouse is cheating, and you want to go to court, it is simply not a good idea to collect the evidence yourself and try do it on your own. You need professional help to get you rock-solid evidence for court. In other words, you need hire a private investigator.

Winning custody today is very difficult. A courtroom is no place for the weak at heart, nor for a poor planner. Will you fail to plan? If so, plan to fail. A private investigator can offer a real solution to strategy for winning.

Discovering an affair in your relationship is hard enough, but that's just the beginning of what you will face. A family court ruling will be rendered either for or against you and your children. A judge will decide for you based on the evidence, who is the best custodial parent. If your state considers infidelity grounds for divorce, proof is essential! If you are party to a legal action, your observations, discoveries, and testimony are already tainted with bias.

Here are five key reasons why you should hire an investigator;

1. Time is of the essence.
Depending on the length of an affair, your spouse may end it without ample opportunity for you to document it. On average affairs last six months to a year and then end without your knowledge. However, in some cases, your spouse will divorce you for the mistress. Waiting to prove your case may be too late. Don't let the opportunity escape you.

2. Satisfy your "Need to Know."
Over three decades my agencies have worked for countless clients who spanned the US. More than half of these clients had a "need to know." Finding out the extent of an affair, the identity of the mistress/paramour is indispensable. If you feel a gripping urgency to gratify this need, recognize you share in the feelings with a vast number of others.

3. You should not witness the affair yourself.
In one case a client insisted on witnessing her husband activities. I discouraged her. We placed him under surveillance for a "nooner"--a lunchtime rendezvous. It was a successful surveillance with an unexpected twist. The subject united with his mistress as we anticipated. They choose a remote parking area in front of a river bank on a dead end street. This was a favorite hangout for teenagers surrounded by woods and plenty of cover from public view. We shadowed them successfully. The hood of his vehicle served their desires and clandestine behavior.

Roughly fifteen minutes passed and a female emerged from the nearby woods. She moved toward us. We were concerned she would blow our cover. To our shock, it was our client! She was so compelled to witness the affair for herself that she walked through heavy woods and brush to do so.

Auspiciously for us and her spouse, no confrontation ensued. If it weren't so heartbreaking, the episode would be humorous. Her garb was utterly out of place. A full-length white dress was the wrong attire for the woods. It seemed she never realized her mistake. Take my advice, please leave investigations to professionals.

4. Professional Testimony frequently prevails!
Finding yourself seated in a courtroom with two opposing attorneys, court employees, is the wrong time to realize how unprepared you are for day. You will need testimony from others. Friends can offer some degree of support for your case. They may hold up under cross examination. But if your witness list only includes family and friends, be prepared for a frightful revelation. Even though they are trustworthy, try convincing a court system. You are fighting a losing battle. Their innate bias and testimony bear little weight in the final assessment.

Are you confident your witnesses' testimony will have credibility? Do they possess the experience you need? After all, you have one chance in most family courtrooms. What if your witness is caught in a lie? You're finished! A judge will rule against you for bringing in someone who is not forthright.

Court testimony is enormously helpful; it often decides legal cases. My testimony has always made a positive difference. If your investigator obtains evidence for your case, use it to your family's advantage. Your kids may just have to visit as an alternative to dwelling with you.

5. Your emotions could get you thrown in jail.
Domestic investigations always bring concern for private investigative agencies. One notable case resulted in vehicular homicide. The Clara Harris asked her hired PI for the rendezvous site. She arrived in a rage and killed her spouse with her vehicle.

Clearly, when an investigation is warranted hire a professional and keep your distance. If you conduct your own surveillance, be prepared to defend yourself against a stalking charge. Keep your distance and your head!

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Locating People


Hunting for old friends via the Web carries risks!!

He was just trying to contact a long-lost friend, but the process separated Hector Mendez of San Antonio from a chunk of cash and his Internet naivete.

Mendez decided to look up his buddy using one of the dozens of for-fee people-finder services that litter the Web.

