Hiring a private detective is not a common, everyday occurrence for most people. Before rushing to retain an agency, make sure to do your research. With thousand upon thousands of investigators, you don’t want to make a decision you will regret. Though it may seem like an overwhelming task, the checklist below will help steer you in the right direction. After all, the last thing anyone wants to do is waste money on an agency that is unfit to solve your case.
- How much does a private investigator cost?
Before hiring any investigator, you need to determine your budget and find out the cost you are willing to spend. Most reputable private investigation agencies will have you pay and sign a statement of services in advance. You want to determine how you will be charged and if it is a flat rate or a breakdown based upon work done hourly/services provided. Depending on the company you decide to hire, you will either be charged prior to any work being done, or billed throughout the investigation. If you opt for the latter, it typically becomes pricier, each step in the process can become an additional charge. If you decide to work with an agency who offers a package/flat rate, you are never charged or surprised at the end of the investigation with additional fees. The price of an investigation will depend entirely upon the location, type of work being conducted, the amount of experience, training, and resources the agency has, and the number of investigators needed to work in the field, as well as other logistics involved in the investigation process.
At NAI, we offer a free consultation to anyone, either via email, in person, or over the telephone. Most of our clients prefer over the telephone, as it is typically the fastest, most discreet, and efficient way to launch an investigation. Our agency is retained in advanced, which means we first conduct a case intake with our clients, are paid, and then have an invoice signed. Because all of our services are based upon a flat rate, our clients are never surprised at the end of the investigation with an additional bill, asking for more money after we solve the case. Additionally, our prices vary case by case, as we tailor each investigation for our clients individual needs. With that said, you can call our agency anytime for specific fees based upon the type of case you are looking to conduct.
- Are they Licensed and Bonded, which most states require?
Although every state has different requirements, most investigators must be licensed, bonded, and insured. By obtaining ones license, the investigator has spent rigorous time in the field, has no criminal record, and knows the laws to practice investigations. Numerous states require prior field work and even sometimes law enforcement experience to ensure the individual conducting the investigation is qualified. Additionally, you want an investigation agency who is bonded and insured. Although it seems like something trivial, if there is any liabilities or if anyone is hurt while conducting your investigation, you do not want to be the one paying for it. This is a great way to pick apart the amateurs from the professionals. Investigators who are serious have coverage, make sure to take the extra steps to be practicing ethically, and go above and beyond to prove their professionalism.
- Will they provide references upon request?
Private investigators who have been in business have a list of references you can call to obtain a reference. If an investigation agency has no references to show you or state that because of confidentiality practices they are unable, you should beware that they might not be an established agency, and might not have the experience to properly conduct your investigation. Experienced agencies have a list clients you can contact.
- Will they give you a contract stipulating what services you will be provided?
One of the most important things you will receive from an investigator is your contract. You want everything itemized, detailed, and explained to you, so you know exactly what services you are obtaining and paying for. Without a detailed contract, an investigator can rip you off, say you did not pay for specific things, or continue to charge you after your work is done. Everything should be in writing and all work should be agreed upon before starting your investigation.
- Do they have the skills, experience, and training to conduct your investigation?
A great investigator sets themselves apart from the amateurs by being an expert at what they do, focusing on the task at hand, and having plan in motion. They are apt at surveillance, interviewing, interrogating, and have research skills – as research is an investigator’s best friend. Detectives are known for taking detailed notes, having a high degree of observation and reaction skills. The ability to adapt, improvise, and always have multiple plans in action are a must. The professional you choose should also be knowledgeable in the laws of their operating jurisdiction and be prepared to testify in court.
- Do they have former law enforcement or extensive P.I. backgrounds?
When hiring an investigator, make sure they have former law enforcement or an extensive P.I. background. Of course, all investigators should also be street smart.
- Do they answer all your questions with specific answers?
If you are asking questions and not receiving detailed answers, the investigation firm might be either too busy to handle your case or not qualified. Any investigator who takes on your case should be detailed, concise, and listen to all of your concerns before they are hired. They should communicate well and offer to communicate frequently with you during the investigation, providing updates as your case is being conducted. Additionally, the investigator should provide video and a detailed report with evidence that is suitable for court.
- Are they a full staffed, full service agency or a one-man operation?
One of the most important parts while hiring a private investigator is determining if they are a full staffed agency or one individual operating out of their home. Although this may sound trivial, this is a huge red flag, as it shows how serious the individual takes their business and how equipped they are to handle certain investigations. If the investigator does not have an office for you to go to, they might not have as much invested in the company or be able to have the qualifications you need to solve your case. You do not want only one individual doing surveillance on your case, as it is easier to get “made” and caught doing field surveillance. It is always a plus when you hire a firm if they are members of professional trade organizations, consumer protection programs (such as the Better business Bureau), and are available to speak to you throughout your case.
- Do they have state of the art investigative equipment?
As technology advances, so do investigations. The agency you decide to hire should have all state of the art investigative equipment to conduct your case. This includes spyware, gadgets, GPS devices, surveillance devices, cameras, polygraphs, debugging devices, and much more.