How to Hire a Private Investigator


Something has happened in your personal life, or your company is experiencing some malicious activity. You’ve decided it’s time to hire a private investigator, but you don’t know what a private investigator can do. Nor do you know of what to look for in a quality investigator. The thing you do know is that the investigator needs to be able to handle your particular investigation in a professional and confidential manner. So here are some things you should consider when hiring a private investigator.


What kind of work does a private investigator do? They conduct surveillance for a variety of reasons. Cheating spouses, child custody cases, workman’s compensation investigations, theft from businesses or residences, intelligence gather just to name a few.


Private investigators will also locate people who are being sought after by loved ones, friends, and attorneys.


Background and criminal history checks are another reason to hire a private investigator. A pre-employment background check recommended if you’re hiring a new employee for a sensitive position such as handling corporate finances and secrets, or clients’ sensitive information. It is also recommended for the hiring of caregivers for your loved ones and for businesses such childcare or nursing homes.


Private investigators conduct due diligence investigations for companies that are hiring a new executive, buying or considering doing business with another company. These types of investigations give the company an opportunity to evaluate past perform, associations, and behavior before closing a contract.


Private investigators search for assets such as bank accounts, cars, boats, airplanes, and property that may have been hidden from a spouse.


These are not the only things a private investigator can do, but it covers a majority of them. When federal, state, and local authorities are of no help to you, hire a private investigator.


How does a private investigator work? A question often asked. Most people have no experience with private investigators. What the average person knows about private investigators is what they see on TV, in the movies, or in the news when an investigator has broken the law. These are all misleading as to the real work done by private investigators. Most of the work is very boring. They spend a lot of time researching and writing reports. Sit for hours on surveillance in a hot vehicle waiting for a video capture of some action. But there are times of excitement. Private investigators are honest hard working people that truly care for their clients. They will perform to the best of their ability and provide you with the services and counsel you need for your particular investigation.


Ethical private investigators always operate within the bounds of the law. Any private investigator that does otherwise should be avoided since their actions not only affect them, but could also land you in hot water with the law.


How do you find a private investigator? The Internet is a logical place to start. Just type in “private investigator” and your search engine will give you a list of agencies in your area. But what if you need one in another city? Just add the city and state to the search. Look at their websites, read the reviews posted by their customers. Select a few to talk with.


Talk to friends or relatives who may know a private investigator. These recommendations are usually the best way to find a good private investigator.


What happens once you’ve selected a private investigator? You and the investigator will meet for your consultation to discuss your case. This consultation should be free. It should be in person, but can be done on the phone if that’s no possible.


One important thing to remember during these discussions is that no investigator can determine the outcome of any particular case. You shouldn’t be concentrated on the outcome you want, but rather at getting to the truth. The investigator is going to report what he/she finds. Good or bad, the truth is what you should be seeking.


During these discussions the fees and terms will be discussed. The investigator could charge an hourly rate or fixed price. This will depend on the work to be done. There may be other fees as well. Fees such as mileage, proprietary data base searches, lodging and travel expenses, and administrative costs. Some agencies charge for CDs and hard copies of photos and videos.


Most agencies will also require a retainer be paid before the work begins. The retainer is usually in the $1,000 – $1,500 range. Large involved investigations may require a larger retainer. All fees will be deducted from that retainer until the either the investigation is completed or the funds are depleted. Once the retainer funds are depleted, the investigator will contact you to discuss further funding or termination of the investigation. If more work needs to be done you will both agree to the amount of work and further funding of the retainer. Once the investigation is completed any remaining funds in the retainer should be refunded to you in a reasonable amount of time. All of these fees should be discussed during your consultation.


Your private investigator will draft a contract for the work to be completed and the fees to be charged. Once both of you are satisfied with the contract, it is signed and the investigation will begin.


What you should consider when hiring a private investigator.


Licenses: Most states require a private investigator to be licensed. Check the licensing requirements for your state. Make sure that the private investigator you’re thinking of hiring is properly licensed, is in good standing and has no complaints or disciplinary actions. Florida is one of the states that require a license and here is the link for checking private investigator licenses.


Experience: When hiring a private investigator you want to be sure you’re getting an investigator that can do the investigative work you require. Ask what type of investigations they have done in the past and what they specialize in. Also ask the number of years of investigative experience they have. You should ask where they received their investigative training.


Your investigator should have some formal training and on-the-job experience. They should have several years of investigative experience particularly in the area required for your investigation.


