Private Detective

What makes a good investigator?

Hiring a Private Detective is an important decision, but knowing who to work with is not always easy. Here, we share our experience working with clients and the elements that we believe will give you the best chance of reaching a successful outcome.


At Private Detective London (PDL), our clients span both the corporate and private worlds, but in both cases, at the heart of every successful investigation is trust.

We understand that when you are working with a private detective, you need to have confidence in their ability to carry out the work required of them.

That’s why we offer our potential clients a free, no-obligation appraisal.  We listen carefully to what you tell us about your situation; then we give you an honest answer about what is achievable.

If we take on your case, we want you to feel reassured that we have the skills and experience to investigate your situation, and we will only take on instructions that we know we can help you with.

Finding the right fit

For many of our clients, hiring a private detective is a once-in-a-lifetime situation, and our approach reflects that: we will handle your case with the utmost professionalism and sensitivity from the outset.

As an unregulated industry, standards can vary, so we recommend that if you need to hire a private investigator, you look at who you would be working with, and their methods before entering into any sort of agreement.

In addition to checking whether a private detective has the necessary investigative skills to handle your case, we advise our prospective clients to spend some time thinking about the kind of person they would like to work with before trying to get quotes or comparing different providers. 

At PDL we make sure we can provide an appropriate perspective on cases, whether personal or corporate in nature, and we work hard to make sure our clients are comfortable confiding in us – whatever their situation.

How we work

Where possible, we meet our clients in person.  We believe this is an important part of each investigation – building the client/detective relationship and gathering as much background on the case as possible. 

Once we agree to take on a case, we provide a formal contract. This protects all of us, and provides peace of mind that we are on the same page regarding the scope of the investigation, the fee structure and any other specifics of our working relationship.

Our clients always know who they can contact during an investigation and how the process will work: this is part of our commitment to providing safe, ethical and legal outcomes for all our clients.


Why we work this way

We have over 25 years of experience working in this industry, so there’s not much we haven’t seen, and we know what works and what doesn’t.

Our approach is built on a foundation of honesty and transparency; we believe it’s vital to appraise and qualify every enquiry we receive before accepting instructions, and our success rate reflects this.

Clients do sometimes come to us with preconceived ideas about what we do and how we might do it (perhaps the result of so many popular TV, film and book detectives), but we always focus on what we do best and know will yield results:

  • A team of experts with the skillsets necessary to cover the varied nature of the cases we’re asked to investigate
  • Building trust with our clients
  • Working in a way that is both legally and ethically sound

What makes a good investigator stand out from the crowd is often simply their approach to communication. So, if you are looking for an investigator, it’s worth thinking about the following questions before you make your decision:

  • Are they listening to me?
  • Are they paying attention to the detail of what I’m sharing with them?
  • Would I feel comfortable confiding in them?
  • Are they upfront about their fees?
  • Will they give me a contact for the duration of the investigation?
  • Do I feel reassured that they carry out their work in an ethical and legal manner?

If you think we could be the right fit for you, get in touch:


Our Top 5 Fraud Prevention Tips

Unfortunately, fraud is on the rise in the UK and worldwide. Fraudsters’ natural inclination to prey on our vulnerability has only been heightened by 2020’s unusual times, due to the increasing desperation of the fraudsters themselves.

It’s easy to become isolated, or financially cornered – both things that can cloud our judgement and make us more susceptible to fraud and scams.

As such, it’s vital to retain a healthy amount of suspicion, undertake some due diligence, and ultimately seek some advice, before co-operating with any activities that arouse suspicion.

At PDL, we’ve seen just about every type of fraud case there is, and caught fraudsters enacting every trick in the book. We’re always updating our understanding of scammers’ methods, to ensure we’re best-placed to get to the bottom of all the cases with which our clients entrust us.

To help you become a little more fraud savvy, here are our top 5 fraud prevention tips:


1 – Take Your Time With Cryptocurrency

Since Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies burst into public awareness in recent years, many people have invested money therein, with some success. However, it’s important to remember that these stories are the exceptions and not the rule. Far more prevalent have been the stories of huge losses, scams, frauds, and other presenting problems.

It’s important to remember that ‘Get rich quick’ schemes are nothing new, and that if someone or something is offering unbelievably high yield in a short time, it deserves equally high scrutiny. To use the old adage – if something seems too good to be true, it probably is.

