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.