Whether you have been in the private investigations for a long time or are just starting out, the services contract is the most important document you have to protect your business. Here is a short list of key items to include in your contract in addition to having a legal professional review it for you:
Taking the time to develop a contract in clear, simple and concise terms will protect you and your client. Including the items above, at a minimum, will help you develop your contract and prepare for challenges that may arise during your investigation.
The interview of witnesses, victims, and suspects is the primary service of private investigators. Excellent interview techniques are what separates a good private investigator from a great one. Gathering statements, digging deeper through an interview to get to the facts takes time in research, conducting the interview, and verifying statements.
Here are some tips from private investigators with excellent interview skills:
Being a great interviewer takes practice. Before each interview review the key steps such as developing rapport, opening statements, open ended questions use, closing statements. This will help you focus on the interview, the information you need, and analyzing the information you receive.
Private investigations is not always about the money, the bottom line. There are several ways that you can become more involved in your community.
Here are a few ideas:
All of these tips have a common theme - Showing concern for others. Chances are you could do all of these things and never receive one case, but what a great way to help others.
Civil suits are always a possibility for private investigators. To protect yourself against civil action claims, your investigative reports require careful review, and editing. This will protect you, and your private investigative firm. If you haven't been the target of a civil suit, chances are you will some day.
Consider that your investigative report is your best insurance against such cases when properly written. Your report must be factual, accurately track any evidence collected, and accurately reflect any information gleamed from your interviews.
Increasing the efficiency of your operations is the best way to increase your profits.
Here are a few ways that you can increase your efficiency, to increase your bottom line:
"Time is money" for private investigators like any business. Time saved is the potential to put more dollars in the bank. Finding ways to work more efficiently, learning better ways to manage your time, increasing your accuracy, will increase your profits.
From the business perspective you can find it hard to say "no" to client when discussing a potential investigation. It is important to know your limits and respond accordingly. As an experienced investigator you have, or will, receive that call to consider an investigation. An investigation that may be beyond your level of expertise, or capabilities.
So how can you still say "yes" to an investigation, when your resources and capabilities are limited?
Start by identifying your weak points, areas where you may not have the required expertise, or for times when you have a heavy case load then, prepare in advance.
By identifying partners with the necessary skills and expertise, establishing agreements in advance, and offering your services in return, you can expand your investigative offerings. This will put you in a position to accept almost any investigation at times you have a heavy workload, or the investigation requires skills you do not have.
Investigators often ask, "When should I update the surveillance equipment I use in the field?"
Well, if you are a techno-nerd like I am, "You should update it monthly!!!!"
Seriously though, this is a serious question that deserves an answer.
There are a few clues to determine when to update your surveillance equipment.
When is the best time to upgrade? Other than the reasons above.
It's tough to let go of your video equipment. Chances are you've spent hours upon hours together. But consider upgrading your equipment before your existing equipment begins to fail. If your video equipment is 6 years or older and has experienced a lot of use consider shopping around. It's always better to purchase equipment at a time you choose, rather than rushing out and trying to replace it minutes before you begin your surveillance activities.
Don't throw away your older video camera if it's still working. Keep it in your go-bag as a back-up. (One investigator shared that he was confronted by a spouse he was surveilling. The man demanded his camera. He quickly pulled out is old video camera and handed it to him, then filmed him with his new video camera destroying the old one:-)
Your equipment is an investment in your profession. Failing to get the right video because of faulty, or soon to be faulty video equipment will not get you a call back from the client. Take a look at your equipment, evaluate it's operation, and then decide when it is time to upgrade, at your convenience.
In every business there are hills and valley's. As a PI, you probably have experienced weeks of non-stop work, followed by periods of little to do. Have a plan for when business is slow:
Employers are conducting background investigations of potential employees on a more frequent basis than before. Ensuring employees are truthful in the information they provide the potential employer, avoiding potential civil liability from negligent hiring claims, to increasing the chances for the success of the employee in their position are all reasons approximately 70% of all employers conduct some type of background investigation or screening.
Private investigators often provide background investigation services for their clients as they have the expertise and experience in conducting interviews, verification of credential information, and providing written reports. As a private investigator conducting background investigations there are steps you need to take. Following are a few critical steps:
As a private investigator conducting background investigations for private employers you need to ensure that you comply with all laws to protect you and the client. Conducting background investigations that follow the same format, gather the same information, that comply with all laws, are a must to protect your firm and your client.
The Internet, is a great place to begin a search for information, but there are pitfalls you always need to be aware of:
First, your client has probably completed an Internet search. It's too easy not too. Although you may find social media posts, links to stories posted, or other information, chances are it is not going to be new information. As a private investigator you are responsible for finding facts. Not all information found on the Internet is considered to be factual.
Second, you need to verify dates of information you find. The Internet stores information for years. Information posted two years ago that may contain a name or address can be dated. If you are looking to locate someone, it does provide a starting point, but you will need to verify the information you find to ensure it is up-to-date and accurate.
Third, much of the information you may find on the Internet may not be correct. Shocking right?! Depending on the subject of your investigation information may have been posted that is intentionally misleading. Further, you need to ensure it is the right person, right location, or right anything! Drive by a location - you may find it is a vacant lot, or mail drop, or it doesn't exist. Ans, there is nothing more embarrassing than providing results of an Internet search about an individual only to learn it is the wrong John or Jane Doe.
Fourth, you are a professional private investigator. You need to obtain, verify, and verify again any information you intend to provide as factual information. One good method is to verify any information you find by locating two additional, non-linked sources that points to the same information. Some call this the "Intelligence Triangle". NO, that does not mean finding the information on three different websites. Various websites obtain information from the same sources so you can find the same information in several locations, but it will probably be from the same source. (If you use a paid online information source for your information - read the disclaimers. The information you pay for is not verified or considered accurate by itself.)
Fifth, you are being paid for your expertise, which includes good old fashioned investigative work. Interviews, surveillance, and obtaining court or other public records still remain as your primary, tried and true, investigative methods. Don't shortcut your investigation relying solely on information you have obtained from the Internet.
Again, the Internet can be a great source for information to assist you in starting your investigation. As you can see in the pitfalls above, verification of any information is critical. You either observe it first hand, verify via unrelated and reliable sources, which requires great investigative work. If you provide the information to your client, make sure it is accurate, and factual.
Pro PI staff
Experienced professionals and trainers.