So – don’t make instant decisions on cryptocurrency investments. Take 24 hours thinking and cooling-off time, and seek advice from a trusted friend – particularly if they’re financially savvy.

Take your time is one of many wider points to be made here, about finances and financial fraud in general. At PDL we prefer prevention rather than cure, and it’s – naturally – much harder to get your money back after a fraud than it is to stop it going in the first place.

Consider also your payment method for any transaction of which you’re remotely uncertain, remembering that credit card transactions are more protected than debit card transactions or bank transfers, and certainly do not go to meet someone in person with large sums of cash as there’s almost no subsequent recourse in cases of fraud.

2 – Speak To Friends About Online Romances

The primary reason that romantic scams continue to thrive despite being such well-covered ground, is the way in which the associated emotion can cloud the victim’s judgement.

Professional fraudsters are incredibly adept at establishing rapport – that feels entirely genuine – and at manoeuvring themselves into the trust of others.

We’ve had clients worldwide come to PDL having already sent large sums to romantic partners they’ve never met – carried away by the apparent relationship, rapport, and connection.

Of course, they’re simply victims of highly-skilled manipulators with bad intentions, meaning they’re often still partially convinced by the fraudster even while we’re working with them to extract them from the situation and recover their money where possible.

We advise that you always confide in a trusted friend before sending any money to an online romantic partner. Your friend’s emotional detachment from the situation is crucial in differentiating between a genuine romance and a romantic scam. Look out also for any red flags along the way, such as your partner’s unwillingness to have a phone call or video call, their back story not adding up or containing holes, or their reluctance to reveal much about themselves.



3 – Institution Imposter Scams

This is a type of fraud in which an individual or group may contact you, posing as an institution such as HMRC, a bank, or a service provider, seeking your personal details, or money.

While we all like to think we’re wise to such scams, nowadays, there are two reasons that fraud like this continues to work.

Firstly, the increasing sophistication of the fraudsters. Their approach and technology is always ’improving’ meaning their scams can appear very genuine.

And secondly, our natural tendency to defer to authority. Organisations like HMRC, or a bank, are things we usually take quite seriously and attempt to show cooperation to. Fraudsters know this and look to exploit it.

Institutions like these have systems and processes in place by design. It’s extremely unlikely that their means of contact would be a spontaneous, withheld-number phone call to you. If you receive one, inform the caller that you will hang up and call the organisation back – on the number you already have for the organisation, rather than a number the caller gives you.

The genuine organisation’s employees should not take issue with this – it is something they are aware of as good security practice, and are trained to encourage. If the caller shows any anger or irritation relating to this, the evidence would suggest it’s even more likely that this is a fraud at work.

If you receive emails from institutions like this asking you for personal information or money, scrutinise it, and call the institution directly to verify the communication’s accuracy.

In short – protect your bank account as fiercely as you’d protect its contents in cash in your pocket.


4 – Consider Greater Email & Data Security

In January 2020, we wrote a full blog post on data security which is full of useful advice to ensure you’re protected online.

One of the key points with security is to consider greater email encryption, so be sure to research the level of security offered by your current email provider, and how you may be able to increase your level of security, either by upgrading with the provider, or switching to another.

Another thing you can do to protect yourself online, not just regarding email but in general, is to use a VPN (Virtual Private Network) to equip yourself with protection and anonymity online.

If you’d like to discuss the specifics of your situation so we can give more direct and specific advice, don’t hesitate to contact PDL.


5 – Don’t Be Embarrassed!

It’s simultaneously worrying and reassuring to consider that a fraud in some form, on some level, will probably happen to us all on at least one occasion.

One of the primary reasons a fraud is prevented, minimised, or stopped in its tracks, is the victim sharing some details with a trusted friend, colleague, or advisor. Someone with some detachment who is more inclined to spot the red flags and help the victim take the necessary steps.

We have often encountered clients who are at first shy or embarrassed – perhaps blaming themselves – for becoming victims of fraud.

To which we would say, please don’t be embarrassed! Fraudsters’ methods are manipulative and increasingly sophisticated. There is no shame in falling for their advanced and devious methods.

The vital thing, and the final point in this post, is to speak to people. Seek advice, share stories, be healthily suspicious, and take a constantly protective attitude to your data, finance, and personal information.

