1Don’t take on clients who are more interested in the mysterious, secretive, shady, working-on-the-edge-of-the-law mystique

2Follow the facts

3Don’t get hung up with what other people think

4If at any point you think you know everything, it’s time to get out of the business

5If you are not an expert in something, become one (or find someone who is)

6It’s much easier to tell the truth, than to remember all of the lies

7If you can’t tell me where the information comes from, it’s not really any good to me

8Don’t make promises you can’t keep

9Understand your client’s motives and intentions

10Put yourself in a position to win

11Even a whiff of any unscrupulous behavior might undermine a client’s best interest, your reputation and your license

12Follow your ethical and moral compass

13Don’t do anything your children wouldn’t be proud of

14Learn by doing

15The little things can make the biggest difference

16Practice what you teach

17Stick to your principles

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8 replies
  1. Sue Hord
    Sue Hord says:

    What can I do to become a personal Investigator? I have tried the stupid Checkmate services and all they do is give you mostly bogus information. I need to find a simple thing like a current phone number and employment form my ex-husband. Not for monetary gain just to keep in touch. But cannot find information through White pages any longer because they refer them to Checkmate. What about finding old arrest records for my sister? When checking the county I have found nothing. I just want to know if she is still on probation or not. I would like to be an investigator to the next level where and or how can I get that information? This is probably not the right space here to do it but I was impressed by your principals. Thanks for any information.


    • David Small
      David Small says:

      Hi Sue,
      There are many who profess to being able to find oodles of information About individuals on the Internet, and I know that there is a lot of information out there. But as a private investigator, I mostly rely on specialized databases that only a licensed individual can access, as the basis where I can start my investigation. From there I’m able to glean information from unlisted phone numbers, previous addresses, email addresses, family relatives, current and previous roommates etc. that I find listed on those databases that are associated with that individual in some way to put the puzzle together. Fact is as an unlicensed individual, you just don’t have access to tools of that caliber. So your quest to become an investigator is a valiant and exciting pursuit but your ability to consistently mine information successfully to achieve your goals are seriously hampered by the lack of power in the drill that you are using.

      Don’t give up. Who knows, I may be hiring you some day.

      Dave Small

      • Sue
        Sue says:

        How do I become a personal investigator to have access to these databases? So I can do this like you do. What kind of training do I need and where can I get it from?

  2. George Babnick
    George Babnick says:

    Very good principles. I often get inquiries from people who want me to dig up some information about someone and when I ask why they want the information, they seem surprised. When I explain that I will not provide them with any information unless I can be assured they will not use the information for an illegal purpose, they sometimes come up with a reason that makes no sense or they just go away. Unfortunately, I suspect they just find someone else. All one can do is “follow your ethical and moral compass.” If others have a different compass, so be it. Excellent post!

    • Brian Willingham
      Brian Willingham says:

      Thanks George. When a potential client says “do you really need to know” then I immediately know that it’s not going to work out. I agree, you have to have your own compass, but it’s a bit scary where other compasses point.

  3. David Childe
    David Childe says:

    Excellent points. #7 is a pet peeve of mine. Lots of information brokers out there claiming they can get solid banking and current employment information legally – yet they won’t tell you how they do it.

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