10 Questions Before You Hire a Private Investigator - Part 2

Before you hire a private investigator, it's important that you know the right questions to ask. You are the boss and the private investigator will be working for you.

Keeping that in mind, the questions you ask beforehand are similar to any other situation where a boss conducts interviews before hiring an employee; you want to make sure you are hire the best person for the job in terms of qualifications, experience, personality, and pay rate.

We already covered the first five questions in, 10 Questions Before You Hire a Private Investigator Part 1, so you may want to begin there.

Our first 5 questions covered the basics: Is the private investigator licensed? Does the private investigator have a legitimate office? They also covered some important background information regarding experience and/or particular areas of expertise. These next 5 questions get down to the nitty gritty and will allow you to paint a better picture of whether or not this is the person you want to hire to handle your case.

Questions to Ask a Private Investigator;

  1. How much do you charge? Once you have established you're talking to an experienced and licensed private investigator, it's time to discuss money! In addition to finding out what they charge, you also want to find out:
    • Do they have a minimum service fee?
    • What forms of payment does the private investigator accept?
    • What are the travel expenses if travel becomes necessary for the case?
    • How are services billed? Will the private investigator provide a statement?
  2. Is everything you do for me legal and what is my liability? This is critical. In many cases the evidence you get from your private investigator can be used in a court of law. You need to limit any liability by the person(s) you are investigating. The private investigator should be very clear about what services that private investigator can and cannot perform. laws vary by state in which a private investigator is working in. For peace of mind, you may want to ensure the Private Invesigator states very clearly s/he will not use any illegal methods for obtaining evidence or surveillance footage for your case. You can request this in writing.
  3. Do you perform your own surveillance services? You need to know who is doing the work. If they won't be the one working on your case, who will be and are they licensed? Perhaps the owner/lead investigator is licensed but s/he uses non-licensed employees. This is information you want to know ahead of time to determine whether you feel comfortable. Also consider asking:
    • How long do you anticipate the work taking?
    • What kind of report/video/photo/evidence will I receive from you?
    • Do I have to pay if you lose the subject of the investigation?

    Make sure their surveillance strategy makes sense. For example, let's say you are hiring a private investigator to catch a cheating spouse. If your spouse works 9-5 in one location and can't leave the premises, then you may only need surveillance for before or after-work hours. You don't want to hire a private investigator who is going to "milk the time clock."

  4. How do we stay in touch? Perhaps you are having a complete background check performed, in which case your communications will be very straight forward. Or maybe you plan to hire a private investigator for more complex investigative services. It is good for you to know ahead of time how you can remain in touch, how the private investigator plans to keep you updated, and who you should be contacting - in the case that other licensed private detectives will be working your case as well.
  5. What do you do if you get caught? This is something people don't think about very often but our title, "Private Investigator" says it all. Most of our best work is done when people aren't aware of who we are or what we are up to. Surveillance services aren't very effective if the person knows we are following them or watching their activities. Employees may stop their nefarious behaviors if they figure out someone is undercover or that a surveillance video is being installed. People may be less forthright with providing information if they suspect we are a private investigator rather than a casual passerby. Therefore, the best private investigators need to have a plan in place. They must be able to think on their feet and move on to Plan B in a hurry.

At the end of the day, while experience and affordability is important, you should always trust your gut instincts when you need to hire a private investigator. In many cases, the information you will be sharing with your P.I. is sensitive and private. It's important that you feel comfortable with him/her throughout your business relationship.
So there you are! Now you will be an expert the next time you, or someone you know, needs to hire a private investigator. Let the interview begin!

Mike Garroutte is the owner of Linked Investigations. He has worked as a Newport Beach Private Investigator, an Orange County Private Investigator, for more than 30 years. He works as a private investigator in San Diego, and is a well known Los Angeles private investigator. When you need to hire a private investigation firm you can trust, Contact Linked Investigations.

Published on: 
November 1, 2012
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