A Private Detective’s Data Security Advice

A very frequent question we receive from our corporate and individual clients who work with sensitive data is how to better protect and secure that data.

This is evidently an issue that has become increasingly relevant in recent years, and looks likely to only continue to do so.

We’re always happy to provide our clients with extensive and comprehensive advice to ensure and improve their data security.

Here is a brief outline of some of the essential points that may be useful to you, whether you work with/around sensitive data, or are protective of your personal information.

Treat Your Devices As Currency 

It’s really important to keep in mind the value of data, in the modern age. This is multiplied tenfold if your work involves handling data, sensitive information, or anything relating to business or security that may be the subject of espionage – which is, we must repeatedly remind our clients, a very real thing.

A perfect example is in a hotel room scenario. Often the first thing we’ll do is put cash, passports, jewellery etc in the hotel room safe. Great – a sensible thing to do.

However this is somewhat undermined when we then leave laptops and tablets out on the side. Often unlocked, easy-to-unlock, or otherwise accessible with sensitive information on display.

In this age of data, our devices are (and contain) a currency, that’s arguably as valuable or more valuable than the actual currency that’s securely stowed in the safe. Put your laptops, tablets and devices in the safe!

A private detective security advice



VPN stands for virtual private network, and it is probably the most straightforward way to ensure a high level of security and encryption.

Using one is about improving your online privacy – even when using public networks – and being able to use the internet with anonymity.

Our general advice is to look at the security and encryption levels across the email servers and messaging apps that you use. Specifically, and bluntly, our advice is to get a VPN.

Our advice on choosing and using a VPN is specific and detailed. Get in touch if you want to discuss this in greater depth.

Question Data Sharing 

This is about your right to ask organisations who request your information why they want it, and who they will share it with. This is something that they are required to tell you.

Often they slip under the radar, or hide their detail behind simplistic fronts, to ensure they get your data, which is then sold on – very quickly.

A prime example is encountered when you connect to the wifi in a cafe. In our rush to get online we usually simply click the tick box to give agreement to the terms and conditions. Usually what we’re consenting to here is for our information to then be sold on.

As such it could also be argued that this wifi isn’t really “Free” but rather that whilst the price isn’t strictly monetary, we as the users, and our data, are the product and financial incentive in the deal.

Remember It’s Not All Digital!

Data security is largely about bringing cyber security to the front of our minds, to catch up with the rapidly escalating digital age. A prime example of this is – as asserted above – the need to cultivate habits like putting our laptops in hotel room safes.

However, in this process we mustn’t lose our awareness that not all data is digital. Our laptops in the hotel safe is entirely undermined if we then leave a physical piece of paper with sensitive information on it by the bedside, or our credit card sitting on the hotel room desk.

Protecting ourselves in an all-encompassing, multi-discipline endeavour nowadays, and we must be on the ball.

What Questions Should I Ask A Private Detective?

Hiring a private detective is an important decision for all clients, whether corporate clients or private individuals.

Getting it right is key to efficiency, trust, cost, and ultimately a successful outcome.

It’s important to ask a private detective any questions you may have, to better understand their credentials and how they work, so that you have essential trust in them when working together.

If you’re contacting a private detective it’s most likely because you’ve been in some way wronged or find yourself in a situation where you need help in some form.

So make sure the person you’re instructing to help is in fact going to help and not hinder.

Here’s our suggestion on what questions to ask a private detective:

What Is Your Background And Experience?

An important first question, because background and experience is key. A private detective learns his/her trade and gains their skill from years of experience.

An experienced detective with a background in key areas such as police, government etc is more likely to have what’s necessary to get the job done well and thoroughly for you.

Make sure you ask about their background and experience and that you like what you hear.

Are You Willing To Meet Me In Person?

Of course, if the detective is in London and you’re in Melbourne, doing so would be difficult and perhaps unrealistic in terms of time, logistics and costs.

However, if it’s reasonable to meet then an unwillingness to meet is a red flag. A client should feel they understand and trust the detective they are instructing.

At PDL – as long as we feel safe to do so – we will always meet with any client or prospective client.

Do You Have A Contract Or Agreement Form?

Any formal, professional service should have some form of contract or agreement to set out the terms of the service and working relationship.

