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All Private Investigation firms are NOT the same

September 26, 2010

A certain private investigation company makes the following statement on their corporate webpage:

  “So you think that all Private Investigation firms are the same…

Well that could not be further from the truth…”

 Let’s refer to the company in question as Advanced Investigations. 

 Advanced’s website, continues on in a routine sales pitch fashion.   A variety of reasons are presented to the potential client pointing out as to why Advanced Investigations outdoes the competition.  I’m rather familiar with this company, because they were once my employer.   They also have a top-notch website; very well thought out with lots of appealing illustrations.   I couldn’t agree more with the website’s opening premise:  all private investigation firms are not the same.  I also feel the need to expand upon it.

Some have a lot more integrity and honesty then others. 

As I read “the Advanced Process” I found myself  biting my lip and clenching a fist.   The reason for my frustration was not with the solid and professional approach described.  What irked me was that it wasn’t true.  My personal experiences while working for Advanced didn’t coincide with the methods advertised on their website. 

Not even close.

It’s unfortunate that a lot of what they describe as their process is not what actually transpires.  I also noticed that certain other little details were left out: the very reasons I chose to branch off on my own.

Advanced Investigations forgot to mention how their investigators are instructed to write reports while conducting surveillance.  This may make good fiscal sense; some bean counter in a backroom determined that Advanced didn’t want to pay investigators extra for report writing at the end of the shift.  It however makes for a lousy approach to staying aware of your surroundings. 

I found out the hard way, while working for Advanced.  Situations  can change from boring to hectic very quickly while your on surveillance.  A stake out is no time to have your eyes glued on a laptop screen.  You need to be alert and ready to move quickly in order to be effective.  If that sucker comes out the front door he’s going to jump in his car and go somewhere.  Your job is to determine where, and hopefully why.  The investigation subject is not going to wait for you to save your file, stow your laptop, start the vehicle, and follow them.  Seconds count.

That concern ties into another.  It’s not realistic to expect your investigator “bright eyed and bushy tailed” at the end of a 60 hour work week.  Those eyes are drooping and that tail is dragging.  Again, no way to work surveillance.  A private investigator working surveillance in the field needs to be alert to be effective, let alone for their own safety.   Someone forgot that tidbit  in the Advanced Process however.

 Another serious flaw in the “Advanced Process” has to do with the case manager approach to investigations.  All information from the client goes to a case manager, and then what is deemed relevant is passed on to the investigator in the field.  The reverse is also true, information discovered by personnel in the field, goes back through the case manager to the client.  This process of communication takes time, especially when the Case Manager is juggling between 12 and 15 investigators and an equal number of clients.  It would be far more effective if a direct line of communication transpired between the investigator and the client.   My opinion is that the case manager serves two key purposes:

  1. Damage control:  Whenever possible to put a positive spin on what transpires
  2. To maintain a degree of separation between the client and the investigator


The case manager’s role as a public relations liaison on behalf of the company makes perfect sense. Surveillance efforts, their outcomes, and investigations in general are hard to predict.  Sometimes things get a little hairy out there…  Advanced doesn’t want to trouble the client with lots of concerning details.

The second objective of a case manager is a bit more insidious.  Advanced (like many large investigation firms) is a bit of a training ground.  Inexperienced investigators are hired by Advanced for between 12 and 16 dollars an hour.  Initially a lot of mistakes are made, but experience is an effective teacher.  After a year or two the investigators’ tactics improve, and depending on the home states licensing restrictions, tend to go off on their own.  The last thing that Advanced wants (or any PI firm wants) is for their former employee take clients with them.  So, using a case manager provides a buffer between client and investigator to prevent that from happening.  It also makes for lousy communication between the two parties that really need to be working as a team.  There’s no direct route for the investigator to ask clarifying questions of the client, or to make them aware of what’s occurring on site.

Unlike the “Advanced Process” of misinformation, I do perform pre-surveillance investigations before heading out into the field.  Once again through experience, I’ve learned this is an absolute must on surveillance-based cases (such as suspected insurance fraud).

 America has become a transient society.  There’s no guarantee that the claimant will reside at the same address when it’s time to document their patterns of behavior.  The actual investigation often occurs two or more years after the initial claim filing. Verifying current address information before heading out only makes sense.  As I start reflecting how many times I was provided outdated address information from my Advanced case manager… it’s a good time to close this post.


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