What is a Private Investigator?

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

People need information all the time. Sometimes, it’s a small piece of information, like the name or contact information for a certain person. Other times, it’s more complex information, like a person’s entire history, including where they lived, who they worked for, and who they associate with. While we’d like to think that with social media and search engines like Google almost any information can be found relatively easily, anyone who has tried to do this kind of investigative research knows that’s not always the case. In fact, the vast amount of information online is, in some ways, a double-edged sword —  more available information means more time spent sorting through it to find what you need, and sometimes the information you do find isn’t even accurate or up-to-date. So what can people that need to find information, but don’t have time the skills, time, or resources to find it on their own, do? Hire private investigators. 

What is a private investigator?

A private investigator is essentially a professional information finder. Private investigators are individuals who are hired by other people or organizations to find specific information for the people that hire them. As the name implies, private investigators specialize in investigative research like skip tracing — their skill is finding information that other people cannot.  Unlike a law enforcement agent who works for the government and investigates criminal matters before they are brought to court, a private investigator works for private clients and investigates only what the client wants them to. If you need certain information and can’t find it on your own, you can turn to a private investigator to get it for you. 

Who can be a private investigator?

Because private investigators are everyday citizens who specialize in finding information, basically anyone who wants to be a private investigator can be. It depends on the state you live in, but while you do need to get a private investigator license to be a licensed private investigator you can still work as one without a license if you’re working under someone who does have a private investigation license. That does not mean, however, it’s easy to be a private investigator. Private investigators need to be skilled at investigative research. You can take courses in investigation, but the most important thing is knowing how to perform investigations that are common to the private investigation industry, and that usually comes with direct PI experience. That being said, private investigators usually need more than just experience. To be an effective and efficient PI, you usually need the kind of investigative tools used by law enforcement, like investigation software

What does a private investigator do?

Private investigators perform investigations to find information and uncover the truth. The end goal of every investigation a private investigator does is the same — find the facts your client needs. However, while every private investigator works to uncover factual information, different clients need different information, so these investigations can vary. While a private investigator may perform criminal investigations to find information about a crime, unlike law enforcement, they are finding information a private client wants for their own purposes, not information needed by the courts to convict a criminal. For example, someone may hire a private investigator to help uncover information about a crime if it’s become a cold case.

Because private investigators can find information for any purpose, not just for the court, they are often hired to investigate civil matters. For example, an individual may hire a private investigator to skip trace their birth parents or investigate if their spouse is cheating. A private investigator may also be hired to perform personal background investigations. For example, if you’re considering employing someone, you may want to hire a private investigator to look up someone’s criminal record and uncover any potential for danger — like a fraud conviction. 

Private investigators may also be hired by other industries to help the industries do their job, like for insurance investigation services. If your business is considering working with or buying a business and you want to do a due diligence search, you can hire a private investigator to uncover any potential for risk in the business, like a large amount of debt. Private detectives may also do internal investigations for companies, like fraud investigations. Often, private investigators are hired by legal professionals to help them with the “fact finding” side of their legal search. Attorneys tend to have a lot on their plates, so they may not have the time or resources to perform the investigations they need to gather evidence and build their case. A private investigator may be hired to determine the extent and circumstances of someone’s injury in a personal injury case, or for witness location in a criminal defense case. They may even be hired for family law investigations to uncover a certain party’s assets in a divorce settlement. Regardless of why you might need information or what kind of information you need, the sole job of private investigators is to get it for you. 

What tools do private investigators use?

Even the most experienced private investigators in the world need the help of certain tools to uncover information. Even if you may be able to get information without the help of extra tools, these tools can help you get the right information faster and streamline your private investigations. There are endless different tools a private investigator may use to uncover information — from hidden camera pens to telephoto photography lenses — but one of the best private investigator tools is a public and private records database. When you use a public and private records database, you can instantly access billions of records, both current and historical, from any device — which means you no longer have to scour through Google or go to a courthouse to request documents. Tracers top skip tracing software provides you with all the tools you need for skip tracing, like names of relatives, old address lookup, car plate search, and utility data services. If you’re looking to perform a background investigation into someone, you can search criminal records and do a social network people search to better understand someone’s day-to-day activities and interests. You can uncover hidden assets with an asset and liability search, search business records, or use a reverse landline phone lookup to find up-to-date contact information for almost any individual. With the most reliable and accurate data and multiple options for searching in Tracers, you’ll be able to gather the facts, make connections, and uncover the truth for your client — quickly and efficiently.

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