Here are the things you should do before hiring a private investigator:
Verify the private investigator is properly licensed. North Carolina requires all private investigators to be licensed by the Private Protective Services Board.
ACTION: Ask to see the investigator’s state-issued license before you do anything else. You can also verify the status of an investigator’s license here: https://ppsapplication.permitium.com/publicapp/actives/licensee/list
Understand that private investigators are operating a for-profit business. They depend on income from clients to make a living. This causes some investigators to make promises they cannot fulfill just to get you to sign the contract. You will not receive quality work product from these types of investigators.
ACTION: Avoid investigators who use pushy sales tactics to secure your business. Verify the contract contains clear pricing information prior to signing. As a side note, if a private investigator insists you sign immediately, find another private investigator. Ideally, you want one who will require you wait a minimum of twenty-four hours before allowing you to sign.
Research the investigator’s experience. Not all investigators have the training and experience necessary to handle your case. For example, if you are looking for a criminal defense investigator, you should not hire a private investigator who specializes only in child custody.
ACTION: Ask the private investigator to explain their experience working investigations related to your needs. Ask for references from previous clients (note: this will require time for the investigator to obtain approval from the previous clients due to confidentiality agreements). You can also ask for the names of attorneys with whom the investigator has worked.
Learn about the investigator’s formal education. While college degrees do not necessarily indicate the quality of the investigator’s work product, it does demonstrate the investigator is capable of thinking critically, analyzing data, managing deadlines, etc.
ACTION: Ask to see a copy of the investigator’s college degree and verify its validity with the college.
Observe the investigator’s communication style. Do they speak professionally? Do they discuss inappropriate topics unrelated to your case? This is the person you are hiring to speak with others on your behalf. You want someone who will make a good impression.
ACTION: Speak at length with the private investigator to get an understanding of how this person communicates with others.
Look into the investigator’s community involvement. Is this person well known for having a positive reputation? Or is he relatively unknown? Ideally, you will hire someone with a reputation for volunteering and helping others at no benefit to himself.
ACTION: Ask for a list of current and prior volunteer roles as well as references from well-known members of the community.