Private investigators are a tricky topic. "Should I hire one? Should I not hire one? How would I go about finding a good private investigator? Can I be my own investigator?" More goes into private investigations than most people are aware of. When you take on a PI, you're giving them access to highly sensitive information, putting a lot of money on the line, and risking your personal reputation.
You can undoubtedly purchase beneficial spy gear and gather important information on your own, but let's also cover the pros and cons of hiring someone to handle the investigation. Unsurprisingly, we often help private investigators with the necessary equipment to conduct their investigation. So we've seen good ones, and we've also seen absolute scam artists.
This article will give you some tools to help you protect yourself.
Let's start with the basics, shall we?
WHAT IS A PRIVATE INVESTIGATOR?
Private investigators are individuals who offer investigative services of gathering information through surveillance and uncovering evidence. With the assistance of some top-tier spy gear, you can become your own investigator.
To hire a private investigator directly is to seek your own information outside of standard means.
Private investigators are often hired for child custody cases or other touchy aspects of an individual's personal life, such as exposing a cheating spouse or uncovering missing persons.
WHY HIRE A PRIVATE INVESTIGATOR
You can acquire the best visual surveillance equipment and become a fantastic investigator on your own, but many people prefer to hire it out rather than put in the work. The truth is that both options require work.
Professional investigators can provide you with the context and skills the average person might not have.
Good investigators work with law enforcement to gather information efficiently and lawfully; saving illegal information in your possession can often do more harm than good. Even if legal information is collected through unlawful actions, the information's integrity is harmed.
They are renowned for being a discrete option, which means they are often sought out by those who need to protect their reputation, but also, a PI will take on cases that the police might need to give more attention to.
"Private eyes," as the movies call them, can also run detailed background checks. Background investigation is the most practical reason for hiring a private investigator. A thorough background investigation can bring about desired outcomes at a much swifter rate.
10 RISKS OF HIRING A PRIVATE INVESTIGATOR
There are inherent risks in hiring a private investigator. Some risks can be avoided by hiring only the best private investigators; others, not so much.
Many private investigators are well-respected, licensed individuals, but not all private investigators are this way, and those who aren't reputable are the ones you really have to watch out for.
An investigator who intends to do harm can cause much damage very quickly. Here are ten things to watch out for if you are considering this avenue of investigation.
HIRING THE WRONG PRIVATE INVESTIGATOR
Hiring the right private investigator is crucial to any case, especially when they're going to be handling sensitive information. Discovering hidden assets in offshore bank accounts, for example.
Since each situation is individual, the chosen investigator must be suited to the task. Private investigators should be well-rounded individuals (and most good ones are), but generally, each has strengths that play to specific situations. If you choose an investigator whose strengths lie in areas other than what you need, you've made a poor decision and set your investigation up for failure.
Every investigator you are considering needs to be independently vetted to avoid personal and financial loss.
If your target discovers your secret source of information, it can cause significant issues for you and the police.
In a child custody case, for example, if the opposing party finds out they are being followed or monitored, it could get much worse for the child, depending on how mentally stable the parent is. It could also mean that evidence gathering gets increasingly difficult since the person being investigated is on high alert.
If you're not hiring from a reputable agency, it's very easy for your investigator to flake out on you. They can walk away with your private information or money, pass off illegally obtained evidence, or ghost you entirely without difficulty, especially if they are not licensed.
Less extreme examples would be not delivering on time, hiding service fees, or avoiding contact with the client. If you are in charge of planting the bugs and the information, you're likely to retain it.
Each state has different laws regarding private investigators, but how he gathers information is as important as the information he collects. If investigators gather evidence through a faulty strategy or outside the defined scope of the law, it can cause legal consequences for both the client and the investigator.
Since the client and their reputation are on the line, choosing an investigator who will remain above reproach is crucial. Unfortunately, some of them get caught up in greed and convenience.
Investigators should always conduct themselves professionally, especially since they're likely handling sensitive information.
LACK OF EXPERTISE
Keep in mind that not every private investigator is a professional investigator. It's easy to sound like you know what you're talking about in one area (cyber investigations, for example). Still, private investigators need to offer a variety of professional services, such as computer forensics, executive protection, criminal laws, reading surveillance tapes, lie detection, background checks, etc...
He must be an open-source intelligence specialist (open sources are information available to the public) and have experience tapping into local law enforcement sources. Good connections sometimes allow the investigator to get a much-needed assist when securing information.
A potential downside to hiring a private investigator is that they could be more cost-effective. Private investigations are tricky, time-consuming, and independent of government assistance. That means the PI is using privately owned stock to fund the investigation, costing the client more money.
A lot of private investigators are worth the cost they charge, but be wary of hidden fees. Be vigilant and ensure that any contract you sign covers expectations in great detail.
If you purchase your own gear, you're investing instead of a one-off payment.
Private investigators are notorious for invading privacy. This invasion can often mean the evidence they gathered will cause consequences for the client rather than the person being investigated. PIs have also been known to submit false or loosely interpreted evidence to the client. Once that information is in your hands, you are responsible for what you do with it, which means it might get you into more trouble than it's worth.
Every investigation includes the investigator going through detailed information on the clients as well as the person being pursued. Shadey PIs can easily stash evidence in their own secret sources for later use. The very nature of their job makes them good at hiding money and information, which means you need to have the utmost confidence that your private investigator will keep your confidence.
If someone is pawning off their services and pretending to be legitimate, it's time to run in the other direction. Unlicensed private investigators are a massive red flag. If you are looking at working with an unlicensed private investigation service, you need to reconsider.
Hiring an unlicensed private investigator, or a "chuck in a truck, as I like to call unlicensed individuals," can and most likely cause the client severe repercussions. Always do your research before signing any contract. Verify the investigator's license number first thing.
Usually, this can be done through your state's Department of Public Safety. And do not assume that a license is current just because it's on the contract or they flashed you their private security license. Check to ensure the investigator is keeping their license up to date. If you come across one that's expired or the state has revoked it, this is a red flag that the company or individual is unreliable.
The final risk to understand is that of negative publicity. If you hire a private investigator, you must be aware that, should you be found out, it could damage your reputation in some circumstances.
Doing this surveillance alone could save you from having this problem if you yourself don't get found out.