When many people hear the words “Private Investigator”, they often picture an older gentleman in a hat and sunglasses sitting in his car with a camera and pair of binoculars spying on their neighbor. Private investigators in movies and on television are often portrayed as mean spirited, one-trick ponies that will take all of your hard earned money to catch your cheating wife. When public perception is framed by the media, the profession can become misunderstood and sometimes feared.
To shed some light on the profession, here are some common myths, followed by some facts you may not know about private investigators.
Myth #1 – Private investigators are above the law. Many people believe that investigators are granted special power or privileges by the government. Although private investigators are well versed in technologies and techniques that are unknown to the average citizen, they operate within the parameters of the law. Any evidence collected by an investigator must have been obtained legally in order to be admissible in court, and if they are caught taking part in illegal activity, they will be charged just like any other individual. They do not have access to resources or have legal powers similar to a police officer. Private investigators cannot enter private property, cannot perform hacking activities (i.e. social media, financial records), cannot illegally videotape and cannot make arrests.
Myth #2 – Private investigators just catch people cheating. Depending on their specialty, a private investigator is trained and experienced in many areas, possibly including but not limited to: custody battles, privacy issues, tracking & surveillance, litigation support, insurance issues, missing persons, harassment and cyber crime, asset identification and recovery, forensic examination, international affairs and estate issues. Some of the most common clients for an investigator include insurance companies and private corporations.
Myth #3 – All private investigators do is follow people. While an investigator may often utilize surveillance techniques, they are not one-trick ponies. A private investigator employs a variety of location techniques, investigative techniques, research techniques, surveillance techniques and interview techniques. They use everything from GPS tracking and social media surveillance to records searching, witness interviewing and dumpster diving.
Fact #1 – Private investigators are licensed professionals. Although licensing varies depending on geographical location, private investigators should be certified by their governing body. They are also well-versed in the laws, ethics and standards required of a private investigator. Licensing may involve a certain number of education hours, testing, background checks and a predetermined number of fieldwork hours for them to obtain proper certification and licensing.
Fact #2 – Private investigators take on a wide variety of work. Once a PI obtains their license in Ontario, they can work for any investigative agency in Ontario or work privately with their own clients. A licensed PI can work with businesses (i.e. law firms, insurance firms, corporations) or with individuals case by case. Obtaining a license through the province increases trustworthiness, effectiveness and ability of a PI and therefore makes them more employable. The average private investigator in Canada makes a salary of $40,000, while more experienced investigators can make upwards of $60,000.
Fact #3 – Private investigators are very often employed by businesses. While the common conception is that investigators typically service individuals, a private investigator can provide a wide variety of services for your business, including: conducting background checks for new employees, potential investors or business partners; conducting in depth investigations of potential key position employees; identifying and verifying appropriate investment opportunities; conducting risk assessments for a merger, an acquisition or a big business decision; investigating a business before an acquisition (including digging up information on employees, office spaces, corporate assets, etc.); referrals to reliable attorneys; and cyber-proofing your assets, accounts and property, to name a few.
If you are interested in learning more about what a private investigator is capable of and how they can help you or your business, reach out to Investigation Hotline.