Hiring a Private Investigator
What You Need to Know Before Hiring a Private Investigator
So you want to know about hiring a private investigator. Maybe you need a background check on a potential job hire, private surveillance on a wandering spouse, legal asset discovery for your divorce, or business fraud investigating for a suspicious employee. These are all situations that warrant meticulous research by a professional private investigator, but how do you know you’re working with the right private investigator?
Before hiring a private investigator, consider the following points to protect yourself and ensure that you’re getting the most thorough and accurate results possible:
Choose a licensed private investigator. The vast majority of states require that anyone engaging in the practice of investigations be licensed, and any investigator you interview should be able to produce a copy of this license for you quickly, easily, and without complaint. You wouldn’t work with an unlicensed realtor, doctor, or contractor. Don’t assume that just because private investigators are often required to conduct their work in stealthy ways that their business dealings are just as clandestine. You want a private investigator who has an established business presence and an up-to-date license to practice, which confirms that they have met their state’s particular standards for licensing.
Do not rely on the internet alone. You can find anything you want online, including companies that claim to offer investigative services. In many cases, these online enterprises are completely unregulated and often produce inaccurate results. Investigation companies that practice solely online typically have access to databases of public records – they may return information to you like telephone numbers, address directories, voter registration filings, and the like. These background checks offer merely surface information that, with a little legwork and a few phone calls, you could likely have discovered on your own. For the most accurate, recent, and comprehensive information, hiring a licensed private investigator is the smart choice.
Do what makes you comfortable. Because much of a private investigator’s work is done under the radar or behind the scenes, and because the person or entity hiring them likely wants to keep the work quiet for now, meeting in person can cause some discomfort for the client. You do not need to meet with your private investigator unless you want to. The majority of the services offered by a private investigator can be done with a minimal amount of inconvenience to the client. The formality of a meeting is usually not necessary, but if it makes you feel more comfortable to vet investigator candidates face-to-face, by all means make an appointment with every professional who seems qualified to undertake the work you need completed.
Always get it in writing. Before you do any sort of business with a private investigator, and before any money exchanges hands, agree on a contract that is signed by both parties. This formality is a necessity that makes it clear exactly what you are hiring the private investigator to do, and what kind of results you will expect in return for your investment. If an investigator cannot or will not present you with a contract or implies that a contract is unnecessary, that’s a red flag. Move on.
Rely on experience. As you sift through the options available to you when seeking to hire a private investigator, you will also encounter varying levels of experience. Some private investigators have little or no investigative background. They may be a retired law enforcement officer or retired from the military, but this sort of experience and a few months of private detective school do not necessarily qualify them to investigate your case. Everyone has to start somewhere, and maybe you’re OK with giving the youth with a video camera your money to do surveillance. However, if you truly want your desired results, seek out an investigator who has experience, especially experience doing the type of investigating you desire. The professional you hire needn’t be a former FBI agent or member of the secret service, but they should be able to explain their real-life experience clearly and easily so that you feel comfortable with them and confident in their abilities.
Understand the investigator’s qualifications. When a private investigator categorizes themselves as “bonded,” that means they have purchased a detective agency bond. While not specifically categorized as insurance, a bonded investigator could be thought of as insured in a way because the bond protects a client in case of fraudulent activity or illegal actions by the detective or agency. Being bonded is almost always a requirement to acquire a private investigator license or open an investigation practice. While you want your investigator to be bonded, do not be deceived by the title or allow the investigator to imply that they are somehow a safer or better practice than competitors.
Hire an insured private investigator. The private investigator who you hire is working for you as your agent. If he or she damages someone’s property, gets in a car accident, presents false information, or otherwise while working on your case, they should have ample insurance to cover any losses. Without insurance, the liability then falls to you, the client. You will be exposed as a client, which is often not ideal in many private investigation cases. Use common sense and confirm insurance coverage before hiring a private investigator. Just as producing a license should be easy for your private investigator, so should proof of insurance coverage.
At ASG, we carry $2 million in liability coverage to protect our clients. We also have the breadth and depth and years of experience necessary to handle most any case presented to us. Hiring a private investigator doesn’t have to be a struggle or a confusing effort. We are happy to discuss the particulars of your case to make you feel comfortable about your wishes and confident in our abilities. Contact us today for more information.