Certifications: Not all private investigators will have certifications. For instance, a special agent or detective with a federal, state, or local agency will have more training than that required by of any certifications out there. Usually four to six months of intensive investigative and firearms training followed by an on-the-job training program at their field office. These investigators don’t need additional certifications. Although their training and experience stands on it’s own, they should be attending conferences and continuing education courses to keep up to date on the latest investigative techniques. Certifications can be a discriminating factor when there is a lack of substantial formalized investigative training. So ask about the certifications your prospective private investigator has.


The number of certifications doesn’t matter. It’s the quality of the certifications. Check the organization that issued the certificate. All legitimate organizations have experience, education and testing requirements to be completed before issuance of a certificate. Certifications from the Florida Board of Certified Investigators, the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, and ASIS International are excellent examples of quality certifications.


Education: Usually there is no requirement for a private investigator to have a college degree. Having a degree does add to the depth of an investigator. It gives an indication of the investigator’s report writing and research abilities.   Does it matter what the degree is in? Not really. A degree in criminal justice, law, or psychology can help in the private investigation profession. Most important are the investigation related training, continuing education, and experience gained while working as an investigator.


Professional Associations: Private investigators who are serious about their profession will generally belong to professional associations. They are interested in promoting training, ethical standards, and regulation within the industry. They network with other investigators to share experiences, techniques, and ideas. They will also attend their organization’s annual conferences where they will receive continuing education on investigative techniques, rules, and regulations.


There are several national and state associations. The Florida Association of Licensed Investigators (FALI) is Florida’s largest state private investigator organization. The Texas Association of Licensed Investigators (TALI) and the California Association of Licensed Investigators (CALI) are two other large state organizations. These three are known throughout the community as the “Big Three”. Many investigators within these states belong to all three organizations and network with each other.


The National Council of Investigation and Security Services (NCISS), Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE), National Association of Investigative Specialists (NAIS), and National Association of Legal Investigator (NALI) are a few of the national associations.


Insurance: Some states require a private investigator be insured. Insurance coverage often separates the full-time agencies from the part-timers. Ask to see their proof of insurance. This will give you the opportunity to see the expiration date and coverage. It’s recommended you hire private investigators/agencies that are insured. It protects you and the investigator/agency.


Reputation: It is wise to check the reputation of the private investigator you’re considering to hire. Hiring an investigator with a questionable reputation can have a negative impact on your case. Do a Google or similar search of the prospective investigator. You would be surprised at what you sometimes find. Check for complaints and disciplinary actions with the state-regulating agency. Here’s the link for Florida.


You can ask for references. Good investigators are usually well known. References will come from colleagues, attorneys, and individuals who have witnessed the quality of their work.


Fees: Private investigators usually charge an hourly rate. The rates differ from state-to-state and city-to-city. The rates for most large cities in Florida range from $75.00 per hour to $120.00 per hour, plus expenses. Fees are also dependent on the difficulty and specialty of the work to be performed. Be careful of the private investigator that is charging significantly less than the normal rate. You may be dealing with an investigator that has had issues of some sort or is unlicensed. Cheaper is not necessarily better when it comes to dealing with your sensitive matters and information.


Contract: A contract is the norm between a private investigator and their client. It is the instrument that details what work is to be performed and for what price. It covers what the private investigator is expected to do and provide as well as what the client is expected to do and provide. It should also state what is not to be done. Never deal with a private investigator without a contract.


Local verse Out of Town or National: When looking for a private investigator you should consider the advantages of hiring a local investigator. Local private investigators are familiar with all aspects of your city and surrounding area. They will also be available for quick meetings if the need should arise. You will also be dealing directly with the investigator that will perform your investigation.


If you hire a private investigator from out of town, one of two things will happen. You will pay the additional costs of the investigator traveling to your city to perform the work. Or, the private investigator will subcontract the work out to an investigator in your area. In this case you will have most likely lost control of selecting the private investigator you think is best for your situation.


Hiring a national agency seems like a great idea. They give the appearance of being a large agency with a lot of high quality investigators. The reality is that they are going to subcontract your investigation to a private investigator in your local area.


Communication: Communicating with your private investigator is important. If your private investigator is hard to reach you will have problems. There will be times when you will need to get or pass information. You will also want to get regular updates on the investigation or surveillance. But keep in mind that you don’t necessarily need to get blow-by-blow accounts of an ongoing surveillance. It is very distractive to the investigator and can cause them to miss filming an important activity. They should update you at regular intervals or when important events have taken place.


