Toni Anderson was a college student and a waitress at a Kansas City strip club. After leaving work to meet a friend, she texted her boyfriend: “OMG I just got pulled over again.”

It was 4:42 AM.

That was the last anyone heard from the twenty-year-old.

A North Kansas City Police officer reported pulling Anderson over for an illegal lane change, but let her off with a warning. The officer then saw her pull into a nearby gas station, from where she likely sent the text. It was the last place she was seen alive.

Found in Missouri River March 10

Afraid she may have fallen prey to a human trafficker, Toni Anderson’s family hired a team of private investigators to look into her disappearance. After some delicate and thorough sleuthing the investigators focused their search on a section of the Missouri River roughly ten miles from Toni Anderson’s last know whereabouts.  Using sonar, they detected a black 2012 Ford Focus-the make, and model that Anderson drove- submerged under the icy waters. Authorities pulled the car out of the river and found a woman’s body inside.

Autopsy

Police later confirmed that the body was Anderson’s. Despite the fears of her friends and family, there was no evidence of foul play. Her seat belt was unfastened and her window open, suggesting that she drove off the dock accidentally and tried to escape.

What Happened?

Police say it is possible Anderson’s GPS made an error, guiding her onto the dock. It is also possible that Anderson, rattled by her encounter with the officer, misread her surroundings. Per her mother, Liz: “If you look at the boat ramp she drove off of, it looks like a regular road — especially at night, when it’s dark. The police believe the ramp was icy and that she may have tried to stop, but the car went into the water.”

Closure After Months of Worry

Liz also said that finding and identifying her daughter has helped bring the family closure. The funeral took place March 21, roughly nine weeks after her death.

According to to the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System, at any given time more than 90,000 people are missing in the United States. That is an overwhelming number. But it is truly the family and friends of the missing who experience the most palpable feelings of fear and despair.

For family and friends of the missing, working with law enforcement is often a double edge sword. Yes, law enforcement has the experience and knowledge to conduct an investigation, but they are often limited to what they can do. Department budget constraints and resources are often a big deterrent to conducting thorough investigations. It is because of these restraints that loved ones of the missing seek the assistance of a private investigator.

At Brightstar Investigations, our private detectives know a thing or two about locating people.  Below are just a few of the techniques we apply to find the missing.

We Search License Plate Scanners 

License plate scanners are everywhere. It seems like just about every road and toll has them. The use of license plate scanners has helped solve many crimes and find many missing people. Private investigators routinely use proprietary sources to obtain the data from license plate scanners. In fact, at BrightStar Investigations, our use of a license plate scanner helped us find a fugitive who was on the run for 3 years.

We Search Online Databases 

There are certain online databases that are only available to licensed private investigators. From criminal records to credit reports, private investigators can access a multitude of databases at once to find valuable information on missing persons last know whereabouts.

We Check Out Social Media 

A skilled tech-savvy private detective can still find private social media posts and profiles. Even if the missing person has limited social media interaction, a skilled PI can use the platforms to identify people of interest and track their movements.

We Conduct Interviews

Very rarely do people disappear without a trace. Usually, someone somewhere saw something.  As private investigators, it is our job to filter out who knows what. We take the time to interview and re-interview everyone involved, right down to the cashier who sold the missing person a pack cigarettes on the day she/he went missing.

If you need help finding a missing person, hire a private eye from BrightStar Investigations to help you locate the person today.

When you think of intelligence gathering, images of agents dressed in black often come to mind. But that image is a stereotype from days gone by. Today’s private investigators are using the power of technology to gather intelligence for their clients.

Private investigators are masters in the art of intelligence gathering, with a tool-box of tried-and-true tools to help them gather all the intel they need. So, what tools do private detectives use to collect information? Usually, investigators use a multi-pronged approach for gathering intel, using a combination of “old-school” methods and new technology to find out the information that they need to break a case.

Method #1 Search Online Databases

There are a select number of professional, proprietary databases that are only available to licensed private investigators. These databases are rich sources of information and are comprised of credit headers, public records and algorithms, license plate scanners and much more. Shameless Plug: At BrightStar Investigations we use CLEAR, which is the platinum standard of investigative databases.

