Nature of the work
Private detectives and investigators use many methods to determine the facts in a variety of matters. To carry out investigations, a licensed private investigator may use various types of surveillance or searches.
To verify facts, such as an individual’s place of employment or income, they may make phone calls or visit a subject’s workplace. In other cases, especially during a missing person search and background checks, investigators often interview people to gather as much information as possible about an individual.
In all cases, private detectives and investigators assist attorneys, businesses, and the public with legal, financial, and personal problems.
A licensed private investigator may offer many services including executive protection, corporate, and celebrity protection; pre-employment verification; and individual background profiles. They investigate computer crimes such as identity theft, harassing e-mails, and illegal downloading of copyrighted material.
They also provide assistance in civil liability and workers compensation fraud cases, insurance fraud investigations, child custody cases, missing persons searches, and premarital screening. They are sometimes hired to conduct family investigations.
Most private detectives and investigators are trained to perform physical surveillance. They may observe a site, such as the home of a subject, from an inconspicuous location or a vehicle. They continue the surveillance, which is often carried out using still and video cameras, binoculars, and a cell phone, until the desired evidence is obtained. This watching and waiting often continues for a long time.
Private detectives and private investigators also may perform computer database searches, or work with someone who does. Computers allow investigators to quickly obtain massive amounts of information regarding individuals’ prior arrests, convictions, and civil legal judgments, as well as telephone numbers, motor vehicle registrations, association and club memberships, and other matters.
The duties of private detectives and investigators depend on the needs of their clients.
In cases for employers that involve workers compensation fraud, for example, investigators may carry out long-term covert observation of subjects. If an investigator observes a subject performing an activity that contradicts injuries stated in a worker’s compensation claim, the investigator takes video or still photographs to document the activity and report it to the client.