= Featured Provider
Private investigators are experienced individuals hired to carry out detective work. They are fact-finding experts who dedicate time and effort to gather evidence and reveal information that would be difficult to gain through ordinary means. Private investigators can either operate alone or work for an agency.
Yes, private investigators are real. They provide their expertise to anyone who needs an in-depth investigation for an important matter. Whether tracking a long-lost loved one, running background checks, finding missing persons, or conducting general research, private detectives operate with discretion and rarely make the news.
PI work involves a lot of information gathering and fact analysis. Their field assignments involve carefully following persons of interest, conducting surveillance, interviewing people, and, sometimes, going undercover to get more information. They use GPS tracking devices, video recorders, computers, and other technology to collect information.
Private investigators’ ability to conduct examinations and close cases without their targets knowing their involvement makes them very effective. A PI firm may have different personnel, each specializing in a particular field. From computer experts to web-data analysts and field officers, these agents work together to solve cases or complete an objective.
PIs are civilians, so they're required to operate within the confines of the law. Private investigators search multiple online databases, public records, and open source files to collect information. However, they cannot bug phones or hack into online accounts to acquire protected information. They can conduct surveillance on people in public places, but they can't trespass into their homes or property.
It's completely legal to hire a private investigator. The operations of licensed private investigators are also legal and protected by the law. They are, however, subject to scrutiny and strict regulations that ensure they conduct investigations with professionalism and ethics.
The cost of hiring a private investigator depends on the service you need. Most PIs have a fixed rate for services, such as background checks, GPS tracking, record searches, and debt collection, ranging from $50 to $300 or more per day. For complex assignments, including finding missing persons, tracking infidelity, or locating long-lost relatives, the PI may charge per hour or ask for a retainer. On average, a private investigator will cost around $50 to $200 per hour.
Private detectives are well trained and experienced in performing investigations and surveillance without risking exposure. The information they gather can be difficult for an average person to obtain. Hiring a private investigator could provide valuable information, but whether that knowledge is worthwhile depends on your individual needs.
Private investigators are not law enforcement and, in most cases, will refrain from revealing their identity to maintain a low profile. For identification and to confirm their official status, PIs carry a badge and a private investigator’s license.
A private investigator may contact you if:
Private investigators are not easily recognized. However, if you suspect you are being watched or followed, the best option is to call the police and not confront them. It's also advisable to stay indoors until the issue gets resolved since they don't have permission to trespass into your home.
A licensed private investigator can conduct surveillance, record, and even follow suspects. The license gives them a permissible purpose, and they can do so without their actions being regarded as stalking. As long as they don’t intimidate or invade a person's privacy, it's within the confines of the law, and they cannot be charged. If you have concerns about someone who may be a PI, contact the police to discuss your options.
Hiring a private investigator is legal, and you cannot sue someone for hiring one to get information on you. However, if there have been instances of invasion of personal space, harassment, or intimidation, you can sue both the PI and the client for damages incurred.
While there are no fixed academic qualifications for becoming a private investigator, having education and knowledge of the criminal justice system is essential. This enables the investigators to know their limitations without breaking the law. Additionally, most states require PIs to obtain a private investigator's license, which is reviewed regularly to ensure compliance.
Curiosity, persuasion, patience, and the ability to analyze information are all traits required for a successful career as a private investigator. Their work involves interviewing people, observing, and gathering information. This makes the qualities above very important for success in the profession. Having previous experience in law enforcement is also helpful.
Different states have different regulations and requirements before issuing a license. Some of the most common qualifications include completing a private investigation course, two years of work experience, no previous criminal record, and weapons permit for armed personnel. Private investigators are also regularly tested to ensure the validity of their certification.
The most direct path for this career is getting a bachelor's degree in criminal justice, which usually takes four years. Then take a one-year internship in an investigative firm to gain hands-on experience. Having done this, you can count yourself as a private investigator.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the annual median wage for private investigators in 2020 was $53,320. Entry-level private investigators with only a high school diploma earn around $30,000, while those with a criminal justice bachelor's degree and over five years of experience make up to $84,000 annually.