When you need the services of a private investigator, how do you tell the difference between the good and the bad candidates? Don’t waste your time and money by just blindly picking somebody who might not be able to do the job. By following these guidelines, you’ll be able to find the best private investigator for your case, whatever the need may be.
1: Get a referral.
Ask somebody you know and trust, your attorney, a friend or a co-worker, if they have ever hired a private investigator, and what their experience was like. If they had a good experience you still should check them out. If they had a bad experience now you know who not to hire.
2: Check with the Better Business Bureau.
Do a search on the BBB website or call your local BBB office. Look for candidates that have BBB Accredited Business. Even if a Private Investigator doesn’t have an Accredited Business they will have a rating and this should help you decide if it’s someone you want to consider.
3: Do an Internet Search
If you have identified some possible candidates, do internet searches using the name of the company and the names of the principals.
If you now have the name of the principals, do an internet search using their names. Put quotes around their name, run the search, and read any articles that come up. You may find both negative and positive information.
If you still don’t have any good candidates, or you are looking for some more options, do an internet search using the words “Private Investigator”, “Private Detective”, “Private Investigative Agency” or “Private Detective Agency” along with the city in which you need the services, or at least the closest major city.
Check out the websites of the private investigators that come up.
4: Telephone Interview
Call the candidates and make sure you cover all of the considerations listed below.
5: Initial consultation
Set up an initial consultation with your top prospect and determine if they are the best private investigator for the job.
During each step of the process, keep these questions in mind:
Do they present themselves professionally on their website, on the phone and in person? How well do they communicate? They need to come across as professional, articulate and credible to others in handling your case, such as witnesses, your attorney, a judge or a jury. The success of your case is at stake.
Where and who?
Are they actually in or near the geographic area you need services? Who is going to do the work?
Many “national companies” will advertise as if they can provide services anywhere. Actually what they often do is subcontract the work out to someone in the area. Why research a private investigator’s background if they’re just going to pass your case on to someone else?
Do they have experience in the type of case you are seeking their services for?
The best private investigator will be able to get better, more cost-effective results. Even if their rates are higher, you get what you pay for.
Be suspicious of individuals offering services with unusually low prices or no retainer. They may not be qualified for the job, or they might have a history of bad cases.
Knowing who owns the Private Detective Agency will help you research their reputation.
You are looking for someone with ethics, integrity and a good business reputation. Again, the success of your case is at stake.
Some states, like Idaho, have no state wide licensing requirements, but some of the cities or counties may. A neighboring state probably does have licensing for individual private investigators and private investigative agencies. Even if your state doesn’t require a license, see if your candidates have a professional license.
A license usually means they have more resources at their disposal than the non licensed private investigator. It also usually means they have a clean criminal record.
So what happens if you hire an unlicensed private investigator when a license is required? Any evidence they obtain may not be admissible in court. This can lead to
- wasted money
- unusable information
- a damaged case
- and a possible lawsuit
Remember, you want ethics, integrity and professionalism.
What qualifies them to do what you want them to do?
It is not unusual at all for someone to start up a private investigative agency and have no more knowledge and experience than what they have obtained from a TV show
So ask them to tell you about their qualifications including education, professional affiliations, certifications, and experience.
Do they have liability and commercial vehicle insurance?
If a private investigator you have retained does something for you that results in a law suit you also could be sued. This could include committing some type of crime, a battery, an assault, a trespass, or he could have a traffic accident while on your case.
Investigators’ fees vary, depending upon what you want done and their experience. For most investigations it is difficult to know exactly how much it will cost, so don’t be surprised to be given an estimated range. Without a crystal ball you usually don’t know what is going to be required to accomplish the objectives of a given investigation. I try to break down an investigation into phases, and reach an understanding with the client on how what you will try to do in the first phase and how much it will cost. Don’t be surprised if a retainer is required. Just remember you usually get what you pay for.
Promises or Guarantees?
Be suspicious of a private investigator that guarantees results. If they make promises they probably can’t keep, look for someone else. As in anything else, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
Do they understand?
Do they understand what you want them to do?
Give the private investigator a brief description of what you want to have done. Make note of whether they actually listen to you, or are they more focused on the money. Once you have explained your situation, the best private investigator will offer different options based on your goals.
From here they should work with you in finding the most cost effective solution.
If after the meeting with your first candidate and you don’t feel comfortable with them set up a meeting with your second choice and so on. If the out come of your case is very important and has serious consequences don’t jump to quick decision. There is usually only one opportunity to do an investigation and it needs to be done right.
By doing your research and asking the right questions, you should find the best investigator for your particular situation. Even if you have to pay a higher rate for the right person, remember, you usually get what you pay for.
For a printable PDF checklist of what we’ve just covered, and answers to more of your questions visit www.custeragency.com.