List of Tips for Hiring a Private Investigator

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List of Tips for Hiring a Private Investigator
Read this list of tips before you hire a private investigator.

This article provides a list of tips for hiring a private investigator. Review this list before making a hiring decision to make sure you’re prepared.

Need Help Hiring a Private Investigator?

Do you need to hire a private investigator to track down a long lost love or missing relative? Do you need a private detective to conduct surveillance on your cheating spouse? A good detective can help with these services and more.

However, all detectives are not the same. Doing some due diligence before you make a hiring decision can pay off in the long run. It is important to check resumes, visit company websites, call references, and verify licensing credentials before you enter into an agreement or contract. Following are some suggestions to help guide your decision:

Verify Licensing Credentials

Hire a licensed private investigator. Most states require investigators to be fully licensed.  Check with the state licensing agency to verify an investigative license. Links to most state private detective licensing agencies are listed on the corresponding state page in our directory.

Ask to see a physical copy of their license. Verify that the license was issued by the appropriate state agency, check the expiration data, and verify the name.

Check with the appropriate state’s private investigator associations to verify memberships, obtain feedback and recommendations. Associations and professional agencies can be a great resource for checking out reputations.

Check for Insurance

Find out whether the private eye is properly insured (i.e. liability insurance, bonded, etc.). During the course of their work, the investigator may become injured or damage someone else’s property. You could be indirectly liable for damages. Make sure they have the appropriate type of insurance for the work you are requesting.

Check References

Ask for references. Speak with the references personally to obtain information on the detective’s performance, ethical standards, ease of doing business, results achieved or outcome of the case, etc.

Ask for a Resume or Dossier

Ask the individual you are thinking about hiring to provide a resume or personal dossier. Evaluate their work history for relevant experience for your personal situation. Look for applicable experience in the military, law enforcement, government organizations, crime scene specialists, etc. Check for relevant education such as degrees in criminal justice, criminology, and forensic science. Also, look for special training and continuing education credentials.

In addition, the person or agency you are considering to provide examples of their work (sample client reports, newspaper articles, success stories, etc.).

Discuss and Agree Upon Pricing and Fees

It is important that you clearly understand the cost to hire a private investigator. Agree on pricing upfront before hiring a private investigator. Discuss requirements for a retainer, hourly fees, flat fees, expense reimbursement, etc. If you know anyone who has hired a detective in the past, ask them what a fair price would be.

Discuss and agree upon the services you wish the private eye to provide, and agree upon the results you expect. If both parties have a clear understanding of the expectations, it is easier to gauge performance and increases the likelihood that both parties will be satisfied with the results. In addition, having a signed contract is always a good idea.

Also, it important to note that some professionals will charge a “no hit fee” for conducting a search, even if they don’t find the person you’re looking for. This is standard practice, as they are still performing the work.

For more information, read our article: The Cost to Hire a Private Investigator.

Discuss How the Investigation will be Conducted

Discuss the information sources, techniques and methods the private eye might use. Be aware of any unethical or unbelievable claims. Not all private eyes will reveal their methods, but try to avoid doing business with those who openly suggest breaking the law.

Visit their Website and Social Media Accounts

Next on the list of tips for hiring a private investigator is a reminder to check out the investigator’s social media presence. This is a step that most people tend to skip, but one that could provide some of the best insight into the character of the investigator or agency.

Check their website. Do they have one?  If so, is it a quality site with good information? We recommend checking out their website prior to making a phone call. Use our Private Investigator Directory to find links to the website. If the website doesn’t exist, or the link to the website is dead, it is possible they are out of business.

Visit their social media profiles. Browse through their posts to see what types of things they are talking about or commenting on. Are they sharing helpful information? Do they appear to be an expert in their field? Are they engaging in online arguments, using profanity, etc.?

