List of Tips for Hiring a Professional Private Investigator

Private Eye in Car with Camera
Private eye conducting surveillance.

Need to hire a private investigator or P.I. agency?

Do you need a private detective to track down a long lost love or missing relative? Do you need a private eye 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.

Check References

  • As 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 wish to hire to provide a resume or personal dossier. Evaluate the work history for relevant experience. Look for 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.
  • Ask 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

  • 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.

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 the Website and Social Media Accounts

  • 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.

Following these simple guidelines will help you hire an investigator or agency or company that provides quality service.


  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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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