Method #2 Digging Through Garbage

Digging through garbage is a traditional intel technique that PIs and detectives have been using for decades. What kinds of information can we find in your garbage? Surprisingly quite a bit, including telephone records, credit card statements, medical records, former addresses and even DNA from your discarded toothbrushes and cups. Sometimes, the things that we find in garbage provides the “smoking gun” that we need for the investigation.
But isn’t it illegal?  Surprisingly no. The US Supreme Court had a landmark ruling concerning the ascertain of ‘Abandoned Property’ (Trash) in 1988 in California v. Greenwood.

From the Investigator: I’ve found some interesting things in the trash. I try to not think of it as trash, but rather as abandoned property. Getting trash is definitely an adrenaline rush – one night I pulled the trash from suspected drug traffickers at 3 in the morning with a bullet proof vest on. Where will I pull trash next? Who knows. But if you want the dirt, I can get it – literally.

Method #3 Scour Social Media 

In today’s social media-driven culture, everyone lives their entire lives online. Whether it is Facebook, Twitter or even Instagram, social media platforms provide a virtual smorgasbord of information.  Skilled social media and internet investigators can even uncover information that is supposedly private. Social media searches can be valuable in business investigations, as well. Private investigators are often hired by companies to watch social media for evidence of employee misconduct, insider leaks, and competitor information.

Method #4 Speaking With Sources

As private investigators, we learn to get comfortable talking to anyone—whether it is a homeless person on the street or a top CEO. It is amazing the kind of invaluable intel you can gather just by talking with people. Any skilled PI can get sources to divulge a number of details just for conducting a simple interview. Talking directly to sources can result in valuable information that cannot be found anywhere else, including online or in proprietary databases. That is why we make sure that we find sources whenever possible.

Method #5 Deep Cover

Deep cover is a method that can be employed to gather intelligence. Deep cover can involve befriending or engaging the target directly.
From the Investigator: This approach should be approached carefully, and is not a method that I suggest unless the situation is right. Maybe the target is a bartender. It might be time for me to go have a drink and chat him/her up. Perhaps the target is part of an organization – one of my investigators might join.  Every situation is different.
Bottom line: We never want to interfere with anyone’s life, we just want to find out everything about it.

At Brightstar Investigations, we are proud to utilize both “old school” techniques and modern technology to gather the intel we need to make our case.  Call us today to learn more.

What image does your mind conjure when thinking about the term “private investigator”? Like most people, you probably imagine a person peering through a camera lens laying in wait for their subject to do something unscrupulous. While this image is not an incorrect assumption, surveilling cheating spouses is just one of the many services private investigators offer. One of the services that private investigators provide that is gaining steam is forensic auditing.

What is forensic auditing?

Forensic auditing refers the practice of examining and evaluating a firm’s or individual’s financial information for the purpose of discovering evidence of fraud, embezzlement or other financial claims.

Why is there a growing need for forensic auditing? 

Thanks to advances in technology, today’s criminals are conducting even more sophisticated schemes to obtain and utilize your financial information.  Because the techniques that these criminals use are far more advanced that ever before, it is nearly impossible to catch them unless you know exactly what to look for.

As fraud and other white collar crimes continue to rise, many businesses and individuals are turning to the expertise of private detectives. Private investigators who specialize in this specific type of investigation are often referred to as forensic auditors.

What exactly is a forensic auditor?
Equal parts private investigator and accountant, forensic auditors are skilled professionals with a thorough understanding of investigative and accounting principles.

What does a forensic auditor do? 
Most commonly utilized in divorce proceedings, forensic auditors are often hired to find hidden assets, locate stolen funds and identify cases of fraud.

Not sure if a forensic auditor can help your case? Below we have identified just a few situations where hiring a forensic auditor may be useful.

  • You’re getting divorced and you have reason to believe your ex is hiding assets.
  • A parent or other relative has passed away, leaving you and a difficult sibling to sort out the finances.
  • You experienced a natural disaster like a fire and your hard-copy records have all been destroyed.
  • You suspect your business partner of theft.
  • Your company is being audited by the IRS and you need to be absolutely sure all your financial ducks are in a row.

