Hiring a Private Investigator can be a daunting task if you don’t know what to look for and what to avoid. As with many other things in life, it is important to ‘do your homework’. Whether you are suspicious of your spouse, a lawyer needing assistance with evidence gathering, or the head of a corporation looking to conduct an internal investigation – it’s best to approach your search for the right investigator well informed.
Whether you choose to work with us, or another investigation firm, we want you to have a positive experience. For that reason, we have compiled a list to help assist you in your search for the right P.I. Additionally, feel free to reach out to our office by phone, or email. We are happy to answer any questions you may have to help assist you in finding the right investigator for your needs.
1. Identify your specific needs. Make of list of exactly what you hope to accomplish or discover. Do you need help to locate or conduct surveillance on an individual? Is your investigation large or small? Not all investigators are capable of handling certain cases.
2. Begin your search. Start with online services such as Google, Yelp, or the Better Business Bureau to assist in locating investigators in your area. A word of caution – Do not rely solely on Yelp reviews to make your decision. While Yelp may be a good indication of a good business, it should not be heavily relied upon. Yelp, and other platforms, allow businesses to pay for top listings and good reviews. This should only be used as one way to locate a handful of investigators that you may be interested in pursuing. Word of mouth is also a great way to find a P.I.
3. Do your own online research. Take some time to research the companies you have initially selected. Go to their websites and get a feel for each company. Do they have a professional appearance? Be wary of sites depicting some guy with sunglasses and a telephoto lens camera, or a website that has many grammatical errors. Documentation is a crucial aspect of investigations. You don’t want to hire someone who doesn’t communicate well, or who has several errors on their website. Also be cautious of anyone promising any outcome. Unfortunately there are many individuals who claim to have training and experience, but are truthfully just well versed at convincing people that they do.
4. Check their license. In California, anyone providing private investigation services is required to have a valid license with the Bureau of Security and Investigative Services. Here’s a link to check license status: https://search.dca.ca.gov Take note on their title. Are they a licensed private investigator and qualified manager?
5. Call and schedule to meet in person. Most investigators will offer a free consultation. If they don’t, you should consider moving onto the next. Do NOT overlook this crucial step before making your decision. Meeting the investigator in person will offer you the opportunity to learn more about the investigator you will be working with and the company itself. In person consultations will help you see the P.I.’s working environment and if they represent themselves as professional. Most importantly, this step will show you which investigator(s) you have a connection with. It is very important to find a P.I. that you have good communication and rapport with. If your time is limited, a phone consultation is better than nothing. Gather any documents you feel are important for the investigator to best understand your case. This is your time to interview your potential investigator, and for the investigator to understand your case. If the investigator does not ask relevant questions, or if they do not seem genuinely interested, you should consider going elsewhere.
6. Ask for references. Some past clients will authorize P.I.’s to provide their information to prospective future clients for references. It doesn’t hurt to ask the P.I. if they can provide references. Don’t be alarmed however, if they do not. Investigations are private and confidential, so it is not unusual to not provide them. Read through the reviews online, but also understand that by nature, Private Investigators often times make enemies with those who they are hired to investigate. They uncover information that can be unpleasant and some people, believe it or not, take it out on the investigator and the business by trying to provide a negative review online. Keep this in mind.
7. Fees and Contracts. Any reputable investigator and or business will provide you with a well written contract that spells out each parties’ roles and expectation. The contract will have protections for all parties involved. Most importantly, the contract will clearly outline the services to be provided and the fee structure. This information should be provided up front. If this information is vague, be certain that you understand it before signing the contract. If your questions cannot be answered, you may want to reconsider your selection and look elsewhere. It is not uncommon for P.I.’s to work off retainers, similarly to attorneys.
8. Communication. Lastly, discuss with the investigator how you should expect to receive updates and how often. The investigator will be working for you, finding the answers you need or will eventually rely upon to make better informed decisions. You want to feel good knowing the progress of your case and how often this information will be relayed to you.
9. Side note: If you are working with an attorney, it is good practice to consult your attorney prior to seeking a PI on your own. Chances are, your attorney has worked with, or knows a PI. Your attorney can hire the PI if desired.
When you are seeking the assistance of a professional private investigator, and after you have conducted your initial diligence, ask yourself these three questions before making your final decision: Does the investigator appear trustworthy? Do they seem to genuinely care about me and my case? Are they qualified? The above checklist along with these questions should help you find the right investigator for your case.
If this article was useful to you, helped answer some questions, or assisted in guiding you to the right investigator, please drop us a line in the comments and let us know. Good luck with your searches and of course, we would love the opportunity to earn your business and show you that our client’s satisfaction is paramount.
The Investigative Group is a private investigations firm. Their main office is located in El Dorado Hills, California. The Investigative Group specializes in all types of private investigations in the northern California area but often accept cases outside of the immediate area – on a case by case basis. For questions, or to discuss your own case, you can reach The Investigative Group at 916-934-4736.