The Consultation: This is an important event. It should be free of charge. It should be done in person if possible. The private investigator should be properly dressed and attentive to your needs. Don’t be surprised with some of the questions a private investigator will ask you. In addition to getting the information they need for working your case, they will also have to determine your intent. An ethical private investigator will make sure you have no malicious intent such a stalking the subject of the investigation. The consultation is the opportunity for you and the private investigator to decide if your working relationship is a good fit.


Feeling Comfortable: You should feel comfortable with the private investigator you hire. After all, you are entrusting them with your sensitive information and delicate situation. You need to know that your dealings are confidential and professional. This is why a face-to face meeting is so important.


Illegal Acts: You should never ask, nor should a private investigator volunteer to commit illegal acts in performance of the work. That includes actions such as wiretaps, hacking, unauthorized access to financial and credit reports, and in some states, such as Florida, the use of GPS tracking. This will only lead to heartache and possible prison time for one or both of you. Don’t do it.


Be prepared for what is uncovered: Private investigators cannot predict the outcome of any investigation. They will report the facts as they are discovered. Because you suspect something is wrong, doesn’t make it so. Usually your suspicions are correct, but sometimes they’re not.



                                                                                    Rick High

                                                                                    Private Investigator

                                                                                    Retired Federal Agent

                                                                                    President & CEO,

                                                                                    High Strategic Solutions, LLC

Parents are hiring investigators to follow their nannies.

Parents freaked out by the frightening stories of nannies neglecting their charges — or worse — are taking what some might call extreme measures when it comes to vetting caretakers for their kids.

The instances of people hiring professional investigators to spy on their kids’ babysitters is “absolutely” on the rise, according to Tom Ruskin, head of CMP Group Investigations.

“We are getting more calls now than ever before,” Ruskin told ABC News. “It’s an extreme step. You’re basically saying I don’t really trust this person who is with my children and I want to know what’s happening, I want to know firsthand. You have to feel comfortable with this person who is basically joining your family as an outsider.”

ABC News followed a private investigator from Ruskin’s firm as he trailed the potential sitter for the four-month-old baby of a new mom.

“It’s very hard to find somebody you can trust,” the mom, whose identity is not being revealed, told ABC News. “I’m a first-time mom, going back to work, I need to make sure I’m going to be able to concentrate at work. I don’t want to worry about what’s going on at home. I want to make sure I’m going to hire somebody who is responsible enough.”


Read more and watch the video… abcNews

How These Private Investigators Catch Workers’ Comp Fraudsters in the Act.

Workers’ compensation programs are meant to help those who are severely disabled, but some attempt to game the system by faking an injury to collect disability payments, thinking they will never be caught.

Insurance fraud is typically very hard to catch than these cases, so private investigators like Bari Kroll and Bob Kiehn are hired by insurance companies to catch fraudsters on tape.

“The secret to some my success is being a woman. It’s still pretty uncommon for people to think women are private investigators.” Kroll said. “This job isn’t for everyone. But it is for me, because I’m OK waiting for something to happen.”

Kiehn, who is also an ABC News consultant, brought ABC News “20/20” along as observers on a mission to capture video of a farmer suspected of fleecing an insurance company. The farmer claimed that injuries from a car accident caused him difficulty with daily farming.

Kiehn said he was looking to capture “Anything he does that makes him look like he’s working.”

After four hours of surveillance Kiehn was able to film the farmer lifting a heavy object into his truck.

“It’s something for us to start building a case on.” Kiehn said. “You have to have a creative solution… [fraudsters] think they’re five steps ahead of us.”


Read more and watch the video… abcNews

Naples private investigators hired to save family held hostage in Egypt.


NAPLES, Fla.- Two private investigators signed on for a mission of a lifetime. Both risked their lives during a daring rescue to pull an American and her children out of Egypt.


Because of the severity of the mission, names of the family involved will not be disclosed. During the mission, the investigators did not have the backing of the U.S. government and were on their own if something went wrong.


Naples Security Solutions answered a phone call from a family desperate to get their loved ones back. They explained to the investigators, Chris Knott and Mike Perl, one of their family members and her children were being held hostage by her husband in Egypt.


The two had met in the United States, both were doctors who fell in love and were married.


“She is of Christian faith and he is Muslim,” explained Knott.


The difference in religions would not play a huge role in their marriage until five years in. The woman said her husband’s mentality changed. He gravitated toward Islam, he cut off her family and made no friends.


