How do I know what Private Investigator I should use?
By Al Norris
PROVIDENCE-Specialized Investigative Solutions
I recently read yet another article about a private investigator that violated the law within their state. This person for a flawed moment of unethical behavior was facing criminal charges and I’m sure civil penalties as well.
Although I don’t believe this a common occurrence its happenstance is none the less disturbing. Professional Investigators are like any other profession, most are good, some are bad.
If you find yourself in need of a professional investigator, how do you know where to look to obtain the services for your specific need? This requires a little investigative talent and due diligence of your own. I have listed several suggestions that may aid in determining the right person for the job.
The first thing anyone should do is determine if the investigator has a requirement within their state to be license. Most states do, but not all. Since this occupation is regulated in most states check with that state to see if the investigator is currently licensed. Also check if there have been any grievances reported to the state against that investigator.
Additionally, don’t assume that an employee of an investigative firm is lawfully license. Because this industry is competitive some Private Investigators will hire an individual for ten or fifteen dollars an hour to perform work that is alleged to be done under their license. They will inform their clients, should they ask, that the person working for them is a 1099 employee. If that person is a contracted 1099 employee that person has to possess their own individual license within the state they are working. Therefore you have the right to ask to see their license and insurance or bond as well.
Below is a link to determine which states require licensing.
ARE THEY INSURED OR BONDED?
Ask to see a valid bond or certificate of insurance. Sometimes, to cut corners, investigators will let their insurances lapse until it is time to renew their license. Ask how much the bond or insurance covers.
CHEAPEST IS NOT NECESSARILY THE BEST
As I previously stated, the Professional Investigative Industry is very competitive. Some companies, to get business, will undercut their competitor’s prices substantially. The ability to accomplish this is done by “cheating the system”. These companies “cheat the system” by not paying for insurances, use non-licensed employees allowing the owner to pay “under the table”. In doing so they do not to have to pay withholdings (such as Workers Compensation, Unemployment Insurances, Social Security, etc.) These same companies usually pay no association or membership dues and much, much more to cut corners and costs.
The question you have to ask yourself in dealing with a company like this,…”are you better off”? Is this person being ethical?
In Michigan and Ohio only licensed Private Investigators can testify in court relating to investigative matters. Where does that leave you should you decide to use a company using a non-payroll, non-licensed employee?
The difference in hourly pay is minor compared to the potential risks involved.
DOES THE INVESTIGATOR BELONG TO ANY ASSOCIATIONS
Why ask about Associations? Associations are self-policing. Associations require that a prospective investigator go through an extensive application process. The application to be completed shows qualifications, experience and endorsements for the investigator. Associations also meet frequently giving training, updates in laws and demonstrate the latest equipment. Many of the more experienced investigators belong to these associations because they believe in their profession and want to maintain the highest standards and abilities.
EXPIERNCE AND CERTIFICATIONS
Don’t be afraid to ask what background the investigator has. Ask if they hold any certifications or degrees. Ask if they participate in continuing education. These questions should be weighed in determining the right person for your needs.
Investigators that have had success in doing their job will have references. Investigators are not afraid of showcasing their abilities. And they will be happy to share their satisfied clients with you so don’t be reluctant to ask.
WHAT ABOUT A NATIONAL FIRM?
National firms have to be vetted attentively. Many firms advertise they cover all fifty states. The fact is they use local licensed investigators themselves. Not that there is anything wrong with doing this. The problem is they are making people think that they something they are not. Again, ethical actions should be in the forefront when looking for a private investigator.
ASK FOR A CONTRACT
If you have any doubts or concerns ask the investigator if they have a contract that you can read and sign. Contracts will usually define obligations on both parties.
Again, I want to stress that there are only a few disreputable investigative agencies as describe above. But it never hurts to take proactive measures to ensure you obtain the right investigator for you. In the long run it could save you a great deal of headaches and stress.