Private Investigation Facts 

Private Investigation Facts aims to give you an understanding of how the industry works so you can make an informed decision before you entrust your personal or sensitive information to a Private Investigator.

From the outset we would like to state there are some excellent Private Investigation Companies operating within the UK, sadly, some not so professional. The challenge is identifying the good from the ‘not so good’!Private Investigation Facts


It is very important to note the UK Private Investigation industry is ‘unregulated’ what does this mean to you?

Private Investigators can ‘pop up’ overnight with no training or qualifications and commit serious fraud. Knowing the Facts can help you spot a fraudster. See this article by the Mail where Con-Man Mark Hill Wood conned thousands out of his victims.

Why is employing a private investigator is like stepping into a minefield?

Private investigators can be exposed to very personal and extremely sensitive information, often dealing with customers who feel they have nowhere else to turn and some in a vulnerable state.  You must be 100% certain you have selected a reputable company to ensure your information is kept safe and good ethical practice is followed.

Local Private Investigator?

If you wish to use a local private investigator tread very carefully! It is common practice for investigation companies to build websites covering virtually every major city in the UK. These websites give off the impression they are local, many have purchased local phone numbers, virtual offices and virtual postal addresses in an attempt to fool you (not as a security measure). In reality they are a central based hub who farm out work to a ‘network’ of so called ‘operatives’ many whom they have never met, on insecure, unregulated forum groups.

Wild Claims

There are many companies who state ‘all our operatives are ex military, security services & ex police’ when in fact they are sending out the ‘office boy’ and you are paying for two ex military so called ‘operatives.’ I write this blog for Lateo Surveillance Ltd with 23 years of previous military experience under my belt operating in many hostile environments conducting surveillance. I would like to state, being ex military or police does not make you an expert in commercial surveillance, far from it. I have worked alongside some of the best operators who have no military or police experience whatsoever, this is simply a marketing strategy.

Forum groups, how they work?

There are many groups out there, some on social media, some as standalone groups. Several have even made logos in an attempt to give off an official impression.

The reality is, virtually anyone can join for a small fee with little or no checks involved. You instruct what you believe to be a local ‘bona fide’ private investigator to carry out a task in, for example ‘Durham’. Many of these national coverage websites will simply offer your work out on a ‘forum group’ post i.e. ‘matrimonial surveillance in Durham DH7 8 tonight 6-11pm – offers please’ this offer turns into a bidding process, generally, the lowest bidder wins the work.

Private Investigation The FactsRisks involved with forum groups

These messages/posts have been ’accidentally’ posted to hundreds of wannabe, unregistered investigators, some of the posts have contained, full postcodes, names and personal details.

Many companies who use this method have never met these so called ‘operatives’ who have been known to further sub-contract the work increasing the risk of your information being exposed.

We know subjects of surveillance that have been approached by an ‘operative’ and informed they had been placed under surveillance after the investigator had not paid the ‘operative’ for their work.

Many (but not all) of the so called ‘operatives’ use sub-standard equipment, are unqualified, hold no insurance and are not registered with the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO). The ICO enforce the rules of the Data Protection Act 1998 which means there is a genuine risk your data (personal information) is not being secured in accordance with the Act. The Data Protection laws are clear however many simply do not follow them, ensure you have a contract in place or you will have no come back whatsoever.

Many ‘operatives’ are not using any form of data encryption to send reports, images or video, this increases the risk of a data breach dramatically. Worryingly procedures are generally not in place to ensure your data is securely and permanently deleted upon completion of the task. We know of several private investigation cases where some of these unprofessional ‘operatives’ have used actual footage on their social media pages months after the task had finished.


Many private investigation companies who use these forum groups do not have the skills, equipment, or experience to conduct professional commercial surveillance so they sub-contract increasing the cost to you.


Subcontracting is common practice within the industry, providing the safeguards are in place this can work well. Instructing a professional company who conduct their own surveillance investigations will generally cost you less.


