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What Is a Private Investigator?

A private investigator is a professional operative who specialises in finding information about people and assets for organisations and individuals. The information they are asked to find may relate to personal, financial or legal matters and each case they take on may require them to utilise a number of different investigative techniques and approaches. For a more detailed answer to the question “What is a private investigator?”, please continue reading below.

What Is a Private Investigator and What Do They Do?

Whether you are interested in a career as a private investigator or you would like to know if the services they provide could be useful to you, the following list of duties that they perform in the UK may help you to make up your mind:

  • Surveillance – If you have ever watched a film or read a book about a private detective, you may have formed the impression that detectives spend the vast majority of their time following people to see what they are up to. This type of work, referred to as surveillance, is an important part of a private investigator’s duties but is far from the only type of work they perform. General surveillance duties may involve stakeouts, where operatives park in a discreet location that affords them a view of the target’s home or business premises, as well as tailing vehicles and following people on foot.
  • Background Checks – One of the most common reasons for commercial organisations to hire a private detective is to find out more about the people who apply to work for them. Background checks are often performed by investigators on candidates for senior managerial positions, to ensure that the people in question can be trusted with sensitive information. During the course of such checks, the investigator/s may access public records such as criminal files and electoral registers, as well as social media accounts and other internet websites that are open to the general public.
  • Asset Searches – For both personal and private matters, it can be advantageous to know the full extent of the assets that are owned by an individual or organisation. It is for this reason that many investigators offer asset search services to their clients. But what is a private investigator allowed to do during the course of an asset search? Well, they are able to use any publicly accessible documents to gather the information they need and they may also interview associates of the individual or organisation under investigation if it is deemed appropriate. Much information can be gleaned from sources such as Companies House and public court records. This service is also sometimes referred to as asset tracing.
  • Corporate Investigations – Some private investigators also perform corporate investigations that involve being placed in a company as an undercover operative. This type of work is normally carried out in order to uncover reasons for financial discrepancies, or the source of corporate leaks when sensitive information is passed to competitors. Whatever your reasons may be for wanting a corporate investigation to take place, we recommend only dealing with investigators who have plenty of experience in this particular field. Operatives who deal primarily with personal cases may not have the knowledge or expertise to perform undercover investigations of this nature.
  • Sweeping for Bugs – This type of service is generally offered by investigative agencies who also offer general corporate services and can be a valuable counterespionage tool for both commercial and public organisations. When asked what is a private investigator able to do in order to protect organisations from industrial espionage, this is normally one of our first suggestions.
  • Tracing Missing Persons – Whether a person has gone missing accidentally or on purpose, private investigators are often able to trace them, through a combination of public record searches and on-the-ground investigations. However, it is important to note that no reputable private detective will breach privacy laws in order to locate a missing person in England or Wales.

If you are interested in a lengthier answer to the question “What is a private investigator?”, please don’t hesitate to send us an email, outlining the specific information that you are looking for. A member of our team will be happy to provide you with the assistance you need.

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