This Melbourne Private Investigator is watching you

Melbourne Private Investigator JULIA Robson joined the police force in New Zealand at 20. Eight years ago she came to Australia on holiday and now lives in Melbourne and runs her own private investigation business.

WITH infidelity, there’s something to be said about trusting your gut instinct.

By the time someone comes to a Melbourne Private Investigator, they already know their partner is cheating; they just need confirmation.

It’s rare you’ll do a job and find out a partner is just planning a secret surprise birthday party. About 80 to 90 per cent of the time, you can get that confirmation for them and in most cases, it’s a relief.

Sometimes we get footage of partners doing the most incredible things with other people like no clothes on doing it on the beach, sneaking away in the middle of the day thinking no one’s watching. There’s equipment out there — camera and video — that can tell the time on your watch from a very long way away.

When you have evidence like that, you think, “How can I tell someone what their partner’s been up to?”, but most of the time they just shrug and thank you and are appreciative that they can now move on.

I don’t like to do too many of those cases. With the radio segment, I know that’s what Melbourne wants to hear but it takes its toll when you’re dealing with something so personal for someone.

Chrissie (Swan) loves anything to do with mystery or being able to solve people’s problems. I got a call from her radio show out of the blue to comment on (singer) Casey Donovan who had been catfished (being deceived online by someone who pretends to be someone they’re not). The segment grew from there after a listener rang in saying how they thought they had been catfished, too, so they got me back in the studio and it went from there. People are fascinated with the secret life of Melbourne.

There are a lot of double lives out there. I deal with cases where men are married and rent a house nearby and say to their wife they’re travelling for work but instead go to the apartment to see their girlfriend. The girlfriend doesn’t realise she’s a mistress because he’s got a house, she’s stayed there the night. There are a lot of men with the time and inclination to do that. I see the worst of people’s behaviour but I also see the best. When you’re reuniting family members that’s when you say, “OK, all those terrible jobs, this one makes it all worthwhile”.

On the show, we reunited sisters who hadn’t seen each other in 36 years. One sister just left in the middle of the night when she was 19 to meet a man who was part of a cult. She ended up running away with him but he was wanted by police in Victoria so they skipped town to NSW. The family had heard from her briefly in the ’80s and knew she’d had a couple of kids but they hadn’t heard from her since. They left it, hoping she’d come back, but we managed to track the sister down in a small part of NSW. The husband she ran away with had ended up passing away and her life had changed and she wanted to be reunited.

Those kinds of stories don’t come around very often. We were all in tears in the studio. It’s so nice to see people have their questions answered.

A lot of people don’t have the money or are nervous calling an investigation agency. Sometimes it’s easier to close that chapter of their life and forget about it.
A case can cost $500 to $1500, but depending on circumstances and the hours involved, the cost can be never-ending.

When I came to Australia I worked for a company who dealt mainly in injury fraud but being a bit younger I always found I was good with the computer side of things and gathering information online so I decided to start my own business.

My work is a mix of domestic and corporate. The domestic side deals with locating missing people, infidelity and background checks. In the corporate world, we do due diligence, we locate debtors, find people who are defaming other people online and selling things online they shouldn’t be selling. I also do thorough checks on people applying for jobs. It’s easy to have references on a resume, but how do you know that person is genuine?

I choose which jobs I want to take on and have 20 or so agents I outsource to for surveillance, forensics or work interstate. I might use a forensic person to detect if Malware or a listening device is being used, or if a computer’s been hacked. There are also people who go into boardrooms and check for listening devices. If there are long hours sitting in a car doing surveillance required, I hire someone to do that. I get distracted so I couldn’t sit there looking at a door for eight hours.

Online dating can be problematic. People can be whoever they want to be. Girlfriends have often asked me to check out a guy they’ve met online. I’ll put together a profile and on some occasions I’ve said to avoid him as I’ve found out he’s still in a relationship, for example. Facebook and other social media accounts are a good starting point. As a PI, I’ve got access to other databases, too. With privacy restrictions these days, it’s getting harder. We’re not the police so we don’t have access to police databases, but as a modern investigator you’ve got to be equipped with your own ways of getting information.

When you’re on the computer at home in your pyjamas with no make-up on you tend to have your walls down and be more vulnerable and suddenly start trusting someone you wouldn’t if you met them in a bar.

You get people like the online Nigerian scammers who build up people’s trust. They whisper sweet nothings down the phone to (their victims), make them the centre of the world and ring them all the time so it becomes all consuming. You’ll find people who’ve gone through a terrible divorce are vulnerable to having someone reach out to them and are looking to feel special again. Soon friends and family are being pushed away and they’re completely controlled by this person who’s saying, “I’ll be there soon, baby, and we’ll start a new life, but send me another $1000.” (Victims) become so financially invested it’s hard to back out and the scammer will threaten to end the relationship and suddenly you’re $100,000 down so they have to believe that eventually the love affair will come true.

We’re having to refer victims of these scams to Gamblers Anonymous because it’s like a gambling addiction where you put the money in and can’t leave because the next person might get the jackpot.

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