Having a direct link to an operations manager means you can receive real time updates of what is happening during the investigation, this allows quicker informed decisions to be made. The practice of companies using unknown sub-contractors in reality means, there is generally a delay receiving your information as it passes through several hands with reports being ‘cut & paste’ or rewritten several times.

We have seen some extremely poor examples of report writing and horrendous video footage, taken during a private investigation task. If you plan to use the information in a court of law, you must ensure it is factually correct and obtained legally in an ethical manner.

Problem with your Investigators service?

Essentially, if you have a problem or you’re unhappy with the chosen investigators professionalism or levels of service, there is no overarching body governed by law to impose rules, regulations or professional standards including any disciplinary action against the individual or company unless there has been a breach of the data protection act 1998.

The Association of British Investigators (ABI) is the only self regulatory body endorsed by the Law Society of England & Wales. Its members follow a strict code of conduct with disciplinary action if standards are not met.  The principal investigator of Lateo Surveillance Ltd is a Full member of the ABI.

The Solution – Do your own checks

If you have found what you believe to be a local investigator, ask them where they are based many good investigators will be happy to travel, meet and carry out the work.

Comments such as:

“We can’t meet for Data Protection Issues” –  Complete Rubbish! there are not data protection laws stopping an investigator meeting you to discuss a problem.

“We don’t meet for security reasons” – This probably means they don’t have an office or are based the other end of the country!

Any who state “we have a local private investigation operative on your doorstep” Beware! This normally means your work will be subcontracted on an insecure forum group.

Consider the following basic pre investigator checks;

  1. Check they are entered onto the ICO register of Data Controllers.
  2. Check the private investigator demonstrates compliance & competency of the Data Protection Act 1998.
  3. Confirm the company holds appropriate insurances such as Professional Indemnity.
  4. Check they are members of an endorsed ‘professional body’ such as The Association of British Investigators.
  5. Confirm they are NOT simply ‘middlemen’ who sub-contract out to ‘unknown’ so called operatives on insecure forum groups.  (Ask for this in writing)
  6. Confirm its operators are of good character & free from criminal convictions (incase your information needs to be used in court)
  7. Ensure the company’s methodology is ethical, all information obtained is within the rule of law (clearly stated within a contract) this will protect ‘you’ in the event of a complaint.
  8. A good investigation company will send you a contract, including terms & conditions and importantly a nondisclosure agreement which ‘they’ should sign, highlighting amongst other things the destruction process of all information relating to the investigation upon completion.

Business Owners:

If you are a business owner and wish to use a private investigator to monitor your staff in anyway, please note you are strictly bound by the Data Protection Act 1998. There are assessments to complete and contracts should be in place to ensure you stay the right side of the law. Please visit our commercial investigations page here

Business owners and HR managers can contact us for a completely free ‘Employers Guide’ PDF

About us;

Lateo Surveillance Ltd is professional commercial and private investigation company which specialises in covert surveillance and investigation. We offer pragmatic solutions, diligent customer service with confidentiality assured.  We are based in County Durham & Harrogate North Yorkshire, offering private investigation services across the North East of England; legal & commercial services nationwide.

Our Services Include;

Commercial Investigations > Insurance Investigations > Private Investigations > Surveillance, Physical & Technical > Tracing & Background Checks > Financial Checks > Asset Recovery > Covert CCTV Cameras & Debugging > Process Serving > Agent to Agent Service

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

More information can be found here Legal ClientsCommercial ClientsPrivate Clients


Please contact us via the website contact us page, you can email direct at or you can find us on social media Facebook Lateo Surveillance Twitter LateoSurv where you can private message us.  Alternatively, please call or text leaving a message and we can call you straight back : +44 (0) 797 4659 016 / +44 (0) 759 5021 683


Private Investigation Facts

The principal investigator of Lateo Surveillance Ltd is a Full member of the Association of British Investigators

Private Investigation Facts© 2015 Lateo Surveillance Ltd
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