How to hire a private investigator

How to hire a private investigator


We tend to associate “private investigators” with characters from Hollywood blockbuster films and leads in television drama series. In fact, the private investigator who initially brought the position and job role to the limelight and public attention is Sherlock Holmes – a fictional character from literature.

When the job role is uttered, we automatically conjure up images of someone sitting in a suit and trench coat, peeking at the person they’re investigating through holes cut in a newspaper. We consider individuals sat in cars with binoculars, capturing shots of their subject through a long-distance camera lens.

But it’s worth bearing in mind that private detectives aren’t merely protagonists in the media. This is a real job role and they are real people that other real people engage with on a regular basis. So, in order to unveil the mystery surrounding these individuals, let’s take a moment to really get to grips with who they are and what role they serve!


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The Role of Private Investigators

The basic role of a private investigator lies in their job title – they investigate. They search for clues and evidence of someone doing something. This of course, is a pretty broad and vague description. But you have to be broad and vague when it comes to talking about private investigators in general, as different investigators operate in such different scenarios, in different ways, for different clients. They serve different purposes and tend to have different areas of specialism.

Unlike police investigators or crime scene detectives (who usually work for the government), private investigators work for private clients. The majority of private investigators are self-employed, but you can find high-quality investigators through specialist firms, agencies and other providers. This can streamline the process and make things a little simpler and more straightforward for you.


Why Might You Need to Hire a Private Investigator?

People reach out to private investigators when they need confirmation of suspicions or when they need information about someone who is making themselves relatively inaccessible. Knowing when to hire a private investigator can be difficult, but generally, people move forward with this course of action when they have a small amount of evidence to support their assumptions and require more.

They may suspect something and need solid proof of what has been happening to move forward with their actions, whether that might be:

A personal action, such as cutting off ties with someone with whom they hold a personal or intimate relationship.

A professional action, such as letting an employee go or firing an employee.

A legal action, such as filing a court case against someone or taking someone to court.


Common Types of Cases that Private Investigators Deal With

Private investigators deal with a wide variety of cases. But there are certain cases that people tend to bring to private investigators more regularly and more commonly than others. Here are just a few common causes that you might want to consider incorporating a private investigator’s help into.


Infidelity Investigations

One of the most common reasons that people will contact a private investigator is that they believe their partner may be being unfaithful to them. Often, when you suspect that your partner may be cheating or having an affair, the worst part of the process is not knowing. You’re not sure whether to trust them or not. You question whether you should trust gut feelings or hunches. You begin to doubt your sense of judgment.

You wonder whether you’re being paranoid or whether you have good reason to take further action. Working with a private investigator can help you to get answers to your questions and put your concerns to rest. If your partner is telling the truth, you can rest assured that they are being loyal to you. If they are not, you can determine your next steps without any doubt in mind.


Family Law Matters

Family law tends to revolve around cases that are highly personal and hold high emotional ties. Much evidence that is brought forward tends to be on a “he said she said” basis. It’s not all too surprising that problems can often become convoluted and murky. Private investigators can help to bring a level of clarity to these types of matters. In regards to cases surrounding child custody, private investigators can conduct background checks, which give insight into each parent’s history and now they behave and conduct themselves.

This could become supporting evidence to show why one parent should or should not hold custody. Surveillance can also prove paramount to child custody cases – it is extremely difficult to prove that someone has done something, said something, or been in a particular place at a particular time. Surveillance can go towards providing this evidence.


Financial Matters

People can often become problematic in any situation where money is involved. Money really can encourage people to engage in behaviour they wouldn’t usually engage with or treat people in a way that they might not usually dream of. So, it’s not all too surprising that occasionally people will go awol when they owe someone else money.

Whether that’s a professional company (who may have given them a loan or agreed to a finance plan) or a personal relation (perhaps a family member, partner, or friend who has lent them money). Private investigators can work to track these people down so correspondence can be sent to the correct address and a course of action can be taken to encourage them to cough up the funds that they owe.


What Private Investigators Can Do

So, what can private investigators actually do for you? Knowing what type of actions private detectives can legally carry out can help you to determine what use they can be off to you.


Carry out GPS Tracking

Private investigators can freely carry out surveillance. A way of simplifying this for themselves is to use GPS tracking. Rather than having to follow the individual they are tracking themselves, in real life, on a close and personal basis, they can be more covert and save themselves a fair amount of time and hassle by carrying out GPS tracking.

