What does a Private Investigator Do?

What does a private investigator do

When you think of private investigators, the first few individuals to come into your mind may very well be Sam Spade or Sherlock Holmes.

Unfortunately, these are fictional characters.

Private investigators in the real world are quite different than those fictional characters, and their job is different as well.

Private investigators are not just individuals who decide to start investigating and call themselves private investigators. Just like police officers, detectives, lawyers and soldiers, a private investigator models his operation in compliance with the law. They use legal methods to look for evidence.

Here’s a closer look at precisely what private investigators do:

Criminal Investigation

Even though a private investigator does not have the ability to legally detain, question, or interrogate people, s/he can still do lots of investigation on a person; pull his or her background, find associates, find past criminal records, relationships, education and the person’s activities.

Private investigators may also employ digital tools to find information about their target; they can even do surveillance in a number of situations.

Whenever its necessary they will go undercover in order to get more information on a suspect. A PI may follow (or trail) a suspect, particularly if photographic evidence is required.

One thing to keep in mind is that a PI does not solve crimes; let’s not misunderstand this. Rather, a private investigator does the job of gathering evidence and reporting back to his or her client.

A private investigator is expected to always act within the rule of law. Doing that is very important to ensure that all the evidence will be deemed valid when it is presented in a legal context.

Employee Investigation

This process entails investigating current employees, and carrying out fact finding assignments. A private investigator will conduct extensive surveillance to identify issues such as absenteeism, fraud, misconduct, etc.

Small to medium size companies often give up on these issues because they don’t have the resources to monitor their employees.  A PI can save these businesses time and money by gathering all the facts and working with a company’s HR department which will ultimately enforce measures to prevent re-occurrences.

Infidelity investigation

A person that suspects his or her partner of infidelity can hire a private investigator. A private investigator is hired to follow and discreetly watch an individual suspected of cheating. The private investigators will then bring forth real evidence that enables the victim to confront the wrongdoer with credible evidence.

Missing Person Investigation

In an issue were someone is missing, the police will surely do all within their power to search for the person or investigate leads that could provide information about a person’s whereabouts.

Police officers have limited resources.  Time is one of them.  If time goes by, and the case is “getting cold” they may have to focus in other cases and archive the current one as a cold case. This is a situation where a private investigator may be hired. The investigator will continue the investigation for as long as he or she is contracted to do so, or until the whereabouts of the missing person come to light.

Other Private Investigator’s duties and responsibilities are:

  • Fraud Investigation, including Internet fraud
  • Surveillance
  • Help recovering debts
  • Tracing the backgrounds and parentage of adopted individuals
  • Counter surveillance, including use of special equipment
  • Uncovering evidence in child custody cases
  • Investigating adultery incidences
  • Process serving
  • Interviewing of witnesses to a case

As you can see, a PI’s duties are quite diverse, and some may even offer services specialized to a specific industry.  Browse our database of private detectives to get a better understanding of the wide range of services available.

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8 thoughts on “What does a Private Investigator Do?

  1. Hello, and thank you very much for this information on private detectives. These situations require someone who is both skilled and experienced to handle different problems that may arise. I think that it’s a good idea to hire someone who is experienced in the type of investigation you need to get the best results possible.

    • A private investigator must also have business skills in order to attract customers and earn a living. If he has no customers or cases to work on then the above skills are pretty much useless.

  2. That is interesting that private investigators help in uncovering fraud and evidence. That is cool that investigators are able to dig into people’s past backgrounds and interview around to find the truth about a person. I am glad to know the different reasons that one may inquire about for a private investigator.

  3. I had no idea that private investigating was so common. In fact, there were times that I thought it was done under the table! Are there ever any problems with hiring a private investigator? Couldn’t someone claim it is stalking? I guess I would have to assume it is a lot different than the movies makes the career out to be. It would be interesting to meet someone who is one someday.

  4. I had no idea that there were so many things that private investigators could do! It seems like a private investigator has to be able to find a lot of information about the people they are looking for. I though that private investigators primary job was to solve crimes, however, I now know that they are there to act within the rule of law and the police/judicial system will always deal with crime involved cases.

  5. I appreciate that this article clarifies some of the job specifications of a private investigator. The process of conducting an employee investigation sounds like one that could take a long time to do, but it sounds a like a PI would be able to get it done in a timely manner if a company were to invest in that. I could see how it would be beneficial to employers and employees alike, especially when it comes to workers compensation. It never hurts to put in extra resources to make sure people are doing the work they signed up for and those in charge are conducting business the way they should.

  6. I didn’t realize there were these types of services for those suspecting infidelity. It is too bad how common it is in today’s world. I would certainly look into getting facts and evidence before confronting.

  7. This is just the tip of the iceberg for what PI’s do. Very good information, but it is important to know what kind of firm you are hiring. You want the best out there with experience, not the average Joe’s that think they know what they are doing.

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