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Archive for April 9th, 2015

Thing of the Past

Once I let a man wing by without references; he claimed to be a lawyer who would bring his business card along.  But instead of a safe, elderly client, what I got instead was a whole squad of cop cars and repeated pounding on my door.  I wasn’t stupid enough to open it, and eventually they left.  I moved immediately, and never again will I trust an unscreened client.  But with MyRedBook gone, I am leery of references; I’m desperately looking for an alternative, but my hopes aren’t high.  Do you have any screening procedures you could recommend, now that references are becoming a thing of the past?

magnifying glassReferences are a great method of screening, but not the only way.  You could try running a client’s name through Intellius or a similar “background check” service, or simply Googling it; alas, you can only get really good results from either of those if the client is willing to give you his full name, age and address, and anyone who is reluctant to give references may be equally reluctant to provide other screening info.  P411 uses employment screening, and you can do it yourself just as they do; simply call the client’s work and ask to speak to Mr. So-and-So, then make sure the man you’re connected to is the one you spoke to before.  If you have never heard of the company, you need to check up on it in the phone book and online; cops can create fake companies, but such fakes won’t have any kind of history in public records.  The most important kind of screening, though, is your gut; talk to the man on the phone and see how you feel about him.  If he seems creepy, cocky, suspicious or overly interested in details, or even if he just sets off your alarm bells in  way you can’t adequately define, you may want to pass on seeing him.  Of course, some cops are such practiced sociopaths that they can lie to their victims and seem perfectly normal while doing it, so you will probably want to take the final precaution of not revealing your exact address until he arrives nearby at the proper time and calls you.  Not giving an exact location in advance makes it much harder for cops to organize the kind of nasty trick they pulled on you before.  If you really want to be cautious, you could even meet the client in a nearby cafe or the like, so that you can look him in the eye and feel him out before taking the final step of letting him in your door.

Remember, long before the advent of the internet, we relied on our instincts to screen clients, and we mostly did pretty well.  And now that our enemies are attacking the external methods by which we protect ourselves, the old ones supplied by Mother Nature are becoming much more important again.

(Have a question of your own?  Please consult this page to see if I’ve answered it in a previous column, and if not just click here to ask me via email.)

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