It is equally important for both detective and client, ensures details are clear and specific, and both parties know where they stand throughout.

Are You Insured?

Essential in a client’s due diligence is ensuring a private detective they’re working with for the first time is professional enough to have done their own.

Do a quick risk assessment. If something was to go wrong what is the risk/loss to you?

Do You Have A Limited Company? What Entity Am I dealing with?

An error we see in many situations we’re investigating after the event is that people have been stung when not knowing who/what entity they were dealing with.

Little things help clients here, such as asking for a formal estimate on headed paper, checking the name on the bank account you’re sending payment to, checking if the company is a sole trader or a limited company.

What’s Your ICO Number?

Every UK company should have an ICO number. The ICO (Information Commissioner’s Office) is in charge of UK Data Protection.

The Data Protection (Charges and Information) Regulations 2018 require every organisation or sole trader who processes personal information to pay a data protection fee to the ICO, unless they are exempt.

There are checks that you can do to make sure the detective or investigation company you’re dealing with is on the register i.e. Searching the register.

Who Will Handle/Work On My Case?

It’s understandable that a private detective or investigation company does not want to provide names of their detectives and operatives or too much detail on their processes as this may affect the investigation.

However, it’s good to know who’s who and who will be doing what, roughly speaking. At least ensuring you know the basic details – enough so as to feel involved and that things aren’t being kept from you. If they are, that’s another red flag.

Are You Willing To Be A Witness In Court If Needed?

Even if you may not expect it, your case could lead to legal proceedings. So it’s good to know that your private detective or investigation company will stand up when it counts, even if this is simply a signed witness statement

How Does Your Fee System Work?

Can they transparently set out how their fee system works? If their website doesn’t display their fee system, ask. Don’t let fees by one of the surprises in your case.

At PDL we aim to be as open as we safely, responsibly, professionally can on every element of how we work. You can read about our fee system here.

Ultimately, when working with a private detective it’s really important that you trust them, have faith in the experience/credentials, and are comfortable working with them. So make sure you ask the questions you want to ask, and have the conversations to need to have, to get to that position.

Trusted Private Detectives


Trust is quite possibly the single biggest concern for our clients and potential clients. Quite understandably, before they agree to work with a private detective, they want to ascertain that that private detective is a trustworthy operative, working with honesty, transparency, diligence and a strong ethical code. Especially as very often the client’s need to hire a private detective may itself have arisen from an apparent breach of their. It is a sensitive issue – one we work extremely hard to overcome.


It can sometimes take a few weeks consultation for a client to feel comfortable and confident to instruct us, and this is often down to previous bad experiences with incompetent, untrustworthy or rogue private detectives.

The most uncertain clients often cite previous instances in which a detective they’ve instructed has unfortunately proven under-qualified or incompetent. This even stretches to detectives taking a client’s initial payment then ceasing communication, or taking payment then not actually completing the task in hand – for example, taking payment for a surveillance service, not undertaking the surveillance, and reporting no findings.

Experiences like these have naturally made the client more guarded in future dealings with private detectives, meaning we need to work to show how trustworthy they are. This includes demonstrating our strong, established background in the industry, as sadly there are unqualified operatives with little genuine experience.

Trusted private detective



We’re wary also of conveying too negative a message about the state of the industry. This stems from our frustration with the industry, having many times faced the challenging (but rewarding) task of restoring the trust of a client whose trust has been damaged elsewhere.

Not all private detectives are rogues, of course, very far from it indeed. Certainly we pride ourselves on our transparency, honesty and ethics. We’d like to see an honest conversation about the trust issues in the industry and play our part in re-building essential trust in the profession.


The success we achieve for our clients speaks for itself in the number of referrals we receive from previous clients and other trusted sources.

Having had a referral from a trusted colleague, friend or associate, many of our clients begin working with us secure in the knowledge that we’re a thoroughly trustworthy, ethical company.

With all clients, any trust concerns are quickly eased as we begin to deliver clear results early on. Or even following an initial conversation, we do our utmost to provide the reassurances they need. Our trustworthiness is something on which we pride ourselves, and something that’s crucial to our ongoing successful working relationships.


The best way for us to allay any trust concerns you may have is to have a chat. To discuss how and why you can trust us, or anything else about our services, get in touch