Followed by a workcover private investigator?

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Talking about snooping and surveillance, many injured workers have asked us what to do if they believe they are being followed by a  workcover Private Investigator. There are a variety of actions an injured worker will or can take if they find out they are being followed, bearing in mind that PIs do not have  police powers and that their snooping must be done with the same authority as a private citizen. PIs must have a good understanding of federal, state laws, such as privacy laws, and other legal issues affecting their work. Otherwise, evidence they collect may not be useable in court.

Followed by a workcover private investigator?

A case of rough shadowing surveillance

Not long ago we received an email from an injured worker who was adamant that several private investigators, associated to a workcover insurance company, had been following him over a period of several months (off and on). This injured worker told us that he believed that the private investigators had broken “every law in the book” while following him; including reckless driving, traffic violation (going through red light and speeding), trespassing and trying to “rope” him.

What this injured worker described was what workcover private investigators call “rough shadowing”. Rough shadowing basically means that a PI continues to conduct surveillance even after the case has been compromised and the PI is being aware that the injured worker (aka as the “subject”)  knows they are being followed. It is  surveillance that is obvious or indiscreet to the “subject”.

How do injured workers respond or react when they know they are being followed?

There are a variety of actions an injured worker will take if they find out they are being followed. Typical responses by the injured worker include (in no particular order):

  • Attack  (usually verbally) the private investigator
  • Threaten the private investigator
  • Stop and make an obvious gesture to the PI to let them know you know they are being followed
  • act as if they don’t notice the private investigator
  • Stop their car in a random location (i.e. side of the freeway/street) – if followed on the road
  • Follow the investigator
  • Have someone else (i.e. neighbour, friend, spouse etc) scope out and possibly approach the PI
  • Call the police

Questions

  • So which of these injured worker’s actions in response to being followed would be the safest and most appropriate?
  • Think about what a typical workcover private investigator would do if you gave them an indication that you were aware of their presence?

We know from our interaction with spied-upon injured workers that, in most cases, a private investigator will simply stop conducting surveillance and leave the area, when caught red-handed. By law (i.e Code of Conduct for Private Investigators VIC) “PIs are NOT allowed to continue surveillance if the Investigator suspects that the subject has discovered their surveillance

PIs are doing their job and don’t want you to be “fearful” nor do they want an argument because they were caught following you. Saying that we also know that there are some stubborn, desperate, pathetic and/or inexperienced PIs who believe that they can either continue to follow you detected or undetected on that day or at a later date.

So what do you do if you believe you are being followed by a PI?

Take the poll

What do or would you do if you believe you are being followed by a PI?

Foremost, we strongly feel you should do whatever you feel is safe/safest  for you (and your family).

You also need to take into consideration the possibility that the person who is following you is not a workcover private investigator.There are some crazy folks out there. What if the person following you is doing so to stalk or hurt you or your family? Is it possible that the individual following you is a private investigator, but that s/he has mistaken you for someone else? Truth behold, you really  don’t know why an individual is following you.

With that being said we would recommend that you call your local police station and tell them that you are being followed. Give the police  a good description of either the individual of their car. If possible obtain the license plate of the suspicious car. The police will make contact with the individual who is allegedly following you and suss out their intentions/motives.

Also workcover-hired Private investigators are not (always) perfect and some PIs may not pick up signs that they are ‘compromised’. Others don’t follow the Code of Conduct and will for example trespass. That is another reason why we believe calling the police can be very effective.

If it has been made clear to the private investigator that you know they are following you and they continue to do so,which is illegal, we  would urge you to seek advice from your lawyer because at that point it is just plain harassment. Also consider filing a formal complaint against the PI.

Quite a few injured workers have also shared with us that, when they know they are being followed or watched by a PI, they pretend or act as if they did not notice the private investigator. In our opinion, this may well go in your “favour” in the sense that you can be extra vigilant by totally abiding by your doctor’s restrictions, and not undertake any ‘activity’ (even smiling when suffering from major depression!) that can potentially be twisted or taken out of context by the PI and their hiring workcover insurer!  Need we say more?

Private investigators are no more than private citizens, and are bound by the same laws as everyone else. A Private Investigator’s license does not grant “special privileges” and does not protect PIs from legal consequences if they breach the Code of Conduct and relevant laws (note some laws are different from state). Breaking the law can result in the loss of their license, the loss of their business, and even the loss of their “reputation”. It also produces “evidence” that is inadmissible in court.

Here are some of the other most common things that trip up private investigators

  • Trespassing:

Some states may allow a PI to use a third party property (with that owner’s consent) to get closer to the “subject”. This does not hold for right-of-ways, which are legal agreements between private parties and are not to be mistaken for public thoroughfares.

And, importantly,PIs may not enter the “subject’s” property without his/her permission.

This includes photography, even from a distance, of persons in the privacy of their own homes.

  • Invasion of privacy

Privacy: “the condition or state of being free from public attention to intrusion or interference with one’s acts or decisions.” (Black’s Law Dictionary)

However, surveillance in a public place is not considered invasion of privacy. BUT…this does not generally include bathrooms, locker rooms, changing rooms, bedrooms, or other areas assumed or considered private.

  • Entrapment (aka “roping)

Roping is close to “pretexting”, another illegal action. PIs are not allowed to obtain information from another by legal deception. In other words, no pretending some connection or activity to gain someone’s confidence. This also includes impersonating a police officer!

Entrapment is when a PI intentionally makes the subject (the injured worker under surveillance) perform an action. This can be dropping coins or notes in the street so that the injured worker (with an alleged back injury) bends to pick it up; popping a balloon to literally startle an injured worker (causing him/her to move a body part in fear), etc.

