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What you need to know about private investigators - FAQ’s from previous clients and laws regulating the private investigation industry.

March 31st, 2019

Although not all inclusive, this article covers the laws governing private investigators, the knowledge we have gained while working cases and some of the questions that we’ve received from consultations with clients.

What is illegal? 

  • Conduct surveillance for a client who has a restraining order on them - since the private investigator represents and is acting on behalf of the client, this is a violation of the restraining order in the form of stalking/harassment. 
  • Record a conversation that he or she is not a part off, or without consent of one party.
  • Run a tag without a permissible purpose.
  • Install a camera in a private area such as a bedroom, bathroom or massage parlor etc. The judge will almost always throw out any evidence obtained by this method in all but the most serious cases, and performance of such an act can cause a pi to lose his/her license, or worse, go to jail.  
  • Install a tracking device on a vehicle that does not belong to the client.
  • Pretext to get bank account info or other personal info.
  • Step onto private property to record evidence - if a private investigator trespasses or breaks the law to record evidence it will most likely be inadmissible in court. Again, on extreme cases the judge may allow it if he/she determines that the evidence outweighs any law)s that where broken. 
  • Impersonate law enforcement or any federal agents.

What equipment/other tools does a pi use. 

Some of the more interesting and less known are: 

Phone spoofing app - this enables the investigator to make phone calls using a fake number of his/her choice. Because, often times the subject will not answer calls from a number they do not recognize, but off course will be much more likely to answer if he/she knows the number. The other main use is undercover work where the pi needs to assume a false identity.

Data loggers - this is installed on a computer and record all keystrokes. They are used by corporations in order to remediate workplace theft but are also used to catch cheating spouses and to protect teens from online dangers.

Covert Cameras - there are many unique cameras to choose from to suit the unique needs of a particular surveillance. Some of our favorite are the smoke detector, coffee cup lid, and garden rock cameras.

What special sources of information does a private investigator have access to? 

Sources are something that a private investigator will continue to grow throughout his/her career. Perhaps the number one source that a private investigator has access to, besides a database subscription, is other people, people who have some sort of occupation that a private investigator can use. Any private investigator who is any good at what he or she does will have an extensive web of these contacts. This network includes other private investigators who have advanced methods of online research and access to other databases, police, lawyers and informants. Informants are very important, some examples are; hotel clerk, bar tender, mechanic and people who have access to establishments and other locations.

What 3 things set a Good private investigator apart from the rest. 

#1 Connections: Just like with any business matters who you know. 

#2 Pretexting: Having the ability to put on an act is key to being successful as a pi. Individuals who excel at this tend to have strong confidence and are able to change their personality to match the person they are pretending to be.

#3 Report writing and research/information gathering: Many private investigators could be good research investigators but don’t have the patience needed to painstakingly scan through page after page of an old newspaper to find that one bit of info, or to track down witnesses and arrange a meeting. Good research investigators are very patient and have excellent memory and instinct. 


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