Wikipedia identifies “plagiarism” as “…the ‘wrongful appropriation’ and ‘stealing and publication’ of another author’s ‘language, thoughts and ideas’ and the representation of them as one’s own original work.”  The LEXICO dictionary (powered by Oxford) defines the word, “plagiarism”, maybe a bit more broadly, as “the practice of taking someone else’s work or ideas and passing then off as one’s own”.

The implications of plagiarism, depending on the circumstances, can range from being not particularly significant to far more serious consequences, such as possible expulsion in academic circles to legal ramifications in business.   At its core however, plagiarism is FRAUD, pure and simple.  It is deceitful and often employed not just out of laziness or from a lack of initiative, but more frequently for the credibility and gain of the plagiarist themselves.

So why are we writing about plagiarism in the context of private investigation / risk management?  Admittedly, our firm was victimized by an ex-employee who inaccurately took credit for our system’s development (more about that below) and that was at least the initial catalyst for this train of thought.  However, we believe the applicability of this topic is very germane to private investigators, as follows….

Professional Integrity

There are many careers where trust, confidentiality and integrity are pillars of the profession.  The medical and legal professions come to mind as do CPAs and financial advisors.  However, does anyone not feel that a private investigation firm’s success equally relies on those elements?  Trust not to “ghost” investigations.  Trust that case findings and reports can be relied upon.  Trust of compliance with all laws.  Trusts that the investigator will be thorough, that they will assign a competent investigator to the case, and that they will present objective and honest findings.

Private investigators should not be affiliated with anything fraudulent…..nor should they ever falsely take credit.  Nor should they falsely accuse or represent.  Anything of that nature compromises their integrity, reputation and potentially even their business.

Integrity is very important to our profession, as you know, and this comes in many forms.

Plagiarism & Fraud Specifically

Plagiarism can take many forms that have can affect each of us, such as….

  • False representations by candidates (including falsely taking credit) on resumes
  • False or plagiarized marketing representations by other firms competing for business
  • Plagiarized elements of offerings, e.g. taking credit for the development of systems, business practices and processes developed by others

Plagiarism may even tangentially also be related to actual case engagements related to items such as….

  • Corporate espionage investigations
  • Copyright infringement cases
  • Disputes on ownership rights
  • Even background checks

Mea Culpa

In keeping with our advocation of the benefits of integrity, full disclosure etc., we need to again disclose a partial reason for this article. As briefly discussed above, our company has been frustrated by a former employee misrepresenting himself in the marketplace.  This employee inaccurately represented himself as the “brains”, “conceptual designer”, and the “developer of CROSStrax©”.  At first, we chuckled in the absurdity, but soon realized others might believe him.  How this former employee can reconcile being a conceptual designer when the systems and policies imbedded in the platform had evolved and been vetted over 10 years before this employee was even employed by us is perplexing.  This employee reported directly to the CEO, who started the CMS himself.  This employee was not the programmer, decision maker, nor the architect.  This employee was simply a paid employee.

The last laugh on this issue happened recently.  This former employee wrote an article for a PI Magazine, Sept/Oct 2019 issue, “Case Management Software Security”.  This former employee demonstrated that the submission very much incorporated two articles written by other writers (whether on purpose or on accident). If on purpose, this article was clearly fraudulent and an overt plagiarism of other’s work. If it was on accident, it shows this ex-employee’s laziness in not verifying the information being published as someone else’s work. As Abraham Lincoln said….you can’t fool all of the people all of the time.  Also, don’t believe everything you read on the internet!

No one can be perfect, but individuals should make every effort to keep their integrity.  It is a great long-term approach for every reason.