How To Employ A Private Investigator

Employing a private investigator can be a risky business given the fact you will be sharing personal and at times very sensitive information and data with someone you have never met. ‘How to employ a Private Investigator’, is a no-nonsense guide to the most common pitfalls, and how to avoid them. 

Why employ a private investigator?

How to employ a private investigatorThere are many reasons a private investigator may be employed, these could include tracing a long-lost relative to re-establish contact, or indeed at the other end of the spectrum locating a debtor who owes you money.  You could suspect a partner of cheating and wish to know where they are frequenting or who they are meeting. An employer may suspect theft, fraud, absenteeism or moonlighting by their employees and require evidence to be gathered so the appropriate action can be taken. 

In the vast majority of investigations, the client requires ‘proof of action’ for example; confirming a partner is meeting someone when they have denied doing so or confirming an employee is stealing cash or committing serious misconduct.  Most cases will be backed up with written reports, photographs and video evidence which can be used in a court of law should this be required.  In ‘every case’ the customer should be treated with respect, charged no more than a fair rate for the services provided and their personal information and data be handled strictly in accordance with current legislation. 

We hope by reading this guide how to employ a private investigator you will be able to make a much more informed decision. 

Warning – Risks! 

How to employ a private investigatorFrom the outset, it is important to note the private investigation sector is an ‘unlicensed industry’ this means that literally anyone’ could become an investigator with no prior training, experience or qualifications.   

This highlights why those who wish to use their services need to protect themselves as there are risks involved.  

Given the sensitive nature of many private investigations, it is strongly recommended only qualified and experienced agent are employed.

Is your ‘local’ investigator, really local?

Hoe to employ a Private investigatorMany people like to use local companies for lots of reasons, including if there is a problem with service levels they can complain in person, even face to face. Using a local investigator who knows the area may also be of great benefit and increase the chances of success whilst undertaking surveillance.  Many investigation companies who ‘claim’ to be local or have a local agent ‘on your doorstep’ are in fact middlemen, who have spent a lot of money producing websites and purchasing local addresses and phone numbers to create the ‘illusion’ they are on your doorstep.

How to Employ A Private Investigator

 

1. It states on your website you are local to me, where ‘exactly’ are you located?

2. If you are local, can we meet to discuss the investigation?

As you would expect due to the nature of work carried out by a private investigator they must be ‘security aware’ however, the excuses used by some less reputable companies such as “for security reasons we can’t tell you” or “our office is a restricted area” in the vast majority of cases are talking complete and utter rubbish!  Some might like to think they are secret agents and give off that impression but the realities are very different.  At Lateo Surveillance Ltd we rent an office if we want to meet our clients we rent a meeting room in order to keep running costs down which we pass on to our clients. Many investigators work from a home office and do an outstanding job costing much less than those who have huge overheads. 

Regulatory Compliance

tn_3_5596443797335-ico-800x_559644379727aAs mentioned above the industry is unlicensed, even so, ‘all’ private investigators MUST be registered as a Data Controller with the Information Commissioners Office. 

This is very important given the fact-sensitive information and data will be shared, collated, stored and often sent; normally over the internet.  

The ICO will take action against any investigator who does not follow their guidelines.

How to Employ A Private Investigator

 

3. Are you registered with the information commissioner’s office as a data controller to carry out private investigations?

4. What is your registration number?

Once you have their registration number it can be checked here

Any company not registered should be reported to the information commissioner’s office immediately.  The ICO has set up a small team to catch out those private investigators who are trading illegally.  

You can read the ICO blog post here or call their helpline on 0303 123 1113.

Sub-Contracting 

How to employ a private investigatorWhen you call out a local plumbing firm to repair your broken boiler you expect them to fix it, this should be the same for a private investigation.  However, unfortunately, many private investigation companies such as those who claim to be ‘local’ advertise services they do not and cannot carry out such as surveillance services i.e. following an individual to ascertain who they are meeting.  This results in them sub-contracting your instructions, many via insecure social media groups such as Facebook.

Sub-contracting isn’t altogether bad, providing the correct management processes are in place including checks and contracts, it can be an effective way to keep overheads down, thus keeping costs low for the customer. 

The risks increase dramatically when companies fail to carry out diligent, regular checks on their sub-contractors, unfortunately, many companies don’t carry out any checks whatsoever! This can result in untrained, unqualified, unscrupulous and in a minority of cases individuals without DBS clearances carrying out your investigation.  Ultimately, any information gathered during an investigation must be obtained legally and if there is any chance whatsoever of it being used in court the person who obtained it must be of good character to be classed as a credible witness. 

