The franchisor of a national chain of food outlets was concerned either the franchisee at one particular store was taking money from the till or, unknown to management, one or more staff members were doing so.
Franchise fees were payable on turnover, so any decrease in the stores profits impacted on the franchisor.
The franchisor also considered it was possible store revenue was simply down for other unknown reasons. We were asked to investigate.
Manned surveillance to record all till activity was attempted, but this was deemed unviable on a long term basis. It did, however, confirm there was no downturn in general trade. Customers were counted over extended periods and this showed no anomalies with older trading records.
The franchisor owned the business premises and, on our advice, requested after-hours access to the premises so a “smoke detector” could be installed. This was done, but the smoke detector also had an extra component, a hidden camera, which transmitted a video feed to a digital recording device which was secured in near-by premises.
The camera was positioned directly over the till and was able to record what went into and out of the cash drawer. This was subsequently matched to the daily till records, which the franchisee was obliged to provide to the franchisor.
We found the franchisee (the store owner) attended the store very infrequently and when they did, it was only for short periods. It seemed they relied very heavily on their staff.
All cash transactions at the till was reviewed and matched with the till records. Of the five full and part-time staff employed, four were confirmed to be short changing the till. The till was frequently left partially open after transactions and on numerous occasions, customer change was provided, but the sale was not recorded on the till.
The franchisee was advised of our investigation. Four staff members were dismissed and replaced. The franchisee was required to spend more time at the store to supervise staff.
Our client was a large company providing a particular trade service as a franchise. They were concerned one of the franchisees was conducting work on the side under his own business name. His personal mobile phone number was being used in advertisements in local newspapers where he resided.
Through personal contacts, we were given permission to use an unattended house that needed the services of that particular franchise.
The subject of our investigation was contacted through his advertisement in a local paper and arrangements were made for him to attend that address to quote on the work required. Naturally, his quote was accepted.
We attended that location and covert video was exposed of the franchisee undertaking that work. His vehicle was signed under his own business name, he wore a polo shirt advertising his own business and we were provided with a receipt for the work undertaken in his own business name.
The video taken of the work conducted included audio of the investigation subject telling us about his business plans, which did not include his contractual obligations to the franchise owner.
The Statutory Declaration provided by us, along with the video and other documentary supporting material, was used by the franchise owner's legal department to pursue their claim against the franchisee.
We were not informed of the final outcome.
I've lost track of the amount of times a client has asked for surveillance to be conducted to identify where someone lives.
The inquiry might start with something like: "I know where s/he works, so you could follow them from there to their home."
Sometimes, this might be the only viable and cost-effective way of getting that information.
But, in every one of these situations I also ask beforehand whether that person is likely to own their own home. If the answer is yes, then a $35 property ownership search will get the client the information they need. Other database searches can also be conducted, depending on the information available, and spending a little extra on searches is certainly better that spending several hundred dollars on surveillance.
Yes, we're giving our clients options that reduce our income, but any professional agency worthy of their licence should be doing the same - saving their clients money. It's a pity that isn't always the case.
We were contacted by a female (let’s call her Vanessa) who had been emailing a US soldier in Iraq for several months. His name was Michael Smith – this was the actual name used.
Vanessa was asked by Michael to apply for leave on his behalf as his fiancé. But, this request also involved her sending $3,200 to help facilitate the leave request.
Naturally, Vanessa was concerned this might have been a scam and we were asked to look into the matter.
We arranged for a “special” email to be sent to Michael, which revealed the IP address of the PC he was using.
The PC being used by “Michael Smith” was in Togo, a small country in Africa just to the left of Nigeria - need we say more?
We were pleased to have assisted Vanessa and there was no charge for our services.
There is no inherent problem with corresponding with unknown people via the internet or email. However, always treat requests for money, regardless of how plausible, with a high degree of suspicion. Do what Vanessa did and get them checked out.
The owner of a chain of motels was concerned the current husband and wife managers of one particular motel were taking room bookings and not logging them on the system. Cash payments for rooms were a current occurrence and the owner was concerned these cash payments were being pocketed.
We checked into that particular motel on several occasions, paying cash. Spot checks were also conducted on consecutive days to identify what vehicles were parked outside what rooms and also what rooms had lights on inside – to identify that someone was actually staying inside the rooms.
Subsequent checks by the owner identified regular occurrences of rooms, which had been identified by us to be occupied, were not logged into the system.
A subsequent and unannounced attendance by the owner resulted in both managers admitting their guilt. They were immediately dismissed.