Tamás Fehér

Some of the more exotic means of evidence that we typically think can only exist in movies or in serious criminal cases can also be surprisingly useful in business. In everyday life, too, you can prevent serious inconvenience by hiring a private investigator in time, or even by a well-directed lie detector test. Zsolt Bodnár and Dr. Béla Balla of Hori-Zone Security helped us to get to the bottom of the subject.

There is considerable interest nowadays in various surveillance methods, which have a history of several decades in law enforcement and intelligence work. Yet relatively few people realise that such services can often be used in everyday business or even private life.

Private investigators are among us

Whether we believe it or not, private investigators are out there and have a rather varied toolkit to find out of information that we might not necessarily want to share with them.

One of these is OSINT, or open source intelligence, where they examine and organise publicly available information that we often happily and eagerly share with the whole wide world.

But a well-equipped team of private investigators is capable of much more serious intelligence gathering. This includes observing and following someone in public places, and actively gathering information from people they know, even family members. The tool is the “legend”, a cover story that an investigator with the required interpersonal skills can use to obtain valuable information from even the most distrustful neighbour.

Investigations in business

The services of private investigators are often also worth considering in business.

In the worst case, the possibility emerges at a time when trouble has already happened. A business partner has disappeared, will not pay, and you have to decide: do you want to start lengthy legal proceedings against the owner or manager? This is where so-called asset tracing can be useful, which can be employed to identify the personal and financial circumstances of the fraudulent owner or manager. This can tell you, for example, whether it makes sense to take legal action against them that could end in a successful foreclosure.

A more progressive approach is to assess the circumstances and life history of your prospective business partner before you sign a contract, in order to assess whether they can be trusted and are worth doing business with.

A private investigative background check can also be very useful if you are looking to recruit someone for an important or confidential position. This service is used not least by foreign companies who want to be sure that their business in Hungary will be handled by a trustworthy representative. But it also works the other way round: before entering a foreign market, it can be reassuring to know that we have entrusted our foreign office to the right person.

Lie if you can

The lie detector or polygraph is also something we see mainly in spy movies, but those who know a little more about the subject will know that it is also used relatively often in criminal cases.

But what is less well known is that, in the right hands, the polygraph can also be a useful tool in civilian and business life.

This may be the case when an internal due diligence reveals a series of frauds at a company, and it is not all the same for the owner to find out who was involved, who knew and who did not know about the acts. However, it can also be useful in official proceedings, for example if someone wants to prove that they did not know about a tax fraud or a cartel.

On the one hand, the basic requirement here is voluntariness, i.e., no one can be obliged to submit to a polygraph test. On the other hand, the profession itself makes no secret of the fact that it is divided on the subject. There are those who believe that in the hands of the right expert, a polygraph test can give a reliable result, and others who have reservations about the tool.

However, it seems that we use the polygraph far less often than it might actually add value to our case.