Finding the best private investigator for your situation

When you require the services of a private investigator, how does one tell the difference between the good and the bad candidates? Don’t waste your time and money by just blindly picking somebody who might not be able to do the job. By following these guidelines, you’ll be able to find the best private investigator for your case, whatever the need may be.

1: Get a referral.

Consult someone you know and trust, your attorney, a buddy or even a co-worker, if they have ever employed a private investigator, and what their experience was like. If they had a good experience you still should check them out. If they had a bad experience now you know who not to hire.

2: Check with the Better Business Bureau.

Do a search on the BBB website or get in touch with your local BBB office. Look for candidates that have BBB Accredited Business. Even if a Private Investigator doesn’t have an Accredited Business they will have a rating and this should help you decide if it’s someone you want to consider.

3: Do an Internet Search

When you have identified some feasible prospects, perform internet searches using the name of the company and the names of the principals.

If you now have the name of the principals, perform a web search using their names. Put quotes around their name, run the search, and read any articles that come up. You may find both negative and positive information.

If you still don’t have any decent contenders, or perhaps you would like even more options, do an internet search with the words “Private Investigator”, “Private Detective”, “Private Investigative Agency” or “Private Detective Agency” along with the town where you need the services, or at least the nearest major city.

Take a look at websites of the private investigators which come up.

4: Telephone Interview

Phone the candidates and make certain you cover all of the considerations listed below.

5: Initial consultation

Set up an initial meeting with the top prospect and find out if they are the ideal private investigator for the task.

During each step of the process, continue to keep these concerns in mind:

First impression?

Do they present themselves professionally on their website, on the telephone as well as in person? How well do they communicate? They need to come across as professional, articulate and credible to others in handling your case, such as witnesses, your attorney, a judge or a jury. The success of your case is at stake.

Where and who?

Are they actually in or near the geographic area you need services? Who is going to do the work?

A lot of “national companies” will advertise as if they can deliver services everywhere. Actually what they often do is subcontract the work out to someone in the area. Why research a private investigator’s background if they’re just going to pass your case on to someone else?


Have they got experience with the kind of case you are seeking their services for?

The most effective private investigator is able to get better, more cost-effective results. Even if their rates are higher, you get what you pay for.

Be suspicious of an individual offering professional services with unusually low prices or no retainer. They may not be qualified for the job, or they might have a history of bad cases.


Being aware of who is the owner of the Private Investigator Company will assist you to research their reputation.

You are interested in an individual with ethics, integrity along with a excellent business track record. Again, the success of your case is at stake.


Some states, such as Idaho, do not have state wide accreditation requirements, although some of the cities or counties could. A neighboring state probably does have licensing for individual private investigators and private investigative agencies. Even if your state doesn’t require a license, see if your candidates have a professional license.

A license usually means they may have more resources at their disposal compared to non accredited private investigator. It also usually means they have a clean criminal record.

Alright, so what will happen if you hire an unlicensed private investigator when a license is required? Any evidence they obtain may not be admissible in court. This can lead to

lost money
unusable information
a destroyed case
along with a possible suit
Keep in mind, you want ethics, integrity and professionalism.


What qualifies these people to undertake what you want them to do?

It is not unusual at all for someone to start up a private investigative agency and have no more knowledge and experience than what they have obtained from a TV show

So ask them to share with you their qualifications including schooling, professional affiliations, certifications, and experience.


Are they using liability and commercial vehicle insurance?

If a private investigator you have retained does something for you that results in a lawsuit you also could be sued. This could include committing some type of crime, a battery, an assault, a trespass, or he could have a traffic accident while on your case.


Investigators’ rates vary, depending upon what you would like done along with their experience. For most investigations it is difficult to know exactly how much it will cost, so don’t be surprised to be given an estimated range. Without a crystal ball you usually don’t know what is going to be required to accomplish the objectives of a given investigation. I try to break down an investigation into phases, and reach an understanding with the client on how what you will try to do in the first phase and how much it will cost. Don’t be surprised if a retainer is required. Just remember you usually get what you pay for.

Promises or Guarantees?

Always be suspect of a private investigator that guarantees results. If they make promises they probably can’t keep, look for someone else. As in anything else, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Do they really fully understand?

Do they fully grasp what you want them to do?

Give the private investigator a quick outline of what you want to have done. Make note of whether they actually listen to you, or are they more focused on the money. Once you have explained your situation, the best private investigator will offer different options based on your goals.

From here they ought to work with you in finding the most affordable option.

If following your meeting with your 1st candidate and you don’t feel comfortable with them set up a meeting together with your 2nd option and so forth. If the out come of your case is very important and has serious consequences don’t jump to quick decision. There is usually only one opportunity to do an investigation and it needs to be done right.

By doing your research and asking the proper questions, you should locate the best investigator for your particular circumstance. Even if you have to pay a higher rate for the right person, remember, you usually get what you pay for.

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