This article provides a list of tips for hiring a private investigator. Review this list before making a hiring decision to ensure 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 appropriate state agency issued the license, check the expiration date, and verify the name.
Check with the appropriate state’s private investigator associations to verify any memberships they claim and obtain feedback and recommendations. Associations and professional agencies can be great resources for checking out reputations.
Check for Insurance
Find out whether the private eye is properly insured (i.e., liability insurance, bonded, etc.). During their work, the investigator may become injured or damage someone else’s property. You could be indirectly liable for damages. Ensure they have the appropriate type of insurance for the work you request.
Ask for references. Call and speak directly with the references to obtain information on the detective’s performance, reputation, 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 considering hiring to provide a resume or personal dossier. Evaluate their work history for relevant experience for your situation. Look for applicable experience in the military, law enforcement, government organizations, crime scene specialists, etc. Check for relevant education, such as criminal justice, criminology, and forensic science degrees. Also, look for special training and continuing education credentials.
In addition, ask the person or agency you are considering hiring to provide examples of their work. For example, ask them to provide sample client reports, newspaper articles, success stories, etc.).
Discuss and Agree Upon Pricing and Fees
You must clearly understand the cost of hiring 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 the results you expect. If both parties clearly understand 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 is important to note that some professionals will charge a “no-hit fee” for searching, 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, please read our article, 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. Also, decide when you’ll need updates and how the detective will keep you informed. 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 Agency (and Personal) 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 before 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, they may be out of business.
Visit their social media profiles. Browse their posts to see what 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.?
Check with the Better Business Bureau to view the company’s ratings and resolved/unresolved complaints. In addition to checking the BBB before hiring a company, you can use the site to file a complaint, leave a review, and report scams. This will help others who need advice for hiring a private investigator. Visit the Better Business Bureau website.
- 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 in their legitimacy and perhaps the quality of their business operation.
- Don’t do business with jerks. If you don’t like a particular detective or agency, don’t do business with them for whatever reason. Doing business with someone you don’t like is never a good idea. Do some investigating of your own and check out the person’s business and personal websites, Twitter and Facebook feed, 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 partners.
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 a private investigator, visit our P.I. Directory to find a list of professionals in your area.
Questions and Comments
Please comment below if you have any questions about this List of Tips for Hiring a Private Investigator.