The Private Investigation industry is no different than any other; the barrel brimming with both bad and brilliant apples. There is nothing worse than being desperate for help, hiring a private investigator to do their job, and then finding out the PI has made things even worse.
Believe me, it happens!
In the real world, a private investigator must earn the trust of his clients over time by building solid relationships, no different than we do with our friends. However, when you are looking to hire an investigator with immediacy, then chances are you don’t have this luxury. The last thing you want is to be left shooting blanks into the dark.
The following tips and tricks are designed to help you navigate through the pivotal process of screening your potential private investigator. Think of it as a checklist to protect your best interests. Remember, the list is a gathered set of guidelines to follow, but nothing is set in stone and reality can always drift in any direction.
1. Finding the right investigator is essential to the success of your case. Treat your pursuit for the proper PI as if you were hiring an employee to whom you would divulge your most important confidential information. Request that the investigator sign a confidentiality agreement (link our confidentiality agreement here) that will protect the information you are going to disclose.
2. References are important! Request reputable references and never hesitate to verify them once in your possession. Every successful PI firm should have a laundry list of clients who would gladly share their positive experiences with the company.
3. Verify credentials. Along the same line as checking references, you must be willing to verify the credentials of your potential PI as well. Just because someone claims to be private investigator doesn’t mean they are. In California for example, you can look up a reputable PI company’s name, verify the validity of their license, and see whether or not there have been complaints or actions filed against it by the state registrar.
4. Dig deep. Ask for information about the private investigator’s background. A PI with a significant law enforcement background can benefit you and your case in many ways.
They have most likely received extensive legal and investigative training. This is invaluable when compared to a PI who hasn’t.
They have probably made significant networking contacts in their years of experience, invaluable and off limits to those outside the industry.
They have held a trusted position within our government. This does not happen without having to pass rigorous background checks.
5. Be leery of false promises. Private investigators can rarely promise definitive results. The PI industry is not in any way like the retail industry, where you can make a payment in exchange for something tangible. Investigations take time, patience, and ample skills to properly develop even basic results. If a PI is willing to give you a guarantee from the beginning (unless the services rendered are remarkably straightforward), you might want to consider it as a red flag being waved.
6. Trust your instincts. Listen to (and follow) your instincts. Take in the totality of your search; the name of the PI firm, as well as their website, advertising, office location, and personality. Though these don’t always denote success, those private investigators who have experienced the most success are also the mostly likely to have reinvested their profits into a professional package for potential customers. PI’s who are sloppy in the details might also be sloppy with your case.
7. Make sure you’re covered. Verify that your potential PI is insured and request a copy of their policy. What are the policy’s limits? Does the policy’s coverage extend through to the entire length of your investigation?
8. Know the limits. What is your private investigator capable of doing? If your investigation might need to continually expand, will your PI be capable of performing the additional tasks?
Hiring a private investigator can be a daunting experience. Arm yourself with the essential information and don’t be afraid to ask the right questions. The process of hiring a PI can be over fairly quickly, but the aftermath might last you a lifetime.