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  • Writer's pictureJoel Scoby

Private Investigators Today

The days of private investigators chasing down cheating spouses have mostly disappeared. A majority of request for service I receive is from spouses wanting a private investigator to look into their partner for the suspicion of cheating. While I will happily send an investigator to review these types of cases the cost to the client is typically out of their price range. The average investigating agencies will charge $75 or more per hour with 3-day minimums at 4-8 hours a day. What I tell inquiring clients that want to check-up on a spouse is that if you suspect something, you are probably right. You do not have to spend a ton of money to confirm something you likely already know.

It is a different story if the case involves a costly divorce or an ugly custody battle. A large number of our clients are lawyers and insurance agencies looking for us to strengthen or build evidence in an on-going court case. We can do the same for divorce cases. However, we always recommend handling your relationship problems as civilly as possible.

What does a private investigator actually do? Well, that depends on the skills and specialty of the investigator. Surveillance investigators who form a bulk of the investigative community go out and track down subjects and film them going about their day. Sounds exciting and when I talk about my work people find it fascinating. I promise you, it is not. The best investigation agencies can reach a video retrieval rate of 60% however, this is rare. Most hover around 45-50% and the industry average is falling. The result is the ever-increasing number of home-bodies. It is difficult to obtain a video of subjects that never or rarely leave the house. Skilled private investigators will have a trick or two to get someone to leave their home. No one has a guarantee. This leaves the investigator spending 4-12 hours a day sitting outside someone’s home with little to do. Trailing someone on the move can be exciting for your first few months on the job but quickly becomes routine. Being capable of trailing someone, especially in heavily populated areas or areas with little to no population, can be extremely difficult.

Surveillance isn’t the only form of investigators. Claim investigators are a popular discipline. The role is technical and requires specialized training but doesn’t come with the stress and difficulties of working surveillance. The role is essentially that of an insurance adjuster and you may work directly with the insurance adjuster if your agency doesn’t assign you a handler or manager. Your typical day is responding to an insured property that has been damaged. Either a building, vehicle or miscellaneous property. Take photos and document any damage you can observe and interview any available witnesses. Your goal is to form an opinion of what transpired to cause the damage and to report that opinion and your findings to the client.

Another common but more interesting role I would like to talk about is that of a corporate investigator. In this role, you may be asked to uncover the source of shrink within a business. Now we aren’t talking about loss prevention or asset protection like you see in the security field. Those roles don’t require the specialty of a private investigator. Corporate investigators are typically looking at factories or office buildings. Where internal supplies or data are being lost at a rate that is above a normal or acceptable level. Other requests may be to simply determine the moral level or current atmosphere of the staff of a business.

Private investigators can come in a handful of different specialties. If you are looking to get into the field you need to determine what exactly you are looking to do and what can you handle. This line of work is not for everyone. I didn’t exactly talk about it but some of these jobs come with an inherent risk to life and limb which we will get into at a later time. Some require long and unpredictable hours or even living a double life. While other roles can be routine and easy to fit into for the average person. So figure out what you want and try to work your way into a reputable agency.

Good luck and stay safe!

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