Comprehensive Guide to Private Investigator Services: What can a PI do for me?


Private investigator services vary widely based on a client’s needs. Some private investigators specialize in a single area, or a few areas, while others provide a full breadth of services.  Most private investigation agencies hire private investigators with diverse backgrounds in order to provide a wider range of services to their clients.

When hiring a PI, be sure to inquire about the types of services they provide and ask to see examples of supporting case materials or references to contact.

List of Private Investigator Services

Following is a list of different types of investigations:

  • Accident Investigation – An accident investigation meticulously examines the sequence of events leading up to an incident, aiming to pinpoint its causes. Through collecting evidence, interviewing witnesses, and analyzing data, it identifies contributing factors, both immediate and systemic. The ultimate goal is to develop actionable insights that prevent future occurrences, ensuring safer environments.
  • Arson / Fire Investigation – An arson investigation delves into fires deliberately set to cause damage or harm, distinguishing them from accidental blazes. Investigators analyze burn patterns, residues, ignition sources, eyewitness accounts, and financial motives. The meticulous gathering of forensic evidence aims to identify perpetrators, understand motives, and aid in prosecution, enhancing community safety and justice.
  • Background Investigation – A background investigation scrutinizes an individual’s history to verify their identity, qualifications, and integrity. It encompasses criminal records, employment history, education, credit scores, and references. Conducted for employment, security clearances, or legal purposes, it ensures candidates meet specific criteria, mitigating risks and fostering trust in personal, professional, and public spheres.
  • Child custody cases – A child custody investigation gathers evidence to determine the most suitable environment for a child’s upbringing. It assesses parental practices, living conditions, and potential child welfare risks. Investigators may conduct surveillance, interviews, and background checks to present factual findings that support the child’s best interests in legal decisions.
  • Civil Investigation – A civil investigation seeks to uncover facts and evidence pertinent to civil disputes, ranging from personal injury cases to contract breaches. Investigators employ various methods, including public record searches, surveillance, and witness interviews. The goal is to assemble a comprehensive evidence portfolio to support legal proceedings and dispute resolution.
  • Corporate / Business
  • Crime scene investigations – A crime scene investigation meticulously analyzes the site of a crime to collect physical evidence, such as fingerprints, DNA, and ballistic material. Specialists document the scene through photographs and sketches, preserving the integrity of evidence for forensic analysis. This process is crucial for reconstructing events and identifying perpetrators, aiding in the pursuit of justice. Note: Private detectives will only access a crime scene after the police release the area.
  • Criminal
  • Fraud Investigation – A fraud investigation scrutinizes allegations of deceitful practices intended to gain unlawful advantage, typically financial. Investigators employ forensic accounting, document analysis, and digital evidence examination to trace illicit activities. Through interviews and surveillance, they aim to uncover fraud mechanisms, identify perpetrators, and gather evidence to support legal actions and recover losses.
  • Insurance Fraud – An insurance fraud investigation aims to uncover false claims deliberately made to secure unwarranted financial gain from insurance policies. Investigators analyze claim histories, conduct surveillance, and interview claimants and witnesses to detect discrepancies and evidence of fraud. Their findings help insurance companies prevent financial losses and ensure policy integrity.
  • Missing Person locates – A missing person investigation is initiated when someone disappears under unclear, involuntary, or suspicious circumstances. Investigators employ various methods, including interviews with acquaintances, analysis of the missing person’s digital footprint, and collaboration with local authorities. The goal is to trace the individual’s last known movements, uncover leads, and locate the person safely.

