Comments Off on How to Hire a Private Investigator
In 23 years in the business, there is one thing I hear within the first minute of a phone call from a prospective client. They tell me they have never hired a private investigator before.
Many do not know what to expect. Expectations are sometimes low. Sometimes expectations are high.
With increased advertising and competition on the internet, it would be helpful to know what to ask someone when you want to hire a private investigator. It would be helpful to know how much you should expect to pay. Here are a few ideas to get you started when you make that one time decision to hire a private detective.
There are a number of reasons to hire a private investigator close to you or the site of the investigation. While many people hire me over the phone after seeing my website, we take some time to answer their questions to address their concerns.
Lately, I have looked at some of the paid advertisements for private investigation that I have seen at the top of the search page. You will recognize the paid ads because, typically, they have the word “ad” next to their listing.
There is nothing wrong with this. These companies pay for each click they receive because they are not showing high enough on the search organically. However, some may be local companies while others may be nationwide located far away from you or the location of your investigation.
I decided to click on a couple of these ads just to see how they interacted with prospects. I never told them I had an investigation. I clicked on their online chat feature and I asked them questions like: Are you in Kansas City? Are you in Missouri?
They avoided answering the geographic questions. The closest answer I got was that they investigators nationwide. I asked them what their private investigator agency license number is in Missouri, because I did not see it on their website. The response was typically they needed to know more about my case (I never said I had a case). I told them under Missouri private investigator licensing laws they are required to have their license number on their website.
There are other companies like this who do get their license in several states. However, they are still located far away from both you and the target location.
Here is an insider tip on how to maximize your investment in a private investigator. When you hire one of these companies, you will pay them an hourly rate or a flat fee. After you hire them, many companies then will find a private investigator (hopefully licensed) and they will ask them to work for a reduced rate. So now, you may be getting an inexperienced investigator willing to work for $40 an hour rather than $100 an hour (an average hourly rate). Most experienced investigators will not accept a subcontract rate that low.
You would be better off hiring a local person knowing what you are paying for rather than financing a referral. Not always, but usually, you would be getting a better quality private investigator and you can speak directly to them rather than communicate through a middle man.
I have heard that there are some of these referral companies out there who may not actually use a licensed investigator for your case. I cannot confirm this. Wouldn’t you rather have someone who has went through the licensing process, is answerable to their state’s licensing board, and who may be required to take ongoing CEUS (continuing education units) to maintain their license? Wouldn’t you rather have someone that, if your case goes to court, your evidence is admissible and your private detective is eligible to testify in court. I would be pretty upset to spend some money on hiring someone only to find out if they are called to testify their testimony is thrown out because they are not licensed.
How Much Should You Pay?
This is going to vary depending on the experience of the investigator, what kind of case you have, and the location involved. Typically, a private investigator charges between $60 and $150 per hour. The higher end investigator might be working a specialized area such as computer or cell phone forensics. If you are hiring someone to do an audio and/or video bug sweep of your home or office, what you pay will vary by the amount of square footage involved. Many TSCM (technical surveillance counter-measures) professional will have a minimum due to the expensive equipment and training involved in this service.
Most private investigators will require your fees up front. However, expectations for both parties should be outlined in a contract.
You should expect to pay either a flat fee for the service, or an hourly rate, mileage and related expenses. You should also expect to pay for the time the investigator spends compiling a written report and video editing, as required.
Have a Contract
The idea of a contract scares a lot of people. However, you should require a contract. A good contract, or retainer agreement, will protect the interest of both the private investigator and the customer. You will know what the private investigator expects from you and what you are obligated to. For example, if you hinder the investigation you have forfeited your retainer. On the flip side, you know what you expect from the private detective for the money you are paying in retainer.
Do You Pay if Nothing Happens?
Some of these nationwide referral companies offer that you will pay nothing if nothing happens. Beware of this offer. They are either working in such volume that they are looking for an average financial return, or they are using such inexperience investigators that they are paying them a cheap subcontract rate and you are getting what they pay for.
If, for example, you hire someone to watch your spouse because you are expecting they are cheating, you should still expect to pay for that investigators hourly rate, mileage and any associated expenses (video medium). However, an ethical and professional private investigator will take video of the scene they are watching once per hour with a time/date stamp to show they were there and what they were observing at that time.
There are a variety of reasons why nothing may be happening. It could be, the target is not doing what you thought they were doing. In the case of a cheating spouse, it may be the other person was not available on that particular day.
Another possibility when it comes to surveillance is how paranoid is the person the investigator is watching. The more you have confronted him or her recently about your suspicions, the more likely they are going to be looking over their shoulder more frequently, making the investigators job tougher. If the target is driving well over the speed limit and running traffic lights, you cannot expect the investigator to put themselves and others at risk because of this.
