FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS for People Considering Hiring a Private Investigator
Where do I start?
Once you’ve made the determination that hiring a private investigator is something you want to do, probably the best place to start is by looking for a professional and reputable private investigator on the Internet. If you know a successful attorney or a judge who you’re willing to put your business out there with, it might also make sense to ask them. In either case, you are going to want to do as much as you possibly can to make sure that you’re getting the best possible person available. Just like with doctors, attorneys, surgeons and contractors, their is a wide range of competence and integrity in the private investigator world.
I provide a track to run on with a couple of checklists that I developed just for this purpose. Just click on one of the below hyper-links:
- A P.I. Website Review Checklist to help you determine if a P.I. is worth calling on the phone.
- A P.I. Phone Interview Checklist to help you know what questions to ask the investigator if you are able to get him/her on the telephone.
Should I hire a private investigator?
The first thing to do is to determine if you really even do need to hire a private investigator. Many times, when people call and share their situation with us, it quickly becomes clear that what the caller suspects is obviously taking place.
Now, I have to remind myself that things are more clear to me for a number of reasons. First of all, I’ve been dealing with these exact types of situations for several years. We’ve come across most of the deceptions, schemes, rouses and lies that people use to pull off and cover-up their activities. At the same time, I have the added benefit of perspective. Having been in a situation, myself, where my wife was cheating on me, I realize that, being human, emotions insert themselves in tense situations and can cloud our judgment. Hell, my wife had been having an affair for almost a year before I figured it out and accepted it for what it was…and I was already a real police detective! Looking back, I’m astonished that I hadn’t put it together earlier, especially looking at some of the red flags that were, in hindsight, slapping me in the face.
The point is, I think a part of my brain didn’t want to find out or know the truth, so I ignored the red flags and heard what I wanted to hear in what she was saying, ignoring (or as psychologists call it, “deleting”) what I wasn’t ready to deal with.
So, back to my point, once you do accept that something nefarious is afoot, try to determine exactly what, if anything, is to be gained by getting proof at all. We often have to point out to people that call into the office that they already have all the proof they need. Private investigations can be very expensive and the best option might be to not hire one at all.
Is it legal to hire a private investigator?
In most cases, it is legal to hire a private investigator…as long as you aren’t hiring him/her to do something clearly illegal. Of course there are all kinds of gray areas to consider, as well as thin lines that distinguish between legal and illegal. But generally speaking, it is legal to hire a private investigator to look into any matter where you suspect that you (or someone else) may be getting defrauded, lied to, cheated on, stolen from or victimized in some way. You are also going to be on solid ground if you are hiring a P.I. to conduct an investigation, audit, or review in order to confirm facts or details of a matter under consideration, or to protect yourself or someone from being victimized.
What can I expect when I call your office?
When most people call our offices, it is their first time ever dealing with a private investigator, so they really don’t know what to expect. I think a lot of people expect to hear a recording (usually a tool of 1-man shows) and others expect someone to answer by identifying ourselves as “Integrity Investigations.” To be fair, in our evolution as a company, we’ve used both of the above processes to handle incoming calls, but here’s what you can expect if you call our offices these days:
When you call, you will most likely get a live person answering (many people seem surprised when we answer the phone). Now, since we are often up late into the night, we don’t take calls until after 11am. Otherwise, you can usually expect to be speaking with either myself or one of our investigators. The only exception would be when we are tied up on all of our lines with other callers, or when it is after 9pm.
We usually answer, “Hello, this is ____. ” This generic greeting is for a reason. We have had situations where our targets found our number in our client’s phone log and then called it to see who answered. How do we know this? Because the caller then, in a less than friendly tone, says, “Who is this?” We remind the caller that they called us and ask them who they were trying to reach and every now and then we will hear something like, “This number was in my husband’s call log. I demand to know who you are.” Well, the fact is, if they’ve made it this far, the cat is usually out of the bag as far as the target knowing that something is awry, but at least we now know that they know, so we can adjust our approach appropriately (and let our client know).
