5 Different Types of Private Detective Duties

Do you fancy yourself an amateur sleuth? Trying to solve mysteries is exciting, and people-watching can be fun at a big event, but if you want to surveil people and get paid for it, maybe a career as a private detective is right for you.

The movies depict a private investigator as someone hired to get information any way they can, including picking locks, trespassing in buildings, rifling through desktops and filing cabinets, and looking for evidence. While that may sell popcorn, it isn’t reality. The duties and limitations a PI can do are far removed from the big screens and tv shows.

Keep reading to learn about private detective duties in the real world.

Duty #1. Getting Licensed

The first duty is to yourself to get licensed in a professional capacity. Anyone can ask anyone else to track someone for them. You or I could take pictures in public spaces and follow a person to see if they are doing what they say they are, but this doesn’t mean you are a real private investigator. You need to be licensed.

A license is required to advertise as a PI and get paid. The requirements vary from province to province, but essentially they are:

  • 18/19 years of age
  • No criminal record
  • Canadian Citizen
  • English Proficiency
  • Pass a government license course
  • Work 2400 hours under a PI beginners license

There are required courses to take, some of which are online, and then you can submit proof of completion and get your “PI Under Supervision” license. You must work under a licensed PI and then get your hours in.

Now you have a license and can start your new career. What will you be doing?

Types Of Investigations

A private investigator, like Star Quality Private Investigations, can be hired for many different jobs, but the main opportunities you will work on are:

Missing Persons This is a searching task where a missing person needs to be found like a

  • Past tenant that owes money
  • A contractor that has done incomplete or shoddy work
  • An employee suspected of worker compensation fraud
  • A person looking for biological parents
  • Missing spouse for child support
  • A person named in a will

Background Checks A PI can be hired to perform a background check on someone if there is a concern about credibility, integrity, character or financial stability, like for employment or child custody cases.

Child Custody A court may hire a PI to find evidence about unfit parenting in a case involving child custody or access.

Finding Missing Assets or Property There may need to find hidden assets from spouses during a divorce or someone starting a business relationship. Unpaid child support is often a reason for this investigation as well.

Duty #2. Researching

This job is about learning about the person you are “detecting,” which means digging into the data. You will be looking at various databases to find legal records, doing background checks, looking at family history and searching online social media to get the necessary information.

You will need to track their movements to find where people are and what they are doing, and online accounts are a great resource. You will become very familiar with all the social media platforms.

Duty #3. Surveillance

This is a big part of the job and isn’t as exciting as actors make it out to be. You are using a variety of methods to watch, track and record the movement of people, and this is done through:

  • Following on foot or in a vehicle
  • Watching from a safe distance with a camera
  • Recording someone on video

Surveillance is also done online, and tracking a person’s movements through social media is becoming easier.

Duty #4. Conducting Interviews

One of the best ways to get intelligence is through personal interviews. Talking to people and gathering information may be vital to achieving your goal and speeding up the time you do it.

You can talk to friends and family, workmates, witnesses to a crime and any other person with relevant information to assist you. Having good interpersonal skills are key to getting the right kind of information that will help your investigations.

Duty #5. Under Cover Operations

It may sound glamorous or dangerous, but often it just means working discreetly and remaining undetected. If you follow the law, you can covertly get evidence through undercover means like electronic surveillance or even collecting discarded items.

Being discreet will allow you to get closer to the person you are tracking so you can collect the best evidence possible. You cannot, however, impersonate a law enforcement person.

Techniques Used

To be effective as a private detective, some good techniques are employed to gather evidence, find missing persons and collect information. These include:

  • Video surveillance
  • Personal observations
  • Background checks
  • Monitoring social media
  • Skip tracing
  • Use of public databases

These are the main duties of a private investigator, and they are not for the faint of heart. It takes dedication and focus to succeed, but it is a very rewarding and exciting career.