GPS tracking devices could be attached to a person or their vehicle. It will then send data back to the private investigator regarding the individual’s whereabouts and the locations that they are heading to and from, or the locations where they are remaining static for an extended period of time, throughout the night and the day.


Access Private Databases

Many private investigators have access to private databases that can provide up to date information regarding a person and their whereabouts. This information isn’t readily available to members of the general public – largely due to it being costly and (in certain circumstances) the databases have restrictions to their access.


Gaining Information Through Word of Mouth

Private investigators are known to approach people associated with the person being investigated. The standard person will unconsciously convey all sorts of information about the person being tracked to a skilled private detective. The latter will have a good understanding of human psychology and will know how to get information that they want out of people without being too obvious.


Services That Private Detectives Can Provide

Now that you know what private investigators can do, you might be interested in some of the specialist services that they provide.


People Tracing Services

If you need to find someone, tracing services will help to determine where they are and help you to reconnect with them if you so wish.

Family Tracing – If you have become disconnected from your family, or if you find out that you have family who you didn’t previously know existed, you may want to reach out to them.

Debtor Tracing– if you have borrowed money from someone on a personal or professional basis and they have disappeared, this doesn’t change the fact that they still owe you money. If you can trace them, you can send requests for them to repay what they owe and take legal action from this point on.

Tracing Customers– if you previously had loyal customers or clients and want to reconnect with them, tracing can put you back in touch.

Tenant Tracing– if you’re a landlord, there’s a chance that one or more of your tenants could abscond and try to leave without paying owed rent, bills, or other financial agreements. They may also have left without paying for damage that they have caused to your property. Tenant tracing can help you to find where they have gone and reach back out to them to pay their dues.

Telephone Tracing– if you have received a malicious call or repeatedly receive unwanted calls, you can trace the number to determine who is putting you through this emotional abuse or time-wasting.

Tracing Missing Beneficiaries– sometimes, people are left money or assets in a will and nobody knows where they are to be able to provide them with what has been left to them. Tracing services can often track them down.


What Private Investigators Can’t Do

Of course, there are plenty of things that a private investigator can not do for you. There are strict rules and regulations in place that determine and highlight what they can not do for you. Here are just a few things that you cannot ask of a private investigator.


Private Investigators Cannot Break the Law

Everyone has to abide by the law. Private investigators are no different.


Laws serve various purposes and functions in society

Establishes Standards – the law provides guidelines for what is expected of us as members of society. It outlines the bare basics of acceptable behaviour – what is considered to be right by the law and what is deemed wrong by the law. Where society has decided that it will not tolerate certain behaviour, laws are put in place to reflect these expectations and standards of citizens.

Maintains Order – order is essential for society to function in a way that is safe and healthy for everyone. If there is no order, there is chaos and society would not be able to progress. The wheels would stop turning and things would begin to fall apart. Enforcement of the law ensures that everything runs smoothly and according to the standards set out by society.

Resolves Disputes – everyone has different wants, needs, preferences, values, and ideologies. What some people will consider fair and okay may be considered unfair and unacceptable by others. The law helps to resolve disputes by putting formal rules and guidelines in place. If two people adamantly reject one another’s’ actions or reasoning, the issue can be taken to a legal court for the issue to be put to rest.

Protects Liberties and Rights – we all have basic liberties and rights. The law helps to ensure that these liberties and rights are upheld. If someone violates our basic rights, we can take them to court to ensure that they are held accountable for their actions and that justice is served. This also helps to prevent and discourage behaviour and actions that result in the violation of others’ rights. 
When it comes to the law, private investigators are no different to any other member of society. They cannot play by their own rule book. They have to abide by the same basic laws that everyone else does! So, when hiring a private investigator don’t expect that they’ll be able to do whatever they want to get to the bottom of the matter you’re getting them to investigate. Also bear in mind that private investigators can not impersonate members of law enforcement.

Private Investigators Cannot Hack Into People’s Personal Accounts 
- Of course, you could find out a lot of information if you were able to hack into someone’s emails, phone calls, social media accounts, computer, laptop, tablet, or smartphone. But when it comes down to it, private investigators cannot hack into any of these things. Hacking into other people’s personal accounts is still a criminal offence and would involve breaking the law, something that we have discussed above.