If you call during business hours, your call will be answered by someone in our office. They will ask you how they can help you and if they determine that you are looking for an investigator, they’ll ask what kind of situation it is and direct you to an investigator (usually a supervisor). They will also ask you for your name (You can just give them your first name, or even make up a name). You will then be directed to someone you can discuss your case with.
If you call our offices during non-business hours (after 5pm or on a weekend/holiday), your call will most-likely be forwarded directly to a supervisory investigator. Know that if you call during non-business hours, the person you are speaking with might be taking your call on their cell phone, so they might be in a grocery store, or you might hear their dog bark if someone knocks at their door.
A few other things to understand before you call:
Anything discussed on the call is confidential. The fact is, we could/would/should lose our license if we violated your confidentiality. You don’t even have to give your real name when calling. We understand that you have probably recently been lied to, ripped off, cheated on or screwed over in some manner and that you aren’t very trusting of anyone right now. Your confidentiality is important and there is no reason for you to share any personal information before you make the decision to hire an investigator. However, we will need your real information if we both decide to move forward with an investigation.
In most cases, we can have a 5-10 minute conversation on the phone. You will most likely have some questions for us and we will probably have some questions for you to help us both better understand the issues. If it makes sense at that point to move forward, we can make an appointment to meet in our office to discuss the issue further, face to face. (In some circumstances, if we both feel comfortable, we can move forward with the process on the telephone)
Understand, we don’t take every case. First of all, we only handle a certain number of cases at any given time. Experience has taught us that when we exceed that number, the quality of our services drops, and that is unacceptable. If we can’t handle the case at that time, we will let you know and either fit you in when we have an opening, or else refer you to another reputable and competent investigation company. Additionally, we do not handle cases for criminal defendants. That means if you are under indictment or are in prison, we will not handle your case. We also will not take your case if we suspect that you are involved in criminal activity, or if we suspect you are being untruthful with us. We have been in business for over fifteen years and we are fortunate enough to be in a position where we can be more selective of the investigations we handle. We also will not conduct investigations for persons who have any kind of court-ordered protection or restraining order filed against them.
What forms of payment do you accept?
We accept several different methods of payment, including Credit Cards (Visa, Mastercard, American Express) personal checks, money orders and cash. We also accept PayPal, Venmo and Zelle payments.
Be wary of businesses that only take cash.
Also, although PayPal can be an effective way of making payments under the radar (this is another form of payment we accept), be wary of companies that use this as a primary way of accepting credit cards. It’s expensive and usually a sign that the vendor doesn’t have good enough credit to qualify for a regular credit card processing merchant account.
Can you get started on my investigation right away (tonight)?
In most situations, this is determined by our current caseload. In order to maintain a certain level of excellence in our investigations, we only handle so many cases at any given time. If the circumstances are that we do have an open slot for an investigation, we can usually get started that very day.
How many investigators are needed for a personal investigation?
In most cases, only one field investigator is needed for a personal investigation (infidelity, cohabitation, child custody, etc.). There are situations where we recommend two investigators, especially if the investigation will be taking place in New York City (or another urban environment where people are likely to be using public transportation or a taxi/Uber/Lyft) and in certain situations where the personal safety of the investigator may be a concern. This will all be discussed in advance before the investigation is initiated.
Can I just drop into your office to discuss hiring you?
In most cases, no. An appointment is necessary to discuss your case in person. Although our offices are staffed with administrative personnel, our investigators work out of several different offices and we don’t know which office we may be in on any given day. I personally try to stay out of our offices unless I am meeting with a client. At this point, I’ve found that I’ve become a distraction to my employees more than anything else, so I just try to stay out of their way.
How will the charges appear on my bill if I pay you with a credit card?
Do you give free consultations?
What is the benefit to having a private investigator prove that my spouse is cheating on me?
Many of our clients have told us that the evidence we’ve uncovered in the course of our investigations has given them a lot of “leverage” in their divorce proceedings.
In other cases, concrete proof was the only thing that could force the unfaithful spouse to finally come to terms with the situation and admit the truth so that the healing process could begin to move forward.
I think my spouse is cheating; are there certain warning signs that I should look out for?
Will you provide me with copies of the video and photos?
Will you follow my spouse inside places and film with a camera? How do you do that?
