Have you ever been asked what you do for a living? When people ask me, I tell them I’m a private investigator (PI).
Kind of interesting, right? You don’t get the opportunity to meet private investigators every day, let alone talk to them about what they do.
Inevitably, the next question asked is:
“Who hires you?”
Aside from “educational” shows about private investigators (like Cheaters), I’m surprised at the lack of information available. One look at web search results and it seems all we PIs do are infidelity or domestic cases. Case in point:
There are a lot of false assumptions about the identity of both private investigators and our clients. We all don’t look like this guy:
In truth, private investigators offer a mix of services that are useful to a wide array of customers.
Here are 7 types of people that commonly use our services:
Human Resource (HR) Professionals
As an HR pro, you strive to bring in quality employees to fill open positions in your company. But how can you be sure new employees will be a great fit?
I’m glad you asked.
By hiring a private investigator to conduct a background check.
Running a background check before you hire an employee (a pre-employment screening) helps to develop and evaluate a candidate’s profile.
A good screening will help you answer several questions, such as:
- Does the candidate have a criminal record? Avoiding workplace violence is crucial and is one of the first items a pre-employment screen uncovers. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, of the 4,679 fatal workplace injuries that occurred in the United States in 2014, 403 (9%) were workplace homicides. (You’ll also want to make sure your investigator is compliant with pre-employment regulations and laws – see Ban the Box for more info.)
- Do their resumes check out? PIs screen candidates to make sure all the details of a resume are true. Lying on a resume is illegal in some states, not to mention it’s ethically wrong and can lead to serious harm to a company’s reputation if it becomes public.
- Did they attend the college(s) they claim they did? The number one lie on resumes comes in the form of “education padding,” where applicants embellish or fudge their education information. PIs can track down college records, years attended, and degrees that a candidate received.
- Are their past employment records accurate? PIs specialize in tracking down past employers. Many times, PIs can uncover false employment claims or omission of previous employment on a resume.
- Do they have good credit? PIs can run credit reports to find credit ratings that leave much to be desired. Again, it’s important to find a PI who understands and complies with the consumer reporting laws. (See Using Consumer Reports: What Employers Need to Know and Fair Credit Reporting Act for more info.)
- Is he/she a sex offender? Sexual harassment costs companies bundles of money. In 2011, over $52 million was doled out to victims of sexual harassment in the workplace. That number doesn’t even count the number of women (and men) who don’t report the act altogether, which could be as high as 1 in 3. PIs can access nationwide data on sexual offenders so you can avoid this problem altogether.
Preventing workplace injuries is an integral part of the job description for occupational, environmental, and industrial safety professionals.
The ability to administer the workers’ compensation program is lumped into many of those job descriptions. On top of that, it’s beneficial to a safety manager to be informed about how to save the company money. One way to do this is by eliminating fraudulent claims.
How do you work towards eliminating fraud?
You guessed it: hire a private investigator.
Private investigators can conduct surveillance on fraudulent workers’ compensation claimants. Obtaining compromising video, along with a detailed report of a fraudulent claimant’s activities, can magically make claims go away. Safety professionals that partner with a competent and well-versed surveillance expert can help deliver this result.
Insurance Claims Adjusters
Unfortunately, insurance fraud is a booming business in today’s world. Automobile accidents, arson, and healthcare fraud total approximately $40 – $80 billion annually,  costing the average U.S. family anywhere from $400-$700 per year.
To defeat insurance fraud, insurance companies hire private investigators. PIs can perform automobile accident reconstructions, interview claimants and witnesses, and gather law enforcement records to determine who is at fault and who might be cheating the system.
The end result equals money saved and risk avoided.
Lawyers are another type of private investigator client.
Private investigators can help lawyers dig into opposing parties’ backgrounds, interview potential witnesses, and aid in the litigation process.
Also, private investigators serve subpoenas and specialize in tracking down witnesses and plaintiffs who may not want to be found. Hiring a PI to do the legwork is a cost that’s worth the investment.
