Hiring a private investigator : what to look for
A private investigator, also known as a private detective, is someone who can be hired as a detective to find information or people using a variety of methods, such as surveillance. Private investigators are most commonly hired by businesses or attorneys but most will take on jobs for individuals as long as they are seen to be legitimate.
Most private investigators are wary of taking individual cases for fear of the results of their investigation being misused by the client. If you are an individual looking to hire a private investigator, make sure you are clear about your intentions. Also, don't be offended if the investigator questions your motives: they are only being cautious and with good reason.
Checklist of what to look for when hiring a private investigator fro private jobs:
This is the first and most important step in retaining a legitimate investigator. Most states require private investigators to have a license before they are permitted to provide investigative services. Ask your chosen investigator for their license number and then call your state licensing authority to confirm the license, date of expiration and the name on the license. Also check if the PI attended training a particular private investigator school and check their qualifications from the academy in question before hiring them for any jobs. You can also check to find out if there have been any complaints against the private investigator. It is illegal for an investigator to provide investigative services without a license. An investigator who doesn't have a license probably couldn't qualify from school due to a criminal record or insufficient experience and training.
Make sure the investigator or firm has liability insurance to cover any loses or damages that occur during or as a result of their investigations on your case. Such costs include damage to property, car accidents, false information and bodily harm. If you hire an uninsured investigator you may become liable for these costs. Most states require a minimum of $100,000 in insurance but most investigative agencies will carry from $1,000,000 to $2,000,000.
Be sure to check what sort of experience the investigator has as this can be important, particularly in serious cases such as locating a missing child. Many private investigators enter the profession as retired law enforcement officers and this can be useful in checking their experience and expertise. It is also common for a private investigator to enter the field without prior law enforcement experience but this doesn't make them any less competent. Make sure their area (or areas) of expertise is consistent with the type of experience and skills that will be required on your particular case. Find out about any certificates or qualifications they may have.
It is important to realize that private investigator fees can be expensive and you generally get what you pay for. That means you need to establish your budget before you begin interviewing investigators. Generally, most private investigators charge an hourly rate of $40 to $80 plus a deposit or retainer fee that can range from $1000 to $5000. The retainer fee is to cover any expenses the investigator may have while investigating your case and this can include transport, hotel bills, phone calls and payments made to sources of information. These expenses may also need to be reimbursed if the retainer fee doesn't cover the cost.
It isn't necessary to meet with your chosen private investigator prior to hiring but you may wish to interview him or her just see how you feel about them. Your relationship with the investigator will be based on effective communication so you need to be comfortable with the person you are sharing your information with.