5 Common Misconceptions About Private Investigators

The life of a PI is glamorous, exciting and dangerous.

We’ve all seen the movies and know the image private investigators are given. The truth is, that image isn’t very accurate. While it can be exciting, I don’t know if many PIs would call their job “glamorous”.

When it comes down to what private investigators can and can’t do, the public’s image is just as distorted. Think you know what private investigators can and can’t do? Read this list of 5 common misconceptions to see if you’re right.

1. Private investigators can get bank account information.

Private investigators are able to identify where bank accounts associated with a person are, but what they don’t have access to is specific information about these accounts prior to any judgment. The only way to obtain this information is to go through formal channels and obtain a subpoena. Of course, if the account holder gives you permission you can also check the accounts but that rarely is the case.

 2Private investigators can get phone records.

The same way private investigators don’t have complete access to bank accounts, a private investigator can’t access private phone records without a subpoena.  Recent laws and acts have changed the amount and legitimate ways information can be obtained. What private investigators can do is find out what carrier or person is associated with a given phone number.

3. Private investigators can get social security numbers.

Not always. Without permissible purpose there is no legal way to obtain the social security number of an individual. If a private investigator or a company is telling you they can do this without permissible purpose, they are unequivocally saying they can get you the number illegally.

4. Private investigators charge too much for a complete search – I can get it for $40 online.

Too often people are sucked into purchasing online background checks thinking they are receiving a full report. They hire an individual or merge their business feeling confident they have done their due diligence. Little do they know online searches only turn up so much information.

There is no national database for criminal records, and the only way to obtain a statewide search is through a private investigator or the state police. When conducting a background check online, the searcher is only getting limited results and could be missing out on vital information.

5. Private investigators can record any conversation – so you better watch out!

Wiretapping laws vary across the states, but one thing most have in common is the inability to legally record a conversation without consent from one of the parties. Some states require two-party consent, such as Massachusetts, where you can get a 15 year felony. In other states audio recording is acceptable as long as you are a party to the conversation.  For most cases, it is necessary to obtain a warrant to legally tap a phone or record a conversation, even in a public venue.


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