Marksmen Case File: A Real Grinder

Don't get lost in the search.

Photo: Floresco Productions/OJO Images/Getty Images

THE DAY started like any other — hand-to-hand combat class — when an awesome Client shot us the name of the target company: bogus address in the Mid-West, sketchy financial services Web site and a VoIP number we were dying to call. Curve ball — client said no. We listen to clients.

No worries, we winged a dagger into a block of wood and saddled up to our computer screen for what we thought would be a ride in the park. Whoa not so.

The company was MIA in the basic places: directory assistance, online business directories, etc. But then we ran a reverse address check and came up with (ahem) a different company name. Hmmmm. Turned out to be a CPA firm with no similar principal names or affiliations with the target company. We got the Client nod to call the CPAs but interviews there didn’t yield any different information. Ouch.

Up next, your classic XRD dive (sorry, cross-reference directory search) and found 86 companies listed at the target address, but none of the principals or the target company. We rang the management company of the location, but no dice, no record of the target company present or past.

If we used harsh language this would’ve been the moment, but instead we cracked our knuckles and, brilliant idea, ran an executive name search for the entire Midwest! Nothing. National Corporate Searches. Nada. National proprietary searches on the principals. Zippo. What the #&*$%? (Apologies, but in this business, sometime harsh language is called for).

Fully embracing our “dead end” philosophy, we took one step back to go two steps forward, and reverted to the no-call company phone number to verify that it was listed to a VoIP provider. It was indeed.

We then got all techy with it and ran a reverse IP search on the server numbers for the target Web site. The haul: 41 domain names all using the same IP address. We plugged this into our old pal the Internet and discovered a list of phone scamming companies that included 15 of the 41 domain names — all with URLs featuring financial services terms — and the name of the target company. Nefarious, but inconclusive. We also located a message board set up by scam victims that listed some of the 41. Okay, then.

Key strategic move here: send the new guy out for lattes, no foam. Recaffeinated, we scanned victims’ accounts, gleaned contact names, and leaning on Whois, identified a common owner with an address in a Midwestern state, a contact name and a phone number. The hitch — the area code provided in Whois did not exist in the US. We ran people locator databases for the contact name. Nope. We ran archived news and Internet searches for the contact name and got bupkis — except for scam-ee reactions posted on message boards with tales and woe, anger and vows of vengeance.

Running out of options and patience, we decided to go old school and hit up the Better Business Bureau Web site, and steady-eddie they showed the address and phone number the client gave us, but listed a different principal name. AHA! FINALLY! Except it turned out to be a false positive as requests for information to the company had not received replies, no complaints had been processed and no other relevant info was available.

Our allotted time had expired and we’d been on our own nickel for the past hour. Still the final rock was as yet overturned, so we shot a call to the applicable state’s Department of Securities and validated what we already inkled — that there was neither a business on file using the target’s name nor any license found under the principals’ names. Game over, man!

We reported our non-findings to our Client, explaining a truism of our business, that some people just don’t want to be found. We expected disappointment, possibly exasperation – but instead got a load of gratitude. Due diligence was really what they were after and they by God got that. Search called off, we knocked back some wheat grass, nibbled a gluten free brownie and picked up the next case.

Founded in 1998, Marksmen has inexorably become a worldwide leader in brand protection services including trademark clearance and enforcement investigations, business intelligence investigations, third party patent infringements and worldwide litigation support. Additionally, Marksmen negotiates for the purchase or sale of IP rights and domain names internationally, offers domain portfolio management and monitors the Internet for brand infringement and defense. Feel free to contact us to find out more about our services.