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A Private Investigator: 10 Things You Didn’t Know

A Private investigator, often abbreviated as PIs, have an intriguing job that has been glamorized by Hollywood movies and TV shows for decades. In reality, their day-to-day work involves a lot more than car chases and shootouts. A Private investigator utilize diverse skills and specialties to gather facts, analyze evidence, solve mysteries, and uncover the truth.

While PIs have existed in some form for centuries, there are many aspects of their profession that remain unfamiliar to the general public.

This article will provide a comprehensive look at 10 fascinating things you probably didn’t know about private investigators.

History of Private Investigators

The Pinkerton Detective Agency

Allan Pinkerton founded the Pinkerton National Detective Agency in 1850. It grew to become one of the most famous private detective agencies in the world. The agents of the Pinkerton agency, nicknamed “Pinkertons”, provided a wide range of investigative services including security services for railroads, infiltrating labor unions, and chasing outlaws in the Wild West. They were involved in a number of high-profile cases during their heyday such as foiling an assassination plot against Abraham Lincoln.

Growth of the Private Investigation Industry

While the Pinkertons may have been the first organized private detective agency, the private investigation industry saw major growth in the early 20th century. It increasingly became a profession of specialists utilizing forensic sciences and analytical techniques. The growing capabilities of investigators made their services accessible and attractive to both businesses and individuals. Today there are thousands of A private investigator across the country helping clients with various matters.

Common Misconceptions About A Private Investigator

Myth: Private Investigators Only Do Surveillance

A common assumption is that private eyes spend most of their time conducting surveillance, chasing cheating spouses, and taking secret photos. In reality, only some private investigators specialize in surveillance. Many focus on financial investigations, perform background checks, go undercover to gather intel, consult on legal cases, and assist in locating missing persons. Surveillance is an important tool but only part of an investigator’s capabilities.

Myth: Private Investigators Have Exciting Jobs Like in the Movies

While Hollywood depicts the job of a PI as an endless stream of high-speed car chases and dangerous shootouts, the reality is very different. Most of their time is spent on computer databases digging up records, making phone calls, analyzing data, writing reports, and communicating with clients. PI work involves gathering information through less glamorous methods like interviews, online searches, and poring over public documents.

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The Skills and Expertise of A Private Investigator

Investigative Skills

Private investigators are highly skilled in various investigative techniques. They are experts in utilizing online search tools and navigating confidential databases that civilians don’t have access to. PIs know how to legally obtain private records, financial documents, cell phone records, and other useful information. Developing sources and conducting interviews is another important skill.

Surveillance Skills

Investigators who specialize in surveillance have unique skills for discreetly monitoring subjects and gathering visual evidence without being detected. They understand how to properly set up surveillance cameras, use tracking devices, and record suspicious activity. Surveillance techniques allow PIs to obtain solid proof of things like infidelity, insurance fraud, or employee theft.

Analytical Skills

Top private investigators are able to look at the big picture when analyzing the facts of a case. They piece together sometimes disparate bits of information to build a theory. Drawing insightful conclusions from volumes of data is crucial. PIs need strong critical thinking and logic skills to create strategies and recommend solutions to clients.

Diverse Specialties Among Private Investigators

While pop culture focuses on investigators chasing cheaters and criminals, they actually have diverse specialties spanning both corporate and personal needs.

Corporate Investigators

Corporate or business investigators conduct internal investigations for companies. They look into theft, embezzlement, intellectual property violations, and other forms of corporate malfeasance. Corporate PIs also perform extensive background checks on potential employees. Their evidence can prevent companies from making risky hiring decisions.

Legal Investigators

Legal investigators assist lawyers in building cases for both civil and criminal trials. They interview witnesses, unearth hard-to-find records, recreate crime scenes, and uncover potential evidence to support a client’s position. These investigators sometimes act as expert witnesses in court. Their investigative work helps lawyers provide every advantage.

Personal Investigators

For individuals, personal PIs take on cases like marital infidelity, child custody disputes, and locating missing persons. They provide closure and peace of mind for people dealing with difficult personal situations. The best personal investigators are highly empathetic, ethical, and discreet.

Common Myths and Misconceptions About Hiring a Private Investigator

Hiring a PI Is Only For the Wealthy

A common myth is that you need to be ultra-rich to hire a private investigator. In reality, private investigators offer services at price points accessible to the average person. Many PIs offer flexible rates and payment plans. The benefits of hiring an expert investigator often outweigh the cost of personally investing endless hours trying to solve a complex issue.

PIs Will Do Anything For Money

While some people assume investigators are shady and lack ethics, the majority of private investigators maintain high standards of integrity. Reputable PIs have strict codes of ethics they adhere to. Most understand the importance of operating legally, protecting client privacy, only taking on moral cases, and maintaining the reputation of the profession.

What To Look For When Hiring a Private Investigator

If you determine a private investigator could be helpful for your specific case, it’s important to vet investigators thoroughly. Here are some key factors to look for:

Relevant Experience and Specialty

Find a private investigator who specializes in cases similar to yours and has extensive experience handling them. A PI who regularly takes on similar cases will be much more effective than one starting from scratch.


Verify any potential PI is properly licensed in your state. Rigorous licensing requirements establish an investigator’s legitimacy. This protects clients from unethical conduct.

Reviews and References

The ideal PI will have overwhelmingly positive online reviews and be able to supply references from past clients. Favorable reviews and feedback indicate an investigator who operates effectively and professionally.

Clear Rates and Billing Practices

Avoid investigators with vague pricing structures. Ethical PIs will clearly explain their rates, retainers, and billing practices upfront before taking a case. Get fee expectations in writing so there are no surprises down the road.

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Is a Career as a Private Investigator Right For You?

Before joining the profession, weigh the pros and cons to determine if the realities of the job fit your skills and lifestyle.


      • An interesting job with lots of variety in daily tasks and client cases. New challenges every day.

      • Get to be your own boss as an independent contractor in most cases.

      • Help bring closure and justice to people in difficult situations.


        • Can encounter verbal abuse and dangerous situations, especially when conducting surveillance. Safety precautions are a must.

        • Irregular working hours, including nights and weekends. Schedules can change on short notice based on cases.

        • The job involves confrontation at times. Comfortable dealing directly with suspicious subjects.

      Important Skills

          • Strong research skills, persistence, and analytical thinking to unravel complex cases.

          • Technology and computer proficiency. Know how to utilize databases and surveillance equipment.

          • Excellent interpersonal and communication abilities to conduct interviews and maintain client relationships.

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        Q: Do private investigators need a license?

        A: In most states, private investigators are required to obtain a license in order to operate legally. Licensing ensures investigators meet certain standards and training requirements. To become licensed, investigators often have to pass a criminal background check, achieve a minimum level of experience, and pass a licensing exam.

        Q: What technology do private investigators use?

        A: Investigators utilize a wide variety of technology and gadgets for surveillance, gathering information, and analyzing data. Common tools include hidden cameras, GPS trackers, drones, mobile forensics devices, database access software, and audio recording equipment. Advanced equipment helps investigators discreetly monitor subjects and capture irrefutable evidence.

        Q: How do you become a private investigator?

        A: Most investigators have experience in law enforcement or the legal field. An educational background in criminal justice, forensics, or investigation is preferred. Many states also require aspiring investigators to complete a certain number of internship hours under a licensed investigator before applying for their own license. Continuing education is necessary to stay up-to-date on the latest investigative techniques.

        Q: Is being a private investigator dangerous?

        A: It can be, but experienced PIs know how to mitigate risks. Investigators take safety precautions like wearing hidden cameras, working in pairs, and avoiding confrontation when possible. Staying in public places, having emergency plans, and keeping authorities informed can help reduce dangers on high-risk surveillance cases.

        Q: Why hire a private investigator vs. investigating yourself?

        A: Private investigators have specialized expertise, access to tools and data that typical citizens don’t, and the ability to legally obtain confidential documents. They save clients significant time and have techniques to discreetly investigate without tipping off the subject. Their insights provide clients with knowledge and peace of mind.


        A Private investigator have a diverse and fascinating profession that goes far beyond the exciting cases portrayed on TV and in movies. Their job involves meticulous research, expert analysis, surveillance skills, and a strong ethical code. Understanding the realities of what PIs do helps the public gain a greater appreciation for the investigative work involved in solving mysteries and bringing the truth to light. With an inquisitive mindset and strong skillset, a career as a private investigator can be extremely rewarding.


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