He no longer wanted to live in the United States and demanded they move to Egypt. When the family wouldn’t go, he suggested a trip instead. She hesitated but went against her family’s wishes.


“They knew he had the capability to do this but she didn’t want to see it I guess,” explained Perl.


“He destroyed their passports and said they would never go back. He said he would kill the family before they were allowed to go back to the United States,” said Knott.


The family reached out to lawmakers for help but no one would get involved. So her brother tracked down Knott and Perl who own Naples Security Solutions.


A short time later, Knott and Perl were in Egypt in uncharted territory. The team mapped out a plan to rescue the family. There would be three attempts to pull the woman from her home. During the first two attempts, fear strangled her will to flee.


“Communicating back and forth, she came up with every reason she couldn’t do it, she was afraid,” said Knott.


On the third and final attempt, numbed by fear she opened the door.


“It was basically go time,” said Knott. “He reached in and picked up the 3-year-old.”


The woman stood frozen in fear as she glanced down the hallway.


“There was little movement on her part she was staring down the hallway. The mother-in-law woke up and was at the end of the hall staring at her so at that point we had to go,” said Knott. “At that point you just hear screams.”


In video captured during the rescue, you can hear screaming and yelling as they rushed out of the stairway. It would be quick thinking that helped them escape alive as they yelled out “fire, fire” as guards ran past them up the stairs holding automatic machine guns.


“We are in trouble” you can hear the woman say on video, but the men assured her she was fine “No we are not in trouble.”


The team improvised and went to “plan B” to escape alive out of Egypt. It would not be until the woman was on an airplane that freedom began to become a reality.


“We went wheels up and she was just elated, she was very emotional,” said Knott. “We talked to her family, we told them it was over, we were out and we just heard screams and cheers.”

WINK News watch the video….

Recently I run across a colleague’s post, it was in reference to the recommendation of tethered small unmanned aerial systems (SUAS). He said he had sent a proposal to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regarding small UAS/UAV (SUAS) operations. The FAA is currently addressing regulations concerning the operations of SUAS in the national airspace (NAS). His proposal is to exempt SUAS from drone regulation through the use of a tether that limits the SUAS to maximum altitude of 150ft. His proposal, should it be accepted by the FAA would give some SUAS operators the tool they need to enhance their work product. The proposal is a good one and has some advantages as well as disadvantages.

Small drone

I must first qualify my experience in the area of unmanned aircraft systems and their operation. I was the first national director of Customs and Border Protection’s unmanned aircraft program. I took delivery of the first non-military operated UAS, a General Atomics’ Predator-B. We operated that first UAS out of the Ft. Huachuca Army Base at Sierra Vista, AZ. I met with the FAA weekly in Washington, DC to establish and expand Certificates of Wavier or Authorizations (COA) and airspace along the Southwest border. In leaving our Headquarters I was given command of a center that operated specially equipped P-3 Orion aircraft and a Predator-B UAS. Additionally I was an Army aviator and Customs pilot flying fixed-wing and rotary-wing aircraft.


The disclaimer. We are not talking about the legal authority to use a SUAS to view and/or record an object, property, or person. For the sake of this discussion lets just say we have the authority and permission to be there and view and record. The legal end of SUAS use is another discussion.


First lets just put it out on the table that the FAA is a risk adverse agency. And who can blame them. They are responsible for keeping people and property safe from aviation related incidents/accidents both in the air and on the ground. They take that responsibility seriously. The FAA will look at every angle of every suggestion or proposal and usually find some level danger involved, however slight it might be. In their eyes, if there is a slight chance something might go wrong, it will go wrong. They are frustrating to deal with and will test your endurance and tolerance. I can remember more than once having come to an agreement with them on some aspect of UAS operations and the deal totally being dumped in the circular file before I could make the trip from their building to my office. The trick is to keep coming back and trying to work a solution. It can be done. Patience Grasshopper.


Lets look at some highlights from the FAA’s February 2015 document for proposed rules for SUAS. There are many more than I’m going to list, but this gives you an idea of what will more than likely become rule. Also these proposed rules are in reference to free flight SUAS, not tethered models.


SUAS pilots are considered operators and here are their requirements.


  • Pass an initial aeronautical knowledge test at an FAA-approved knowledge testing center.
  • Be vetted by the Transportation Security Administration.
  • Obtain an unmanned aircraft operator certificate with a small UAS rating (like existing pilot airman certificates, never expires).
  • Pass a recurrent aeronautical knowledge test every 24 months.
  • Be at least 17 years old.
  • Make available to the FAA, upon request, the small UAS for inspection or testing, and any associated documents/records required to be kept under the proposed rule.
  • Report an accident to the FAA within 10 days of any operation that results in injury or property damage.
  • Conduct a preflight inspection, to include specific aircraft and control station systems checks, to ensure the small UAS is safe for operation.