Private Investigators Cannot Hack Into People’s Bank Records 
- Again, you could find out a whole lot of information about someone’s life from hacking into their bank statements. Not only can you see how much money they have coming in and who is sending them this money (giving an insight into their work and connections), but you can see how they are spending their money too. This gives a whole host of potentially important details about their lifestyle and routine.

You can see what they are buying (perhaps paying for meals, hotel rooms, flights, train tickets, or particular items), as well as where they are buying it from (giving a look into where they may have been recent). Finally, you can see when they have been spending money, letting you know when they have been in particular places. However, as tempting as it may be to gain access to all of this information, a private investigator cannot hack into someone’s bank account or other financial accounts.

Bank records are legally protected. So you can not ask a private investigator to give you information regarding balances or transactions. There are occasional exceptions to this rule, but it is generally only when the 
private investigator is working hand in hand with a Solicitor and they have the relevant and necessary legal permissions to access this data and these types of records.


A Private Investigator Cannot Gain Access to Medical Records

When we visit medical and healthcare professionals, we are entitled to a certain level of privacy and confidentiality. Our health records are not readily available to members of the public and a private investigator also cannot gain access to them. That’s not to say you can’t necessarily find out information about individuals’ health.

Private investigators simply generally have to go about gaining this information in alternative ways and you will not be able to receive steadfast, solid proof of any particular condition, treatment, or other aspects of their care. Generally speaking, when looking for confirmation of a particular condition or state of health, a private investigator will ask people who their subject might have confided in. If these individuals voluntarily choose to relay information, this isn’t legal on the part of the investigator. Just bear in mind that this information doesn’t generally hold much legal value, as it is simply word of mouth.


What Legal Acts and Bills Govern Investigations Activity?

While private investigators have to abide by the same laws as the rest of us, there are also specific acts and bills in place that govern investigation activity for Government agencies.

Two major bills that any investigative body will have to adhere to include the Regulation in Investigatory Powers Act 2000 and the Investigatory Powers Act 2016.


Regulation in Investigatory Powers Act 2000

Passed in July 2000, the purpose of this act is to regulate the public bodies’ power to carry out surveillance and intercept communications. It details various powers that public agencies and organisations can legally use in cases of national security. Some of the powers discussed include:

  •  Wiretaps
  •  Reading Post


Covert Human Intelligence 
Investigatory Powers Act 2016 

This act, issued six years later, provided Government security agencies with various new powers.

These include:

  • Allowing access to internet records
  • Allowing access to ISP documentation in certain circumstances

This act also made it a criminal offence to illegally access internet data. It also required communication service providers (CSP) to cooperate with investigations and provide data if requested by legal officials.


How Do Private Investigators Carry Out Their Work?

How to Hire a Private Investigator

Now that we’ve established what a private detective does, how they can help you, and what parameters they have to operate within, you may have cleared up the question of when to hire a private investigator and may have come to the conclusion that you could benefit from the help of a private investigator in a situation that you are dealing with yourself right now. So, how do you go about hiring a private investigator and what should you look for if you intend to hire a private investigator? The following steps should help to get you started in the right direction.


Decide What You Need Help With

Sometimes, people have multiple issues occurring in their life at once. Certain situations may overlap – you may fear that your partner is cheating and may consequently be concerned that you need to build up information and evidence for a divorce case or child custody case. The important thing to remember when seeking out a private investigator is to not get ahead of yourself.

You should tackle things one step at a time. Confirm doubts in one area before moving on to another. This will help you to reach out to the right investigator at the right time. By identifying the first problem you need to resolve or overcome, you can isolate a specific reason for seeking out an investigator, and you can then find an individual specialising in this area.


Ensuring that Investigators You Reach Out to Have a Data Protection Licence

Any investigator who you engage with should hold a data protection licence that allows them to legally work in the UK. These licences are issued and distributed by the information Commissionaires office or ICO. Ensure that the detective you work with has relevant licencing before getting involved with them. If they don’t, any data or information they provide you with could be considered poor quality or invalid.


Ensuring that the Investigator is Experienced

Experience is everything when it comes to private investigation. There aren’t really academic courses in this area, so educational qualifications don’t really go as far in this field as actually having been out there performing the job. Always feel free to ask investigators who you are interested in about previous work that they have carried out.

