There are many reasons why you might want to hire a private investigator. You may wish to obtain extra security, find a missing person, or screen a potential employee. Regardless of your reason for hiring a private investigator, you want to be careful in how you go about finding and choosing one. You will be investing a great deal into the PI you hire, not only in terms of money, but also trust. You need to be sure that the investigator will work for your best interest and not try to take advantage of you.
Red Flags To Avoid
There are many legitimate private investigation firms ready and willing to serve you to the best of their abilities. Unfortunately, a lot of scam artists pose as legitimate investigators to rip you off at the first available opportunity.
There are specific warning signs that indicate that the investigator you’re talking with is not right for you:
- Doesn’t have an office
- Doesn’t have a website
- Pressures you into hiring them
- Doesn’t ask you any questions
- Promises the exact results you want
- Offers or agrees to do illegal things
By law, there are certain things a private investigator cannot do for you. These include tapping into someone else’s online accounts (social media, email, etc.) or wiretapping someone’s phones. You shouldn’t ask a private investigator to do any of these things for you. And if the PI offers to do them, it indicates that this is not someone you should hire.
Places To Start Looking
Web searches and yellow pages are good ways to find information about private investigators, but they are not the first places you should start looking, and you should never hire a private investigator on the basis of a print or online ad alone.
As with many services, the best way to find a private investigator is referrals from trusted sources. If you have a friend or family member who has hired a PI in the past, you can ask for the name of the agency. Then make sure your acquaintance was satisfied with the service.
However, you may not know anyone who has hired a private investigator in the past. If that’s the case, there are other places to obtain referrals:
- Criminal defense lawyers
- Sheriff’s department watch commander
- Local FBI duty agency
- Police department clerk
Ways To Vet a Private Investigator
Once you have the names of a few candidates, you should narrow down the list by checking to see if each has a good reputation. Check to see if the agency is a member of the Better Business Bureau, or if any past clients have lodged complaints against it with the BBB. Your state’s private investigator association should also have records of any complaints or disciplinary actions against the PI or the firm.
Questions To Ask a Private Investigator
A legitimate PI should offer you an initial consultation at no charge. This is an opportunity to meet the investigator face to face and gauge whether this is a person in whom you can place your trust. When meeting with a private investigator you’re thinking about hiring, the following are good questions to ask.
- “Can You Provide References?”
A private investigator unwilling or unable to provide references for past clients is not trustworthy. Be sure you check out any references provided to make sure they are on the up and up.
- “Are You Licensed?”
Most states have licensing requirements for private investigators, although some are more stringent than others. If the investigator answers in the affirmative, ask for the licensing number so you can check.
- “Are You Insured?”
This is important because if the PI is not insured, you could be held liable for any damages resulting from the investigation. In some states, errors and omissions insurance is a requirement to obtain a private investigator license.
- “Do You Have a Specialty or Area of Expertise?”
Like many professionals, private investigators sometimes specialize in a particular area. It’s often best to hire someone with expertise in the type of service you require.
- “What Is Your Professional Background?”
You should look for a private investigator with previous experience in law enforcement, such as with the state or local police or the FBI. Also ask about any professional certifications or degrees in relevant educational programs, such as sociology or criminal justice.
Before hiring an investigator, you should take a moment to ask yourself if you are prepared to cope with the outcome of the investigation. You might find out something that you don’t want to know, or you may be upset if the results are not what you expected or wanted. Once you decide that you’re ready to hire a private investigator, call the experts at ACS (248) 363-1360 to find out more about available services.