Hiring a Private Investigator

I’m not a private investigator, I don’t work for one, I’m not married to one and I’m not being paid to write this article. I simply want to share what I learned a little while ago when I was faced a situation that had me at this junction: should I hire a private investigator or not? There are many reasons, too many to mention, for why a person might require a private investigator. I suspected my partner of cheating and had failed to uncover any hard evidence of an affair despite attempting a few suggestions that had worked for other people. I knew that I needed help, but lets face it, going to a complete stranger and asking for assistance with such a personal problem is hard. I got most of my tips online – I didn’t even approach my friends because I was scared that someone might let slip. What really stumped me was that to make a sensible decision about whether to hire a private investigator or not one would need to know a fair amount about what a private investigator is capable of, what information or evidence they can supply, how I can use that evidence and so on. So I went back online and researched these and other aspects. If you’re thinking, been there done that, then this should come as no surprise: after hours of searching and reading up about private investigators, I ended up even more uncertain about the decision I needed to make. There were so many “what if” questions that I needed to work through before I could weigh up my options. What if i’m wrong? What if i’m right? What if the private investigator scams me? What if the private investigator knows my partner? What if my partner finds out? What if my partner finds out and I had been wrong about my suspicions? You get the drift. I started writing the “what if” questions down and trying to scratch them off one by one. That sort of worked for the first few, but then I got a little impatient and started trying to group my questions so that I could scratch them off group at a time. My first few attempts failed. Miserably. Then I stumbled upon the word “blowback” and the penny dropped. This defined the very essence of my dilemna. I was most scared of blowback. For those of you who don’t know what blowback means, its basically a word to describe unintended negative consequences of an action. I heard it while watching House of Cards and Googled it on my phone because I had no idea what they were talking about. Anyways, all my “what if” questions centered around the unforeseeable consequences of hiring a private investigator, or basically, might my situation be worse after the worst case scenario of hiring a private investigator versus the worst case scenario of going it alone. So how does one answer questions based on consequences one cannot anticipate? I had no idea, and to be honest, I still don’t know, but it didn’t really matter. I looked at my problem from a different angle and that is where I started to think more clearly about my decision, and why I am writing this article. I said to myself that my relationship was broken. I then asked whether I wanted to fix it or throw it away. I wanted to fix it. Now, a relationship is a complex thing. Its also a delicate thing, and a valuable one too. I thought about what i’d do if various other things of mine were broken and i wanted to have them repaired. What if it was my watch, my cell phone, my car, my computer, my body… Looking at each item, I weighed up the worst cases of trying to fix it myself and having someone else fix it, and I arrived at the same conclusion each time. I was always better off having someone else fix it, but only if the person I chose was a professional with the right skills, equipment, experience and integrity. Well, I don’t mean to offend all private investigators, but even you have to admit that there are some shady characters in your industry. I guess its true of all industries, but this was a little more dire than what if my mechanic overcharges me. I had, by now, decided that if I could find a private investigator that met my specs and if I could afford the fees then I would be prepared to go ahead. Checking the equipment, skills or experience of an investigator would probably require another private investigator because what would I know about their training or work, so I left that for now. I thought the most difficult would be the integrity part, but that turned out to be the solution for me. I called up various private investigators and asked them whether or not they could supply references. Most of them said it was not possible because their clients details are strictly confidential and I understood that. Could I penalize a company for not handing me the name and contact details of a client. NO. But how could I check up whether they’re any good? So here’s what I did… I called back and said to each one that I needed to hear from a past client that they’re trustworthy and professional. I didn’t want to read online testimonials because anyone can write those. I suggested that a client call me. I would reimburse the client for their time if need be and for their call costs. They could call from private number and use a false name. I suppose you’re thinking what I thought too: but they could get anyone to call and pretend to be a past client. I know. But I used a little trick I got from the same blowback movie. I had 3 private investigators in mind, and all three had agreed to get a client to call me. After that, two were disqualified and one remained. What I did is told the private investigator that I had a few companies in mind, and that i’d be chatting to their clients to make up my mind. I asked each one to let me know when the client would call and also to tell me a little bit about what work they did and what the outcome was (no gory details or anything, just the basics). I also asked how the client found them in the first place. When the first client called, I said hello, thank you for calling me…blah blah…and explained that I wanted to hear from her about the work that the private investigator had done. I then said something like. “Joe” told me how he had caught your husband with another woman at a hotel and that the photos he took helped you to secure custody of your children. I explained to the client that I was scared about going ahead and just needed confirmation. The thing is that “Joe” had told me a different story about this client – like completely different in every respect. Instead of correcting me, this client not only agreed with my incorrect version, but was confidently adding additional fabrications to my story. At one point, I started wondering whether I had fudged. I remembered that there was one last bit of info that I had asked for and that was how the person found “Joe” in the first place. For this I asked straight up and sure as anything, the answer I got was spot on. I mean literally word for word as i’d written down from my conversation with Joe…”I was referred to him by a friend of mine that had used his services before and was happy with the service and the outcome”. Needless to say, he was off my list. The same thing happened with the 3rd client except that half way through the story, after the client had agreed to my fabrication, I changed my mind and said, “pardon me, I’ve got my facts mixed up, “Pete” actually said that … (and I gave the version he gave)”. This client put the phone down, and “Pete” never picked up my calls later that day. Client number two was the real deal. Almost every time I said something incorrect she corrected me. On a few occasions she never said anything outright, but I could hear she was holding back (possibly didn’t want to make too much of an issue by pointing out all the small inconsistencies). Anyways, after chatting to the client I felt confident that I could risk it. I was wrong all along by the way, I never needed a private investigator to begin with, but I did learn a valuable lesson in handling emotive situations – remove the emotion, break it down into manageable chunks and try and see it from a different perspective – one that is familiar to you – and don’t be afraid to bend the rules or tell a fib for the better good. I wish you all the best.

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