Once again, this depends on the circumstances of the investigation. We do have and utilize state-of-the art covert cameras for getting video of persons in restaurants, bars, etc. We do not enter hotel rooms or residences to get video (unless we are invited in), but we oftentimes are able to follow behind people as they get on elevators, walk down halls and enter their hotel rooms together. We don’t follow them into the room, but we do get video of the whole matter using a covert camera of one kind or another.
How quickly can you start an investigation?
Are my communications with you kept discreet and confidential?
Do you handle cases of child custody?
I’m thinking of doing the surveillance myself. Is that legal?
Even though I’ve performed countless surveillances, I’d think hard before trying to do surveillance on someone who knew me. In most cases, you are too close to the action to think objectively, rather than emotionally. I guess it all depends on what the stakes are in the situation.
I don’t know where to turn. What is my next step to take?
Can I use the evidence in court?
Is it legal to put a GPS tracking device on someone’s vehicle?
In what situations do you employ GPS trackers?
Why not just buy my own GPS tracker?
Other issues to consider, are those dealing with how immediate your need is and how tech-savvy you are. After you research which unit to buy, order it, have it shipped, receive it, put it together, charge the batteries, set up an account and then figure out how to mount it to the car and then how to access and monitor it through your computer (without screwing any of these steps up), you’re then probably ready to try it out.
Just as important as what kind of GPS unit you use is where and how you place it on/in a vehicle. Believe it or not, a matter of six inches or a difference in 45 degrees angle of placement can make the difference between whether you’re going to get a strong enough signal or not. Different makes and models of cars have different “best spots” for placement for reasons ranging from issues of electrical interference, to what the car is made of…and if you don’t have a signal, you may as well not even have the unit.
Additionally, there are many situations where it may or may not be legal for you to utilize a tracking device. Law enforcement and licensed private investigators have been granted special rights when it comes to issues, such as conducting surveillance and tracking people. As mentioned above, if you don’t have a PI license or aren’t a police officer, you very may well be guilty of criminal stalking, trespassing, invasion of privacy or even criminal mischief.
In regard to the above, we have the best available GPS units ready to go. We know how to install them quickly, how to use them, how to monitor them and most importantly what the law is when it comes to using them. In most cases, we can have a unit installed on a vehicle within hours of receiving your call. It usually takes less than one minute to install the unit. We won’t need access to the inside of the vehicle, meaning we can put it on while the vehicle is parked in the driveway overnight, while parked in a lot at work, or even when the subject leaves the vehicle in the parking lot of the grocery store to go shopping. We have other methods, too, but would probably be better left off of this web page.
One final advantage to having a professional install and monitor the device is that once we see and know where the problem is, you will have a professional and experienced investigator, armed with professional cameras suited for the situation, whether it be night vision, long-range or covert cameras ready to pounce once the opportunity arises. Our investigators have computers in the vehicles and can zero right in on situations to obtain the concrete proof and evidence that will give you the peace of mind you deserve.
What it comes down to is how important it is to find out what you’re after and how serious you are about getting to the bottom of the issue without taking unnecessary risks.
How does the GPS work?
Our trackers will show you real-time views of where the vehicle is at any given time or they will show historical re-plays of exactly what path a vehicle followed, with exact times and locations all recorded.
Can I get access to view the GPS tracker on my own computer?
For those situations, our clients are given a link to our IntegrityGPS website along with a unique username and password to use for access. We also have a mobile website portal so that clients can get real-time access on their iPhone and Android devices.
How will you get the device on the vehicle?
What should I do if he/she finds out?
In any case, we will give you specific, carefully thought-out responses to have ready in case your spouse confronts you about a GPS tracker.
I think someone is tracking my vehicle...how do I find out?
Can you do a social media search?
Can you do a background investigation on someone without them knowing about it?
What does a background investigation include?
Do you conduct pre-employment background investigations?
We use Corporate Screening to conduct all of our pre-employment background investigations. They have been around for over 25 years and their client list is nothing short of impressive.
Can you take my fingerprints for a job application and send them to the F.B.I. and/or B.C.I. (a web check)?
What kind of information can you retrieve from a smartphone/computer?
