What every Process Server and Private Investigator ought to know about pretext I.D.’s

As a process server or a private investigator, you know sometimes we present ourselves as if we were a different person. A lot of times, this is done on the phone. We might call and try to trick a subject into giving us a piece of information.

Maybe if we’re skiptracing, we might call the skip’s mom, pretending that we’re the skip’s good friend or that we owe the skip money. Hopefully the mom will tell us where to meet him or where we can find him. Maybe give us some other clue about the skip. Maybe even an inadvertent slip about where the person might be working.

But a lot of pretexting, especially for process servers, is done face to face, in person. If you’ve got a person who’s refusing service, you might very well have to use a pretext. In other words this person knows that they need to be in court, they’ve been not showing up or they’ve been refusing service from another process server so you have to become a little sneaky about getting them served. Part of that often includes a pretext.

In this Tuesday’s video I share with you a few that I like to use.

One that I used for years was the “Flower Delivery” scam. This was one I used for Process Serving. If I went to serve process, I would pose as if I was bringing them flowers rather than court papers.

Of course sometimes I just needed to be left alone while I did surveillance either related to serving process or for another case. If you’re doing a stationary surveillance, waiting for someone to move and follow them, you may need some pretext IDs to explain to concerned citizens who may want to know why you’re sitting where you are.
One kind of generic pretext I.D. I used quite a bit was “Traffic Survey”. It just identifies me as someone who’s taking a traffic survey of the area. Maybe I’m posing as if I’m watching an intersection counting how many people make left turns versus right turns.

A pretext that worked well for me, especially out in rural areas, was “Train Spotter”. Sometimes it’s hard to find a place to set up your surveillance where you’re more discreet. But if there are railroad tracks anywhere nearby, I used to like to bring “Member” card that showed I was in a chapter of a Train Spotters club. I could sit there for hours and if anyone asked me what I was doing, I would say I’m just watching trains.

Train Spotting is a real thing. There are people who go out and watch trains. Alone and in groups. They count trains. They count the number of cars. They record engine manufacturer.

I also liked to pose as a “Wildlife Analyst”. Again, if you’re out in a rural area, but even in an urban area, there are a lot of raccoons and possums around running through the sewer system. You can sit and be doing a survey of wildlife.

If you watch the video, you’ll notice, most of these IDs, generally look the same. I pretty much just change the tag across the top. There’s no need to get fancy. No one looking at you’re “Train Spotter” identification to is going to say, “Well that looks an awful lot like a Traffic Survey identification.” They don’t know. Just try to make it look like a good, credible ID. I like to laminate mine.

Now, this ID is your “primary identification”. You also want to have “collateral” ID sometimes.
Their collateral ID can be things like shopper’s club cards, automotive club cards and other things that accumulate in people’s wallet. This “collateral ID” says as you have a life and in reinforces that you are who you say you are!

I personally don’t use too much of that “wallet litter” type collateral ID, but I do use A LOT of what you might call “props” to help convince people that I am who and what I say I am.

If I’m spotting trains, if that’s my pretext, I’m going to have a little hand counter that I can click away on. I’m going to have a clipboard with a record sheet. It’s going to be partially filled out about how many trains have passed and all sorts of things, like I’m keeping a little record or a log. I might have a book about trains on the front seat. You see what I’m saying?

Same if I’m using the traffic survey pretext. In fact, I may even use magnetic car signs that say “Traffic Survey”.

When the process serving you do involves pretext, it’s going to pay a lot more than the easier day-to-day serving you’re doing because you’re going above and beyond to get this difficult person served.

Because it’s an important part of process serving and of your process server training, I have a whole section on pretexting in the Investigator’s Ultimate Guide to Process Serving. Since you’ll probably be doing a lot of that, be sure to check it out!

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