Here are just a few of the operational limitations. There are many more.


  • Unmanned aircraft must weigh less than 55 lbs. (25 kg).
  • Visual line-of-sight (VLOS) only; the unmanned aircraft must remain within VLOS of the operator or visual observer.
  • At all times the small unmanned aircraft must remain close enough to the operator for the operator to be capable of seeing the aircraft with vision unaided by any device other than corrective lenses.
  • Small unmanned aircraft may not operate over any persons not directly involved in the operation.
  • Daylight-only operations (official sunrise to official sunset, local time).


Here are the aircraft requirements.


·      FAA airworthiness certification not required. However, operator must maintain a small UAS in condition for safe operation and prior to flight must inspect the UAS to ensure that it is in a condition for safe operation. Aircraft Registration required (same requirements that apply to all other aircraft).

·      Aircraft markings required (same requirements that apply to all other aircraft). If aircraft is too small to display markings in standard size, then the aircraft simply needs to display markings in the largest practicable manner.


As you can see there will be an involved effort on the owner/operators of SUASs. It will cost you time and money to establish and maintain a SUAS capability.


Lets talk about the prospect of tethered SUASs. There are some advantages of a tethered configuration. Should your SUAS break link with an operator’s controller they will be able to prevent if from flying away to some unknown location and disappearing into a black hole never to be found. More importantly, they may avoid hurting someone or damaging property.


The tether might help in maintaining visual contact with your SUAS, a requirement of the FAA. Even the larger UAS require some sort of surveillance from a person either on the ground, in the air, or sitting at a radar station.


Should this proposal be accepted, the requirement for the registration of the SUAS might disappear. There would more than likely be no requirement for training, qualification and certification of the operator. This would eliminate some of the time and cost of registration, training and certification.


These advantages all sound great until the tether beaks. Remember the FAA?

If anything can go wrong, it will go wrong.


Now lets look at some of the disadvantages. One hundred fifty feet sounds like a lot. It is if the SUAS is flying directly or nearly directly overhead. But what if the operator has a barrier of some sort between him and what he wants to look at? Any horizontal offset will significantly reduce his available altitude possibly making it difficult in completing the job.


The tether would make the capability of preprograming routes useless. Pretty much an operator would be limited to a radius of approximately 30 yards. Any more than that and the operator wouldn’t have much altitude left for a good aerial view.


The tether would have to withstand the beating it would take from the SUAS tugging at it and it being dragged across the ground and over obstacles. Any material able to withstand those abuses would be of significant weight and bulk. This weight and bulk may not be significant to us, but to an aircraft in flight it doesn’t take much to affect its flight characteristics.


The SUAS is a flying machine and any forces induced by aerodynamics, environment, or physical influences (such as a tether), will affect the flight and stability of the SUAS. These forces can degrade the quality of video and photos at best, at worst the loss of control and injury to someone and/or damage to property.


A tether restricts owner/operators to vertical takeoff and landing type vehicles, basically a helicopter. There are numerous hand throw, airplane type SUAS that have capabilities not available in a helicopter type vehicle. A tether on an airplane type SUAS would degrade its flight characteristics to the point of not being able to fly. Both types of vehicles have their advantages, capabilities, and use. The owner/operator would have to decide which type of SUAS would better accomplish their task.


I’m sure there are more advantages and disadvantages to a tethered SUAS. These are just a few that come to mind. The point to all of this is that this is about the advantages and disadvantages for the owner/operator. The advantages of a tethered system for some owner/operators may out weigh the disadvantages. The tethered system may allow them to complete their jobs and operate their SUASs with less cost in time and money. Other owner/operators may need the freedom of an untethered system for their work. But that freedom comes with a cost in time and money for training, certification and registration of the vehicle.


A proposal was made to the FAA, whether or not they’ll consider it is yet to be seen. If a tethered SUAS regulation becomes a reality, those wanting to employ SUAS in their work will have to evaluate the regulations and the viability of a tethered SUAS.


The use of SUASs in the private investigations industry, tethered or not, adds another valuable tool to our belt.


You can stay up to date on the FAA’s progress with SUAS by going to this link:


Here’s the link to an interview I did with National Defense Magazine.