What is a Private Investigator?

A Private Investigator (a/k/a, private detective, PI or private eye) is a person hired by an individual or a group in order to investigate a wide variety of cases. While many Private Investigators work for insurance companies to uncover potential cases of fraud, Private Investigators can also work for attorneys in civil cases, for example.


Before no-fault divorce was introduced, many Private Investigators were hired to search for evidence of adultery or other unethical, “bad” conduct in order to grant grounds for a divorce. While this type of evidence is no longer needed in most jurisdictions in order to proceed with a divorce, it still remains one of the most profitable activities for a Private Investigator because the stakes being fought for in a divorce can be quite high, including child custody, alimony and marital property.


While Private Investigators do not arrest people or put them into custody, they are tasked with keeping meticulous, detailed notes, and, they must be prepared to testify in court should the need arise. Because Private Investigators are civilians, it is imperative that they work within the scope of the law, as failing to do so could jeopardize a case, and, the investigator could face the risk of criminal charges. Another part of the job is that, when it comes to surveillance work, Private Investigators need to be prepared to work long, irregular hours.


Private Investigators can also be called upon to do a variety of work that is not usually associated with the industry. For example, many PIs are involved in process serving, which is when someone personally delivers a court summons, subpoena or other legal document to its intended recipient.


Many private investigative agencies specialize in a particular field of expertise. For example, some agencies only deal in tracing, while others specialize in technical surveillance countermeasures (TSCM) involving electronic countermeasures (ECM)  … locating, placing and monitoring electronic surveillance (for example, a bugged boardroom for industrial espionage purposes). Corporate investigators specialize in corporate matters, including anti-fraud, the protection of intellectual property and trade secrets, anti-piracy, copyright infringement investigations, due diligence investigations, and, computer forensics work.

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