Now You Know
This list certainly is not inclusive. However, now you may be more aware of what are reasonable expectations and how to maximize your investment in getting the peace of mind you are looking for.
Comments Off on Courts: Protect Your Process Servers
I’ve blogged about this before. Too many times, process servers are assaulted and the very courts they are serving summonses for do nothing about it.
The latest incident resulted in death. A female process server was attacked and killed by dogs. http://www.foxnews.com/us/2016/06/17/dogs-kill-woman-serving-court-papers-at-texas-home.html
In the 24+ years I have been serving for the courts, I’ve been physically assaulted twice. In spite of state and federal statutes that say the contrary, there ends up being no prosecution, let alone serious charges.
The courts depend upon process servers to serve summonses, subpoenas and other documents, yet we are not given the respect or protection.
I urge legislators to enact tougher legislation and, then, prosecutors and judges to do their jobs. We are literally sticking out necks out for you.
Published in categories: Uncategorized
Comments Off on Your First Time Hiring a Private Investigator
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.
Comments Off on You Don’t Have to Catch “The Catch”
TV mogul Shonda Rhimes may have finally hit a dud. Her latest attempt at must see television, “The Catch” didn’t fare well in the ratings out of the gate. And, as a private investigator, I was not that impressed with this PI show.
If you, like many, did not see “The Catch”, it is about a woman who owns a PI agency and is duped by a purported love interest. After he gets what he wants by hacking her company, he disappears from his fiance’s life (the female PI).
I was immediately unimpressed in the first few minutes when she detains an art thief and he rightfully reminds the character she cannot arrest him. As she zip ties his hands, she lets him know the cops can arrest him and they are standing by. I am no lawyer or a cop, but it seems like unlawful detainer. It is not something I would do.
Long story short, “The Catch” is another show about a private investigator who does things that real life private investigators are not able to do. I am okay with that if you watch it knowing it is just a television show. But so many people believe this junk and then call real life PIs like me expecting us to behave the same.
I remember getting a call from someone a few years back who wanted me to find someone. All he had was a photo and he wanted me to use “facial character recognition” to track him down. I snarkily suggested he call our (fictitious) Hollywood bureau for assistance.
The bottom line is most PI work is not sexy or exciting. There is a lot of it that is either sitting in front of a computer doing research or sitting in a car bored for hours with your eyes peeled so catch your target in case they appear.
Maybe real private investigators just are not must see TV.
Published in categories: Investigations, Kansas City private detective, Kansas City private investigator, kc-pi.com, personal injury, private detective, private investigator, Process Server, Process Service, ron rugen, surveillance, worker's comp
Comments Off on Megyn Kelly Riding Trump’s Coattails
I’m really exhausting of all of the publicity Megyn Kelly is seeking to pump up her awareness at the expense of Donald Trump. And the rest of the media is helping her as they have her as guests on their shows. The latest I saw was The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.
I don’t have to go into the background. Unless you’ve lived in a cave the last several months, then you know it’s because Trump thinks she treated him unfairly in a presidential debate. That is something I won’t debate. You have probably already made your decision.
First, Megyn Kelly is not a journalist. That’s not a slam; it’s just a fact. She’s a talk host. True journalists don’t give their opinions publicly. Or at least when I was a reporter/news director we didn’t Actually, even when I hosted a radio show in the 80’s we didn’t. But times have changed in talk formats. It probably started with Rush Limbaugh in the 80’s.
But, due to the never ending hunger for news, particularly on the 24-hour news channels, this has become a bigger story than what it should be. But, nonetheless, you either love Trump or you hate him. And much of the media loves to hate hm.
My own experience with Megyn Kelly wasn’t stellar. I was on her midday TV show in November 2011 regarding the missing Baby Lisa case. On live TV, she was heading me down a path of questioning that involved an incorrect assumption. I don’t necessarily blame her for that since the producer I worked with probably briefed her and/or fed her the questions.
So, on live national TV, knowing I couldn’t say something knowingly inaccurate or that I did not believe, I had to quickly and succinctly answer her question by rephrasing my answer so as to bring things back on the right track.
That was the first and last time I was on her show. A lot of that had to do with a New York security guard who claimed to be a private investigator (but wasn’t licensed anywhere) who, I am told, told Megyn that if I was on again instead of him, he wouldn’t work with them anymore. The New York guy won.
A few months later, her producer called me and wanted to pick my brain about a breaking development on the same story. Seeing the phone call for what it was, I asked, “oh, do you need me on the show today?’ The producer said no, we just need some background. Famed alleged bigot/ex-cop Mark Fuhrman was on the show that day. I suspected they wanted to feed him my information to make him look knowledgeable since he really had no direct involvement in the case.
