Five things never to ask a professional investigator

Professional private investigators get a huge variety of cases and requests ranging from simple surveillance to complex corporate fraud. And there are just as many investigation firms as there are requests.  As a client you’ll most probably always find that PI willing to do what you ask.

Sometimes even if it’s illegal or unethical.

A good PI will be able to get the evidence you need to solve your problem and do it without legal or ethical risk.

But there are things a professional investigator won’t (and frankly shouldn’t) do. If you’re looking for a PI, here’s a list of five things you probably shouldn’t ask.

  1. I’ve split from my wife/husband recently. Can you track her/him down for me?

Sorry, we don’t trace people in divorce/separation proceedings. There a high level of risk associated with family court and domestic matters. There’s a difference in conducting lawful surveillance on a cheating partner to tracking someone down for some other motive.

  • Can you place a tracer on my ex-girlfriends’ car?

No. It’s against the law in most states. And, why would you need to do this?

  • I want to see what my employees are doing while I’m not there. Can you help me to set up a secret camera to spy on them?

Firstly, overt workplace surveillance is a legitimate activity generally associated with safety of staff and customers.  Different states have different rules that regulate covert surveillance and it’s important that these are checked.  In the absence of a court warrant, an ethical investigator won’t break the law.

  • Can you break into my neighbours house and recover the lawnmower he/she borrowed and didn’t return?

Not a chance!  Private Investigators have no additional powers or rights to the everyday citizen.

  • A friend of mine owes me money. Can you just go around and scare him/her a bit to pay up?

No professional or ethical investigator would do this although regrettably, many do.  Again, there’s a difference between performing a service (like process serving) and intimidating people on behalf of a client. Using threats to recover money or property could amount to extortion.

The investigation industry is often associated with illegality and shady dealings, although the reality is that the vast majority of PI’s are ethical, competent professionals. Not dissimilar to cop shows, the work done by professional investigators is often misunderstood.

One important thing to note is that professional investigators have no greater power that that of Joe Citizen. What makes a PI’s role relevant is that their specialist skills in investigating – everything from data analysis, interviewing, open source intelligence research and many other learnt skills – allow them to provide essential services to their clients across all industries.

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