If you’re considering hiring a forensic auditor, make sure that they’re the “real deal” and not just accountants who have tacked on a fancy title.

In our increasingly litigious society, it’s important to do business with professionals like the trained experts at Brightstar Investigations who can get you the results and information that you deserve.

Surveillance is one of the most common practices private investigators utilize to gather information for a client.  Conducting proper surveillance is an art form in itself and as any season private eye will tell you it is an art that must be perfected. At Brightstar Investigations, we know a thing or two about surveillance.  To bring your next gig to the next level, follow these tips from the experts at Brightstar Investigations.

Tip #1 Choose an Automobile That is Inconspicuous

Your surveillance vehicle should blend in with the surroundings. Avoid using any vehicle that could be presumed flashy or extravagant. As those types of vehicles attract the eye of everyone around.  Stay away from custom paint jobs and bright colors. Your automobile should not be adorned with bumper stickers, vanity plates or any accessories that make your car easily identifiable. If you want to tint your car windows be sure to comply with your state law.  A tint that is too dark could garner police attention, which would almost surely compromise your surveillance.

Tip #2 Scout the Surveillance Location Ahead of Time

This step is very important and should not be skipped. It will help you better prepare for surveillance. Do a quick drive by of the subject’s house during the day take note of the following things:

  • Do you have the right address?
  • How many cars are present on the street?
  • Will surveillance be possible in this location?
  • Can you exit quickly from the location?

Tip #3 Make Sure You Are Prepared for a Long Day

When you are conducting surveillance, you will not get the chance to run out real quick to grab a bite to eat. Therefore, make sure that you are prepared with enough food and water for the day. Similarly, you can’t just run down the street to the nearest gas station to relieve yourself. So, bring a large plastic bottle or something similar to urinate in. Also, pack an extra set of clothing. Changing your clothing throughout surveillance can help you avoid being noticed.

Tip #4 Don’t Draw Attention to Your Arrival or Departure

It is best to arrive at and depart from your surveillance point at a time when you are not likely to be seen. Move into your surveillance position very quickly. Try to choose a spot that is not too noticeable, such as next to shrubs or large trees. Once you are in position, try to avoid doing anything that will draw too much attention to your car.

Tip #5 Stay Focused

After hours of surveillance, it can be difficult to stay focused. However, it is important to avoid anything that has the ability to distract you. Therefore, resist the temptation to catch up on the latest novel or check out Facebook. It is very important to train your mind to stay focused throughout your entire surveillance period.

Stay tuned to Brightstar Investigations for more mobile surveillance tips.

Many people going through a divorce wonder if they should hire a private detective. Private investigators are often used to confirm suspicions of adultery, but there are other valuable services a PI can provide if you suspect your spouse is being less than truthful.

How Can a Private Investigator Help in My Divorce?

During divorce proceedings, a private investigator’s job is to gather evidence to support allegations against your spouse. Colorado is a no-fault divorce state, which means evidence of adultery alone won’t matter much to the court. But there are other factors connected to affairs that the court may consider when determining the outcome of your case

Child Custody Issues

When it comes to determining the custody of children, courts are most interest in facts that illustrate what outcome would be in the best interest of the child. Trained in the science of intelligence gathering,  PIs are pros when it comes to interviewing witnesses, gathering supporting documents, and rooting out financial assets. Are you concerned that your spouse is neglecting or abusing your child?  From taking surveillance photographs/videos to gathering witness statements, PIs can gather valuable evidence of your suspicions that can be then used in court.

Asset Division

Along with custody decisions, dividing community assets is typically a major aspect of a divorce. Any valuable marital assets (real estate, bank accounts, etc) will need to be split between you and your spouse. A skilled PI can help you uncover assets you didn’t know your spouse had, including secret bank accounts. The court will also take into consideration any community property assets your spouse used to conduct an affair. For example, if your spouse used funds from a joint account, or gave a piece of community property to the affair partner, the court may make that up to you in the final judgment.

The PI Bottom Line

Private investigator services can be helpful throughout your family law case. Prior to separation, you can determine if assets are being moved or used to expose an affair. After separation, a PI can investigate and document if a restraining order or other court order is breached. And after the divorce is final, a private detective can compile evidence to back up child custody modification requests, or help determine if a spouse receiving support has remarried or is cohabitating.