So, that’s my experience with Megyn Kelly. Regardless, she appears certainly to be using Donald Trump to pump up her own career. And it appears to be working.
Published in categories: Baby Lisa, Donald Trump, Investigations, Kansas City private detective, Kansas City private investigator, kc-pi.com, Megyn Kelly, private detective, private investigator, Process Server, Process Service, ron rugen, surveillance
Listen to the July 2015 edition of American PI (private investigator) Podcast as Ron Rugen visits with host Paul Jaeb about Rugen Team Investigations and his recent work with ESPN.
This week would have been both my mom and my dad’s birthdays. My mom passed in 2003 from pancreatic cancer. My dad passed in 2013. He was 91. Never smoked really but the emphysema he got from grain dust in the grain bins as a farmer affected his lung capacity.
I am reflecting today on the things I learned from my parents.
I started my private investigation and process serving business in 1994 to supplement my income. I have been doing it either full or part time ever since. Prior to starting the business part time, I was working for the postal service. The overnight hours just basically sucked, but I needed a sabbatical from a desk job that I had previously.
Nine years after working for the postal service while raising my sons full time with no child support, I took a daring moved in 2002 and went full time with my PI business. I wanted to be awake and alert all the time for my kids and the money no longer seemed as important as being the best father I could be.
When my parents found out I left the postal job, they both broke down in tears because everyone perceives it to be a good job. My dad had farmed since he was 13 years old and he knew how hard it was to be self employed. But I also knew that being the best parent I could be was more important than being emotionally attached to a house and working six nights a week and most holidays.
What do I realize now that I learned from my parents?
Being self employed is difficult, not having a predictable paycheck but family is most important. As long as there is food on the table and a roof over our heads (I know, it sounds cliche), and we spend time together, that is the most important.
My mom taught me to be nurturing. She was more demonstrative. Even today, when I see my three children, before we leave each other, I hug them and tell them that I love them. They tell me they love me too. They have no idea how happy it is to hear those words.
My dad taught me to work hard. Unless you work for yourself, you have no idea how hard you’re going to have to work when you are self-employed. Much like my dad working as late as the sun was up plowing fields, discing, baling hay, harvesting crops and more, There are many days where I may leave home at 7am and not return until 10 pm. I smile because my dad never really understood what I do for a living, but he gave me the gift of hard work. It is funny because he always thought I was lazy growing up on the farm. I just did not like farm work. Now, I realize how lucky I had it living on a 240-acre farm with a fishing pond and a creek running through our property. I started showing how I could work hard in college as one semester I took a full class load, worked at the campus NPR affiliate, working weeknights doing voiceover worked at a PBS television station, and worked weekends deejaying top 40 music at the local AM station.
Both my parents taught me the importance of family. Growing up we were not rich, but I never felt we were poor. I had clothes to wear, never went hungry, and I felt cared for.
My parents always made sure I was in Sunday School every Sunday and I knew that if I did not behave in church, there were plenty of trees offering switches for my backside. And both of my parents led by example. Both taught Sunday School and dad was a deacon and trustee in the church. He never felt comfortable being a public speaker. You see he had to quit school at age 13 to run the family farm because his dad was blind. That being said, when the church needed his support, he never said no.
My dad was a man of integrity and my mom was a kind lady with a good heart. My dad always took pride in the fact that he could work with people that others could not get along with. He told me your reputation is like a house. It takes a while to build, but it can be torn down overnight.
When I was in the hospital around 8 years old getting my tonsils removed, my mom slept in the chair next to my bed. When I was about 5 years old and I got in the creek water over my head, my dad jumped in with his overalls on and rescued me. Now, as a parent, I know the meaning of sacrifice and I would give my life, without hesitation, for any one of my three children. I know that unconditional love.
Happy birthday mom and dad. Enjoy this day at the feet of God as you are hand in hand together. I know Dad you are no longer lonely for Mom.
Published in categories: family law, Investigations, Kansas City private detective, Kansas City private investigator, kc-pi.com, private detective, private investigator, Process Server, Process Service, ron rugen
A Springfield Missouri, area woman may have been killed by her own daughter who, it appears, was faked being wheelchair bound to scam all comers. Clauddinea “Dee Dee” Blanchard was found murdered last week and her daughter Gypsy was missing, originally thought to be in danger.
Long story short (because you have probably heard about this by now), Gypsy turns up in Wisconsin with her boyfriend and is perfectly ambulatory. Also turning up in Wisconsin is a knife suspected to be the murder weapon and $4400 cash. Now the pair are awaiting extradition back to Missouri.
To add fuel to the original scam, the mother and daughter received a home ten years ago from Habitat from Humanity. This makes one wonder about motive. Did Gypsy want to escape the wheelchair and mother Dee Dee did not want the scam to end? Who knows? We don’t know…not yet.
