Searching for Electronic Eavesdropping devices, otherwise known as a bug sweep, is becoming an important necessity for companies and private citizens. Whether used by a spouse, friend, significant other, or competitors in business, surveillance is widespread in attempting to collect information, trade secrets, marketing plans and more.
What do you ask a TSCM technician when hiring to search for these unlawful devices? Is a company that specifically performs electronic eavesdropping bug sweeps better to hire than a licensed Private Investigation company? These questions are asked often and there are internet articles from both sides.
Many TSCM technicians that are trained in and have gone to the expense of obtaining the right equipment for this specialty, work together networking. We assist each other with questions and experiences we have had in certain inspections, regardless of if state licensed or not. This is good business practice. However, reference the question above, there are less than a hand full of organizations that will loathe any Private Investigation company performing bug sweeps stating many theories to their opinion. And unfortunately, there is some credence on a few tantrums to their obvious hatred against Private Investigators.
We’ve seen cases where a Private Investigator (or John Doe) buys a few advertised bug detectors on eBay or Amazon for a couple of hundred dollars and then decides they are experts, charging thousands of dollars cash only. This is a sad reality in which we would have to agree with their hypothesis on this. TSCM is a specialized field and is very expensive to get in to. Similarly, due to the changing technology, the training is an ongoing necessity.
In answer to this question in the following headers, we would say do your homework, vet the companies you contact, ask them what type of equipment they use, as there’s no such thing as a silly question so don’t be afraid to ask. Make sure you feel comfortable with all your answers. It’s okay to call around and you should. One note here, before calling if you really believe something is wrong, call from a phone you don’t suspect may be compromised and feel comfortable with.
Some TSCM techs may only have 3 years’ experience but are busy weekly performing sweeps and performing security and privacy analysis. Others may advertise that they have decades of experience but have 4 to 5 years’ certificate trained experience performing sweeps. Ask to see a certificate of training when they arrive. Ask them what their policy is for training when you’re vetting.
Do they send you an agreement to sign and follow up with an invoice? One that you can pay online and have a copy for your record, or do they ask for only cash? There are never checks accepted since the check can be stopped or can act like a super ball and bounce to the heavens. Sometimes the client, such as a celebrity, for example, may not want to have a paper trail on their end. Excluding the TSCM agreement and Non-Disclosure Agreement the celebrity asks the technician to sign, payment is made with cash. On the investigator’s side, there should still be a paid invoice associated with income.
Some companies charge by the square foot of a residence or office, others charge a flat fee, while others charge for the time, travel, and expenses. There are some that bug-sweep for cash only boasting they never report most of it as income, which in of itself can lead to dire consequences with IRS field agents knocking on doors, fines and sometimes even jail time. Ask the business what their policy is on payments and how they charge, and why?
There are federal laws, and each state has its own laws. “18 U.S. Code § 2511 – Interception and disclosure of wire, oral, or electronic communications prohibited” is one of the federal laws. As for the state of California, Penal Code 632, thru PC 637.2 demonstrates their laws on eavesdropping including injury. California is a two-party state. However, there are exceptions within the Codes, and just because you may be out in public, doesn’t necessarily protect you from photographing or recording someone.
Currently 38 states allow only one party to know the conversation is being recorded.
There should always be some type of agreement. This protects you the client as well as the Technician. As for TSCM technicians, on their agreement there should be at a minimum, three options for the client to choose from if an illegal electronic eavesdropping device is found in or on their property. Agreements can be anywhere from one page to several, and could have a separate agreement for GPS trackers. You should also ask the TSCM technician if they have the capability, equipment, and knowledge to collect evidence properly and create a report suitable for court for you and/or attorney if required?
TSCM Technicians always ask for a retainer up front regardless of whether they are a licensed Private investigator. It’s the same as any service that an investigator, attorney or other profession asks for prior to performing a service. Clients pay retainers in advance to cover time, travel, and expenses.
In the past, TSCM sweeps have occurred for clients and when nothing was found the client refused to pay for the service. TSCM Technicians provide a very specialized service and cannot find an unwanted listening device if it’s simply not there. A technician’s job is to locate and if there isn’t anything, give the client that peace of mind.
