You Can't Handle the Truth!


That’s what we call it in our little tree house. Pretexting. In elementary school when I told the teacher the dog ate my homework, they called it lying. When a candidate for the Presidency of the United States looked at the camera and said he didn’t inhale, they called it lying. When the son of the Nigerian Treasury Minister sends you an e-mail promising to deposit money in your account but first he needs your account number and a good faith deposit, it’s lying.

But in my job, it’s pretexting. And let’s face it; it’s part of what private investigators do. We obtain information that someone wants, but cannot get through conventional channels. Usually because the other party does not want our client to know said information. So how do we get it? By lyin…uh, pretexting.

An old PI buddy of mine has a saying: “Never resort to the truth if a good lie will get it.”

Now, believe it or not, there are rules to pretexting. There are things you can and cannot say to obtain information. For example, you can’t represent yourself as an agent of a real company. So if you are trying to locate Mr. So-and-So, you can’t call his Mother’s house and say you’re a UPS driver trying to deliver him a package. Another no-no is representing yourself as a law enforcement officer of agent of the state. That should go without saying, but so should “Clorox is not meant for human consumption”. Some people need the rules spelled out in painstaking detail.

And of course there are assorted other rules, but other than that PI’s are limited only by their imaginations as to how they develop information. There are a few “standard” or “classic” pretexts, but most investigator’s come up with their own spiel that they know and are comfortable using. It’s also important to come up with a pretext name. This is your fake name you use while spouting out your fake spiel. I can’t stress enough the importance of using the same name every time. Otherwise, you get into situations like this hypothetical phone locate:

PI: “Hi, this is Jimmy Dale McGillicutty. Is Steve in?”

Clueless: “No, Steve doesn’t live here anymore.”

PI: “Oh really? Well I run a temp agency and someone referred him to me about taking a possible work assignment from us.”

Clueless: “Oh! Well I’ll take a message and have him call you when I see him. What was your name again?”

PI: “Uhhhhh…Stevie Ray Mcgregor.”

(Not So) Clueless: “Didn’t you just say Jimmy Dale Something-or-other?”

PI: “(Panicked) Uhhhhh…Jimmy Dale McMahon?”

(Not So) Clueless: “No, I wrote it down. I just wanted to make sure I spelled it right. You can’t remember your own name?”

PI: “Uhhhhh…(Panic)….I, uhhhhhh….(Megapanic)…That is, I, uhhh…(‘Click’)

There you have it. Pretext blown. Practice using the same pretext name until you learn to answer to it like the one your Momma gave you. It’ll save your skin in the long run.

There you have it, troops. Now get out there and start lying…I mean…pretexting…


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10:03 PM  
Anonymous Private Investigator Austin said...

For the longest I used to have troubles explaining to a neighbor why I've been sitting in a neighborhood for hours on end. Now if I'm far enough from the target's house, I may tell the neighbor that I'm a private investigator looking for a sex offender in their neighborhood. Lol, I keep a picture of a real sex offender - one who looks like sin itself with me and ask the person if they have seen them. Of course the person becomes very helpful and no longer minds me hanging around the neighborhood. Seems to always work but should be done only if you are a good ways away from the person you are investigating.

2:32 AM  

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