He had seen the e-mail ads: "Locate old classmates, missing family members and loves of your past! Find anyone."

After paying $30, Mendez realized that what he bought was a set of links to free public records open to all comers.

"The worst thing was that there wasn't even an address or telephone number to lodge a complaint," Mendez said. Consumer-complaint sites are loaded with similar stories.

"There is a ton of scams like that," said Ed Magedson, editor of "It's absolutely mind-boggling."

Separating the good from bad is tricky for the inexperienced. Many pitches promise inside information but contain disclaimers buried deep within hard-to-navigate Web pages.

Every professional whose job requires people-hunting has a favorite, but some services pop up time and again as accurate and reasonably priced.

Many newspapers use ( Accurint provides access to public information from hundreds of sources.

There is no activation fee or monthly minimum. In most cases, there is no charge for a search that does not produce a result.

A basic person search costs as little as 25 cents, and a comprehensive report including current address, historical addresses, phone numbers, property ownership information, vehicle registrations, driver's licenses and criminal convictions can be ordered for $4.50.

Attorneys and private investigators often use (, which requires a minimum yearly subscription of $25.

The basic plan allows up to 250 searches per year on its nationwide collection of court records and criminal convictions from about 40 states.

All these services require clients to sign documents attesting they have a legitimate reason for accessing the more revealing databases.

Net Detective ( and Web Detective (http://web-detective.

com) regularly appear at the top of search engine results. They also generate the most anger on Usenet consumer boards, Rip-off ( other complaint sites.

Net Detective says it has sold 750,000 subscriptions to what is essentially a well-organized set of links to free government information.

To be fair, the site's fine print says that the $29 service will only "help you find Internet resources quickly."

The rest is fluff: generic advice on records searching, celebrity address lookups and collections of state unclaimed-asset lists. Also, the site refunds the $29 when consumers complain. But that doesn't stop Net Detective from flooding you with offers of questionable products.

Like Net Detective, Web Detective ($30 for a lifetime membership) advertises through spam and affiliate Web sites used to push traffic to the parent corporation.

Unlike its counterpart, Web Detective is a jumbled mess to navigate.

More than 20 screens are filled with a hodgepodge of links to free public info. Even its most basic people-locating interface is difficult. But it will issue refunds when subscribers complain to its transaction-processing company.

Neither service returned phone calls or answered e-mail inquiries about their offerings.

Free resources

Make sure you've exhausted free resources before turning to pay services. Free services include: (, which lists more than 300 government and public Web sites when you click on the "Free Resources" link, and Searchsystems ( Many for-fee people locators merely give you links like this while promising much more.

Respected search engine companies that provide people-locating tools. Try the new Lycos People Search page ( or the Infospace White Pages (http://www.infospace. com/wp).

Genealogy sites, which are often information gold mines. Some people-finding services charge you to search Social Security death records, for example. At, more than 72 million Social Security death records are available for free queries at

Unclaimed property Web sites listed by the National Association of Unclaimed Property ( These include links to state government sites.


Before you pay for a people-locator service:

Make sure there is a working telephone number for handling billing complaints.

Check the service's reputation at consumer Web sites such as the Rip-off Report.

Beware of sites that charge a membership fee, then seek hefty charges for "premium" searches.

Look for discussions of other people's experiences on Irate consumers often relay negative experiences in groups such as alt.consumers.experiences on Google Groups.

Don't bite on unsolicited pitches arriving via e-mail. If it arrives in spam, it is most likely a scam.


Trailblazer Investigations Inc New York Private Investigator

Necessay Reading.......Hi Tech Can Save Your Life

Natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina can turn a high-tech culture into a decidedly low-tech one--where food, water and shelter are what matter most.

But that doesn't stop technologists from inventing devices for the disaster kit of the future. They're trying to provide for the most basic needs with technology that can turn sewer water into Gatorade, equip people with long-lasting lighting or save hypothermia victims without the use of electricity.

