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ACFE Webinar On Social Engineering

Posted by Bill on June 6, 2008

AFCE, the premier certified fraud examiners site, is having a webinar on social engineering.  Social engineering is getting information from people through various manipulative schemes–pretexting, phishing etc.  This webinar sounds like it should excellent for the professional investigator.  See AFCE Webinar

Bill Lowrance

President PIAVA


Social Engineering – The Foundation of Today’s Fraud Schemes

June 19, 2008 at 12:00 PM EDT
Duration: 100 minutes

Many fraudsters are adept at utilizing social engineering to successfully execute their schemes. The art of manipulating people, whether through pretexting, phishing, or other information-collecting techniques, is based on exploiting human weaknesses and decision-making biases to the direct benefit of the fraudster. This presentation will detail the elements and indicators of social engineering, provide examples of current social engineering schemes, review the risks entailed by these schemes and provide best practices for risk mitigation.

Learning Objectives:
• Understanding social engineering principals
• Identifying the red flags of social engineering attempts
• Possessing best practices and resources for related risk mitigation

Who Should Attend:
• Certified Fraud Examiners and other anti-fraud specialists
• Law Enforcement
• Loss prevention and security professionals
• Forensic accountants
• Internal and independent auditors
• Business managers and professionals assuming fraud deterrence or investigation responsibilities


Jon McDowall, CFE, PCI, CIFI

Chief Executive Officer
Fraud Resource Group

Prices listed below reflect the Early Bird Discount and will end on June 12:
Member $99
Non-member $149


Posted in crime, fraud, Investigations, PI Chatter, police, private detective, private investigations, private investigator, private investigators | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Pretexting Couple Plead Guilty

Posted by Bill on May 26, 2008

    In December 2007 we wrote about the indictment and arrest of several private investigators and personal information researchers pretexting the IRS, medical offices, Social Security Administration and others for personal information.  Click Here to Read 

This month, May 2008, the two main pretexting individuals, Emilio Torrella, 36, and Brandy Torrella, 27, whose company BNT Investigations in Belfair, WA, sold the data for $30 to $300 a record to private investigators who used their services.  The Torrellas obtained the information through false representations.  This month the couple pled guilty.

The Torellas, who owned BNT Investigations in Belfair, sold the data for $30 to $300 a record to private investigators who used their services.

The couple face a mandatory minimum sentence of two years for aggravated identity theft, plus additional time for wire fraud and conspiracy.

The year-long investigation, dubbed “Operation Dialing for Dollars,” led to the couple’s indictment in December 2007, along with the indictment of seven private investigators and another Belfair man, BNT Investigations employee Steven Berwick. Cases against those eight are set for trial in September.  Read full news article Click Here Seattle PI. See Torrella Plea Agreement

BIll Lowrance

President PIAVA


Posted in Investigations, law enforcement, private detective, private investigations, private investigators | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

More Telephone Pretexting–When Will They Learn

Posted by Bill on January 29, 2008

telephone.jpg  The Federal Trade Commission is at it again.  The FTC announced yesterday that a District Court ordered Accusearch in Wyoming not to pretext phone companies and sell the information.  Folks, people or firms who get telephone customer information by pretexting the phone company are not within the law.  Do not deal with them.  See FTC Press Release HereSee PC World Story Here

See Court Order Here

Later I will post other misdeeds or trials for other wayward private investigators.  If anyone wants to hire private investigators make sure they do the work legally and within the law.

Bill Lowrance

President PIAVA

Information Insights Inc.

Posted in attorneys, crime, Investigations, lawyers, PI Chatter, PIAVA, private detective, private investigations, private investigators | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

More On Pretxing PIs

Posted by Bill on December 24, 2007

closed.jpg    Back on December 7 or so, I posted the news that 10 people were indicted by the Federal government for various charges relating to pretexting by two individuals in Belfair, WA.  See Prexting Post

Well, it turns out that the two Belfair, WA, people doing the pretexting, Emilio and Brandy Torella, were reported to the Washington’s Department of Licensing for operating an unlicensed investigations business.  The Department investigates unlicensed private investigators.  To operate a private investigation business in Washington you must be licensed.  If you are not, you are subject to a prosecution for a gross misdemeanor.   The Department had received a complaint that the Torrella’s were operating a private investigations firm out of a Belfair strip mall without a state mandated investigator’s license.

In a Kitsap Sun news article dated December 21, 2007, The Washington Department of Licensing states that “We were aware of unlicensed activity, . . . but we didn’t get to point of investigating it because of the federal government’s investigations.”  See Kitsap Sun Article Here.  Let’s see, you, the Department of Licensing, did not get to the point of investigating the alleged unlicensed activity because of the federal government’s investigation?  Does the federal government always tell you what to do and how to run the Washington licensing affairs?  Roll over, Fido.

