Tim Santoni - President/CEO of Santoni Investigations

Trends 2019 – From Tim Santoni

In our business we work with businesses and their trusted advisors (Lawyers, CPA’s, Commercial Insurance Brokers, Business Brokers, Human Resources Consultants, Brand Managers, Marketing Teams & Consultants).  Our investigation and background checks are really just a tool to help mitigate risk in the hiring process or develop evidence and information to make an informed legal or business decision. As we enter the 4th quarter, I wanted to point out some trends that I have observed as a result of our work and interactions with our clients.

Investigations

In the information age that we live there are vast amount of data and information available online through free and paid providers.  The parsing through and verifying of this information is now the challenge.  Online research tools and Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) are becoming the standard to conduct background research on litigants and people injured at work and in automobile accidents.  The open source tools offering by OSINT and other providers have been maliciously hacked and were forced to be taken down. Many of the free tools available are now protected behind paid sites or software offerings.  As far as new searches go, the Vehicle Sighting Reports is an amazing tool to track down where someone is living, working and who they might be associating with.  If at all possible insurance carriers would forego the expense related with surveillance/subrosa and activity checks if they can get more cost effective information obtained through databases.

Background Screening Trends

Industries with forced compliance such as, Finance/Banking, Information/Technology (IT), Construction & Healthcare are consistently in need of custom background screening programs to meet the requirements of their contracts with state and government agencies.  Employers are also looking into continuous monitoring of criminal activity so they are alerted when current employees have runs in with the law.  Proper authorizations and disclosures are a key focus of plaintiff attorneys looking to files cases against employers and  background screening companies which are often referred to as CRA’s.  Electronic Authorizations and Disclosures are emerging as a great solution to decrease turnaround time on background checks while maintaining compliance.  

IP & Brand Protection

Trademark clearance and registration related investigations are on the rise with increased Trademark Applications being filed.  Trademark applications from Chinese based applicants have really spiked. There is an increasing need to identify rogue sellers of infringing and counterfeit products on sites like Amazon that often give counterfeiters an identity shield. We are seeing an increased need for evidentiary “undercover” buys from sellers that are not having their sales fulfilled by Amazon and other e-Commerce providers in an effort to identify and enforce. The removal of domain name ownership records, commonly referred to as “WHOIS” data is making it more and more difficult for brand owners and their attorneys to identify the operators of rogue sites that are selling counterfeit/infringing products.  The lack of WHOIS information is also impacting the ability for online brand protection providers to send automated C&D letters as the first step in the enforcement process.

Risk Mitigation

Open Workers’ Comp Claims are still an ongoing concern for many California employers.  Businesses are frustrated with the lingering claims that are costing them time and money.  They are also fighting back to show their employees that they do not pay out on exaggerated and fraudulent claims.  Trade Secret & IP theft is now a concern for all types of employers. We are seeing an overwhelming need to upgrade and update IT policies so that when internal theft of IP occurs it can be investigated and tied to the perpetrator.  If employers are hit with Trade Secret, IP Theft and Employment Practices lawsuits they need to look at having an on-demand computer forensics partner to forensically preserve the data in a timely manner to avoid spoliation and overwriting.