Speaking to a private investigator in Singapore
There’s a running joke among my friends that if I wasn’t a writer or a journalist, I would probably have become a private investigator (PI). It isn’t so much that I am kaypoh, it’s just that I’m really good at digging up dirt on people.
And yes, that includes dirt on exes, dating app matches, and even my friends’ partners. In my thorough online
stalking research, I’ve uncovered dark secrets, including hidden engagements and extramarital affairs.
It’s both a gift and a curse, really, being able to expose cheaters and liars. Because sometimes I think ignorance would have been bliss, if I hadn’t insisted on baiting an ex-boyfriend on a dating app, only to have him willingly meet up with catfish me at a transit hotel.
So, okay, I’m better off without him. And when I tell this story, people are always in awe of my sleuthing skills. But it also made me wonder if catching cheaters was something I could seriously turn into a career.
A friend recommended I speak with Ranger Investigation & Security Services (RISS), a PI company she herself engaged to get to the bottom of her fiance’s cheating. So I called them up to find out more.
Hiring a private investigator in Singapore
I got in touch with Mr Lim Yong Yi, who runs RISS, a family-owned business that he took over the helm of about a decade ago. His organisation runs security services for different properties, but also does investigation work not just for marital affairs, but for domestic issues and background checks for companies.
About half the cases he sees for PI work involve relationships, most of which are for partners looking to collect evidence of third-party relationships to be used in court for divorces. On occasion, he does get requests for background checks on a fiance before a marriage is official.
Many that walk through his door usually have an inkling of what is already happening with their partners, but just need to have those issues confirmed by a PI. What Mr Lim hopes to provide in his services is a peace of mind to his clients.
“Sometimes it’s a relief for them once they know what’s happening, and they can move on quickly from the relationship,” Mr Lim tells me.
Hunting down unfaithful spouses
RISS has been in the business of investigative work for the past 35 years, and along the way, Mr Lim has developed and trained his staff on catching unfaithful partners using various means.
In most cases, his clients would provide information on the possible whereabouts of their partners, such as their schedules, place of work and regular haunts. From there, the PIs play a waiting game, tracking every movement of their target to see if they would cheat.
But these days, stake outs don’t happen as often, not when there are less time-consuming ways to get information. Mr Lim revealed that his team uses open-source intelligence (OSINT) and social engineering when their client is unable to provide enough details on their target.
With OSINT, Mr Lim explained that it’s what most of us would do when we first get acquainted with someone. It’s basically online stalking but with flair, such as using various social media accounts to derive necessary information on a target and their partners. Or even trawling dating apps for signs of activity from the cheater in question.
And yes, all of this is completely legal, Mr Lim assured me. Even with the Personal Data Protection Act (PDPA) in place, his team has ways of retrieving evidence of any foul play involved, although he was unable to share in greater detail.
OSINT can sometimes lead to a deadend, should a mark be very careful in covering his or her tracks, so this is where social engineering comes into play for the team. Some people liken the method to manipulation, but Mr Lim sees it as a careful game of getting a mark to open up about information he might otherwise not reveal.
There’s a scene in Now You See Me that shows how this can be achieved. The illusionists gain access to billionaire Arthur Tressler’s bank account by getting him to unwittingly give the answers to his security questions just by having a conversation with him.
Mr Lim does the same, except maybe with way less money involved. His modus operandi can include introducing himself as a friend to the target or getting close enough to a social circle in order to glean information from them. Once he’s made contact, he studies their microexpressions – facial cues – to determine what they’re saying is real.
Interesting cases of infidelity encountered
It doesn’t seem like much work, but Mr Lim has caught a number of cheaters through such means.
Like in using social engineering, Mr Lim shared one case where he was able to catch a wife’s willingness to cheat. Calling it ‘honey trapping’, Mr Lim set up a sting operation for a man to test the wife’s fidelity.
How I baited my ex. I got a friend to text him to see if he would be dumb enough to take the bait. He was.