Some TSCM bug-sweep companies state on their website and advertising they do not and will not perform investigations. So what is considered an investigation?
Definition of investigate (From Merriam Webster)
: to observe or study by close examination and systematic inquiry
: to make a systematic examination especially: to conduct an official inquiry
The Bureau of Security and Investigative Services (ca.gov) states, “A private investigator is an individual who amongst other duties (1) investigates crimes, (2) investigates the identity, business, occupation, character, etc., of a person, (3) investigates the location of lost or stolen property, (4) investigates the cause of fires, losses, accidents, damage, or injury, or (5) secures evidence for use in court. Private investigators may protect persons only if such services are incidental to an investigation; they may not protect property.”
A Private Investigator must also go through a strict background investigation through the California Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Other states follow this guideline such as Kansas with the Attorney General and Kansas Bureau of Investigation (KBI).
Specialized companies that just perform TSCM sweeps do not have to go through any of the strict background guidelines. However, there are a few very good reputable organizations that do work for government agencies and do have clearances, and/or have within the company licensed Accredited Private Investigators.
A TSCM Technician Inspects, makes a systematic examination of property and in some cases people. Technicians conduct in other words, an official investigation as to whether the client has unknown unwanted illegal listening devices or hidden cameras known as electronic eavesdropping devices. And if found notify authorities and or collect the evidence for court. Many states have laws that direct people performing investigations with boots on the ground, to be licensed.
Would you rather have a licensed, insured, Private Investigator who’s trained, or a company specializing in only TSCM and not able to investigate if they indeed found a device? Its up to you to decide after asking the above questions. It may depend on your location, who is available, what your needs are, state and local law enforcement regulations, or the size of the project.
We do not perform any Sweeps/Inspections for people that are under investigation by law enforcement.
Do not install any illegal devices.
And we do not accept projects without a specified scope.
Here at Fullcircle Investigations we provide professional eavesdropping detection and counter-surveillance services. For small businesses/corporations, residential and select private clients including celebrities. When requested or required, as a licensed Private Investigation company, we do perform investigations working with attorneys and law enforcement. However, additional services fees may be required. We sweep with equipment charting the environment for threats within the frequency bands associated. And demodulate (extract) the signals to detect active and non-active devices. This includes telecommunications, carrier current, thermal analysis, and so much more.
Our in-house TSCM technician also utilizes multiple certifications in Open-Source Intelligence as a Privacy and Security Analyst. This added analysis during the sweep assists the technician in discovery of security or privacy vulnerabilities in the environment as well as the client’s online presence when needed. If there are deeper weaknesses discovered and there is a need for the clients PC(s) forensically searched, the technician will direct you to the right company that specializes in computer forensics.
The equipment we utilize is the very same technology used by government entities, to detect technical threats and emerging threats. This includes Audio, Video, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Cellular, IR, Visible Light, Ultra Sonic, Acoustic Leakage, and Carrier Current Signals. We also have Data Logging capability when necessary. The equipment is state of the art, and made in the United States, manufactured on the same premises as the training environment. There is also specialized equipment available made in Britain and Germany that we use.
If there is a large project requiring additional support, we do vet and verify that the additional technicians meet our training requirements and they have the same or additional equipment necessary. For the ease of the client there is but one single point of contact (SPOC) during a bug-sweep. All other technicians report to the SPOC.
Technicians we utilize are well trained and have certifications available upon request at arrival of a sweep and analysis. Each TSCM technician has gone through training courses which incorporate classroom instruction and hands-on exercises. Students acquire knowledge of the equipment and perform sweep exercises in “live” situations utilizing “target strong” mission rooms.
Our Technicians are required to attend a minimum of 6 or more seminars/refresher courses periodically throughout each year by the manufacturer and training. This ensures we keep up with the latest technologies and any changes.
Whether sweeping in the client’s residence, vehicle, office, or recreational vehicles, we provide all our clients with the peace of mind they deserve priding ourselves in giving every client personal, and discrete privacy.
Are you in need of private investigation services?
We are ready to accommodate your inquiries, please visit our Eavesdropping page here.
Contact us today and benefit from our commitment-free preliminary consultation.
You may or may not require a sweep.
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