Seven Types of Private Investigations

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

Private investigators are basically professional information finders (if you want to learn more, check out our blog post “What is a Private Investigator?”). As experts at getting information no one else can, they get hired to use their investigative tactics to help people and companies  solve problems and get answers beyond just the traditional criminal investigations people tend to think of. In fact, there were over 96,000 private investigators in the US in 2019, and while the most common speciality is background investigations, their services span widely.

Sometimes, investigations are as straightforward as finding hidden assets. Sometimes, they’re more complicated and high stake, like a missing person investigation or forensic investigation. Other types of investigations are around family issues, or fraud… or even pets. Here’s a list of the 7 most common types of private investigations.

Background Investigation

You may be able to gather some information on someone by doing some basic searching of the web, but if you want a thorough investigation of someone’s history to uncover anything they may be hiding, you may want to consider hiring a private investigator. Background investigations often involve using a public and private records database to look up someone’s criminal records, address history, workplace and business records, or even find past social media activity a social network people search

Family Law Investigation 

Because legal professionals have a lot on their plates when it comes to building cases, they often hire private investigators to help them uncover some of the facts of the case and gather help evidence. One of the most common kinds of investigations private investigators do is family law investigations, specifically concerning divorce settlements and custody battles. PIs may gather evidence about which spouse is more fit to have custody of the children, or uncover any shady action of the other party.

Fraud Investigation 

A fraud investigation is, as the name implies, an investigation to uncover if someone is committing fraud, whether it’s first-party, second-party, or third-party fraud. Usually, private investigators are hired by other companies, like insurance companies, to perform an insurance fraud investigation process and uncover if someone is receiving a payment they aren’t actually eligible. For example, if someone claims to have been injured to get an insurance pay out, a private investigator may perform surveillance on that person or look through past records to help determine if they are telling the truth or not.

Infidelity Investigation

Another common investigation people think of when they think of private investigators is infidelity, and rightfully so. Infidelity investigations are very common, so much in fact that there are private investigators who do nothing but infidelity investigations. Infidelity investigations are when an individual hires a private detective to investigate if their spouse or partner is cheating or not. Private investigators frequently use surveillance tactics, like following the person around, to determine whether or not they actually are cheating. They may also search social media activity and use osint software tools to uncover records that could point to cheating — like hidden assets.

Forensic Investigation

A forensic investigation is an investigation centered on gathering evidence of a crime to solve it. Forensic investigations tend to be very scientific — they require a high-level of knowledge and skill of evidence collection and analysis, as well as tools like forensic search software. While law enforcement agents are typically the ones in charge of handling forensic investigations, investigators can also help perform them alongside law enforcement. Or, they may be hired by an individual to help with the forensic investigation if the individual is unhappy with the results of an investigation by law enforcement.

Skip Trace Investigation

Because private investigators are experts at uncovering information, they tend to be the very best at skiptracing.An investigator may be hired for a skip trace investigation to find someone who is a missing person, help with witness location, find estranged family members, or assist collection agencies with locating debtors who are on the run. Private investigators are particularly skilled at building webs of connections and gathering information travel patterns, allowing them to pinpoint the location of a person who has “skipped town” or is flying under the radar.

Cold Case Investigation

When a case goes cold, it means that all leads have been exhausted. Cold cases can be particularly frustrating for law enforcement, but even more so for the victim or family and friends of the victim. Sometimes, family or friends of a victim, if that victim was killed or is missing, will hire a private investigator to perform a cold case investigation if law enforcement has reached a standstill. So how do private investigators start a cold case investigation? Investigating a cold case often involves getting in contact with old persons of interest in order to re-interview them, as well as skip tracing witnesses and searching through old records, like past addresses, assets, or property records, to find any evidence. Cold cases are the most challenging cases, which means private investigators need to use the best tools and tactics available in order to solve them.

Interested in learning about some of the most famous (fictional) PIs in history? Check out our blog post on the “Ten Most Famous Private Investigators in Film and Television.” 

If you’d like to see how Tracers private investigator software can help power investigations of all different kinds, get started today.