How to Employ A Private Investigator

 

5. Do you carry out the investigation yourself?

6. Is any part of the investigation sub-contracted?

7. If sub-contractors are used – can you guarantee ‘in writing’ the agents are registered as data controllers with the information commissioner’s office?  

8. Can you guarantee ‘in writing’ the agents you use are credible witnesses and will appear in court if required?  

If any part of the investigation is sub-contracted ask what checks have been carried out.  

Contact us directly here for a list of checks that should be completed. 

Overcharging 

How to employ a Private InvestigatorThere are many companies within the private investigation sector who are overcharging their customers.  

Surveillance services are particularly prone to abuse, this happens when clients are charged for two or more agents but only deploy one! 

Unfortunately, in the vast majority of cases, the customer may never know they have been ripped off…  This problem has been common practice for many years and carried out by dishonest companies who are committing blatant fraud.

 How to Employ A Private Investigator

9. Can you guarantee ‘in writing’ I will receive (2,3,4…) agents?

10. Can you guarantee ‘in writing’ If this case was to go to court will the agents carrying out the investigation be made available to appear as witnesses?

Should you suspect you have been ‘ripped off’ contact trading standards report fraud and inform them of your concerns or call 03454 04 05 06 

Accreditation

There are many companies advertising their accreditation credentials with shiny logos and badges to create the illusion of respectability and professionalism.  The reality is, for a very small fee and no checks whatsoever an investigator can happily advertise membership of ‘so-called’ industry approved organisations.  

How to employ a private investigatorThere is only one organisation whose members are currently endorsed by the Law Society of England and Wales and the preferred supplier of investigations to the Law Society of Scotland and that is The Association of British Investigators (ABI).  

There are several reasons why the legal profession trust ABI members. Firstly, they know its investigators are vetted, hold insurance and operate to a strict code of conduct.  Secondly, there is a complaints procedure and disciplinary process should members not uphold the professional standards expected of them. Importantly, when a solicitor instructs a private investigator they must carry out their own diligent checks in accordance with the Data Protection Act 1998 using an ABI investigator saves them time and provides confidence. 

How to Employ A Private Investigator

 

11. Are you a member of the ABI? 

If the principal investigator of the company is not an ABI member – Ask yourself, why not?

Summary & Questions to Ask

Although there are many ‘pitfalls’ as discussed it is important to note there are some very professional, honest and experienced private investigators who do an outstanding job and will provide an excellent service.  Unfortunately, as stated in our latest post how to employ a private investigator this is due to the industry being unlicensed, there is a rogue element allowed to operate; hence care should be taken when selecting your investigator and sharing sensitive information. 

When you make the initial contact with a company, ask the questions suggested in this post and get a feel for the response, if you are unsure in any way use a member of The Association of British Investigators.

How to Employ a private investigator

1. It states on your website you are local to me, where ‘exactly’ are you located?

2. If you are local, can we meet to discuss the investigation?

3. Are you registered with the information commissioner’s office as a data controller to carry out private investigations?

4. What is your registration number?

5. Do you carry out the investigation yourself?

6. Is any part of the investigation sub-contracted?

7. If sub-contractors are used – can you guarantee ‘in writing’ the agents are registered as data controllers with the information commissioner’s office?  

8. Can you guarantee ‘in writing’ the agents you use are credible witnesses and will appear in court if required?

9. Can you guarantee ‘in writing’ I will receive (2,3,4…) agents?

10. Can you guarantee ‘in writing’ If this case was to go to court will the agents carrying out the investigation be made available to appear as witnesses?

11. Are you a member of the ABI – If not, why not?

Ensure you receive a written response to the questions asked so if there was a problem you can use this as evidence of your own.

Thank you for taking the time to read our latest post How To Employ A Private Investigator, should you require any assistance; please don’t hesitate to contact us. 

CONTACT & MORE INFORMATION

Want to speak to a real person? Please call or text or you can leave a message and we can call you straight back : +44 (0) 797 4659 016 / +44 (0) 759 5021 683

Have a question? please visit our Frequently Asked Questions page.

Please contact us via the website contact us page, you can email direct at info@lateosurveillance.co.uk

For further information on Lateo Surveillance Ltd see our About us page.

This post How To Employ A Private Investigator was written by Lateo Surveillance Ltd