Although most private investigators work independently most of the time, their job is frequently very different. Police detectives specialize in only criminal investigations, while a private detective may also look into other matters and gather evidence. When a private detective gathers information, he is actually doing so to either locate a missing person or build a solid case against a person suspected of committing a crime. While a police officer will only investigate crimes that are committed in his area, a private detective may investigate any case that involves an interstate transfer or at least one that involves international activity. A private detective also investigates property crimes and may even specialize in white collar crimes such as embezzlement.
In the past, private investigators would only be hired by large firms that could afford them the money for their services. However, with the passing years and the Internet, it has become easier for almost anyone to get themselves hired for a PI job. In fact, many private investigators now have their own websites where they detail all the details of their professional history and credentials. In addition, many online services offer background checks, criminal record checks and a slew of other services that can be extremely useful to businesses and individuals alike.
In the beginning, private investigators used to specialize in either surveillance or PI. They would either use surveillance techniques to gather information about individuals or perform some kind of “dirty tactics” to expose illegal activity. For instance, if someone was suspected of tax evasion, an investigator could perform an interview and video tape the situation. Once they had obtained this evidence, they would present it to the person being questioned and possibly make the case against them if the evidence proved their guilt.
With the advent of the Internet, there are many more options available for those interested in becoming private investigators. Most of these choices involve “detective work”. This means that private investigators work “detectives” from various law enforcement agencies. For instance, one might find work as a local police investigator or an FBI agent, depending on their area of specialization. In some cases, private investigators may also work for government intelligence agencies.
Private investigators can either specialize in surveillance or criminal investigation. While surveillance involves the use of various methods such as bug cameras, GPS tracking, video surveillance and computer surveillance, criminal investigation involves obtaining physical evidence through various means, such as secret messages or voice intercepts. For instance, if someone is suspected of tax evasion, a private investigator could obtain secret information by secretly taping meetings or recording the person’s speech. The same methods are often used in the investigation of organized crime. However, most of these services would be more appropriate for corporate and government organizations, since public records and surveillance laws for them are much stricter than those applicable to private investigators.
A good private investigator will be familiar with all of the methods of surveillance and the legal requirements for each method. This includes the use of covert video techniques and the use of illegal means, such as breaking and entering. Specifically, a good investigator will be familiar with: PI surveillance, cellular surveillance, GPS surveillance, computer surveillance, VOIP (voice over internet protocol) surveillance, computer network surveillance, warrantless surveillance, bug camera surveillance, secret messaging and eavesdropping. It is important to note that many surveillance techniques are considered to be “special interest” spying, in which case, a good PI will not reveal his/her activity to anyone, unless there is a valid need to do so. Accordingly, it is important for any prospective private investigator to take a good, thorough online investigation course before starting out.
A good private investigator needs to be able to make a living, since there is a substantial investment involved in being a professional private investigator. Some investigators choose to work solely independently, conducting short term assignments on a contingency or contract basis; others prefer to work as an associate for large law enforcement agencies, working on a full-time basis as an investigative specialist and then, when the contract work is required, continuing to work on contingency or contract basis. Other investigators work in a freelance basis, either directly contracting with a law enforcement agency or working as a consultant for another firm, such as defense contractor or investment bank. A good private investigator needs to have good working relationships with both police officers and prosecutors; experience in the local area for surveillance techniques and criminal law; the ability to obtain and present accurate information; and an active social media presence, with an online blog and/or website to attract clients.
Private investigators may work in a variety of different areas, depending on their training, experience, location, and current sector. Generally, the PI is the individual who hires witnesses, produces surveillance tapes and records, and reads transcripts of recorded conversations. While some investigators specialize only in one or two specific areas, many private investigators have developed expertise in a number of different areas, including computer forensics, corporate security, insurance, intellectual property protection, private detective work, and so much more! In the end, a good private investigator is a person who can effectively blend corporate crime fighting strategies and investigative tactics.