See our article: Workcover and Private Investigators: the truth

  • Stalking

This is defined as unwanted attention to a person by an individual or group.Each state has somewhat differing laws. Stalking is related to harassment or intimidation.

Stalking can not be considered surveillance, which may only be covert (secret). No rough shadowing (surveillance that is obvious or indiscreet to the subject and public) is permitted.

  • Traffic violations

There is never justification for endangering others through (a PIs) reckless or careless driving, no matter how exciting it looks in the movies…PIs must be watching 😉

  • Recording a conversation without at least one party’s knowledge

State laws differ, ensure you know your own law thoroughly. It’s possible only one party needs to consent.

PIs may, however, eavesdrop on a conversation in a public place or when it is loud enough to hear naturally.

  • Wiretapping without consent

Wiretapping generally requires a warrant regardless of consent.

Case in point: Private investigators may not break the law on behalf of your client (workcover insurers)  or for investigational purposes.

Related articles and pages

[Article by WorkcoverVictim and WorkcoverVictim3]



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7 Responses to “Followed by a workcover private investigator?”

  1. Some time ago, I noticed a suspicious looking man, with a sheet of paper and a pen, picking leaves and little twigs just in front of my property. He was either ‘doing research’ into ‘simple eucalyptus trees’, but I suspect he was PRETEXTING – that is using his ‘research cover’ to access/suss my property and ME! Anyone heard/seen such PI ‘tactic’?

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    • @workcovervictim3 I had a sus looking guy sitting out the front of my house in a car shuffling through papers and looking up at my house, but never approached it. Or he may have when I was in the bathroom as my dogs were barking like mad

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  2. I don’t know if this is directly linked to this PI thread, but I need to share this as I’ve since wondered if my experience of 2 strange phone calls this year have been related to my Workcover Claim. I have reflected on my insurer’s Case Manager’s insistent verbal (phone) constant assertions that I “have a job now”, “have new employment” as well as written comments, as well as the (supposedly independent) IME’s report conclusion that despite my having worked < 5 days in total in casual work in almost a year, I was now working and "obviously fit for full time work." I have had two bogus phone calls over the period in which I have been on Workcover – one claiming to be from my bank and the other from a woman who unintelligibly garbled her name and that of her organisation. She claimed I had won a trip to Disneyland. Both of these calls focused on querying my current employment or earnings. I gave both callers short shrift, but when the 2nd caller' (the Disneyland prize giver) announced the prize was subject to my answers to a series of questions and her first was "Do you work?" I was instantly suspicious. When I hesitantly answered "Yes ……" (I was not going to discuss my current work status with a total stranger), she began to ask me more about my work and income, but I promptly ended the call by interrupting her to say she had the wrong person, because I had not entered a competition for a trip to Disneyland and had no interest in doing so. Both calls were strange as I have an unlisted number and my bank was insistent that no-one from the bank would have called offering incredibly low interest loans, nor would they have requested details of my current earnings, etc. The account which I have at this Bank is the one into which my employer had directly deposited my pay. (I remember thinking at the time of my phone call that if it were a genuine call from my bank they would have known how much I was earning and would not need to ask me). Is it possible that these two strange telephone calls were made at the behest of my insurer? (I suppose it is possible that they were both just random number calls from everyday identity theft callers, but I thought it strange that the first questions of both were related to my current work and income). Have other claimants experienced this kind of thing? If so, why such cloak and dagger stuff? Why not just ask me directly? I've nothing to hide!

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    • @Sarah Jane – We are aware that some other signs that a private investigator is following you are that your friends and acquaintances tell you they have received phone calls or visitors asking about you or you get an increased number of (alleged) wrong numbers or hang-ups… So it is possible that a PI is trying to get some info (about work etc) out of you under pretext.

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      Workcovervictim3 September 5, 2014 at 3:27 pm
  3. I had a PI go out of their way to film me riding my motorcycle (I’ve always be open with everyone that I ride as I find it more comfortable for my injury than cars, but my insurer keeps trying to make a big deal about it).

    I now have a copy of the DVD (and the surveillance report with the PI’s name) which clearly shows him driving erratically while trying to operate his camera with his HANDS, following me, for a significant time. It incenses me that he endangered me and everyone around us with his asinine behaviour. Has anyone gone to the police with thus sort of thing? Not sure if I should bother/they will care or not. It happened two months ago.

    In the past I’ve also had a PI follow me when I was a passenger in a car being driven by a learner. If he had become aware we were being followed he could easily have become flustered /nervous, also creating danger.

    How do we make these arses stop and think about the potential consequences of their actions? And how do we stop the insurers encouraging and paying for this nonsense??

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  4. I hope all recently injured workers get to read this just so they know what’s in store for them in the future, maybe all unions should refer workers here for information?
    I have been a victim to dodgy PI tactics in the past with harassment and trespassing on my property, As I live in a rural area I now keep several compound hunting Bows and Firearms to control feral animal’s hiding in vegetation in and around my property; if a PI Trespasses on my property and uses vegetation or other means to hide and survey myself or others they are in extreme danger of losing their life.

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  5. Hey @Jo,
    I know how totally f*cking annoying PIs can be (I have had many a run in with them in my own case) but they are just not worth risking your own liberty.

    Yes, they are low life pieces of shit, but call the police. I understand the incredible frustration and violation you feel, but keep the yearning to do them physical harm in your imagination and daydreams – ‘cos physically hurting them will also have a very detrimental affect on your claim.

    However, living in a rural environment, if you have a fire fighting pump handy – I can’t see why you can’t offer them a drink? 🙂

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