What is a Private Investigator? A private investigator, private detective or investigation agent, is someone who may be employed by individuals, organizations or NGOs to undertake investigative services. Private investigators are extremely experienced in conducting surveillance and research operations in discreet surroundings, often operating without the knowledge of the subjects they observe. Private detectives are also adept at tracking down persons or assets that have been illegally stolen. Private investigators can also specialize in particular areas such as corporate security and intelligence, healthcare, intellectual property rights, media law, computer crime and identity theft.
As an investigative professional, a private investigator or investigation agent performs various duties. He/she may be required to carry out surveillance, conduct interviews and document facts; collect and compile information; advise and aid law enforcement authorities; investigate crimes; collect financial or banking information; obtain records and documents of a suspect’s business transactions; and make physical contacts with suspects. While a private investigator may not have the knowledge and expertise of a forensic accountant or a detective, he/she is very familiar with legal procedures and codes of conduct applicable in the county he/she works in. He/she is therefore well-versed in the laws pertaining to the conduct of business and the use of private property. Private investigators also must be prepared to follow leads through all the stages of the investigation.
The scope of activities performed by a private investigator or private detectives varies from individual to individual. Most private investigators perform financial investigations, whereas some specialize in healthcare investigations or labor law violations. Some focus on criminal defense and surveillance, whereas others provide support to law enforcement agencies. A number of private investigation agencies undertake international investigations. Private investigators also may conduct investigations related to business matters, worker’s compensation, probate, landlord/tenant issues, insurance, intellectual property rights, criminal defense and environmental issues.
However, even if investigations are conducted for non-public information, the mere possession of such information without permission of a court order is deemed illegal. In other words, if private investigators obtain any non-public information either by use of search engines or other electronic means without the authority of a court order, they may be held in contempt of court. In cases of emergency, authorities can temporarily detain private investigators without a warrant in an emergency situation where there is danger of harm to public safety.
Private investigators can play a vital role in locating missing persons. They can help in recovering victims of crime, providing useful information on the circumstances surrounding their disappearances, and offering possible routes of escape, if known. In addition, they can assist in identifying perpetrators and accomplices of criminal activity. Private investigators also provide invaluable assistance to civil attorneys, investigate missing persons, and offer advice to police in complex cases, including kidnapping and child trafficking. They also play an important role in the formulation of death sentences and capital punishment appeals.
However, while private investigators are commonly thought of as experts in criminal matters, they perform investigative and intelligence tasks in other areas as well. Most investigators use computer technology to conduct surveillance and analysis tasks for businesses, the government, and the private sector. They utilize surveillance equipment such as video cameras, GPS trackers, and computer databases to track, record, and save data. They may also access private records of individuals for personal, business, and tax reasons. These days, private investigators are even helping police officers with bloodhounds and Missing Persons searches.
Another important task performed by a private investigator is the prevention of identity theft and fraud. Because thieves often operate via multiple channels, including the Internet, they are able to use various methods to obtain customer, employee, and client information. In many cases, a private investigator may be able to identify suspects in cold calls that have been made to potential victims, in addition to monitoring social networking sites to detect any new accounts that have been established.
Another way in which a private investigator helps the investigative process is by using various social media tools to gather information and find leads. Private Investigators may search publicly available data on social media websites such as Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, and LinkedIn to find out what others are saying about a specific case, and in some instances, they may use sophisticated software to scrape information from these public sites to aid their clients in the process. As more industries rely on social media to connect with their consumers, the role of a private investigator will only continue to grow.