You Asked, We Answered: FAQS about Private Investigators
Posted by Pamela S. on Thursday, September 20th, 2012
People have a lot of ideas about the private investigation industry, and many of them are false. The questions that we are frequently asked are based on the media and entertainment world’s version of a private investigator. It would be more exciting
if the P.I. life was more like a noir film. It would also be exciting to go diving with sharks. Here are the real facts.
Do Private Investigators ever lose the person that they are following?
We call that person “the subject”, because they are the subject of our investigation. It happens more than you realize. Savvy clients know this is a possibility. We don’t have one of those magic buttons that turn red lights green. We also don’t have control over traffic jams, being cut off by a transport truck, or getting stuck behind an 80 year old driver on a two lane street with no passing. We often find our subject by doing a search of the area, or checking out places we know they attend. You can’t be too aggressive when you are following someone, or something worse can happen; they will realize that they are being followed. A good investigator knows how to handle this balancing act. I wrote about stalking the other day. Inexperienced and overly aggressive investigators, who don’t let up when they should can be accused of stalking. We know when to back off, which is just as important as knowing when to push it.
Do P.I.s ever follow the wrong person?
That happens on occasion, but it is not a regular occurrence. It helps when clients provide us with a photograph of their subject, or we are able to obtain one from other sources, such as social media. Let’s say that the subject is a 20 year old male still
living at home with his parents, and we don’t have a photograph. We have a general description; 5’10, medium build, short dark hair, but the client doesn’t realize that the subject has a 21 year old brother who fits the same description. They both drive vehicles registered to the parents. We might follow the first male who fits this profile when he leaves the residence. We try to make a positive identification as quickly as possible, to make sure he is the right person. It could be possible to follow this person for hours. Maybe he is shopping at the mall, and when we follow him back to the residence, we see his brother standing in the front yard. Now we know that he may not be the right person, and we need identify him through other means.
Do private investigators ever sleep with the person that they are following to get information?
When I was younger, being a female investigator, I got this question all the time. It’s sexist, but that is something that some people seem to believe, after watching too much television. The answer is a very definite NO. The laws vary from state to state, but we try to have as little interaction with the subject as possible. There are some companies that use what are called marital decoys. They use attractive female “investigators” to try to entice a man to see if he will cheat on his wife. You may have seen this on Dr. Phil and other shows. A former California private investigator Christopher “Chris” Butler, owner of the inappropriately named agency, Private Investigations, Inc., used this technique. Butler was trying to get a reality show off the ground, called “P.I. Moms”. He used pretty females who had no real training as investigators to entrap married men. Entrapment is illegal and we don’t work that way. Butler pulled some other illegal scams and has since been arrested on drug charges.
Butler is not a typical example of a private investigator, although Hollywood might want you to think that. He is a con artist. There are bad apples in every profession. These people aren’t professional investigators.
If you are a young woman seeking a career as a private investigator, don’t fall into this kind of work. It won’t help your career, and no legitimate agency will hire you.
How do you get information? Do you break into offices or homes or do other illegal acts?
This is another TV and movie trope. 99.9 percent of private investigation agencies are professional, legitimate businesses. We are licensed, regulated by the state, and have to follow laws regarding trespassing, traffic violations and privacy, just as you do. Many investigative agencies, such as Sheer Investigations, are owned and operated by former law enforcement personnel who have made it their life’s work to uphold the law. Our clients are leading corporations, law firms and insurance companies. We work hard to ensure that our evidence can withstand the scrutiny of the legal system.
Former FBI Assistant Director Tom Sheer has recruited the best from the FBI, DEA, IRS and Secret Service to build a formidable team at Sheer Investigations. Our private investigators have the sensitivity and experience to handle the most delicate investigations.