Private investigators, also known as private detectives or PIs, are hired professionals used for multiple purposes. Although PIs are not police officers, many have a criminal justice background. Many have developed their expertise on the job. PIs will work for private individuals or companies. Attorneys hire detectives to find out information for a case.
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A private detective provides investigative services, surveillance and background checks. Investigators use their skills to gather information on behalf of individuals, law firms and companies.
A common job for a PI is investigating a spouse or partner suspected of cheating, though some investigators refuse these assignments.
Other PI tasks include serving subpeonas for a court and investigating in-house theft for a business. PIs may be hired to investigate suspected insurance fraud, install hidden cameras and conduct background checks. They're often hired by attorneys to research aspects of a case, and they may work for either the prosecution or the defense.
Some tips to follow before you hire a private detective:
- Do as much research on the investigator as possible. If you're an Angie's List member, search for any local consumer reviews on private investigators, one of more than 550 service-provider categories.
- Ask about the PI's experience and education. Find a detective who specializes in the task you need.
- Find out if he or she is licensed in your state. The only states that don't require licensing are Idaho, Mississippi, South Dakota and Wyoming. Licensing is voluntary in Colorado.