Following is a list of the different types of services that a private investigator may provide:

  • Adoption Inquiries, research, and locates
  • Address History and Address Verification
  • Active Shooter/Crime Prevention Training
  • Adult / Child Abduction (see Missing Persons)
  • Asset search and recovery
  • Automobile Recovery and repossession
  • Bail enforcement (see Bounty Hunter)
  • Bankruptcy verification
  • Bug sweeping to identify surveillance technology
  • Business Credit Checks
  • Civil Litigation Support
  • Civil Court Records research and retrieval
  • Court records search and retrieval
  • Credit History Check (with proper access and approvals)
  • Criminal defense investigation
  • Criminal investigation
  • Debtor Locates
  • Delivery of Subpoenas, also known as process service
  • Digital Video Surveillance
  • DNA Lab Testing Services – For determining paternity, infidelity, testing ancestry, kinship, blood/alcohol, personal identification
  • DUI or License Suspensions
  • Cheating Spouse surveillance
  • Collection of Debts
  • Computer Forensics and data analysis
  • Court Records Search
  • Covert Surveillance Operations
  • Divorce investigations
  • Death Investigation
  • Document retrieval
  • DMV / Motor Vehicle records search and retrieval
  • Employment History
  • Executive Protection
  • Expert Witness
  • Federal records search
  • Fugitive recovery (see Bounty Hunter)
  • Federal Criminal Record Search
  • Fictitious Name Filings
  • Fingerprinting
  • Forensic Investigation
  • GPS tracking
  • Hidden camera surveillance
  • Home security
  • Homicide investigations
  • Identity Theft
  • Infidelity Investigations
  • Internal theft investigations/loss prevention
  • Invasion of Privacy
  • Investigate police abuse
  • Legal Experts
  • Legal Testimony
  • Locate missing persons
  • Loss Prevention
  • Malpractice investigation
  • Marriage records
  • Missing Person Locates
  • Motor Vehicle Report Retrieval
  • MVR (Motor Vehicle) Reports
  • Mystery Shopper / Secret Shopper
  • Night Time Surveillance
  • Official Statements / Interviews
  • Open Source Intelligence (OSINT)
  • Parental kidnapping
  • Patent and trademark infringement
  • Personal Injury
  • Personal Protection
  • Phone Records
  • Police Reports
  • Polygraph
  • Public document retrieval
  • Public records search
  • Pre-Employee Screening
  • Pre-Marital Inquiries
  • Property Records Retrieval
  • Process Service
  • Records Retrieval
  • Recovery of Stolen Property
  • Research prison records
  • Risk/Threat Mitigation Consulting
  • Sex Offender Registration
  • Sex offender search – locate or investigate
  • Sexual Harassment
  • Service of Process
  • Skip Trace
  • Social Media Investigations
  • Subpoena Service / Process Service
  • Subrogation
  • Stalking / Anti-Stalking
  • State records search
  • Surveillance
  • Tenant Screening
  • Testify in Court
  • Trade Secret Violations
  • Theft
  • UCC Filings
  • Unclaimed Property Research
  • Undercover
  • Vehicle Tracking Systems
  • Vendor assessment
  • Vessel / Aircraft
  • Video Surveillance
  • Vulnerability Assessment
  • Wiretap detection
  • Witness Location and Evidence Preparation
  • Witness Interviews and Statements
  • Workers Compensation Claims
  • Wrongful or Suspicious Death

For a directory of private investigators who provide services of this nature in your area, please visit our Private Investigator Directory. In addition, helpful information is available on How to Become a Private Investigator, training courses, and a list of jobs and careers.

Also, if you’re interested in pursuing a career in the field, check out the eBook The Private Investigator’s Licensing Handbook: How to Get a Private Investigator License in any State available at

Michael Kissiah is the owner of Brandy Lane Publishing, LLC, which owns and operates a small portfolio of websites, including Michael created 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


  1. I need to hire an investigator to obtain drivers ID, address and insurance company information. I only have the drivers license plate, model and make of the vehicle. I would have to wait two weeks for the police report in the meantime my car needs to be repaired. I need to know the course for your services if this is something that you do, and how long would it take for that information to be attained.

  2. I am age 83, trying to track down the love of my life from 40 years ago. If she’s still alive and unattached, maybe we can spend our declining years together.

  3. I need a professional to contact me immediately. I would prefer meeting at a private location if that is at all possible for trust issues. I’m from the GTA and I’m willing to meet u anywhere. This is a serious issue so I’d appreciate a reply asap.


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