Private detectives find and analyze information for individuals, businesses, and attorneys. They utilize clues to discover and expose details about legal, financial, or personal matters. Services offered by detectives include: executive, corporate, and celebrity protection; employment verification; identity theft; harassing emails; and the misuse of proprietary intellectual or artistic property.
They investigate criminal and civil liability cases, insurance claims, fraud cases, child custody cases, missing person cases, and even perform premarital screening.
Where Do Private Detectives Work?
Although private detectives utilize many methods and tools to glean information, the majority of their work is accomplished on computers. Thus, their computer skills must be superlative, enabling them to perform database searches, locate records, find telephone numbers, and so on. In addition, they also do surveillance work, make phone inquiries, interview people, and sometimes do undercover work. All these functions require flexibility, intelligence, and excellent social skills.
Most detectives are trained in both low- and high-tech surveillance techniques. These techniques span the gamut from onsite observation to the use of video cameras, GPS systems, and phone tracking devices.
Detectives are required to obey the law while conducting investigations. They must be familiar with federal, state, and local legislation that may affect their work, and they must know how to collect evidence properly so that it is admissible in court.
Often, private detectives specialize in one area or another. Popular areas of specialization include: intellectual property theft, financial fraud, computer crimes, corporate investigations, loss prevention, and of course legal investigations. Legal investigators locate and interview witnesses, serve legal documents, and gather and review evidence in criminal cases. In this capacity, they often work for law firms or private attorneys.
More on Work Environment
The work environment of private detectives varies, depending on the job at hand. They may spend days in the office using a computer to locate data or they may be out in the field, interviewing different people in a variety of locations. More often than not, they work alone. Some of their duties may be stressful or dangerous, especially when providing protective services for corporate or celebrity clients.
Although there are no formal education requirements, most private detectives are college educated and have previous experience in investigative work.
A background or degree in criminal justice or police science is advisable, along with experience in police investigative techniques. Corporate investigators usually must have a bachelor’s degree in business, computer science, or accounting.
Investigators involved in computer crimes are required to have degrees in systems analysis or computer forensics. Many computer forensic investigators learn their craft working for a law enforcement agency of some type.