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Tips for Beginning the Process of Hiring a Private Investigator

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Tips for Beginning the Process of Hiring a Private Investigator


Books and movies—especially the film noir era of the 1940s and 50s—have glamorized the idea of a private investigator (PI); he is eccentric, heroic, and he fights crime for the citizens who walk into his office seeking help for some wrongdoing. In reality, a private investigator doesn’t fight crime in the same manner as police or police detectives. Private investigators are individuals that are paid to find information. Before beginning the process of hiring a private investigator, it is important that, besides understanding what a PI is, you understand what a PI actually does. In the United States today, approximately three quarters of PIs are self-employed, the other quarter being employed by the government or corporate institutions to conduct financial and corporate investigations. Despite the disparity between PIs existing in fiction and reality, many self-employed PIs deal with the archetypal cases of missing persons and property on a regular basis—or, in some cases—engage in trailing investigations and surveillance of certain persons to prove business fraud or dishonesty. The breadth of specialization can include business/corporate, identity theft, arson/fire, child support/custody, infidelity, repossession, missing persons, domestic, computer forensics, and insurance investigative PIs.

Know that, as you go about the process of hiring a private investigator, that there are two sources that you can go to for help. As stated before, many PIs are self-employed and have their own offices and specialization. Other PIs that work for businesses may be part of a detective or security agency, where officials have already gone through the process of screening, training and ensuring the validity of private investigators. When dealing with an agency, all that you have to do is submit your case for analysis and select what sort of case it qualifies as (Ex: domestic, child custody, financial etc.). Of course, all agencies have their own idiosyncrasies when it comes to the process of hiring, but the basics remain the same. Once agencies have finished analyzing your case, they will probably ask you for an interview to discuss the specifics of the case as well as how much money you are willing to pay for an investigation. The bonus with agencies is that you know you are dealing with professionals who are willing to put multiple private investigators onto a single case. The downside is that agencies require extra paperwork that can be confusing and annoying, as well as lack direct contact with private investigators at times. Working with self-employed PI allows more one-on-one contact between the client and the PI as well as an environment where a client is able to feel like the issue—usually one that is very important and close to their heart—is being personally taken care of. However, just like hiring a private investigator through an agency has its downsides; going to a self-employed PI has its downfalls too.

When going to a self-employed private investigator, clients experience the true difficulties of the hiring process before they actually decide to hire. What potential clients really need to focus on is finding the right private investigator—somebody who has the correct experience, credentials, and intentions for taking a case. As in all professions, the pages of yellow books and the internet are fraught with frauds, seeking to scam innocent people out of their money. There are a few easy steps that you can take to ensure that the private investigator you are hiring is the right one to get your job done. Make sure that the investigator you intend to engage has the necessary credentials (state licensure etc.) and experience, and, most importantly, make sure that the professional has experience and specialization in what you actually need. (Hiring a PI that specializes in divorce isn’t going to help you out if you need a PI that can conduct an investigation of intellectual property theft). Another important factor you should be assured of before even speaking to a PI is their contract with confidentiality. Do you want your case in the newspapers? On TV? If you don’t, then before you begin the process of hiring a private investigator, you need to make sure that the potential PI is one that is absolutely willing to keep information confidential.


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