Private detective services can help you get the answers you need during your divorce. For more information on how our PI services can help, contact BrightStar Investigations today.

On May 5th, 2011, The Economist ran a two-page story about a sea-change facing the legal profession. Thanks in part to bankruptcy, securities litigation, and regulation issues, many law firms across the nation are discovering that the old way of conducting business is no longer conducive to the needs of their clients. Gone are the days of lucrative mergers and acquisitions where clients did not mind paying high legal fees. Instead, clients are now demanding that they receive the same level of representation, but at a much more affordable price.

So how do attorneys meet client expectations without sacrificing quality? For many attorneys the answer is simple, hire a private investigator. Private investigators can conduct the same legal legwork often reserved for first-year associates for a fraction of the cost. 

How can a private investigator help with your case?

Help Prep For Depositions

As any litigator will tell you, depositions are often a critical element of every case. Which is why it is vital to have someone on your team, like a PI, that can gather valuable intel on all involved in the case. Often from law enforcement backgrounds and highly analytical, investigators provide key insights that can be vital to your case.  

Collect & Review Electronic Evidence

It is fair to say that technology plays an integral part of our day to day lives. Do you suspect an employee of fraud? Or perhaps you suspect your significant other of infidelity? Regardless the source of your suspicions, it is becoming common practice for attorneys to hire investigators to conduct audits of electronic files such as emails, internal documents, social media posts, and texts. Investigators are frequently hired to identify and analyze electronic files.  

Locate People

Are you looking for a key witness to your case? Is your client looking to locate her birth parents? By conducting web searches and utilizing public records from state & federal agencies, investigators can track down the current address and phone number for just about anyone.  

Find Hidden Assets

Are you in the middle of an expensive divorce? Do you suspect your spouse of hiding valuable assets like real estate, bank accounts or artwork? Investigators have access to a variety of restricted proprietary databases that contain valuable intelligence they can use to locate financial assets domestically and abroad. 


Are you are looking to hire a private investigator for your next case? At Brightstar Investigations, we provide our clients with surveillance, background checks, process serving, electronic monitoring and much more! Call today to learn what Brightstar Investigations can do for you.

Cheating is one of the most difficult experiences any couple can go through. The emotional stress and pain can seem unbearable.  When you feel like something is amiss in your relationship, the most important thing is finding out the truth. But how? The truth is, your instincts are one of the most important senses in a relationship, and if you are having any doubt about your partner’s fidelity you cannot ignore it. We have compiled a list of a few telltale signs of cheating, which should help you take the first step discovering the truth. If any of the signs look a little too familiar to you, you might want to call a professional private investigator.

The Disappearing Act

Your husband has been coming home from work at 6 PM for the last 5 years but now he isn’t home until 9 PM. He says that he is working on a big project and must stay late—but you’re not so sure. Staying away from home longer than usual does not necessarily mean that your partner is cheating but it is a pattern to watch out for.

Pro Tip from the Investigator: This one can be a tough one to figure out from a distance. If you are in this scenario, having a set of eyes to see what he does after he punches out can be tremendously helpful.

A Brand New Look

Your girlfriend has recently accumulated a large amount of new clothing. She says that she wants to “reinvent herself” but you suspect that she may be reinventing herself for someone else. Your boyfriend has recently picked up a new obsession with going to the gym. This is uncharacteristic of him and you are wondering what is up.

Any of the above scenarios could indicate that someone is cheating. You really want to pay attention to anything that is outside of the norm for your partner. If your girlfriend always dresses to the T, then you don’t have to necessarily worry if she goes on a shopping spree. On the other hand, if she is normally a sweatpants kind of girl but is suddenly wearing dresses and heels, something may be amiss.

Pro Tip from the Investigator: One of the most common signs I have heard is ‘Staying Late at the Gym.’ Unless you are married to, or dating Mr. Universe, your significant other doesn’t need to be at the gym for 3 hours.

Change in Attitude

Maybe your partner is happier, more energetic than usual. On the other hand, he or she might be more defensive than usual or asking for a lot more “me” time. Whenever you notice a significant change in attitude, it is a good idea to hire a private detective to confirm your suspicions.

