Our agency, and profession, was first alerted to this when friend and colleague Ron Rugen, in Missouri, posted his blog in early June 2015. We did also, with our own analysis and in response to an article pushing this service. We never received a response from this “Flim Flam” or the author of the article, nor was our response published – as promised.
What was previously known as “Flim Flam” was the original business name being a bit too revealing of what the ‘app’ and service actually was – and a name change to what it was not, “Trustify”. Founded in March of 2015, it took only a few months to be exposed in our profession; however, it took four years to see it finally collapse.
What did our agency find and do? See our blog commentary at “Danger of PI Apps” posted 6/12/2015 at
This commentary first started as a response to the article Ron Rugen first alerted our profession to – ‘App Tries To Make Private Investigators Less Creepy’
After getting past the blatant insult and distrust of the article title, our agency was never worried about losing business to an app – we don’t provide the services the app purports; however, many justifiably were. Unfortunately, too many also thought joining this “Flim Flam” would benefit them. Our concern, as with all of our colleagues, is the damage this activity can do to our profession and consumers. It is our responsibility to not accept irresponsible, possibly illicit, activities.
Our agency’s response to this “Flim Flam” was to address those points made in the article found announcing this dangerous ‘app’. First, this “Flim Flam” was founded on the premise licensed private investigators are untrustworthy – and would circumvent required licensure and consumer protection.
What were some concerns?
- Hire a private detective for on-demand, one-hour jobs for $59.
- The app has a network of over 2,000 private investigators in the DC region who are required to sign a contract and abide by certain policies and procedures.
- All customer interaction is anonymous and goes through the app.
- Geolocation of a hired investigator and use a two-way chat app to exchange videos and pics.
- No adherence to statutes, rules, regulations, evidence, and our profession has ethics.
Reviewing these will give any person a better understanding of the serious issues this “Flim Flam” presented. It took away confidentiality, trust and integrity; cheapened both the profession and the work product; and was generally insulting.
Shortly after this was published, our agency begin joining others in investigating this Flim Flam. The Legislative Committee of our state association, the Professional Private Investigators of Colorado had just seen our state mandatory licensing program, enacted for consumer protection, passed and the first licenses active just a week or two before this article was released. There was immediate concern, as the concerns with this “Flim Flam” app were essentially the very reasons PPIAC supported and advocated for regulation through licensing. Work was immediately done to monitor and prepare to deal with this Flim Flam. In our profession, individuals, groups, and associations have and will galvanize to attack a threat or cancer to our profession. This was exactly the time many across the nation did so.
In late 2015 this was brought to the attention of the National Council of Investigation & Security Services (NCISS) Board at the Mid-Term Board meeting. In early 2016, at the Annual Meeting, the Legislative Chair for Investigations advised the NCISS Board of research and findings of this “Flim Flam” and NCISS took notice of the danger to our profession. Several began work and analysis of this new and growing problem seen to be very damaging to our profession and harmful to the consumer and clients. Several state associations also began taking notice and action. Our profession was galvanized, and as Dean had just become President of NCISS at the Annual Meeting, it became a priority. The NCISS Legislative Committee / Investigations Chair independently conducted research and an in-depth analysis. This resulted in a white paper of great detail sent to the NCISS Board and then shared nationwide. Soon, several state associations and licensing boards began to take action.
Some highlights of what our agency, NCISS, PPIAC and other colleagues and groups found:
- Too many in our profession trusted an unknown in this “Flim Flam” and contributed to hurting our profession;
- This “Flim Flam” was founded to disrupt our profession – and did, with very negative and foreseen results;
- Too late, many who trusted this “Flim Flam” didn’t have concerns with the lack of due diligence we were concerned would undermine the trust and confidentiality of our profession and clients;
- The rates, not part of a free market, but dictated and undermining our profession, were not of concern to those who signed on – and are now not paid; and
- Finally, many came to realize what associations like NCISS and state associations repeated: this “Flim Flam” was operating without any required licensing, and was a danger to both our profession and consumers.
Concurrent to the work of NCISS, our state association – the Professional Private Investigators Association of Colorado, also focused on how this “Flim Flam” was violating the new – as of June 1st 2015, mandatory licensing of private investigators.
With our state association – the Professional Private Investigators Association of Colorado (PPIAC) prepared a Petition for a Declaratory Statement to be issued by the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies, which oversees mandatory licensing of private investigators in Colorado.
- CRS 12-58.5-101 et seq nor 4 CCR 750-1, does not provide for, define, or exempt a “Private investigative agency”; therefore, no business can be licensed as, or exempt from being licensed as, a Private Investigative Agency – this includes services such as this “Flim Flam”.
- Unlicensed Intermediary Service Providers or Unlicensed Broker Agents, such as this “Flim Flam”, solicit, advertise and facilitate the above services in the State of Colorado.
- Through undisclosed parties – the Client and the Private Investigator – these services provide an opaque and indirect relationship with Colorado consumers. In doing so, the indirectly provide multiple services described above.
- These services are not performed directly by the Unlicensed Intermediary Service Providers or Unlicensed Broker Agents, such as this “Flim Flam”. Instead, these services are performed as undisclosed a “General Contractor or Broker” and possibly hiring additional undisclosed “subcontractors” to perform services without the required contract, as required by all Licensed Private Investigators in Colorado.
- It is important to note that the Private Investigators are retained, without a contract, by the Unlicensed Intermediary Service Providers or Unlicensed Broker Agents and not the end Consumer. These undisclosed relationships are without contractual relationship, duties, loyalties or responsibilities to the Consumer for which services are ultimately provided.
Our agency joined our associations and profession to galvanize and worked tirelessly, and will perpetually, to have the trust of our clients, and within the regulations overseeing us. We stated in June 2015, this “Flim Flam” would not be a success for the consumer and will be another best of intentions jading the consumer with a bad experience against our profession. Which is exactly what happened.
Unfortunately, this is not the end of this danger to our profession and consumers. There are others, some even more dangerous. We must work together – as individuals, agencies, and associations – to defeat these scams posing as helping consumers and private investigators. The first step – DO NOT partner with these scams as an investigator and offering services to unwary consumers. The next steps – join and be actively involved in your state association and NCISS to defeat these scams, and warn your clients and consumers of the dangers.
Consumers should always beware – professional investigators are hired because of unfortunate circumstances – it can be made worse by using cheap and unprofessional resources, which are certainly not trustworthy. Our profession must continue to expect the best from each other, and provide the best to the public.
We are proud of the honesty, integrity and intelligence – the very ethics – we each have, our agency, and the associations we work with to show the important work we do, as part of our justice system, has the mutual respect of each other, our clients, and the consumers of our services. We are a reflection of our PRIDE – Professional Reliable Investigators Defining Excellence!