Other Advice

  • Before you hire a private investigator, meet them in person if you can, preferably at their place of business, agency office, etc.  Many detectives don’t have an official office, and don’t necessarily need one to get results.  But if they do, visiting their office will help you gain comfort on their legitimacy and perhaps the quality of their business operation.
  • Don’t do business with jerks. If you don’t like someone, for whatever reason, don’t do business with them. It is never a good idea to do business with a person whom you don’t even like. Do some investigating of your own and check out the person’s business and personal websites, Twitter and Facebook feeds, and comments they may have posted on various websites. This will give you a feel for the type of person they are. Good people make good business people.

Follow these simple guidelines to ensure that you hire a private investigator or detective agency that provides quality service. Once you’re ready to hire, visit our P.I. Directory to find a list of professionals in your area.

Questions and Comments

If you have any questions about this List of Tips for Hiring a Private Investigator, please leave a comment below.

Michael Kissiah is the owner of Brandy Lane Publishing, LLC, which owns and operates a small portfolio of websites, including eInvestigator.com. Michael created eInvestigator.com more than 20 years ago after working as a private investigator in the state of Florida. Since that time, he has become an expert at how to find information online and has written over 1000 articles on topics related to the investigation industry. In addition, he is the author of the "Private Investigator Licensing Handbook", available at Amazon.com.

10 COMMENTS

  1. This is very helpful information for me, as sometimes I wonder what if private investigator seems serious about providing a service but doesn’t offer guarantee to you then your provided tips will definitely help me to find the best private investigator services. Thank you for sharing with us.

  2. Before conducting a private investigation, first, you need to make sure what will be the grounds and for what reason. you can never tell if the investigation will going to bring you a positive result or not. You might want to check the credibility of the investigator and if they how many cases they handled or if they already handle the same case that you are inquiring to them,

  3. Before you call me, please do the following:
    1. Have a budget in mind that you can afford to spend. All investigations are based on the number of hours. As an example, 4 hours x 80.00 per hour = $320.00. I suggest you have a budget of at least $1000.00.
    1. Write down all of your questions. Have them in front of you when you call me.
    2. Have all documents and information available and in front of you before you call me.
    3. I use a form called a Retainer and Service Agreement. This document is 4 pages long. This form outlines hourly fees such as investigative time, travel time, mileage, report writing, research, and data transfer time such as video and still photographs onto a disc.
    The retainer is what you pay me at the time you hire me. The service agreement outlines exactly what you are hiring me to do. Remember, it’s all based on the number of hours. If I drive from my office to the site of investigation and it takes an hour, that will cost you my hourly fee of $80.00. Once I begin the investigation and it takes an hour, that is $80.00. I charge mileage at the 2018 IRS rate of 0.54.5 cents per mile. If I have to do any research, write a report, or transfer data cost you $80.00 an hour.
    You ask, Why so much? Remember, the cost of being in business is not cheap. First, are state licensing fees, followed by a local city business license, and finally business insurance and a bond. I hope my comments helped you understand how private investigators operate. Call me or email me if you have questions.
    Thank you,
    I am, J Edgar
    John Edgar Lacher, Owner
    J. Edgar Investigation Agency / PI25963

  4. Hiring a personal investigator sounds like a great idea. It makes sense that it’s best to meet them in person before you hire them. It’d make me more comfortable, at least. I fear my wife is cheating on me, so I’m thinking about this.

  5. I think meeting them in person is very important before you consider hiring an investigator. You want to know that they can comfort you with their abilities and experience that they’ll be able to find out what you need to know. By meeting them in person I think you’ll be able to better understand their methods and they will be able to get a clear understanding of what you want to find out.

  6. I have never had to hire a P.I. before, but I have always wondered the best one to hire. I agree that you should always meet with any business person at their office. I didn’t know that you had to make sure that they are insured. Thank you for the information.

  7. I was wondering if I could hire someone for free who could checkup on my boyfriend who lives in Salamanca. He’s been acting differently and I want to know why.

  8. I wonder if i could hire a P.I. for free to do confidential file checking on a pervert that was just recently released from an institution

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