Pro Tip from the Investigator: When a partner get’s emotionally disconnected, they typically begin an emotional relationship before a physical relationship. A HUGE telltale sign is phone hugging, changing the phone’s password and hiding the phone. In fact, I have even heard of people sleeping with the phone under their pillow. If it’s gone this far, we should talk.

You have a right to know whether or not your partner is cheating on you. Don’t let your suspicions go or avoid dealing with it. Instead, hire a private detective to help you find out the truth. Private detective services can help you get the answers that you need. For more information about PI Services, contact BrightStar Investigations today.

 

Even the safest, most cautious person is susceptible to cyber-attacks. You might already be prepared for computer viruses, social engineering scams, and Wi-Fi hackers. But for every thwarted hacking attempt, there are one hundred creative methods for breaking into your system.

These six clever methods allow hackers to infiltrate secure devices, cameras, and even cars. Here’s what they are and how you can prepare for deviously intelligent hacker attacks.

1. Hacking an Isolated Computer-

To protect sensitive files, many companies and people looking to protect their assets store their financial data on a computer disconnected from all networks. The strategy seems logically sound. If a hacker doesn’t have an access point, they can’t get it, right? But tenacious criminals have a workaround for hacking isolated computers.

AirHopper is a keystroke logging app that works by intercepting radio signals from a computer’s monitor. The FM signals can then be converted to text, such as usernames, account numbers, passwords, credit card numbers and social security. Neither direct access nor an Internet connection is required to trace keystrokes, though the device has to be within roughly 20 feet of the target monitor.

Though the hacker has to be close by to infiltrate an isolated computer, new apps like AirHopper prove it’s becoming more difficult to defend against cyber-attacks.

2. Auto-Hacking With a USB Drive

With a little help from a clever USB drive, hackers can break into a locked computer without even lifting a finger. An auto-run program on the drive activates the moment the stick is plugged into a computer. Some install viruses and backdoors to give the hacker route access to a locked computer. Other programs extract data and passwords for the hacker to break into the user’s online accounts.

All the hacker has to do is plug the USB drive into a computer for a few minutes, remove it, and walk away without leaving any evidence behind. Though the hacker needs physical access to the computer, plug-and-hack devices are one of the most effective mechanisms for breaking into a password-protected computer.

3 Using Androids as Hacking Tools

As technology advances, hacking becomes so streamlined that anyone can do it, even someone without any technical expertise. Now anyone can be a hacker just by installing an app onto their Android phone. Criminals can use these tools to hack through Wi-Fi, overload servers, and steal passwords.

While these tools aren’t as dangerous as more complex techniques, it creates accessibility for new hackers to partake in cybercrime.

4. Spying Through Cameras

If you own a laptop chances are it has an inconspicuously small webcam built into it. You might use it to take pictures or speak face-to-face in calls with family, friends, and associates. But did you know someone else could be peering in—even if the indicator light is off?

Hackers can spy on you and your house through any camera that’s connected to your home network. They can record footage or take pictures of whatever they see. But there are steps you can take to prevent and stop criminals from taking control of your cameras. Ensure your network is protected by a secure network, anti-virus software, and a powerful firewall that will block outside access.
Change the passwords on your cameras. They may still be set to factory default settings, which is public knowledge. Criminals can simply search for the password on a forum and gain access to your footage. You should also be sure to deactivate any webcams and cameras not in use.

Stay tuned to Brightstar Investigations for more tips from the experts.

Surveillance is one of the most important services that a private investigator performs. In my experience, surveillance is one of the best ways to the get information that the client needs.  Surveillance is a highly rewarding process if done correctly. Every private investigator has their own style and methodology. Listed below are some of the things that have made my surveillance missions have great success.

1.Client Intake
When you first speak with a client, it’s important to get all of the information you can so that you can have a successful outcome. Investigators often don’t ask enough questions. To be successful on surveillance, an investigator has to ask the client many questions, even difficult questions.  Clients tend to give the minimum amount of information to the private investigator.

