More often than not many of my phone calls from individuals tell me that they have never hired a private investigator before. My reply is that of understanding and I will walk them through the process.
What should you expect? Well, every private detective does things differently, but there are some pretty common themes with most professional private investigators.
Prices will vary based on the service you require and the depth of experience of your private investigator. For example, it is not uncommon to expect a private investigator to charge $100 per hour for surveillance. That is, if they have been in business for a while. It is a situation of you get what you pay for. If you find one that will charge you $60 per hour, chances are they need business and they are very new to the PI world. If someone tries to low ball me by comparing my rates to that of someone who has a discount store price, I reply “they know what they’re worth”.
On surveillance, private investigators typically charge what is called “port to port”. The clock starts the time they leave the office for your assignment until they return to the office. You are also likely paying mileage. Why? Because at this point, they are officially on the clock for you. They are not on their own time nor can they be doing other work while they are on your job.
What happens if the private detective is doing surveillance for you and there is no activity? It is reasonable to expect that the private investigator still shoots video tape once per hour with a time date stamp. That way you feel comfortable that they were there even when nothing happened.
Depending on how much activity occurred will depend on if you pay the investigator for time editing the video and compiling a report. The private investigator is not “nickle diming” you by billing you for this. Again, this is work that is being done for you and their time is not their own.
Based on television shows, if you have never hired a private investigator before, you may expect him or her to be former law enforcement. That is not always the case. There are many other professions that make good private detectives depending on the services they specialize in. For example, my college degree is in broadcasting and film. I am probably better than many at shooting video without the camera shaking and bobbing. A private investigator that specializes in forensic accounting may have a CPA background.
It is also very common for the private investigator to take a retainer up front. Having been in this business for 24 years I can tell you that some clients are slow to pay or have no plans on paying you. It is hard to repo services. So when you put the private investigator on the calendar on a given day and time frame, they are committed to you. Therefore, expect to pay the amount at the time of booking.
Finally, expect to sign a contract or retainer agreement. This helps you understand what you can expect from the private investigation service.
All in all, if you have questions about the process or your private investigator’s experience, ask. You are the client. And you have probably never hired a private investigator before.
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