The article reports that Washington’s leading licensed private investigators are upset that the Belfair couple have been labeled licensed investigators when clearly they were not.  Former and officers of the Washington Association of Legal Investigators said that legitimate, licensed Washington investigators do not conduct activities such as those in the Belfair couple’s indictment. 

Ummm, would the US Attorney’s office in Seattle mind clearing up the misunderstanding in the headlines of their press release that indicate all those indicted were licensed private investigators?  Probably not!

Bill Lowrance

President PIAVA

Posted in attorneys, crime, Investigations, law enforcement, lawyers, PIAVA, private detective, private investigations, private investigators | Tagged: , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

FTC Settles Florida Pretexting Phone Plot

Posted by Bill on December 17, 2007

Phone line    Thanks to Bruce Hulme, NCISS Legislative Director, NCISS, for alerting us that the Federal Trade Commission settled a telephone pretext case filed against CEO Group Inc., doing business as “Check Em Out,” and five other Web-based operations that obtained and sold consumer’s confidential telephone records to third parties.  The defendants were charged by the FTC with violating the Telecommunications Act of 1996 which provides that customer’s phone records may only be disclosed “upon affirmative written request by the customer.”  Read the FTC’s press release here

Read the court filing Pretext CEO Case

In another FTC case filed in the US District Court, Middle District of Florida, against Action Research and Joseph Depante a motion to stay was recently filed asking that the FTC be given time to consider a settlement.  See the filed Motion:  FTC Pretext Depante

Bill Lowrance

President PIAVA

Posted in attorneys, Investigations, lawyers, PIAVA, private detective, private investigations, private investigators, Virginia | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »


Posted by Bill on December 10, 2007

Later today, I will write about legality of pretexting and investigations, not a legal opinion, you understand, but educational and practical.

On the Blog side here, if you want to comment to any post, click on “No Comment” at bottom of the post.  Then you can comment in the dialogue box.

Thanks and so long for now,

Bill Lowrance

President PIAVA

Posted in attorneys, fraud, Investigations, law enforcement, lawyers, PI Chatter, PIAVA, private detective, private investigations, private investigators, Virginia | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Private Investigators Indicted for Pretext Fraud–Lawyers Probed in Pretext Theft

Posted by Bill on December 7, 2007

Ten private investigators were indicted on December 5, 2007,in Seattle, WA, by the U.S. Attorney’s office.  The ten are:

Emilio A. Torrella, Brandy Torrella, both from Belfair, WA. BNT Investigations, Steven W. Berwik, Belfair, WA, BNT Investigations, Victoria J. Tade, C.I. Inc., San Diego, CA,  Megan M. Ososke, P.I. & Information Services, Beaverton, OR, Robert Grieve and Ziad N. Sakhleh, Robert Grieve International, Houston, TX,  Patrick A. Bombino and Esaun G. Pinto , AAA Allstate Investigations, Brooklyn, NY, and Darci P. Templeton, Houston, TX.  They were charged with Conspiracy to Defraud, Wire Fraud, Fraudulent Elicitation of Social Security Administration Information, Solicitation of Federal Tax Information, and Aggravated Identity Theft–see the Pretext Indictment Dec. 2007.

The ABA Journal Law News reports that the investigation may involve lawyers across the country as many businesses and lawyers hired BNT Investigations to obtain confidential information by pretext.  BNT Investigations obtain confidential information for as many as 12,000 individuals involved in bankruptcies, law suits, divorces and collection efforts.  BNT services were utilized by attorneys, insurance companies and collection companies to investigate the backgrounds of opposing parties and witnesses, and to uncover assets or income for satisfaction of debts, according to the indictment. See Aba Journal. See other stories Seattle Times

The alleged defendants collected information via pretext from the I.R.S., Social Security Administration, various State Unemployment Insurance Departments, private financial institutions, banks, pharmacies and hospitals.  The alleged defendants fraudulently posed as the individuals about who information was sought. 

Particularly disturbing to me is the pretexting of the I.R.S., Social Security Administration and medical facilities.  Clearly obtaining confidential information from the entities is protected by specific laws.  I advise that readers look over the indictment carefully.  Professional investigators do not violate the law to obtain information, and that should be clearly explained to every potential client.  The alleged defendants, the indictment reads, collected federal tax return information (clearly confidential), Federal employment tax records, bank account information, employment earnings from Social Security, prescription and medical information.

If attorneys or other professional investigators used such pretexting methods to collect such information for their cases, there may be serious criminal, professional and ethical implications.  Gathering such information is not worth your license to practice your profession whether you are a professional investigator or an attorney in private practice.

Keep your professions legal and honorable.

Bill Lowrance

President PIAVA

Posted in attorneys, fraud, Investigations, law enforcement, lawyers, PIAVA, police, private detective, private investigations, private investigators, Public Records, Virginia | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »