A private detective, a private investigator, or investigation agent, is an individual who may be employed by people, organizations or NGOs to undertake investigative services. Private investigators may also work for lawyers in criminal and civil cases. They can be called upon to serve on short notice and emergency basis. Private detectives can investigate a wide range of topics such as business, tax, litigation, property, fraud, missing persons, sex crimes and even missing children. Some private investigators specialize in specific areas such as white collar crime and child pornography.
One of the most important tasks of a private detective is the conduct of surveillance or secretly interview people. They may do so to gather information relevant to the case being pursued. Some private detectives may use the services of private investigators or private detectives. A private detective may use the services of an attorney to conduct surveillance or interview people. However, they may perform their own surveillance and/or interviews.
Some private detectives offer services such as conducting background checks, investigating business practices, performing background checks on prospective employees and tenants, preparing and carrying out litigation research, gathering intelligence information, developing surveillance strategies and carrying out secret observations. They may use any or all of these tools to gather information relevant to the case at hand. However, not all private detectives engage in all the above activities. Some perform solely secret observations. For example, some private detectives may only observe at a distance and do not engage in any form of surveillance activities.
Private detectives may also perform phone calls, conducting surveillance and interviewing people. However, private detectives differ from ordinary employees of the same type in that they are engaged in investigations and surveillance activities and, therefore, they are technically not employed by the government. It is in this capacity that private detectives are referred to as “detectives.” In other words, private detectives to work for private employers and/or the government.
One distinguishing characteristic of private detectives is that they have a broad range of responsibilities. Private detectives undertake investigations for a wide variety of criminal activity, civil liability, insurance claims, fraud, property damage, and psychiatric complaints. Private detectives are licensed by state law to conduct investigations and perform investigative functions in specified settings. In addition, private detectives are subject to the laws of both state and federal law.
Private detectives engage in surveillance activities for various purposes. When a private detective is engaged in the investigation of a criminal matter, the detective will generally do so for private safety. Surveillance can include the observation of the behavior of a suspected criminal, to gather evidence of a crime, to determine the guilt or innocence of a defendant, to investigate the methods and source of a crime, and to collect testimony or statements from witnesses. Surveillance can also include the observation of a situation by law enforcement officials for the purpose of finding and catching criminals. In many states, surveillance involves the use of video equipment such as spy cameras, GPS systems, cell phone video recorders, and others.
Private detectives also provide other important services to their clients. Many detectives offer a free initial consultation and are available to answer questions about their practice. In some cases, detectives offer Internet safety and identity theft protection. They also help their clients to better protect their computers from fraudulent use. Investigators also assist with the execution of computer crimes via the installation of spyware programs and other forms of software that can destroy important evidence and files.
Private detectives can be reached via email, telephone, and/or mail. Detective agencies are always on the lookout for good candidates to serve as surveillance agents. Generally, an aspiring private detective needs to have at least a high school diploma or its equivalent. Successful candidates are those who are good at problem solving and thorough research. Those who successfully complete the surveillance-detective program become eligible to work independently as private detectives.