What does a private investigator do?

Private investigators assist individuals, businesses, and attorneys by finding and analyzing information.  They connect clues to solve cases or to uncover facts about legal, financial, corporate, or personal matters.  Private investigators offer many services, including protection; pre-employment verification; surveillance; skip tracing; and background profiles.

Private investigators have multiple methods to choose from when determining the facts in a case.
  Most of the work is done using a computer, like database searches. Computers allow investigators to quickly obtain huge amounts of information such as a subject’s prior arrests, convictions, and civil legal judgments; telephone numbers; motor vehicle registrations; association and club memberships; and even photographs.  However, a good investigator will verify all information for accuracy.

Investigators also perform various types of surveillance. 
To verify facts, they may make phone calls or visit a subject’s workplace.  In other cases, investigators interview people to gather as much information as possible about an individual.  Investigators go undercover, pretending to be someone else to get information or to observe a subject without drawing attention.

Private investigators are trained to perform physical surveillance, which may be high-tech or low-tech. 
They may observe a site from an inconspicuous location or a vehicle.  Using cameras, binoculars, and cell phones, investigators often use surveillance to gather information on an individual; this can be time consuming and dangerous.  It is safer to hire a licensed private investigator than attempt surveillance yourself.

The duties of private investigators depend on the needs of their clients.  In cases that involve fraudulent workers’ compensation claims, for example, investigators may carry out long-term covert observation of a person suspected of fraud.  If an investigator observes the worker performing an activity that contradicts injuries stated in the claim, the investigator would take video or still photographs to document the activity and report it to the client.

Private investigators must be mindful of the law. They keep up with legislation affecting their work. The legality of certain methods may be unclear, and investigators use this knowledge when deciding how to pursue a case.  They must also know how to collect evidence properly so that its admissibility is not compromised in court.