According to PI Magazine, a trade publication for the private investigator profession, there are approximately 100,000 private investigators active in the United States. That number includes world-class investigators, the less-than-reputable operators, and the individuals who barely cling to their private investigator licenses. Over the course of my 40-plus year career as a private investigator, I have encountered both the gems and the warts within the profession.
Yet the difference between a good private investigator and a bad one is the difference between working with an ethical person who conducts business professionally and someone who rips you off at the first chance. A private investigator can offer life-changing information and finding a good one is important.
A private investigator is basically a citizen with a PI license issued by the state, although there are several states that do not require an investigator to be licensed. They should meet a certain criteria as I have written about in previous blogs and in my free e-book, Investigator Confidential. A good private investigator should bring a number of things to the table including interviewing and interrogation skills, surveillance skills, good people skills, and being street smart. In California alone, there are about 10,000 PIs who, for a reasonable price, can provide you with life-altering decisions.
There are some world-class private investigators with backgrounds in the FBI, DEA, Secret Service, and law enforcement. These are individuals conducting life-defining work in the civil, the criminal, marital, and corporates arenas. They are trusted by law enforcement, prosecutors, and the public at large.
My agency has always looked to publicize the good firms or agencies, so if you are having a problem in a certain area of the country outside of our reach, we will do our best to connect you with a good private investigator in your area.
Yet, for the 1 or 2 percent of excellent investigators operating currently, there is a large group of PIs with great skills but use them improperly. PIs who will promise to conduct a marital surveillance on your partner, but once they have your money they head straight to your husband or wife and offer to fabricate a “good report card” for $500.
A great example of a private investigator gone wrong would be Anthony Pellicano. The former high-profile Los Angeles private investigator was convicted for wiretapping and racketeering in 2008 after avoiding similar charges for over a decade. I have seen private investigators who have allegedly committed crimes or used their positions to gain information and then turn around to gain monetarily. Suffice to say, I would recommend against working with such individuals.
The worst type of investigators are the individuals involved in making life-changing decisions who provides erroneous information to their clients. They may go out and claim to interview witnesses for a murder case for a client represented by an attorney. In reality, they really don’t interview the people that they say and doesn’t do the surveillance that they talked about. These are the investigators who barely qualify to be investigators and should be avoided at all costs.
When choosing a private investigator to handle any case, you have to be careful. If you can separate the good from the rest of the pack, they will be indispensable.
Do you have any questions about separating a good private investigator from a bad private investigator? Please let me know and I would be pleased to address your concerns.