Image credit: Raewyn Koh
In a similar manner to what I had done with my ex-boyfriend, he had his PI befriend the woman through an app and establish a relationship with her. But without even the PI’s coaxing, she initiated a romp in the sack at a hotel near her place. The PI went as far as entering the hotel room with the target to collect evidence of her intentions.
In case you were wondering, the PI left before anything could have transpired, as that is not part of the job. Although Mr Lim did mention that the woman was quite insistent in completing the deed.
As for using OSINT, Mr Lim had one woman who wondered why her husband was flying overseas so frequently for work. She naturally assumed something was amiss and engaged Mr Lim to track him down.
His team hunted for him on social media and found that the husband had been actively following an overseas streamer on a live streaming website. He had spent thousands in supporting her, and even travelled to where she was to spend time with her.
Needless to say, it was quite clear that both parties were guilty. With the evidence collected and presented to Mr Lim’s clients, both couples broke up soon after.
How to tell if your partner is cheating
I asked Mr Lim if there were ways to ascertain cheating was going on before having to engage a PI. Were there clues and signs that I could be looking out for?
“Actually, if you already have a suspicion that your partner is cheating, they probably already are” – was the big reveal I got from him.
It wasn’t that Mr Lim was reluctant in giving up any trade secrets, rather, he said that the people who best know their partners are themselves. As PIs, they can only help confirm or deny your allegations.
Changes in behaviour are usually the biggest giveaways, such as spending more time in the office than usual or being extra secretive about their phones.
In my case, what led to me setting up a bait for my ex-boyfriend was the suspicions I had over him suddenly becoming very active on Telegram. He claimed to be “a bad texter” but here he was coming online frequently yet not saying a word to me. My suspicions were confirmed when I went through his phone and saw his explicit messages to a number of women.
A friend of mine also had a hunch that his wife was cheating on him when she started withdrawing a lot of cash when she would usually pay using a credit card. It turned out that she was using cash to cover up listings on her credit card statements for nights at a transit hotel.
Simply put, intuition is there for a reason, and hiring a PI can help put your mind at ease in finding out the truth.
Lessons learnt from speaking to a private investigator
Since his job involved catching unfaithful partners, I wondered if Mr Lim felt jaded by the idea of true love. “No, I still believe in true love,” said the happily married man.
Mr Lim has had a number of clients turn to him for advice on what to do next after finding out about an extramarital affair. And while he caveats that he is not a marriage counsellor, he does try to help them move on.
He also believes that cheating is not the be all and end all of relationships. There are many reasons why couples stay together. Sometimes it’s out of familiarity, and other times, something larger is at stake, such as children or even a business partnership.
He can’t guarantee that a leopard won’t change its spots when it comes to infidelity, but sometimes, bringing these things to light is the kickstarter needed in rebuilding a relationship. One such couple, for example, discovered the root cause of one spouse’s cheating to inattentiveness to each other’s needs, and worked to repair their relationship from there.
Trust is another issue that couples have a problem with should they want to continue the relationship. “If they really want to give it another go, the cheater must find ways to reassure their partner,” he advised. This includes things like being transparent about whereabouts and allowing spouses to check their phones.
“Moving on is difficult, but it’s not impossible,” shared Mr Lim
Regardless of whether or not you want to continue a relationship or move on, it’s a personal choice to make. For myself, at least, it was a difficult decision to break off my relationship. After all, nothing else my partner did warranted a red flag, but his regard to our relationship as a joke was enough for me to want out.
It hasn’t been easy moving on since then. It still hurts thinking about what he did, and I wonder if there’s something intrinsically wrong with me that made my partner want to abandon what we had that easily. There were fears that the same thing would happen again in a new relationship too.
When I confided in Mr Lim about my worries, he understood where I was coming from. But there was one thing he assured me on, “whoever you move on to next, at least now you know what to look out for”.
I guess he’s right.
Photography by Li Haiyang.