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Over the years, we have written dozens of blog posts in order to answer some burning questions people have had about private investigators. Now I’ve decided to put these answers into one convenient list:

1Do private investigators need to be licensed?

In most states, yes; 45 of the 50 states require a private investigator’s license in order for someone operating as a PI to perform his or her duties.

2Can I hire someone who is just good at following someone or good using the internet?

Sure, but the person you are hiring is likely breaking the law. By definition, a private investigator is hired for a fee to obtain information regarding the habits, conduct, whereabouts or trustworthiness of people, among other things. And if that unlicensed person does something illegal, you may be liable.

3Is there a difference between a private investigator and a private detective?

No. The terms “private investigator” and “private detective” are often used interchangeably.

4Do private investigators have police powers?

No. Private investigators do not have police powers, and in most cases, private investigators do not have any more power than the average citizen does.

5What does a private investigator do?

A private investigator is typically hired by businesses, law firms or individuals to obtain specific fact-based information to help them make more informed decisions. Investigators find facts, identify risks, provide peace of mind and help you see the big picture.

6How do private investigators get information?

Private investigators get their information from a wide number of sources, including investigative databases, court records, human intelligence, surveillance, confidential sources and social networks. Tip: Most of the information a private investigator can get is publicly available; you just need to know where to look.

7Do I really need to hire a private investigator?

Before you hire a private investigator, there are some key questions you need to ask yourself, like: What is my expectation? What is my objective? Do I need a subject matter expert?

8How should I find a private investigator?

Referrals, professional organizations and some good old-fashioned internet research are some of the ways to find a private investigator. Make sure you verify who they are, check their license and have a good long talk with them before you make any decisions.

9How are private investigators different from “regular people”?

The fact of the matter is that an investigator and an “average Joe” are not all that different; however, we do have a level of expertise because we’re practitioners of our craft. Private investigators have access to information, know-how, experience and a network of sources to utilize for our investigations.

10What can a private investigator not get legally?

This question is the subject of many myths born from TV and the movies. Financial and telephone records are the most commonly requested pieces of information that a private investigator cannot legally get. Any investigator who tells you they can will likely be obtaining the information illegally.

11Do I need a local private investigator?

Maybe. A lot of information these days can be obtained through investigative databases, public records, social networks and a network of other sources online, and interviews can be conducted over the phone. If you need someone followed or a location staked out, or if it’s a case that has a lot of on-the-ground work, we would suggest contacting someone locally.

12How do I find the best private investigator for the job?

When choosing a private investigator to hire, you want to find one with the right skill set for the job. A more “old school” investigator might not be as adept at searching through someone’s social media accounts, while someone from the “new school” might not be as good at operating a long lens camera.

13What questions should I ask before hiring a private investigator?

There are some questions you should ask yourself before hiring a private investigator and spending any of your hard-earned money, starting with the main question: What is my ultimate objective?

14How much does a private investigator cost?

Another common question is: How much does a private investigator cost? This is a question without an easy answer. There is no set cost. Some investigators charge by the hour, and some charge a flat fee. Always keep this in mind: Just like anything else in life, you get what you pay for.

15Can a private investigator work on a contingency fee?

In some states, it is illegal to hire a private investigator on a contingency fee. But even in states where it is technically legal, we don’t recommend it because it can lead to potential ethical and legal issues down the road.

16How much does it cost to find a person?

The cost of finding a person varies depending on the degree of difficulty involved. For instance, finding someone named Rudy Longfellow in Bucksnort, Nebraska, won’t cost nearly as much as finding someone named John Smith in New York City. 

17Do you guarantee results?

Any firm that guarantees results is likely willing to resort to unethical methods to ensure their “guarantee” and therefore cannot be trusted. There are a few “types” to look out for when it comes to trusting a private investigator. We can guarantee that we will do everything within our legal abilities to find answers, but not much else.

18What is the best way to find someone?

The best way to find someone is through the plethora of personal information available online and through social media.

19What is included in a background investigation?

Most background checks will include a criminal background check, employment/academic degree verification and a credit check. In addition, there are many different pieces of information included in a background investigation, depending on what you want to know.

20How can I avoid having private investigators dig up my personal information?

There are many ways to stop investigators from digging up your personal information that don’t involve living “off the grid.” The bottom line remains, however: If you don’t want it out there, don’t do it.

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