So if you're tech-savvy, and your home disaster kit already includes a flashlight, cans of food, bottled water, a first aid kit and plastic ponchos, then you may want to consider some advanced technologies for survival. After all, the U.S. government and the American Red Cross recommend that people prepare three days' worth of supplies and survival gear in the event disaster strikes. Katrina certainly underscored the merits of that recommendation. The following are some high-tech aids to augment a standard issue from the Red Cross:

A high-tech water dowser
Several companies are working on technology that can get potable water in any disaster, whether it be a flood, earthquake or shipwreck. Given that floods are the most common disaster in the United States, these items can come in handy.

What's new:
Technologists are inventing devices for the disaster kit of the future--and for the planner with money to spend, plenty of high-tech gadgets can provide basic needs.

Bottom line:
New technologies for survival kits include those that can turn sewer water into Gatorade, equip people with long-lasting lighting or save hypothermia victims without the use of electricity.

More stories on this topic

"Nano mesh" is a nanotechnology water filter that can remove bacteria and viruses so that they're at levels better than Environmental Protection Agency standards, according to its inventor, Seldon Laboratories, based in Windsor, Vt.

Founded in 2003, Seldon developed a new type of membrane based on carbon nanotubes--materials whose dimensions are 1 billionth of a meter. Without using electricity, heat or chemicals, the membrane will remove bacteria, viruses, lead, arsenic and other compounds that can affect taste or purity in water. Its "waterstick," barely bigger than a pencil and capable of filtering a liter of liquid in 90 seconds, lets people suck ditch water like they would using a straw in a glass of water.

Seldon CEO Alan Cummings said a prototype of the waterstick is being used by doctors in Africa and that it will be available commercially next year. Future devices from Seldon that tap into nanotechnology will include a seawater desalinization technology, which should be available in 2007, and an air filter to protect against airborne diseases like Avian flu.

Hydration Technologies, based in Albany, Ore., and supplier to the military, also uses a membrane filter, but works by fluid osmosis. It is hydrophylic (attracts water) and allows water to pass through, yet blocks very small contaminants. The flipside of the membrane is flavored so it can turn dirty puddle water into Gatorade.

High-tech warmth
If you've ever been in snowy mountains during winter, you may be familiar with the hand-size thermal packs you squeeze and stuff in a glove to ward off frostbite. Techtrade, based in New York, has developed a full-body version of that, in the form of a high-tech blanket. The U.S. Department of Defense includes this blanket in its own survival kits to treat people with shock, burns or hypothermia.
High tech copes with disaster

Ted Bart, president of Techtrade, invented the formula for a specialized medical nonwoven fabric, which once opened, will heat up to 104 degrees Farenheit in 15 to 30 minutes and stay that temperature for eight hours. TechTrade uses so-called radio frequency technology to weld the nonwoven fabric of the blanket within six seconds in order to avoid a quick chemical reaction from the bio-component material contained within the fabric.

The disposable blanket, called Ready-Heat, was approved by the Food and Drug Administration last September and went public in October 2004. Boundtree Medical in Ohio and Gall's Emergency Medical Service sell the blankets commercially for between $30 and $50.

The power-free energy source
One of the most significant tech innovations for survival kits in recent years is improved battery life. Most brands of batteries used to have a shelf life of a year or two, but now they're marked with expiration dates of five to seven years.

"Literally, a few years ago you'd have to change your batteries every year to ensure they'd work in a disaster," said David Scott, president of LifeSecure, a maker of survival kits. And while Scott recommends a trustworthy flashlight or battery radio for all disasters, solar- or crank-powered radios are making the grade for the advanced kit.

The Sherpa X-Ray Wind-up Torch, from Freeplay Energy in the United Kingdom, lets people hand crank a dependable light source. A 30-second wind will create light for five to eight minutes, and a constant crank of 40 minutes will fully charge the Sherpa. The device uses a dual-filament bulb that lasts up to 20 hours. It sells for about $30.

