Things this private investigator doesn’t do – Unauthorized degree verifications

Things this PI doesn't do

Since becoming a private investigator, I’ve received numerous requests from potential clients that I eventually file under “Things This PI Doesn’t Do.” The first item on the list  – surveillance – is based on personal preference. I prefer not to hang out in my car for long stretches of time. Other items are more about the law – things I can’t do vs. things I won’t do.

For example, while verifying someone’s college degree is the easiest way to catch a crook, according to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), student education records are confidential. This means that transcript requests must be initiated by the individual, and I need a signed authorization form for degree verifications. I’m well aware that some universities or verification services don’t ask for the documentation, and there are workarounds. But I won’t risk losing my license and my reputation, so, at Phelps Research, we always take this extra step.

Sometimes clients aren’t at the stage where they are ready to ask for authorization, so we’ll search for mentions of an individual’s degrees in the news or on alumni websites and gather what we can. But obtaining transcripts and/or official verifications without consent? You’ll definitely find that filed under “Things This PI Doesn’t Do.”


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