Check Your Mate: Hidden Camera Stings
The practice of baiting a spouse or partner who is suspected of being a serial philanderer is a controversial type of investigation. The service provides pictures of trained investigators, and the client chooses one he believes to be the target's “type.” The chosen bait wears a hidden camera and goes to an area the target is known to frequent. He may not approach the target, but may be receptive to her approaches.
If the encounter takes place in a bar, he may sit a few stools or tables from her and order a drink. If she approaches, he's allowed to respond in a natural manner without enticement. After a certain amount of time with no response, he may make eye contact and smile. If she doesn't approach or act seductively toward the bait, she has passed the test. If she does respond, every word, action, and expression are recorded for the client to view. This type of investigation began with men as targets, but it has quickly expanded to women targets as well.
The controversy here is that some see this as a setup. They feel it's unfair to present targets with an attractive, available person and then film their natural response. This might be true if the undercover operative were allowed to seduce the target, although many would argue that people are presented with opportunities to cheat on their spouses or significant others all the time. This investigation is merely a means of putting to rest any suspicion that the target is inclined to cheat, or alternatively, obtain evidence that he is cheating. Still, being a controversial and sometimes messy business, many investigators steer clear of these investigations. Others make a living doing them.
Should you decide to have your mate investigated for infidelity, be sure your operative knows the difference between being available and being seductive. If she doesn't, it can ruin your entire case. Remember, everything — her tone of voice and any suggestive statements or actions — will be recorded by the camera and picked up by audio. The target must initiate all contact and action.
Audio Recording Laws
If the investigation takes place in a two-party consent state, meaning that both parties to the conversation must be aware of its recording, turn off the audio — especially if you intend to use the recording in court. Some investigators record audio if the video is for the client's eyes only. This is playing with fire, however, as penalties in many states are high. As to workers' compensation surveillance, most risk management companies require the audio be turned off, even in one-party consent states.
Never believe that your client won't spill the beans to the target about audio recording. Often, emotions are so high the client can't keep himself from throwing the details in the target's face, in which case she or her attorney will realize that she was recorded without her knowledge. If he does this, it all falls back on your shoulders. If you're operating in a two-party consent state, you're in trouble. If you're in a one-party consent state, only one party in the conversation must be aware of the recording. That party is your operative, so you can legally record audio. See Chapters 17 and 18 for more information concerning audio and video surveillance and Chapter 12 for working within the law.