We have established a list of the most commonly asked questions about private investigators and how investigations are conducted. If you still have questions after completing this section go to the Ask An Investigator A Question section.

How do you choose the right private investigator?
What/how do private investigators charge?
What can private investigators do that I can not?
I have already been to the police can I still use a private investigator?
What happens on a surveillance?
How do I know an investigator is working on my case?
How do investigators follow people without getting caught?
What happens if an investigator gets caught?
Can private investigators get phone records and emails?
Are there different types of private investigators?
What is the difference between using a local private investigator and a national firm?
What are the Licensing requirements to become a private investigator?
What can private investigators NOT do?
Can a private investigator enter private property without an owners consent?
Do Private Investigators have access to government records?
How fast can a private investigator get started on my case?
What happens if the investigator does not find what I hired them to find?
How do you become a private investigator?
How do you install a GPS Tracker?


How do you choose the right private investigator?

You have already taken the first step by starting to research the subject. Once you have finished reading the FAQ’s you should be well prepared to call one of the licensed investigators and begin a phone interview with them. There are several questions you should ask an investigator and some of them will vary based on the type of investigation you are interested in. But you should always ask how much experience they have in the type of investigation you are looking for. You should ask for specifics on how they charge and what their retainer policy is. Remember you are the client and have the right to ask as many questions as it takes to feel comfortable with the investigator. Do not hesitate to ask for references or proof that they are licensed and insured. Keep in mind that just because an investigator is licensed, does not mean that he has experience in the type of investigation that you need.

Do not be pressured into making a retainer payment prior to discussing all of your needs and insuring the investigator is equipped and staffed to conduct your investigation within an agreed upon time frame.


What/how do private investigators charge?

In the majority of cases, private investigators will charge an hourly rate. Hourly rates can vary based on the type of investigation needed as well as how many investigators will be needed. Nearly all investigators will ask for a retainer fee before taking a case. It is unlikely you will find an investigator willing to do just one or two hours of investigative work. Additionally some investigators charge for travel time and/or mileage traveled. It is important to get a retainer agreement in place that details all possible fees in order to protect both parties in the unlikely event of a dispute.


What can private investigators do that I can not?

Private Investigator’s have access to several information databases that are not available to the general public. But more importantly they have the training and experience needed to transform the raw data into actionable information.

To list all of the advantages of using a experienced private investigator is outside of the scope of this website as the information could fill a book or two. But the main point comes down to judgments made from experience. Most investigators have thousands if not tens of thousands of hours of experience working on investigations. To consistently conduct a successful surveillance and mobile surveillance you need an experienced investigator. Could you sit in a vehicle and take pictures and drive behind someone, sure! The downside is when you get caught or confronted by the police you can get injured or into serious trouble. Additionally, now you have lost the valuable element of surprise. Don’t put yourself into a dangerous situation and compromise the discretion of an investigation by trying to do it yourself.

Having a professional licensed investigators report admitted into court or having them testify on your behalf also carries a lot more weight then trying to get evidence admitted that you collected yourself.


I have already been to the police can I still use a private investigator?

Yes, regardless of if the police are looking into a matter or not you can retain the services of a private investigator. In a lot of cases the private investigators will work in conjunction with the police and conduct there own detailed interviews and evidence collection. Private investigators have the advantage of working on one case at a time and can apply the focus and dedication needed to effectively solve cases that are still being worked on by the police. An experienced investigator will also know when to “back off” as to not interfere with the investigation, knowing how to effectively keep pressure on the police without crossing the line into interfering is a skill that many private investigators have mastered. It is important to check references and ask detailed questions about an investigator’s experience.


What happens on a surveillance?

There are several types of and reasons for a surveillance. But the key principles are the same for most types of surveillance’s.

