Things this private investigator doesn’t do

No Thanks note on stack of business papers

After becoming a private investigator, I discovered that investigators are a diverse group. We have different backgrounds, areas of specialty, and clientele. We also have different work styles, and, over the years, I’ve discovered some of my non-negotiables, like doing client work on weekends and not verifying degrees until I have the proper paperwork in-hand.

And there’s more. Here are just a few of the things that this investigator doesn’t do:

Share comprehensive reports with clients
In investigative databases, they’ll take all the records about your subject within a particular database (addresses, criminal court cases, property and business records, motor vehicles, and more) and combine those records into one report. Pretty handy, and some investigators actually send these directly to clients, either as a finished product or as part of their report. I don’t do this, because comprehensive reports are the very definition of a data dump. They’re full of errors, and they include a lot of information clients don’t need. They’re great for leads, though, and come in handy when you have no idea where someone has done business or owns property. Then you need to go to the source and do more research before compiling an original report of findings.

I know people do it, and, yes, it’s tempting. But you can’t pretend to be someone else in order to obtain information. It violates all kinds of laws and codes of ethics that I follow. So, if I can’t get the information by being up-front about my identity, then it’s time to get creative. Is there another way to get the answers? Can we try some different questions, or–if all else fails–manage client expectations?

Search just for negative news
I know. You’ve heard me say this before, but it bears repeating, because I see it all the time. I hear it from vendors who boast about their products’ negative-news search capabilities. But most of my clients prefer to see the good and the bad, and, even if you really do want just the bad, you might be missing something important. A relevant article may not include the exact negative keywords the database is using, or the database–for whatever reason–doesn’t recognize it as negative. It doesn’t take much to search everything without the negative filter. You may have to sort through more results, but it’s usually worth it.

Find your long-lost relatives
Ancestor research is serious stuff, and people who do that well have specialized training, tools, and experience. I’m the kind of investigator who rarely needs to locate a person, living or dead. My clients generally provide enough identifying information for me to get started, and, sometimes, my subjects actually give their consent for a background check. In fact, I’ve recently discovered an unexpected branch of my family tree, and I’ve hired an expert to investigate, rather than do it myself.

Work alone
I’m a one-person company, but that doesn’t mean I work solo all the time. There’s a lot I do on my own, because I’ve never wanted to manage employees, but I can’t do everything. Sometimes I need help with news and social media research or verifying businesses and degrees in other countries. And when clients need something else this investigator doesn’t do–like surveillance–I’ll refer them to someone I trust. My advice to new investigators is to connect with our community early and often, because your network is your most valuable asset.

Investigators, do you have a list of non-negotiables like this?



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