What Can or Can't a Private Investigator Do for You?

Do you want to bug your husband's phone, stash a GPS device in your wife's car, follow your boss to get some information that he might be willing to give you a raise for? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then hiring a private investigator is not the answer. These are criminal activities and only crooked Private Investigators, or PI's, will agree to do such things.

Dishonest PI's may also promise to access records for you. They will require a large payment upfront, then tell you that there were no records on the subject you want, and tell you all the money went towards paying off informers. And you can't tell police that you were trying to solicit criminal acts, so you're in the same position as before, just a lot poorer. 

While on the subject of what Private Investigators can't do, an important thing to remember is that PI's can only legally access the same kinds of records that you can. These include Land Titles Office, court transcripts and electoral rolls, as well as any information available online.

If a PI promises to find you certain information from tax records, births, deaths and marriages or telephone records then you had best be wary—Australian Private Investigators cannot legally do so.

So what's the point of Private Investigators? 

Most of the clients of PI's are larger-scale employers and insurance companies, who use PI's to validate insurance and Work Cover claims. However, private citizens can employ PI's for a number of legal and legitimate reasons, including finding missing persons, background checks and parenting payment issues. 

Legitimate PIs have more time, motivation and experience to complete tasks than the average citizen. Unlike the average person they aren't juggling their investigation with a full-time job. They also have experience with what they can access, imagination to help them seek out and follow leads, determination to follow through despite lots of dead ends and the gift of the gab, all of which will go a long way towards resolving your issue.

They also are not hampered by emotional connection to the case and lack any preconceived ideas about the people involved. PI's have experience in finding the information that you might not even be sure exists.

How can I tell if my PI is legit?

It's very easy to get a PI license, and since they have no more powers than ordinary people anyone can volunteer to do some digging on your behalf and charge whatever they like. However, they cannot officially advertise themselves as a Private Investigator without a license. Each state has their own set of regulations for obtaining a license, usually though police departments.

Generally, reputable PI's will promise only to do their best to obtain the results you want. Anyone promising results or assuring you that they can call in favours to access information should be regarded with suspicion. A PI that can list larger-scale employers or insurance companies as references may be a good choice.

Make sure you discuss payment and a maximum amount that you are prepared to spend before committing to a PI, and never yield to the temptation to agree to illegal surveillance activities. For more tips or suggestions, consult with resources such as Allwest Investigations Group.