Our case of the week involves 3 separate people who first used the company Trustify before calling us.
Trustify is often described as an Uber for the private investigative industry. Although not a licensed private investigative agency, they enable the public to hire a licensed private investigator for only one hour at a rate of $67 (the majority of private investigators will only work most cases with a 4-hour minimum.)
The PI in turn gets $30 of this hourly rate, while Trustify get the balance of $37. (The top echelons of private investigators get paid $300 an hour, and pay their associates at least $100 an hour.)
Lately, many in the professional private investigative establishment have been bantering back and forth about how Trustify is taking money out of their pockets and food from the mouths of their families.
From my chair (as a former Federal agent with the United States Department of Justice and current president of a 5-office agency in California), I am not sure what all the fuss is about.
I have never met Danny Boice, the founder of Trustify. His business track record and acumen is to be applauded. It has occurred to me that perhaps the bottom feeders in our industry are jealous of Mr. Boice’s concept or just plain frustrated they didn’t think of the idea first.
So let’s take a look at three of their former clients who contacted my office, after they tried Trustify.
The first case involved a client who wanted surveillance done on her boyfriend. She had little monetary means, so Trustify seemed a logical choice. She paid for surveillance to be conducted three times, with two 1-hour blocks and one 2-hour block. Compare that with our surveillance rate of $150/hour, $0.95/mile and 4-hour minimum.
The woman was unhappy because they never even saw her boyfriend. Given the time frame, I told her “That should have been expected.” She was not in a position to retain our firm, so I encouraged her to return to Trustify. Score 1 positive for Trustify.
The second case was a locate where the client wanted to find a cousin that they last saw in childhood. The cousin had an uncommon name, and the client had only a year of birth.
This should have been pretty straight-forward. I reviewed the paperwork that Trustify provided to their client, and it was a combination of Internet searches and only ONE known credible database that is used in our industry. Although it’s often done, charging clients to just use the Internet for a search is a mortal sin in my book.
So for fun, my team accessed all known databases available, including our own proprietary in-house system. We found the same current address provided to this client by Trustify with no new information found. Score 1 positive for Trustify as the investigator was fortunate that no updated address was available. But as a tip to Trustify investigators: Make sure you use more than one database, and never use the internet as the sole source of information.
The third case involved a large manufacturing company that was losing money from the theft of time, money and product. The client was unable to find a good fit using Trustify. There was a need for someone who had interview and interrogation skills to interview key personnel at the business in an effort to “find the bad guys.”
I told the client that I highly doubted such talent was available in the current pool of 2,000 investigators that are willing to work with Trustify. Score 1 positive for the client, who didn’t feel comfortable, and a breakeven for the Trustify investigators who were fairly truthful in marketing what appeared to be limited skills in the investigative genre.
There is enough work for everyone
In a Washington Post piece, Boice was quoted as saying, “Trustify is a lead generator, a predictable revenue stream that allows (investigators) to pay their electric bills.”
Respectfully, if you are in the PI profession and you are having a hard time paying your electric bills, you might want to contemplate a career change.
To those PI’s who are comparing Mr. Boice’s agency to what Uber has done to the taxicab industry, I say to you what is on a well-known PI’s license plate: RELAXXX. There are about 100,000 private investigators in the United States. Now ask me, “How many are making a good living at it?” My guess is that most of the 2,000 that have signed on to work cases at Trustify were not in that category.
So after 45 years of investigative service, I say to the investigators worried about Trustify: don’t be. Be happy for them and hope they all make lots of money. They can only bring attention to our industry and that should help everyone. There is certainly enough work to go around for all.
A very strange murder / suicide case.