Predictably, the internet sleuths are now out in full force. They create Facebook pages to discuss the case, see what they can dig up to impress their colleagues, and, subsequently, threaten those who disagree with them.
Until I was thrust into the investigation of a case that drew nationwide attention nearly four years ago, I had not idea how bat shit crazy some of these real crime obsessive people could be. When they did not like my observations in that case, they attempted to threaten, intimidate and bully me. Now, in another case, they are doing the same to a colleague. Some of these people can be just as bizarre as the cases they obsess over.
It is okay to turn Facebook into an internet coffee shop and have an exchange of ideas. It is not okay to attempt to intimidate or bully those who do not agree with you. And, yet, some of these same people are the first ones to carry the banner against bullying in schools that have led to teen suicide. Let’s all play nice.
There’s a new app I read about today that helps someone hire a private investigator. For $59, it says you can hire a PI for a quick one hour job. On the surface it may sound like a good thing, but I see a lot of problems.
I am not going to mention the name of the app because I do not want to promote it. I am sure you can find it yourself but, why?
It has been reportedly started by a guy who allegedly spent big bucks hiring private investigators to check on his kids after his divorce. The article claims (emphasis on “claims”) that he “never knew if they were actually doing what they were hired to do”.
Point #1: If you hire a private investigator for surveillance and no activity happened, it is reasonable (assuming they may not already do it) to have them videotape for 15 seconds once per hour to prove that they are on the scene. The private investigator cannot make things happen. He or she should only be an unbiased observer from a distance documenting activity.
The author of this app reportedly wants to make private investigation “affordable and less skeezy”. Not sure what skeezy means but affordable is a nebulous term at best.
Point #2: When you hire a private investigator, it is much like hiring an attorney. You get what you pay for. The app says the PI would be hired for $59 an hour. Likely, somebody is taking a cut for a referral fee. Which means, you may as well try to find a PI on Fiverr.
Most good private investigators I know work somewhere in the range of $75 to $125 per hour. Price depends on market, experience, specialization, etc. Surveillance cameras and other equipment, to do the job right, costs money. Licensing, insurance, and, in many states, ongoing continuing educations units (CEUs), cost money.
This is also assuming that the private investigator is just going to run out, watch someone for an hour, and be done. Any time the private investigator works on your case, they should be paid (much as a lawyer but usually not that nitpicky). So, if you hire a PI to go out and do surveillance, and something happens, it is going to take their time to put together a report and edit together relevant parts of the video. One hour of surveillance work, IF there is substantive activity, could result in 1-2 hours of report preparation, depending on how much video needs to be edited and packaged, as well as transferring a time/date stamp so you can verify when it happened.
The article says the private investigator could be hired for a quick hour’s worth of work. Really?
Point #3: Again, you get what you pay for. Many quality, professional private investigators will not run out for just an hour’s worth of work. Many have a minimum number of hours because it just is not worth the time to run out for an hour’s worth of work.
The app is targeted to the DC area. So, for those who live around the nation’s capitol, if you want to find someone who has little experience, so desperate for work that they will take a “cheap” case and, possibly, mess it up for you because of their inexperience, have at it. It would be like buying a suit at Walmart, only worse.
Published in categories: cheating spouse, divorce, Investigations, Kansas City private detective, Kansas City private investigator, kc-pi.com, private detective, private investigator, ron rugen, surveillance
We are very excited about a new service we are offering. It is all done in house and unlike most private investigator companies, we do not subcontract it out to other private detectives.
We are now offering retrieval of data from cell phones otherwise called cell phone forensics. The criteria you must meet for us to do the service is two-fold: 1) You must own the cell phone, and 2) you must be the person who pays the cell phone bill.
Our latest client received nearly 1600 pages of retrieved data. As you can imagine, that was impressive.
If you need this type of service, ask the private investigator if they do it themselves or they subcontract it. If they truthfully tell you they “have a guy”, that means both the private detective company and the one actually doing the cell phone data retrieval has to make a profit. That means you pay more.
To introduce our service, through June 20, 2015, we are offering cell phone data retrieval for only $300. Call us at 1-888-644-7700 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We are now your cell phone private investigator in Kansas City, Topeka, Des Moines, Springfield MO,, Columbia MO, St Louis, and soon in Dallas, Miami Beach, and Tampa. We are licensed private investigators in Missouri, Iowa, Kansas, and pending in Texas and Florida.
Published in categories: cell forensics, cell phone data, cheating spouse, defense attorney, divorce, Investigations, Kansas City private detective, Kansas City private investigator, kc-pi.com, private detective, private investigator, ron rugen, surveillance, Uncategorized