Caregiver or Homemaker
What if you need a babysitter to watch your child, but the next-door neighbor isn’t available?
Conducting a background check on a nanny, babysitter, or caregiver gives you peace of mind.
You’ll want to know if the person looking after your son or daughter is responsible enough to babysit your child. Private investigators can locate past and current criminal records, sexual offenses, and verify your babysitter’s identity.
Business owners want to make sure their business interests are protected. They also want to determine if they’re getting into business with the right partners.
Hiring a private investigator to conduct a business background check on a client’s business partner, a.k.a a due diligence search helps to evaluate the quality of a business partnership.
You’ll want to know what kind of credit both the candidate and the business have, a list of their business assets, the business representative, any negative media associated with the business, and any other past issues.
Businesses also use private investigators to conduct security and integrity audits.
For example, a PI can do anything from investigating the security of a building or inspecting the quality of service at a restaurant. Private investigators can follow salespeople to learn if they’re regularly attending their sales meetings, stake out bars and clubs to make sure the staff isn’t stealing from the register, and attempt to (legally) “break into” data storage companies to test their safeguards.
Landlord (Property Owner)
Renting your property to bad tenants is a problem. Hiring an investigator helps mitigate the risk of renting to untrustworthy renters.
That’s your property that you’re allowing someone else to live in, so you have a vested interest in making sure it’s not torn to pieces once the lease expires. Vetting your tenants upfront can help to ensure you collect your rent check every month and alleviate property damage concerns.
Private investigators can help by conducting a background check on your potential tenant to find criminal records, prior evictions, civil suits, and bad credit. Searches like this will paint a picture of your potential tenant on the front end. From there, you can make the decision to rent to them or hold off and wait for a better candidate to come along.
What Other Ways Can Private Investigators Serve You?
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 “What you should know about workplace violence – CNN.com.” 2014. 12 Jan. 2016 <http://www.cnn.com/2014/09/27/us/workplace-violence-questions-answers/>
 “Sexual harassment charge statistics – EEOC.” 2009. 13 Jan. 2016 <http://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/statistics/enforcement/sexual_harassment.cfm>
 “1 In 3 Women Has Been Sexually Harassed At Work …” 2015. 13 Jan. 2016 <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/02/19/1-in-3-women-sexually-harassed-work-cosmopolitan_n_6713814.html>
 “FBI — Insurance Fraud.” 2015. 13 Jan. 2016 <https://www.fbi.gov/stats-services/publications/insurance-fraud>
What is a tenant? Why do I need to conduct a background check on them? And who should conduct the tenant screening?
What is a Tenant?
A tenant is an adult who has signed a lease or rental agreement (or has an oral rental agreement) with a landlord to rent property, such as an apartment, condo, or house. The tenant has a legal relationship with the landlord that creates various responsibilities for both parties. The tenant is also referred to as the “lessee” of rental property. The tenant may use and occupy the rental property as longs as she/he complies with the terms and conditions of the rental agreement, including, but not limited to, the payment of rent. In every state, tenants are afforded certain protections under the law.
Why do I need to conduct a background check on my tenant?
A tenant must be thoroughly screened before leasing your property to her/him. Whether you own an apartment complex, a number of duplexes, or even a home or two, knowing exactly who your tenants are is paramount. Conducting a proper tenant background screening can save you hundreds if not thousands of dollars. A tenant credit check will indicate whether your tenant pays on time or if at all. A tenant screen will indicate whether you are renting an owner’s dream or a nightmare.
As a property owner, it is always better to be safe than sorry. Tenant screenings provide owners with a certain level of security and help deter undesirable situations. This is why choosing the right background service is so important. Most background screenings are relatively economical, however, one must consider the quality and the know-how of the screening company.
A thorough background screening should include criminal history, evictions, and a credit check. There are a number of ways to obtain these reports, but the fastest, most cost-effective, and best method is through an online company. The pricing usually ranges between $25 to $100 depending on the depth of your report.