Of course, for the sake of confidentiality, they probably won’t be able to show exact evidence that they have drawn together for cases, but they should be able to loosely outline the type of work that they have previously carried out.


Consider Reviews and Recommendations from Previous Clients

People tend to be relatively reserved about using a private investigator. After all, issues being investigated are often private or intimate. However, you may be able to find reviews of particular investigators and some may be able to put you in touch with previous clients who can recommend their services and let you know how they found their experience with the particular investigator.

When it comes to more professional services, such as tracking and finding previous clients, tenants, or others who have conned people out of money or left debts unpaid, investigative clients are much more likely to leave open reviews of the services they have received.


Check Whether the Detective Has Been Vetted

It’s worth asking your investigator about their affiliations and memberships. Membership to regulatory or governing bodies will exemplify that they have been vetted to a high standard and that they are sufficiently trusted to be accepted by these professional bodies and their ethical codes. The ABI (or “Association of British Investigators”) tends to be particularly highly esteemed in regards to ensure competence – also carrying out criminal record checks and insurance cover checks.


Check Whether the Investigator Has Insurance

When running any legitimate business, companies have to take out personal indemnity insurance. Private investigation firms are no different. So, double-check that they have all relevant insurance to carry their work out properly.


Ensure They Are Concerned with Confidentiality

Confidentiality is key when it comes to working with a private investigator. Often, you will have to entrust them with a lot of information about yourself, your life, and your circumstances in order for them to carry out their job to the highest level. You want some sort of guarantee that the information you are providing them with is in safe hands and preferably encrypted at all times.


Look for Transparent Fees

Many investigators’ fees will be relatively convoluted. Of course, pricing is a difficult area to tackle when it comes to private investigation. Sometimes a seemingly simple case can become complex and require a lot more time and effort to piece together. Consequently, it could end up being more costly than you originally anticipated.

The key to successful engagement with a private investigator is to ensure that you are engaging with someone whose fees are transparent. From the beginning, you should be able to see what services they offer and how much they charge for them. This will give you a better idea of how much the total service is likely to cost and will also allow you to make more informed decisions along the way.


Engage with an Investigator in the Correct Area

The locality is important when it comes to field private investigation. If you want someone traced and investigated in the field, you need to make sure that your investigator lives or operates in a nearby area to them or can utilise appointed local investigators. This, obviously, makes things more straightforward.

The investigator won’t have to travel long distances to be able to carry their work out. This can save all sorts of additional fees and operational costs such as overnight accommodation away from their usual abode to be able to track a subject. Many people make the mistake of hiring an investigator near them when the subject they want to look into lives miles away.


Ensure that the Investigator is Available for the Duration of your Project

You’d think this would go without saying, but it is something that is worth checking over. You need to ensure that your investigator is available and free to complete whatever task you are setting them within its entirety. You don’t want to start an investigation into whether your partner is having an affair, only for your investigator to go away on vacation a couple of weeks into the investigation. If you are posing a detective with a case that could prove to span an extended period of time, ensure they are definitely available for the duration, plus extra time for potential delays.


Ensure that Your Investigator Can Be Contacted

Obviously, everyone has their own life and everybody needs a break from work every now and then. But part of being a private detective tends to be working unsocial hours. When you hire a private investigator, you want to be able to reach out to them whenever you have new information that could help them with their investigation.

Question how willing your investigator will be to taking calls, messages, or emails outside of scheduled meetings. See whether you will be able to get in touch outside of the standard nine to five working hours, on weekends, or on holidays. Being sure of what your investigator is willing to do before getting them involved in an investigation will prevent disappointment down the line.

As you can see, there really is a whole lot to take into consideration when it comes to hiring a private investigator. From understanding what exactly a private investigator does and can do for you to deciding who you should hire and work with – the entire process from start to end is likely to belong, drawn-out, and pretty complex. But hopefully, the above information has given you sufficient insight into everything to do with private investigators that you will feel a little more comfortable going ahead with your project.

A final point to make note of when it comes to hiring a private investigator is to ensure that you have sufficient support behind you to help you through the process emotionally if you are investigating a situation that is dear and personal to you. Private investigators may unveil information that shows someone to be a person you didn’t think they were.

They may unveil that you have been tricked, lied to, or used. While ignorance may be bliss, it is, of course, always better to be aware of what’s going on around you. Just make sure you have people to reach out to and who can provide you with support throughout the process.

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