The objective is normally to keep tabs on an individual or groups of individuals and determine/document the activities. With this in mind the investigator will locate a discrete surveillance position where the activities can be monitored while still allowing for continued surveillance if the target departs. There are a lot of factors the investigator will have to consider while selecting the surveillance position including but not limited to:

Most likely route of departure
Traffic conditions
Neighborhood( will the surveillance vehicle be noticed by neighbors)
How close can the investigator get without the target noticing.
How many routes of departure are there.

An experienced investigator will inform you if additional investigators are needed to conduct a surveillance. This is common in areas where on street parking is limited or not practical or there are several logical ways out of a neighborhood. One experienced investigator can handle most surveillance’s but it is important to listen to an investigator when they say more than one is needed in order to save money in the long run. Additionally, in urban areas where the target is likely to take public transportation or be dropped off/picked up by an individual the success rate is drastically increased when more then one investigator is on the case.

When conducting surveillance on a spouse or partner, the Private Investigator will first determine the best schedule for surveillance with you. Once on surveillance, all visible activity will be recorded on videotape. Should your spouse or partner enter a public location, such as a bar or shopping center, covert videotape will be obtained where possible.

It is also important not to interfere with the investigation. This includes driving past the area or performing checks of your own. As tempting as this may be, it can ruin a surveillance if your vehicle is noticed by the other party. Additionally it can put your safety and the safety of the investigator’s at risk.For this reason it is in many retainer contract that you are not allowed to be in the area that is under surveillance. This is also why most investigators will not provide updates while on the surveillance as it is often construed as an invitation for trouble.


How do I know an investigator is working on my case?

The investigators will make every effort to obtain video documentation of any activities during a surveillance period. Often there are extended periods of time when the target is not active, during these times investigators will normally obtain hourly spot shot’s of the surrounding area to show they are present. You can request that video spot shots are taken at more frequent intervals if desired. The investigators will often obtain video of the mail being delivered or other events that can be verified as to the time of the occurrences.


How do investigators follow people without getting caught?

This simple answer to this is experience. Following or “tailing” a target is extremely complicated. There are hundreds of decisions that have to made instantly and continuously throughout the process of tailing an individual. An investigator has to take into consideration the driving habits/style of the individual, traffic conditions, upcoming traffic signals and a million other scenarios that could cause the investigator to be separated from the target. A skilled investigator will have experience in these situations to anticipate events and take appropriate steps. No matter how good an investigator is, they are not invisible, and certain circumstances or events can cause them or their vehicle to be noticed. An experienced investigator is aware of this and looks for signs that they have been noted. If this happens the investigator would fall back and allow a greater distance between the target and the investigator for the sake of discretion. An experienced investigator will suspend surveillance if they believe continued efforts would lead to the discovery of the investigation. At this point they investigator should consult with the client and advise them of the situation. This allows for a new plan to be formed and may call for additional investigators to be used in order to discretely follow a person who is showing signs that they are suspicious.


What happens if an investigator gets caught?

In the unlikely event that the discretion of an experienced investigator is compromised, the investigator may be questioned either by the target or someone affiliated with the target. In general an investigator will deny everything and will never just give up and discuss what they are doing or say who hired them. Experienced investigators will stick to a cover story that gives a plausible reason for why they are in the area and will take every possible step to prevent any actions from being taken that will compromise the discretion of the investigation. If the investigator is questioned by a individual with police powers, again the investigator will not disclose who they are watching or who has hired them. All they have to do is identify themselves to the police but are not required to disclose any other information.


Can private investigators get phone records and emails?

NO, Investigators can not legally obtain phone/text records or emails from a non consenting person. Regardless of if the person is a spouse or child they have a certain expectation of privacy. If these records are obtained illegally not only are they not admissible in court but could result in heavy fines or imprisonment. Any investigator that would jeopardise his career and lively hood to obtain such records is probably not licensed and experienced to begin with. If you need these records it is highly recommended to speak with an attorney and obtain a subpoena for the desired records.


Are there different types of private investigators?

