First of all, let me say I know how it feels to use a service like an investigator. Choosing a private investigator is daunting and full of uncertainty which is mainly because of how agencies have been portrayed in the media and in films over the years. It is a cloak and dagger type industry but as the customer there should be no surprises or in particular, lies!
The private investigations industry is UNREGULATED. This means it is very easy for rogue traders to operate and move from client to client producing poor quality work and even ruining lives. Essentially robbing clients of large sums of money and in some cases their life savings. Which I have heard of I’m afraid to say.
Our Guide to Choosing a Private Investigator
Choosing a reputable Private Investigator is not as simple as clicking the top hit of Google and using their services. As a prospective client you need to shop around, you wouldn’t buy a car without looking and checking out the dealer..
This blog is a quick(ish) guide giving you the tools to check on who you would like to hire for your situation. Each heading is an area I’d advise you to check, because if they’re not a reputable agency then they’ll fall at these hurdles.
How to check the Data Protection Register
Good initial indicators of a reputable investigations agency are that they are registered with The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) who are the organisation that implement and police breaches of the Data Protection Act 2018 (DPA) and General Data Protection Regulation 2018 (GDPR).
By being registered, one they are not operating illegally and processing data unlawfully and two they are accountable and can be reported to The ICO.
Use this link to search the company you’re thinking of using;
You will be sharing your personal data with your chosen investigator so make sure it is going to be stored safely and securely and not shared with third parties outside of the investigation project.
Does your Private Investigator have business insurance?
The natural follow on from the ICO registration is an investigation agencies business insurance. A simple ask to check and make sure they do have business insurance will make sure an agency is operating within the law if they employ staff and in best business practice by having public liability and professional indemnity insurances.
There’s no open source internet site you can use unfortunately to check for business insurance but just ask is the advice I’d give you.
Organise a face to face meeting
If you’re looking to use a local private investigator be sure they actually are local to you and not just a call centre somewhere in a different county. The best way is to ask for a face to face meeting with a case handler or investigator. Meeting may now seem old fashioned but it is a brilliant way for you to gain trust in the agency you’re looking to employ.
Now, you may be charged for this however it should be deducted from any future bill so that both you and the investigation agency aren’t wasting each other’s time. Make sure you clarify this before meeting, of course.
Where to check for association memberships
The next indicator that your chosen investigator is reputable will be that they are a member of an association such as The Association of British Investigators or The United Kingdom Professional Investigators Network.
Other membership associations include The World Association of Professional Investigators, The World Association of Detectives and there are many, many more.
We are members of some which can be checked here;
By being a member of these associations again gives the investigations agency accountability and somewhere for you as a client to go and report poor practices being conducted which will see their professionalism put into question by their peers.
What is the actual product you’re paying for?
As part of your initial enquiry ask exactly what you will be given as part of the service you’re paying for. Do not be afraid to ask! Reputable agencies will not be offended, I promise. In fact, they will probably be proud to show off their capabilities.
If its surveillance for example, your investigator should deliver a report which contains clear pictures and HD quality footage that is time stamped as a bare minimum. Now we must stress surveillance won’t always get the evidence you were after because they can only picture/film what actually happens otherwise it won’t be factual. However, if there is evidence to gather such as a kiss or hand holding, a capable team will capture that.
Now, no matter how good a team is at what we call ‘keeping control of the subject’ unless they get that film or picture then in the private sector that team are not worth their wages in my opinion. You are paying for the evidence from the surveillance. Hearsay or word of mouth isn’t good enough.
So, please ask what you will get and be sure to get it in writing!
The Website won’t always show the cracks that are there
A quick glance at the web page of an agency often doesn’t give away their flaws as a rogue trader.
It’s the little things like the page owning an SSL certificate. This is the ‘https’ that goes before the www.pi in the URL search bar of your internet browser.
If this doesn’t appear do not enter any of your details as that website is not secure! The website is open to hackers to intercept your data freely.
Checking the contact page and cross-referencing the agency address on Google Maps to make sure they are where they say they are. Is the agency just advertising in that area but located elsewhere much further away? Often this means the agency you are employing will out-source your case which is where the rogue traders can ruin it all.
The best way to check this is good old Companies House. Use this link to check any Limited company. I would recommend always using a limited company if possible.
We at Delta 74 Private Investigations do use sub-contractors however they are vetted and qualified. We always use our preferred suppliers and if we can’t then we won’t take on your case.
The questions you need to be asking
Now say you have made the call to an agency. Think of the questions they ask of YOU. For example, do they ask for the long card number before your name?
If an agency doesn’t ask you for your personal details as part of their own due diligence then it would scream that they want your money rather than to help you.
For the frequently asked questions we normally get, visit our Private investigator FAQ page
I have had clients point blank refuse to give me their basic personal details which means the case is closed in our eyes as I will not work on behalf of someone who is not being clear. It works both ways. I assure you as I’ve said the decent agencies will hold your data safely and securely.
Now to finish up, the private investigations industry produces fantastic results for its clients, we really do. The good investigators are incredible but the bad investigators are TERRIBLE and can cause massive issues.
As a consumer it is your right to shop around and if you have any doubts don’t use that particular investigator, no matter how good their sales skills are!
Thank you for reading and if you liked this don’t forget to share for others!
Delta 74 Private Investigations Owner – Dan