Pro Tip: If your client can, ask him/her to snap a quick pic of the target the same day as surveillance. This will help you identify clothing and hairstyle, especially if you are picking your subject out of a crowd. If you are following your target from the airport, ask them how many bags of luggage the target took. This will help you determine if the target will get delayed at baggage, which is a great way to funnel the target to his pickup point. Fill out the details during the initial interview. Likewise, ask about doctor appointments, marital status, hobbies and the number of children the subject has.

2. Surveillance Vehicle
Having a working and surveillance ready vehicle is paramount to a good surveillance investigation. There are many vehicles that a private investigator can use. Color and shape of the vehicle are key. A private investigator’s vehicle must blend in with traffic. Choose a dull color and shape that could be considered ‘every man’s car.’ If you go out on surveillance with a bright red hot rod, your chances of getting made have just gone up. Also, having good window tint is paramount. When someone hires a private eye, the client expects results. Having a good surveillance vehicle increases the chances of those results.

3. Check The Scene Beforehand
Prior to the first surveillance, a PI will either check the street set up on satellite imagery (Google Maps/Earth) and/or drive around the subject’s neighborhood. This is important to mission success!

4. Starting Time
Pro Tip: I’m always early. A private detective should always be early to surveillance. I can’t tell you how many times a client protested to me being early, but it ended up saving the case. If the client tells you that your target is leaving the house at 9 am, be there at 8:15. You never know, your target just might decide to leave early.

5.Position Yourself
Once on scene, a private detective only has several chances to get the set-up right. When on the scene, I like to ‘feel the vibe’ of the neighborhood. I can’t explain it, but each individual neighborhood and street have its own mood. On some streets, I feel like I could do cartwheels down the street and no one would care (I would never, though!). On other streets, I feel like the whole neighborhood is watching me. Once you feel the mood of your neighborhood, get set up in a spot that gives you distance, cover, and a good way out. Also, park in a place where the target is most likely going to leave. A private investigator does not want to do a U-turn to catch up with the target right out of the box if at all possible.

6. Meal/Restroom Breaks
Expect to spend the day in the car. Bring a cooler with refreshments. Apples give as much energy as a cup of coffee. But make your meals quick and easy to reach. Bathroom breaks aren’t possible. I won’t mention in this blog how a private investigator takes care of business – if you use your imagination long enough I am confident that you can figure it out 🙂

7. Leave Books At Home and Beware of the Cellphone!
You will miss something important unless you are vigilant. A private detective spends the quiet times running through surveillance scenarios in his/her mind, and examining exit routes. Everyone has a cellphone. It’s a fact of life private investigators check their cellphones. I like to employ the 10-second rule. As I check, I count to ten in my mind and look up. If a private detective follows the 10-second rule, it’s almost guaranteed that they will not lose their target when they leave.

8. Steady Hands Win Out
When a video is necessary, be sure you can hold the camera steady. Your client may not appreciate feeling as though he or she is on a rolling ship when reviewing the scenes. PI services require professional equipment to provide amazing video. I also recommend using Sony camcorders with night shot. At BrightStar Investigations, we try to only use cameras that employ 1080p and 720p high definition. Our client’s feel like they are watching a movie, and if requested, we can use 4K as well.

9. Following In Traffic
A private investigator is ready at a moment’s notice for tailing. When starting a follow, I memorize the tail lights and any distinguishing features; especially at night. Look for bumper stickers, body damage, brake light shapes, anything unique so you can easily spot it. You want to avoid tailgating, but still be close enough to catch the traffic lights with your subject. Traffic follows can be tricky. At BrightStar Investigations, we have three surveillance rules:

  • Safety of the Investigator
  • Safety of the people around us
  • Safety of the person we are following- In fact, as the owner and Executive Investigator, I feel a special obligation to ensure that the subject is safe, never feels distressed, and never knows we are there!

10. Professional Report Writing
Report writing must be clean, precise, and court ready. A private detective must use language that can be read in a court of law. I cannot stress this enough: When conducting a surveillance investigation, or any investigation, a Private Eye must treat the investigation as though it were going to court!

At some point in almost everyone’s life, people need the services of a private detective. If you need answers,  BrightStar Investigations is here. You can hire BrightStar Investigations private detective with confidence that the job will be performed professionally.