A modern private investigator is nothing like what you may have seen on television or in movies. Hollywood often depicts a private investigator as a Sherlock Holmes type character. While it may be fun to watch these characters on the screen, in reality, a real private eye requires proper training to do their job, and it may not be as action-packed as Hollywood makes it seem.
Learn more about the different types of surveillance, basic surveillance techniques, skills, and principles required to complete a surveillance job safely and ethically.
Skills of an Effective Private Investigator
There are a number of specialized skills required to become a private investigator, including pre-licensing training. It also requires a blend of knowledge, combining analytical skills with exceptional communication skills, excellent report-writing skills, photography skills, and other interpersonal skills. A private investigator should also pay close attention to detail, have good conflict resolution skills, and be incredibly patient, as some investigations may take months to years to complete.
Types of Surveillance
The definition of surveillance is an act of observing another in order to gather evidence. In the investigative world, surveillance casts quite a large net and can refer to a number of different things. Below are just some of the common types of surveillance that private investigators use.
Digital Surveillance: This type of surveillance is exactly what it sounds like — the monitoring of an individual or group’s digital activity. This can be executed through social media or other public online forums.
Mechanical Surveillance: Mechanical surveillance refers to when an investigator utilizes technology to aid in surveillance. This may include the use of video cameras or voice recordings. The benefit of mechanical surveillance is that it limits human error, and acts as an aid for the investigator.
Overt Surveillance and Covert Surveillance: The difference between overt surveillance and covert surveillance is easy to identify. Overt surveillance is obvious to those within the environment being surveyed, including security officers in stores or other retail locations or cameras in a checkout line. Overt surveillance is less obvious, like using a hidden camera or GPS tracking device.
Surveillance Tips and Techniques
There are many basic surveillance techniques investigators can use to effectively gather intel and information on behalf of a client.
Ethics of Surveillance
As mentioned, today’s private investigators don’t participate in the privacy violations you may see in pop culture — such as breaking into homes, hacking into accounts, or bugging phones. Instead, a private investigator must adhere to strict, lawful guidelines when surveying a client.
Failure to comply with these rules and guidelines can lead to legal trouble, so it’s best to refer to each state’s surveillance laws. Be aware of trespassing and audio recording laws, and know whether or not the state you are operating in is a one-party or two-party consent state.
Learn more About Surveillance
Private investigator firms can offer a talented network of qualified, trustworthy private investigators with a proven track record of success. InQuest solutions offer over 20 years of investigative experience, expanding to all 50 states. We offer surveillance and activity checks to help gather information in matters of workers’ compensation, general liability, corporate fraud, medical malpractice, long-term disability or infidelity. Collectively, our team has completed over 10,000 surveillance or activity check investigations, marrying robust training with modern technology.