Insider: Key Terms for Private Investigator

Key Terms Every Serious Client Should Know

If you’re contemplating hiring a private investigator, this article is a must-read. Understanding key professional terms can help you navigate the process more effectively, select the right service, and gain insight into what to expect during the investigation.

The private investigation industry has a history spanning two centuries, with the first official private detective agency founded in 1833 by Eugène François Vidocq.

Over time, private investigators have developed a unique terminology specific to their field. Although many of these terms are used across various industries, they take on distinct meanings for private investigators and their clients. Let’s talk about some of these essential terms.

Hidden asset

Definition: An asset intentionally concealed from another person or entity.

Examples: Individuals may hide assets during divorce cases, bankruptcy filings, or to undervalue a business for legal reasons.

Private Investigator’s Role: Private investigators use various tools, including online databases, to uncover hidden assets and gather evidence.

Skip tracing Key Terms

Definition: The act of locating hard-to-find individuals, often used by private investigators.

Application: Locating witnesses, estranged family members, or debtors.

Techniques: Private investigators employ skip tracing tools in public and private records databases, and may also contact associates or relatives for additional information.

Key Terms of Surveillance

Definition: Closely observing a place, person, or thing.

Application: Gathering evidence for criminal investigations, cold cases, insurance fraud, or monitoring suspicious activities.

Types: Physical, technical, electronic, interviews, auto, and digital surveillance.

Significance: A vital tactic in private investigations, providing crucial information for various cases.

Due diligence

Definition: Analyzing a person or business to uncover risks before engaging in a transaction.

Common Usage: Conducted by businesses or individuals before investing, purchasing, or entering contracts.

Investigative Tools: Private investigators use due diligence tools to assess risks, verify information, and provide comprehensive reports.


Definition: A systematic approach to gathering evidence through screening or documentation in a specific area.

Types: Neighborhood canvass (interviewing residents for crime-related evidence), vehicle canvass (documenting vehicles in a specific area).

Application: Identifying witnesses, suspects, or evidence related to an investigation.

Geographic profiling Key Terms

Definition: A strategy to determine a suspect’s likely residence by analyzing the locations of connected crimes.

Common Use: Investigating multiple connected crimes to narrow down the investigation and identify potential suspects.

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