12 Things You Can Do Before Calling a Private Investigator


  1. Determine exactly what it is you are attempting to do.  Question your motivations, expectations, and likelihood of success.  Try cutting out all of the excess and getting down to the nuts and bolts of your problem.
  2. Gather and organize your facts.  Whether you are trying to track someone down, obtain a divorce, build a case, find a birth parent, or some other action that requires some digging, take sufficient time to gather and organize the information you already have.  This will be helpful to you whether you tackle this yourself or hire a private investigator in the future.
  3. Do your own digging as long as it’s practical and safe.  This isn’t recommended if your case is particularly complex, riddled with liability issues, or unsafe.  I would never recommend a non-professional to conduct physical surveillance.  Here are a few examples of appropriate self-digging:  If you are searching for a birth parent, start asking relatives what they know.  If you are trying to find someone, conduct your own online research.  Give it a try.  You might find answers to your questions without hiring a private investigator after all.  Or you can at least pass along any helpful information you might have uncovered that will help the private investigator you hire.
  4. Brainstorm with friends.  Share your situation with those closest to you and see if anyone else can think up viable avenues to take.  Someone might have a brilliant idea that never crossed your mind before now.
  5. Educate yourself on public records and open sources you can access on your own.  Check out what is available to you at your local courthouse or online records you can access from your computer.  There is more out there than you think.
  6. Don’t discount the power of social media or simple Google searches.  You might be able to follow a trail that leads you to your prize.  Again, just keep your own limitations in mind.
  7. Try a few of the online search options available to the public such as Pipl, Spokeo, Intelius, Whitepages, and others.  Just keep in mind, you might have to pay fees and most of these sites contain older, sometimes outdated information.  But sometimes, you can catch a break.
  8. If you are seeking phone records for an individual and you are on the account, you can get them yourself.  If you’re not on the account, there is no way for you to legally obtain phone records for an individual without a legal document.  In fact, private investigators can’t even access phone records without some kind of legal document.  We have to follow the same rules as everyone else.
  9. You can interview anyone who is willing to talk to you.  So if you’re looking for someone, start asking around.  Talk to their family members, friends, employer, coworkers, neighbors, etc.  Just be sure they know you are an individual and not a private investigator, law enforcement, or under any other official capacity.
  10. Take detailed notes.  Take notes about your research, interviews, phone calls, online searches, and anything else you might try on your own.  These notes will help build your case, organize your thoughts, and review information.  And these will be a fantastic resource for a private investigator, should you decide to turn things over to one.
  11. Explore all of your options.  For example, if you are ready to attempt a search for a birth parent, there are numerous avenues you can take.  Elicit information from your adoptive parents, call the hospital where you were born, check your state’s adoption laws for the possibility of obtaining your original birth certificate, ask other relatives what they know, register your DNA with the registry in the state you were born, contact the agency that handled your adoption… 
  12. Don’t give up.  Keep searching for answers.  If you hit all dead ends, it doesn’t have to be THE end.  Take a break and pick it up again after a time.  Start saving money to hire a private investigator.  Ask for help from friends and family.  Start over and maybe you’ll find something you missed the first time.  The point is, as long as you’re still breathing, you don’t have to give up.