Private investigators specialise in research, surveillance, and other methods of investigation. Many are from police background although this is not a prerequisite as all investigators need to have completed and qualified under a recognised state and/or territory course in order to hold a private investigator license. Private investigators may be employed by private individuals, companies, government, and legal firms.
Private investigators cover a wide range of work some only specialising in specific areas; others encompassing all areas of work. Some of the more common areas of work undertaken by a private investigator include:
The cost of hiring a private investigator will vary dependent upon the nature of enquiry sought. Some matters, for example background checks, may involve a flat fee. Other matters will entail an hourly rate determined by location, complexity of the matter and expertise of the private investigator. Travel time and kilometres may be separate charges or incorporated into the hourly rate.
Expenses are reimbursed at their face value cost. A deposit or retainer to cover such expenses may be requested by some private investigators prior to commencement of enquiries. An itemised list of expenses should be provided by the investigator at the completion of enquiries.
A written contract outlining the hourly rate, kilometre rate and potential costs should be provided.
What to look for when hiring a private investigator:
Referral – As you will most likely impart personal information it is imperative that the private investigator is both ethical and reliable. Where possible obtain a referral by asking friends for recommendations and ask the investigator for references you can contact.
Confidentiality: When dealing with a private investigator you are most likely to discuss sensitive information. You need to be assured that your private investigator will be discreet and respectful of information shared between you.
Licence: A professional private investigator will provide you with their licence number which you may check with the authorise licensing body.
Experience: How long have they been in business? Satisfy yourself by asking about the work the private investigator has done in the past and how those jobs worked out. This will go some way to assuring you that the private investigator is the right choice for you and that the job will get done expeditiously. You should feel comfortable with and not pressured by a private investigator in discussing your matter of concern.
Insurance: Does the private enquiry agency have insurance coverage in the event of something going wrong.
Contract: Most private investigation agencies offer a free 30-minute initial consultation from which they should be able to provide an anticipated cost for service. Should you decide to proceed, all fees and expectations should be provided to you in a contract.
Results: Not all enquiries go to plan. When you hire a private investigator and the matters involve people close to you, the findings may be upsetting. Conversely, they may be reassuring and/or there may be no findings at all. You may hope the private investigator will prove your fears wrong, but you must be ready to handle whatever they turn up before you commit to hiring them.