Sample buy, test purchase, mystery shopping — whatever you want to call it, you are collecting evidence. Some buys are easy, others are incredibly complicated. This short video covers some points to ponder to help ensure your efforts are successful if you decide to tackle it on your own
Completing test purchases to obtain product samples & secure hard evidence is often a critical component in an investigation. You have to know what is being sold in order to determine how to potentially address it.
Is the seller offering counterfeit, infringing or potentially diverted goods? Will the product shipped match the photos & description in the seller’s listing? You just never know these days – and whatever is in the parcel that you receive – could make or break your case.
As investigators, it is our job (literally) to make sure that our buys are successful, and every morsel of information & evidence is collected, preserved & documented in the process.
We also want to remain anonymous – meaning that we are not identified as private investigators working for the brand owner or their counsel in the course of the investigation. To achieve this, we use a legally registered undercover entity for these purposes & any interactions with the seller along the way.
Depending on what you may already know about the seller offering the product & whether it is on a third-party platform or sold directly on the subject’s website, you may have a sense of how robust your cover or backstory needs to be. With the way some sites operate these days, it may be hard to anticipate what you will encounter until you start the purchase process. Preparedness is key.
It is important to keep in mind that to some degree, every transaction is a TWO-WAY street of communication – sharing identifying information between the buyer & the seller. While you may be focused on identifying the seller, should they wish to do so, the seller may have a chance to identify you too.
Are you prepared for the possible exposure? What’s your name? Address? What comes up on Google if you search by one or both? YOU? The brand owner? With so many still working from home, how important is your privacy if you use your residential address to receive the shipment & the case goes to court?
There also are all the considerations of handling evidence when the buy is received. Preserving the (digital & physical) paper trail from start to finish will determine the viability of that evidence for potential criminal or civil action. Depending on your overall objectives, evaluate whether completing a buy is a worthwhile use of your time – or if it makes more sense to hire an expert to ensure all your bases are covered.
This is more than just online shopping; it is an evidentiary process. It is important to ensure that it is handled, managed & maintained in a legally defensible way. Certainly, at whatever point a buy is made & whether you handle it in-house or hire investigators, there is a wealth of information to learn from the process that will propel the case forward.