Can you retrieve text messages?
Do you need the device to retrieve information?
I think someone is listening in on my phone calls. Is this possible? Can you see if it is bugged?
I have tried out some of the services and devices that are advertised on-line to “listen in” on phone conversations, to see if they actually work, and so that I could help my clients defend themselves from these types of intrusions, but I haven’t come across anything legitimate yet.
I think that my house is bugged. Can you do a bug sweep to find it?
Do you handle Criminal Defense cases?
This is not to be confused with the fact that we can and will investigate criminal matters from the prosecutor’s side of the table. If you take a look at our “Integrity In the News” webpage, you will see that we have actively investigated, prosecuted and sent to prison, numerous criminal offenders through the private investigation role.
How much does a private investigator cost?
There are several variables involved with this answer. At our company, we charge $175/hour for most field work, including surveillance. Other services such as background investigations, computer/cell phone forensics exams and GPS tracking are charged on project-based fees. You can download our Price List by going to our Price List page or call our offices for further details or questions.
How much can I expect to pay for a cheating spouse investigation?
Each case is different and there is no way of determining how much it will cost without finding out more details regarding the situation. The more upfront and reliable information you can provide us ahead of time, the more directed and efficient we can start out. We provide the best investigative services and there simply is no other agency that will give you the results that we will without getting caught. You will get what you pay for and if the investigator is caught, you probably will not get a second chance. We do not provide the cheapest service, however we guarantee to provide the best service available when it comes to surveillance-types of investigations.
How much is the retainer?
In most cases, we do require a retainer deposit, which ranges from $3,000-$10,000 ($1,500 for GPS tracking only). Investigative services are then billed against the retainer. At any point during the investigation (and at the completion of the case) we will inform you of the balance.
How much do you charge per hour?
How much we charge per hour depends on several factors. Ranging on what kind of investigative work we are doing, to how many hours you are paying for upfront, in your retainer. In most cases, you can expect to pay $175/hour for field investigation work.
Some services, such as asset research, GPS tracking and computer or cell phone forensics are handled as flat fees, whereas any time we have to put a person in the field, an hourly rate will usually apply.
Do you accept credit cards?
Yes. We do accept MasterCard, Visa and American Express. We also accept payment via Zelle, Venmo and PayPal.
What other forms of payment do you accept?
We accept check, personal check, business check, money order and cash. We also accept Zelle, Venmo and Paypal.
Do I pay for your services before the work is done, or after?
What is a Retainer Fee?
How much does a background investigation cost?
How much does GPS Tracking cost?
How much does a bug sweep cost?
Our Bug Sweeps, sometimes called TSCM (Technical Surveillance Counter-Measures) sweeps start at $750 for a cell phone or a vehicle sweep (for listening devices and GPS trackers) and start at $1,500 for homes and corporate environments. Other factors also figure in involving the size of the area to be swept and the number of phone lines. Once again, we’ve bundled some services together with other services with improved price points.
Why do you cost so much more than other private investigators?
investigators, but the best investigators aren’t usually the best at effective communication with clients or organized enough to run a business well. I would never have been able to stay in business since 2004 had I not been lucky enough to surround myself with a competent support staff and investigative team. I most certainly would’ve burned out a long time ago. We are more selective when accepting cases and clients, because we can be…when other P.I.’s have to take every case that comes along. Employing a top-notch support staff, keeping the best investigators on the payroll and having the best equipment means that investigations are consistently handled in a professional manner. It also means that our rates are higher than other P.I.’s, especially the ones that are so desperate that they have to lower themselves to offering their services at a discounted rate. We are not for everyone or every situation. Our clients are usually not the same people that look for the cheapest doctor for their open-heart surgery, the cheapest attorney for their divorce or drive the cheapest cars (even though the cheapest can usually still get the job done). I absolutely detest incompetence and tardiness. At the same time, I have no tolerance for people that don’t take my calls or at least return them in a timely manner. I have the same expectations for my staff and I think that that is one of the reasons people recommend us, refer us and return to us for business. You will rarely be greeted by a recording when calling our offices, and on the rare occasions that this does occur, a timely return call can be expected.