Who should conduct the “tenant screening?”
The key to finding the right background screening service, or tenant screening company, is simply to research. Seek out ones that follow the law and regulations when it comes to conducting background checks. Avoid shady firms as they can lead to getting you into some pretty hot legal water. Violating the Fair Credit Reporting Act or a Consumer’s Right to Privacy is something you want to avoid at all costs.
Make sure the background screening service:
- Has a valid business license
- Possesses a clear and concise pricing
- Defines their total process for protecting sensitive information
- Has proper paperwork for needed consent and release of information
- Verifies the name of the applicant, DOB (Date of Birth), and Social Security Number (SSN)
- Follow all the laws pertaining to the Fair Credit Reporting Act
- Searches Circuit Court and County Records for every county the potential tenant has resided in for the past five years
- The screener has customizable services such as Patriot Act Terrorist Watch List searches, Office of Foreign Assets searches (OFAC), and landlord reference searches
- Verifies the accuracy of your completed report
Conducting background screenings is not a negative thing. It is not used to cast judgment on the character of potential tenants, however, it should be used as an indicator as to what type of tenant you’ll be renting your property.
Gravitas Investigations offers tenant screening that includes: Credit History, Evictions, Criminal Backgrounds, and much more.
Tenant screening is a proven way of evaluating potential tenants, their ability to fulfill the rental terms, provide the necessary care of the property, and pay the rent timely.
Perfect tenants guarantee the landlord’s long-term financial stability and peace of mind, the property’s good condition preserved for the next residents, and the neighborhood’s safe and favorable atmosphere.
A comprehensive tenant screening provides the landlord with a detailed report of a prospective tenant’s story, with a specific focus on credit score (or credit range), criminal record, and eviction precedents.
Whether the property owners decide to carry out tenant screening on their own or use the services of reputable tenant screening companies, the whole process starts with the potential tenant filling out an application form. In the form, the applicants give their personal details, which allow identity verification, their preferences, reference information, and, most importantly, they authorize the procurement of a tenant screening report. Without the tenant’s written consent, it will be impossible (and illegal) to collect any confidential credit information. At this point, it is also important to ensure that the same information is required from all the tenants and no discrimination is taking place. The appropriate questions will be about employment, current and previous landlords, banking information, and, in certain cases, income.
Sometimes, people in search of a new accommodation order the so-called “tenant-initiated” screenings and then bring them to the prospective landlord. This may be a good sign indicating responsible tenants, as they do not have the possibility to modify the screening report provided by a consumer-reporting agency. However, working with a professional, qualified tenant screening company of your own is the best avenue. Why? Because having a team of your own dedicated investigators checking the background of your tenants ensures you’ll get the most accurate and reliable results.
Consumer reporting agencies, which specialize in credit history, most people would like to know where the information comes from and how credible it is. CRAs are regulated by the Fair Credit Reporting Act and collect information from public records with the aim of providing an adequate recommendation based on the landlord’s criteria. The credit score (or range) of the tenant is normally taken from one of the three national credit bureaus Experian, Equifax, or Transunion. The agencies also check the tenants on sex offender search, terrorist watchlist search, national and county criminal search. Thе eviction history comes from public landlord/tenant court records. Some property owners report that the criminal and eviction background check results varied depending on how many of the neighboring counties were checked. Taking into account that not all local records may already be online, this is the point to pay special attention to. Gravitas makes sure we check all previously lived in counties from each tenant.
The Perfect Solution
One more legal detail for landlords to remember is that when they make a decision of denying the applicant or approving him or her conditionally (with an increased deposit or cosigner), the applicant has the right to know the agency which compiled the tenant screening report and see a copy of it. The applicants can also dispute the accuracy of the report provided.
Nowadays, a thorough tenant screening is behind the majority of landlords’ approvals. Tenant screenings have become prompt and affordable, keeping the property owners away from potential risks and ensuring the security of investment.