I wasn’t in this business long before I realized that most potential clients who have never before called upon the services of a private investigator have a lot of preconceived notions as to what it is we actually can do for them. Probably the most common question I get is whether or not I can obtain cell phone records. I get a lot of disappointed callers when I tell them it’s illegal for me to obtain cell phone records without a subpoena.
Another aspect of my job that is sometimes difficult for potential clients to understand is the time and effort that is put into most searches. Private investigators have access to proprietary databases that are not accessible by the public, but we can’t just punch in some basic information on a person and magically receive their current cell phone number, a good address, their place of employment, every single social media profile they use, their financial history, and their dog’s name, among others. It’s normally not that simple and cookie-cutter.
We often start with a database search that might give us some decent information on a subject. A starting place. From there, it’s always best practice to verify any database information we find because the information might be old or just flat out inaccurate. This means we might have to conduct some internet research, obtain records from multiple courthouses, inquire at state repositories, check with other databases, make some phone calls, verify information through the Department of Motor Vehicles, interview neighbors, or conduct surveillance. It is through all of these time-sucking methods that we are able to glean our most valuable information.
Often, a potential client has already spent money on some of the databases that anyone can easily find and conduct themselves online. Unfortunately, those databases that advertise an “unlimited people search”, “get your complete background search here”, or “find missing people now; all you need is a name and state”, rarely produce the definitive results the seeker was hoping for. If they had found what they were looking for, they wouldn’t be calling a private investigator.
I think these kinds of advertisements can set potential clients up for having unrealistic expectations when they do make the decision to call a private investigator. Since they paid $50 for a search online (that was unsuccessful, mind you), they balk at what it takes a private investigator to conduct the “same” search. We are all generally a people who expect the grandest of results for the cheapest ticket price. We seek the greatest reward for the smallest effort. It’s difficult to step outside of that mindset when we need to.
But here’s the thing. Sometimes, we need to. Private investigators are not magicians. Most searches require hard work, persistence, time, money, and quite a lot of effort to find answers. This is why private investigators (GOOD private investigators) don’t advertise cheap, shortcut methods. We don’t use cheap, shortcut methods because all we get in return are outdated and unreliable results. Instead, we provide thorough, consistent investigations that give our clients the most complete picture we can possibly give them with the information we have been trained to find.
So if you ever decide to enlist the services of a private investigator, don’t be surprised when their fees don’t match your expectations. Maybe try to alter your expectations a little.