Indentifty Theft


Tammy Martin, a 37-year-old instructor at the University of Hawaii,


believe it.

"This is wild," she said. "You can't live your life in a balloon, you know? But this is just wild."

Her shock was warranted. I had just called her on an unlisted cellphone number and informed her that I had her Social Security number, Visa card number, bank account and personal identification numbers, and eBay account name and password.

If I chose, not only could I drain her bank account and rack up charges on the Visa, but with her Social Security number, I could probably open new credit cards - maybe even a mortgage - long before she discovered a problem. Ultimately, she would likely not be responsible for the charges, but it might take days - or months - to rectify her credit.

Martin was not a victim of identity theft. But the information was in the hands of a self-proclaimed identity thief. I received the information during an interview with someone who goes by the online nickname Bart Maza. He said he is an 18-year-old high school dropout in Russia. In total, he gave me the data of 17 people.

I'd written several articles about identity theft for the Globe, but this was the first time I attempted to directly contact an apparent identity thief. Although I had spoken to many law enforcement officials, private security investigators, victims, and consumer advocates about the issue, I decided to go to the source to truly understand how the identity theft supply chain operates - from the time that the data are stolen to the time that information is used fraudulently.

Over a six-week period, I talked or had online conversations with 17 "carders." These are thieves who obtain credit card numbers to resell or use for profit. A couple even promised to make me a "made guy" in their underground network. I never put the advice into action, but I did learn that becoming an identity thief is frighteningly simple.

None of the apparent identity thieves interviewed would reveal their identities. I took whatever steps I could to verify that the people whom I wrote to actually were identity thieves. I never asked for stolen information, but several thieves became so eager to prove that they were criminals that they sent me stolen data, like that from Bart Maza, or showed me evidence of criminal transactions.

I also couldn't confirm the details of each of their stories, but the general outline of such scam operations was confirmed as plausible by investigators at private security firms Cyota and VeriSign/iDefense and by Larry Johnson, a special agent in charge of the Secret Service's criminal investigative division.

Finding an identity thief is not difficult. I searched for "credit card dumps" on Google - "dump" is slang for the information contained on a credit card's magnetic strip - and found posts on message boards where people purported to sell stolen information.

A self-described 18-year-old college student in Brazil who called himself Tony was my first contact in the stolen credit card market. He said he started his identity theft business about two months ago.

He said his first two weeks of business brought in $1,500. Once he becomes a well-known distributor of the product, he expects that he can make at least twice that much per week.

In a phone interview, he said that he read about credit card scams in a newspaper article, performed a quick Internet search, and found some of the same message boards that I used to contact thieves. He got in touch with thieves through the Internet, bought some of their product, and was reselling stolen credit card dumps before the week was out.

"My parents would be really mad," Tony said. "I do get worried, but I find it's really hard to get caught."

Tony, like all savvy Internet thieves, uses a virtual private network that masks his computer's true Internet Protocol address every time he logs on. An IP address is a unique identifying number assigned to every computer connected to the Internet. Without the network, Tony's computer could easily be tracked by authorities.

Another apparent thief, who uses the name Ast--wave, said he is a 20-year-old Romanian expatriate living in New York City and makes as much as $50,000 a month.

He buys stolen credit card information, encodes it onto forged plastic credit cards to make purchases, and then resells the items on eBay. An eBay spokesman says the online auction house cannot authenticate the origin of goods sold on its site so it doesn't know if some are stolen.

Although Ast--wave declined to give his name, he provided a Bank of America account number and personal identification number that allegedly could be used to log onto a stolen account online. He intended for me to log in myself and verify that it was stolen. Doing so would be illegal, so I didn't try.

How much can someone make? It depends on what part of the supply chain you decide to be on.

A 24-year-old college dropout from the Los Angeles area who is known in the online underground as G152xx says he runs a typical scam operation. He told me that he pays six waiters at four upscale restaurants to steal customers' credit card information when they charge a meal.