Private Investigators just like doctors or lawyers may specialise in a certain part of the field and may have additional certifications and experiences in addition to being a private investigator. It is important that you make sure the private investigator you hire has relevant experience to what you are hiring them for.


What is the difference between using a local private investigator and a national firm?

There are Pro’s and Con’s for using both local and national private investigators. If you are going to be conducting investigations throughout the country it may be useful to have one point of contact at a national firm verse trying to find investigators covering each  area, and making sure all of the investigations are on track. But if your specific need is centralised around one particular area there may be advantages of using a local private investigator. Local private investigators typically offer a faster response time and can apply special attention to your case. Many feel that being able to speak directly to the investigator that will be in the field can provide valuable insight into the case and help streamline the reporting process.

One advantage of using a national company is that they typically have contract’s in place with local private investigator’s throughout the country who they use as subcontractors. This allows a faster response as they can call around and find an investigator that has the availability to work your case. This may also be considered a disadvantage as your case is now being handled by an investigator that you know nothing about.

Recent survey’s conducted have determined that local private investigators on average have more than three times the years of experience  over the investigators working for the national companies.

It really comes down to your particular needs and desired level of oversight during the course of the investigation.


What are the Licensing requirements to become a private investigator?

The licensing requirements vary from state to state. Almost all states require several years of experience either in law enforcement or working under a licensed private investigator prior to qualifying to obtain their own license. Additionally, to qualify for a private investigator license a background check is completed and the person must have no felony convictions or pending charges. Certain misdemeanors will also disqualify an individual from working as a private investigator.

Connecticut requires 5 years of experience.
Massachusetts requires 3 years of experience.


What can private investigators NOT do?

Although private investigators have access to information the general public can not obtain, they must obey the same basic laws as ordinary citizens. Some big things they can’t do:

Pose as law enforcement officers or clergy
Wire tapping
Obtain cell phone records or bank records via pre-texting
Trespass


Can a private investigator enter private property without an owners consent?

Yes and No. As a private investigator does not have police powers they are allowed onto property just as any other citizen would be without the need for a warrant. An investigator always faces the risk of being charged with trespassing if clearly posted signs and commonsense are not followed. But an experienced investigator can typically use a well thought out pre-text to give a plausible reason to enter property and obtain the information needed and then exit with out being discovered or breaking the law. In most cases an investigator will not go onto private property unless it is crucial to the outcome of the investigation as it heightens the chance of being discovered.


Do Private Investigators have access to government records?

Investigators have access to a wide array of public and private databases. Some of these databases are tied to government information including Motor Vehicle Information, property records, ect. These databases are just one of the many tools that a private investigator has available to assist then in completing investigations.


How fast can a private investigator get started on my case?

This will vary widely based on the type of investigation as well as the investigative company that you select. Some local investigators can respond to a surveillance request within a couple of hours from receiving the first phone call (with retainer payment) while others may need day’s if not weeks. It is important to remember that although you have questions that you want answered quickly, the success of an investigation is greatly improved when a thorough and detailed pre-surveillance interview with the client is conducted. An investigator may also want to inspect the area where the surveillance is going to take place. This allows the investigator to formulate a plan to ensure the correct resources and man power are available to execute the investigation or surveillance as smoothly as possible.


What happens if the investigator does not find what I hired them to find?
The answer to this varies based on the type of investigation requested. Most investigations are billed by the hour and are not contingent on a certain outcome. Some investigations will offer services such as a skip-trace or a records search where the charges will be refunded if the information is not obtained. Each company will have a slightly different policy on what is charged for and what is not, that is why it is so important to read over the retained agreement prior to having an investigator start a case.


How do you become a private investigator?
Becoming a professional licensed private investigator can be very rewarding, but it also can be very difficult. It is strongly recommended that you reach out to a local private investigator and start asking questions. Many investigators will take people out on the job for a day or two so you can see what it is really like and if it is a good fit for you.





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