Integrated Security Services, Inc., New York

Inquire Before You Hire: 5 Questions To Ask A Private Investigator

15 Oct

Private Investigator in carHiring a private investigator is a big step, and not every private investigation firm is honest and above board. When choosing a private investigator, there are a number of questions that you should ask. That way you can avoid situations where your private investigator violates the law and you are held liable for their actions.

Are you licensed?

All but seven states require a private investigator to be licensed by a state agency. The states that do not require licensing are: Alabama, Alaska, Colorado, Idaho, Mississippi, South Dakota and Wyoming. Licensed private investigators receive education and training and are required to have experience in the field or previous experience working for law enforcement or other government investigative agencies. It is also important to ensure that your private investigator is licensed to conduct the investigation in the state in which it needs to be conducted, as not all states have reciprocity agreements for private investigation licenses.

How will you conduct the investigation, and are you insured?

First, talk to your private investigator about the methods they will use to get you the information you’re looking for. You should be comfortable with how they will go about conducting the investigation. Private investigators often do delicate work performing background checks, physical surveillance, and pulling public records. But anything that seems “shady” should raise a red flag.

It’s crucial for you to verify that your investigator has adequate liability insurance. Improper execution of their duties can open the door to lawsuits, and if they are not properly insured, the client can be left with a scandal on their hands, or even liability as Tom Cruise learned firsthand.

What are your areas of expertise?

You need a private investigator that is well rounded, but you don’t want someone who claims to be a jack-of-all-trades. Private investigators can be hired for all types of reasons including infidelity, child custody, individual background checks, locating stolen property, investigating crimes, conducting surveillance or assisting attorneys gathering evidence for a case.

Try to save yourself time by only interviewing investigators who have indicated that they are familiar with the type of investigation you’d like them to conduct. Once you meet with the investigator, you can ask them about their experience with the specific details or factors that may make your case unique. Ask them how they’ve handled these factors in the past and make sure you feel comfortable with their level of experience.

Do you have any references?

When you’re searching for an investigator, you should ideally try to find them through personal references.
As you’re conducting the interview with a potential PI, ask them to provide references from previous clients. These references should be on cases similar to the one you’re assigning to the private investigator. A professional PI should always be ready to provide references from past clients. Be aware that the reference may not want or be authorized to go into details about the case, but they should be able to tell you about their experience working with the PI.

You may also ask if the private investigator belongs to any professional organizations or associations. This is a good indication of the amount of effort and diligence they put into their craft. Plus, make sure that the company has an updated website. Most reputable private investigation firms maintain a website, including profiles of their management team, along with a list of services and clients. The more established firms are even active on social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and blogs.

What’s it going to cost me?

This may seem like a no-brainer, but don’t get shy when it comes to discussing money. It’s important for you to establish a fee with your private investigator at the beginning. Most investigators will bill you by the hour, with their rates depending on experience. Make sure to research the rates in your state and for your particular type of case.

Also be aware that many investigators will charge you for incidental charges that go along with the investigation, such as making phone calls, copying files or a fuel surcharge. Make sure you and your private investigator are on the same page when it comes to fees, so there are no surprises.


A private investigator will handle some of the most sensitive jobs you will ever trust anyone with. So when it comes to picking the right person for the job, you shouldn’t cut any corners. Integrated Security Services is licensed, bonded and insured in numerous states. We handle a wide variety of criminal, civil and family related matters. You will always have personal contact with a dedicated case manager. Choosing a firm like Integrated Security Services will help ease any trepidation you may have about hiring a private investigation firm.