G152xx says he then resells the information for between $6 and $20, depending on the credit card type, and gives the waiters a 40 percent cut. He charges $6 for stolen Visa Classic and MasterCard accounts. More lucrative American Express or Discover accounts are $20, since they typically have higher limits.

Officials at American Express and other credit card companies have said they are aware of identity thieves, and they have systems to monitor identity theft rings and software that alerts them of unusual activity.

The final purchaser of the credit card numbers makes the most money but bears the most risk, encoding the data onto a blank credit card and using it at stores that give cash back until the limit is reached or the card is reported as stolen.

To make sure that he or she isn't caught redhanded when the card is reported, the thief periodically tests it anonymously at a place like a self-serve gas station. If the card does not work at the gas station, the thief knows to discard it and move on to the next credit card.

G152xx told me that he runs his ring like any other successful small company and sometimes runs marketing gimmicks to draw customers. In addition to posting on message boards to promote himself as a source of stolen information, for $600 per month he purchased a banner advertisement - much like the online advertisements that appear on other websites - from a message board frequented by thieves. The banner asks "Why pay for anything?" followed by his contact information, which I used to reach him.

During one of many interviews with G152xx, he explained why he breaks the law. "The cash! and that ATM feeling - money counting," he wrote.

Back when G152xx "cashed out" stolen bank accounts and bought goods with stolen credit cards, he says he made about $10,000 to $15,000 per week. Now that he's just selling the information to other criminals, he says his take has dropped to a few thousand dollars per week, depending on customer traffic.

To get a business started that would use information stolen by G152xx's ring, criminals from the network that I tapped into said I would need to buy two things: a machine to encode the magnetic strips on the back of credit cards and a virtual private network to protect my computer's identity.

Although identity theft can occur in a number of ways, G152xx's information would be used to create fake plastic credit cards that could be used in stores.

My own research on eBay showed that about $500 could buy a machine needed to encode credit cards with stolen information. Another $50 would go to subscribe to a virtual private network, much like the one described by Tony, to shield my computer's identi . A final $300 might be spent on the data itself and could buy a small lot of 15 American Express accounts from G152xx.

My informants said that my chances of getting caught would be slim to none, although law enforcement officials say the criminals can be caught.

Experienced thieves like G152xx and Bart Maza use multiple virtual private networks, much like the one used by Tony, to decrease the likelihood of being located. Even if government agents managed to compromise the first network, they would need to compromise several others before reaching my computer.

And if I were particularly bold, I could not only empty the accounts of targets provided by Maza, but I could use the information to open new lines of credit under the target's name.

"His balance may be like $15,000. So, you just take everything from him," G152xx said. "It makes you feel powerful."

Maza's persistence in proving that he was an identity thief put me in an awkward position. After giving me personal information belonging to 17 people, I began contacting them to verify - and warn them that they could be potential victims of theft. They were located in six different countries, and many did not speak English. I warned 10 of them.

Most were grateful to be warned but as can be expected, some were deeply suspicious.

When I asked the daughter of an Illinois resident to tell her mother that I had her financial information, she politely took down my information and hung up the phone. A couple minutes later, I got a call from her local police department. It took some time, but I did convince the officer that I was a reporter and wouldn't use the information illegally.

Others on the list channeled shock into anger.

"I'm going to fry him," said Joseph Berning, a 45-year old living in Cincinnati and another potential victim on my list. When I informed him that the thief said he was in Russia, he calmed down. An officer from his local police department called me to verify my identity.

Although Maza declined to give the source of his data, some of the people on the list, including Tammy Martin and Berning, remembered receiving an e-mail that looked like it came from the online payment system PayPal. The e-mail asked to verify their information, and they responded to it. Martin and Berning were likely victims of "phishing" - spam purporting to come from banks or services such as PayPal that dupe customers into divulging financial information.

"I have other data," Maza promised. I asked him not to send any more.

(c) 2005 The Boston Globe