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Background Checks – How to Hire a PI to Get Information You Need. What Does it Entail? Is it Legal?

Private investigation companies around the United States offer a wide range of services to their clients. But for many firms, the largest bulk of their work comes from conducting background checks.

Using databases that are only available to them and law enforcement agencies, private investigators can dig deeper than most and uncover information that their clients could never find on their own. Because of this, background checks are the backbone of many private investigation firms.

Background checks are requested for several purposes and can focus on very specific information, including criminal, citizenship, financial, employment, education and even driving history. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has basic framework and guidance for employers who wish to generate background checks for potential employees.

But in the 21st century, another area that’s growing in the realm of background checks are those related to people hooking up via popular online dating sites.

In fact, a study conducted recently by the Pew Research Center found that 29 percent of online daters have searched for information on someone they were either dating or were planning on meeting via an online match.

Other popular background checks include real estate agents or property owners who want to ensure that a prospective buyer has the ability to pay for a home purchase, as well as families who are conducting checks to protect loved ones from possible predatory activity, particularly as it relates to the elderly.

Now, let’s say that you need to hire a private investigator to conduct a background check on your behalf for one reason or another. How would you go about doing so?

Well, a good place to start is online. Conduct a Google search for private investigative firms in your area, and then do your due diligence.

Browse the web pages of several firms, read up on what they offer and, possibly most importantly, read what others have to say about the company and the services that they offer.

Pick a handful that you like and schedule an initial appointment with each one. Lay out exactly what it is that you need to accomplish and ask for input, as well as possible costs and references.

If you have any friends in the legal or law enforcement communities, they could also assist you with information that could prove invaluable in your search. Knowledge is power, so the more information you can gather on a company you plan on doing business with the better.

As far as cost, simple background checks could cost $100 or less, but for investigations that are more complex, expect to pay a bit more for services rendered. It really all depends on what it is you need and who you need it on, as well as the amount of time you can give the investigator to do his or her digging. We reached out to and the firm says they charge between $50.00 and $100.00 but only charges if they can locate the information.

Now, let’s discuss the legality of performing background checks. In general, background checks are very legal and many of them actually depend on public records and documents to paint a picture of the person in question.

Public records are just that, public, and are thus legal to obtain and report on. A good chunk of information that a licensed private investigator will give you comes from information that is in the public domain, it’s just that they have greater access to it and can easily obtain that information and then pass it on to you.

But there are certain things that a private investigator can’t do, regardless of the job they’ve been hired to perform.

For instance, private investigators can’t:

Break the law, any more than anyone else can. They must always work within the law when working on someone else’s behalf, and there are no exceptions just because of the type of work that they’re performing.

Trespass on private property. If the property owners asks the investigator to leave, he or she must do so immediately or be subject to penalty by law enforcement.

Track someone using GPS, in most instances. This varies from state to state and jurisdiction to jurisdiction, but there are certain rules that pertain to using GPS devices.

Hack into a phone, computer, social media or email account. Basically, investigators are prohibited from using any hacking abilities that they may have. So, if he or she needs phone records or emails or any other types of information, it will need to be obtained another way.

Obtain bank or medical records. This information, in both instances, is considered private and cannot be accessed via a third party under any circumstances.

Any private investigator who you’re considering hiring is going to know what’s legal and what’s not legal in his or her jurisdiction. But it’s good that you ask these types of questions up front and on day number one.

You don’t want an investigator breaking the law when working on your behalf, so be sure that the person you hire is willing to work within the law and follow the rules.

There are many ways of obtaining information, but you want to be sure that it’s being done legally.