A private investigator, an investigator or investigation agent, is someone who may be employed by people, institutions or NGOs to undertake investigative services. Private detectives are extremely helpful in cases where a leak of some kind has occurred, be it from an employee who is suspected of altering the books in his work area or stealing some kind of information. Private detectives also often work for lawyers in criminal and civil cases.
The PI’s main job is to gather evidence against a suspect with the help of different methods such as surveillance, secret observation, secret interviews and other means. They are sometimes known as “dark spies” because many countries hire them to gather intelligence on their targets. The major tools used by private investigators are surveillance equipment, computers and specialized software. It is important for private investigators to build a relationship with their subjects from the very beginning. As stated before, an investigative agency usually employs its own employees, so it is always wise to verify the background and credentials of private investigators hired by a particular company or firm.
There are two general types of investigators: private and public. A private investigator is one who works on a per case basis, which means that he will only be hired on specific cases and he will not generally be given any assignments outside that case. A private detective agency hires investigators either by contract or on a voluntary basis. In the former case, the client pays the investigator directly, while in the latter he is hired through a third party, most often the pinkerton detective agency. This is a good choice as the agency ensures that the investigator obtains all the services he promised.
On the other hand, public investigators are those who are generally employed by government agencies or law enforcement agencies to serve their needs. They may be required to conduct surveillance, carry out background checks and do investigations on their own. They are not, however, allowed to work on confidential matters. Public investigators need a license to carry out their private investigation work.
Private investigators may use different methods for conducting their investigations. Most of them prefer interviewing witnesses, tracking down the subjects of investigations and carrying out thorough background checks. Private investigators also use a wide range of surveillance tools, which include bug detectors, computer trackers and video cameras. For instance, if the subject has been staying at the same hotel for a considerable amount of time, an investigator can make copies of his/her comings and goings from the hotel’s cameras. He/She may also follow the subject using GPS trackers. A private investigation company may even hire ex-cia agents as private investigators.
Public investigators are not only limited to tracking down subjects; they may also investigate crimes. They usually concentrate on white collar crimes such as tax evasion, embezzlement or murder. Criminal investigations are quite expensive, but private investigators usually manage to keep the cost within their allocated budget. Most investigators start with a small investigation team comprising of people who have a great deal of experience in criminal investigation. Most investigators rely on several sources to conduct criminal investigations. Some of them even obtain crucial information from foreign sources.
Private investigators also investigate insurance companies for resolving claims and helping the injured. Insurance investigators use a variety of surveillance tools including video cameras, GPS trackers and telephone triangulation. Insurance investigators may use surveillance to locate the vehicle of a vehicle accident victim, obtain physical records of the client and review medical records. They also conduct personal inspections of client’s homes.
A private investigator may also be hired to do research and test business plans of new businesses. Sometimes, investigations require gathering information from various sources. Some investigators buy information from bank and other financial institutions to obtain hard to get information. A private investigator might even purchase computer documents and other sensitive information from companies, such as insurance companies.