Private Investigators

Private Investigator To Find Someone

dash cam with real time gps tracker

How Do Private Investigators Find Someone

Private Investigators: How do they work and how much do they cost?

A private detective is an ordinary citizen that is hired to conduct investigations for legal or civil matters. Private detectives, or otherwise known as private investigators are relevant for conducting a wide variety of investigations such as of a missing person, sexual harassment, infidelity or cheating spouse, corporate and insurance fraud, background screening, computer forensics, and many more. Although the services they provide may differ depending on the case or industry in which they work, their skill sets are often very similar, as they are called upon to uncover facts and evidence, analyze information, and provide their clients with the results of their investigation. 

Private investigators will employ various methods of surveillance depending on who the person of interest (POI) is and why their client wants them tracked. If the objective is to find people who are long-lost friends or loved ones, then a private investigator can operate openly with all useful resources. However, if the investigation is for a legal purpose or a criminal defense, then a private detective will work with stealth and will carry the investigation with caution. While the common representation in movies and television glamorizes the work of a PI as being exciting and filled with action, in reality, this job requires patience and well-conducted research more than anything else. Dependent on the case at hand, a private detective’s arsenal of investigative techniques includes bug sweeps, checking criminal records, locating witnesses, using data sources such as public records and People Finder, etc.

5 Ways Private Detectives Locate Someone

To get their search started, a client discloses every piece of information they have on the person of interest (POI), which could be as simple as a name or old cell phone number, but as valuable as a past address. After gathering all the preliminary information from the client the private detective begins their work on the missing persons investigation. But how are corporate investigations or infidelity investigations conducted so you can locate friends and family? Here are the five most crucial techniques used to find a person of interest:

  1. Scanning Investigative Databases. Private investigators use their insider access to public databases like criminal and court records, social network data, and citizen details, as well as, private databases like People Finder to get all possible information about the person of interest. 
  2. Internet and Social Media Search. The internet is highly resourceful for tracing the activities and whereabouts of a POI. Personal detectives have the skills and the knowledge to search the internet effectively to find related web pages, links, comments, posts, and search history that can lead them to the missing person. In fact, with social media being so ubiquitous, this type of background investigation is one of the easiest ways to locate people such as friends or relatives.
  3. Interviewing. A private investigator will introspect people related to the person of interest. That means questioning, cross-questioning, and fact-checking with family members, colleagues, employees, neighbors, and all relevant acquaintances of the missing person. Interviews are particularly useful as a skilled personal detective can extract personal details, motives, and interests that cannot be searched for elsewhere. 
  4. Surveillance. After researching, a private investigator will start surveilling buildings and areas where the person of interest is most likely to be found. Sometimes, a private investigator may also surveil people that are likely to be collaborating or regularly interacting with the person of interest. Cheating spouse investigations, for example, may require an investigative company to employ GPS tracking devices to help with finding the person involved in the affair.
  5. Working alongside Law Enforcement offices. The chances of finding a missing person increase dramatically when a private investigator collaborates with the police or the justice department. Through this, hidden information is accessed, facts are corroborated and a much larger area is surveilled. 

Related Content: Hiring Someone For Child Custody

Cost Of Hiring A Private Detective To Find A Person Of Interest

Depending on a number of various factors, the cost of hiring a professional investigator varies over a large range. You can find a detective who is new to his job for a few hundred dollars or you can hire a licensed private investigator, experienced in law enforcement, for thousands of dollars. The cost that you end up paying will be determined by the reputation and success rate of the investigator, the nature of the services required, the tools such as hidden cameras and microphones required, and the number of associates needed by the private investigator. Moreover, you may be levied extra charges according to the urgency of the case in addition to travel expenses for the investigation. After all the above-mentioned factors are determined, you will come across the following methods of payment:

Flat Rate

This is commonly the method of transactions for smaller tasks such as background screening, bug sweep, document search, etc. These services are usually offered as standard and will run you around $100. 

Hourly Rate

For projects that are ongoing or are of a longer duration, if you hire private investigators they will charge you on an hourly basis. Again, depending on the nature of the service, travel expenses required, the additional cost of equipment such as hidden cameras and microphones, and associates hired by the private investigator, the hourly cost can vary across a large range. On average, you can expect to pay $60 to $80 per hour for a private detective. The following chart provides a more comprehensive breakdown of the average hourly cost of a private investigator.

Source: Thumbtack

Private investigator hourly rate:

National average hourly rate $105/hour
Hourly rate range $99-$150/hour
Low-end rate $65/hour
High-end rate $200/hour

PIs in Los Angeles, New York City, and other larger cities will likely have higher rates for services


For an ongoing project, a private detective will ask for a retainer which is to be applied against services rendered and expenses incurred. The cost of the retainer can also vary from case to case but generally, an upfront payment of $1500 is accepted.


PIs are extremely resourceful in helping you locate missing loved ones or any lost person who has gone missing. They are skilled individuals that increase the chances of finding your person of interest; an experienced private detective will use all technological and logistical tools to get the job done. There are plenty of options when hiring a private investigator to find someone at any price point, either on a fixed rate or at an hourly wage, but be sure to hire one who is licensed and well reputable. 

If you are interested in hiring an investigator to locate a lost person or any other application ranging from child custody issues to an online dating investigation, the best thing to do would be to speak to local law enforcement in your area and/or check popular review sites.