The Dos and Don’ts of Hiring a Private Investigator
What’s great about private investigators is that we can crack the case, solve your problems and give you peace of mind. We’ll gather evidence, conduct surveillance, and find the facts. In this blog (and the video below), you’ll learn how to hire the right private investigator for your specific situation and the risks of hiring a private investigator. But also know what to stay away from.
You do want a licensed private investigator. In 90% of the United States, PIs must have a company or individual license. Why is this important? Because each state licensing entity puts PIs through the wringer. Before they can start doing business. Background checks, fingerprinting, reference checks, examinations, and more. So most private investigators, but not all, need a license.
You don’t want an ex-con moonlighting as a private eye for your case. To verify a license, you can go to each state’s licensing bureau, pop in the company or P.I.s name, and get their license number. For example, a Kentucky private investigators license can be verified at the Board of Licensure. They should also have the number on their website or business card. Or they could email you a copy of their P.I. card or wall license.
The second and another basic qualification is insurance. Do hire an investigator who has liability insurance for errors and omissions. It’s often overlooked but essential in this business. An insurance policy gives the policyholder peace of mind. So make sure your PI has insurance protection. Private investigator insurance costs usually several million dollars worth of coverage, which is equal to a minimum of a few hundred dollars a year. Rarely does a P.I. need to use their insurance, but it’s a signal of a professional business. On top of that, insurance coverage is a state rule to get a P.I. license. private investigator insurance costs
Do Hire A Pro
Don’t hire a fly-by-night company. A lot of people love the idea of being a private eye. Many “form” a company and don’t even know the requirements or expertise involved. Just because a so-called firm has a Google Business listing and website doesn’t mean they can do the work. I’ve received dozens of calls from people who want to be private investigators with exactly zero experience, and have done the work themselves. It never ends well, and I’m the final call they make after they’ve tried everything. Keep this in mind: doing investigative work when not licensed is illegal. It can lead to serious charges – criminal trespassing, harassment, and stalking. Remember, hire a pro.
Going past the basics, third, do hire a private investigator who serves a niche? As a customer, before you hire your PI, you’ll want to know your personal goals. What do you, the client, want to get out of this investigation? Save on insurance premiums? get peace of mind? Ensure your loved ones are safe? And why? The private investigation industry has specializations much like other skilled trades. You wouldn’t hire a foot doctor to perform brain surgery…
Don’t Hire A Jack-Of-All-Trades
…so, don’t hire the “jack-of-all-trades.” Find a PI who has spent years working in their niche and offers services to help you achieve your result. Any reputable P.I. would tell you a story, provide a case study, or send you a sample redacted report. If you’re searching by the PIs website, they should have that spelled out on the front page. They won’t have dozens of services unless they have an investigator on staff for that type of service.
Experience goes a long way in the PI industry. There is no “spy college,” so hire a P.I. with the acquired fieldwork. University degrees aren’t required to become a PI but can be when working in specialized fields. Also, obtaining a certification in a designated discipline goes a long way. If your PI lacks an investment in their profession, alarm bells should go off.
You don’t want your PI to take your money and run. There are plenty of fly-by-night firms that aren’t invested in this trade. Nor do you want a reputable firm to “go dark” once the case has started. Ask how often they’ll communicate results to you. A good rule of thumb is to get an update on any day they worked on your case. For example, a good PI can send the previous day’s update with video footage within 12-24 hours of completion. And a full report within 48-72 hours. Lack of effective and timely communication shows a subpar professional.
So don’t hire a P.I. who won’t return emails, answer phone calls, or respond online. In-person meetings shouldn’t limit your decision on hiring a P.I. There are dozens of ways to get eyes on your P.I. For the last two years we’ve all been working, Zoom calls, Facetime, and Microsoft Teams should do the trick. I can count on one hand the number of clients who’ve wanted or needed to meet me in person. It’s not a requirement to have a dedicated office, either. All our teams tend to work remotely – I’ve worked remotely for a decade. Quality is the key – keep that in mind.
Don’t hire a private eye without an online presence. We, as private investigators, tend to hide our identity online, but that, to me, is a red flag. Private investigators aren’t spies lurking in the shadows. PIs are professionals working with people and businesses in the community. A business’s website is our neon sign. Poor content and website design show low standards. A social media presence displays thought leadership and expertise. We can speak with you on Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, or YouTube. The end customer. What business nowadays doesn’t have a social media presence (or YouTube channel?) Can you find your private investigator services with a simple Google search? Reviews on the Better Business Bureau, Expertise.com, Google Business, or their website? If not, run!
Do hire on quality. Don’t hire on what a private investigator costs alone. How much does a private investigator cost? Easy answer? it depends. Factor in the professionalism, quality, geography, the niche in which you’re working. Private investigators charge based on an hourly rate or a flat fee. A typical hourly rate could be anywhere from $40 to $300 an hour. But if you’re going for quality, you get what you pay for. Hiring a P.I. who offers to undercut the competitor’s price is usually a poor investment of your money. I’ve done cases where previous low-cost investigators couldn’t provide results. So, we’re stuck cleaning up the mess at an extra charge.
If you’re in the market for a private detective, keep the following dos and don’ts in this list. Do your research to find a qualified private investigation firm with experience in your specific case. Don’t hesitate to ask for references or contact past clients. Be upfront with the investigator about what you expect from them, and ensure they are clear on your budget constraints and private investigators’ costs. After all, what a private investigator charges for their service can vary. And finally, always remember that hiring a PI is an important decision – take your time and schedule plenty of consultations before making a final decision.
Have you hired a private investigator before? What tips would you add to this list?