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Private Investigator To Find Someone

How Do Private Investigators Find Someone – Fact Sheet For 2024

A private detective is an ordinary citizen who is hired to conduct investigations for legal or civil matters. Private detectives are hired to conduct a wide variety of investigations such as finding missing persons, sexual harassment cases, infidelity or cheating spouse investigations, corporate and insurance fraud, background screening, computer forensics, and more. These surveillance experts will observe facts and evidence, analyze information, and provide their clients with the results of their investigation. In this article, we will discuss everything you need to know about hiring a private investigator to find someone. Let’s dive in!

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 investigate with caution.

While the common representation in Hollywood glamorizes the work of a PI as being exciting, in reality, the job requires patience and well-conducted research. Depending 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:

Scanning Investigative Databases

Forensic Analysis

Private investigators often have an edge when it comes to information retrieval due to their specialized access to certain databases. Both public and private databases serve as treasure troves of information that can provide a myriad of details about an individual.

Public databases often contain records that are accessible by general citizens but might require specialized knowledge to navigate or interpret. On the other hand, private databases, which are exclusive to certain professionals, can offer more specific and sometimes sensitive data. Here’s a deeper look into the types of databases a private investigator might access:

Public Databases:

  • Criminal and Court Records. These can reveal past run-ins with the law or legal disputes an individual might have been involved in. It’s a way to understand their legal history.
  • Social Network Data. Platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter can provide insights into an individual’s social interactions, locations, and activities.
  • Citizen Details. These include records like birth, marriage, and death certificates, property ownership, and voting records. These documents can offer a chronological trail of an individual’s life events.

Private Databases:

  • People Finder. This database compiles public records from multiple sources, providing a comprehensive view of an individual’s past and present.
  • Credit Reports. These can give an insight into an individual’s financial behavior, though accessing someone’s credit report without permission can be illegal.

It’s crucial to note that while these databases can provide a wealth of information, a private investigator must always adhere to legal and ethical standards when accessing and using this data. Misuse can lead to legal repercussions and damage to their professional reputation.

Internet and Social Media Search

Woman Liking instagram Posts

Imagine the internet as a vast digital landscape. Every action you take online leaves a footprint. As you navigate websites, comment on blogs, or share a post, you’re contributing to your digital trail. Expert private detectives know how to follow these trails, often leading them straight to a person of interest (POI). Here’s how they harness the internet’s power:

  1. Dive into Social Media. Platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram can be goldmines. Your photos, check-ins, and even the pages you like can reveal more than you think. If you’re searching for an old friend, for instance, seeing their recent interactions might give away their current city or workplace.
  2. Forum and Blog Exploration. Maybe you’re active on a niche forum or often comment on blogs. Detectives pay attention to these spaces. The content you interact with, or the topics you discuss, can paint a clear picture of your interests and whereabouts.
  3. Online Purchases and Reviews. Ever bought something online and left a review? This is another trail. Your shopping habits, wish lists, and product reviews can hint at your recent activities or even your plans.

By connecting the dots across various platforms, detectives piece together a comprehensive profile. So, next time you’re online, remember: the clues you leave behind can say a lot about you.

Interviewing Techniques in Private Investigation

Private investigator interview

When a private investigator gets a case, often the most direct route to information is through the art of interviewing. Human memories, perceptions, and interpretations are intricate and unique. Unlike cold digital footprints or paper trails, personal accounts capture the nuances of emotions, past events, and relationships. Here’s how private investigators maximize their interviewing process:

  • Building Rapport. Before delving into deep questions, investigators need to establish trust. By creating a comfortable environment, the interviewee is more likely to share accurate and detailed information.
  • Open-Ended Questions. These are the keys to extracting comprehensive narratives. Instead of asking, “Did you see John on Friday?”, an investigator might ask, “Can you describe what you did last Friday?” This approach allows the person to recount events without feeling directed or limited.
  • Listening Actively. It’s more than just hearing words. Active listening involves noting the emotions behind the words and observing non-verbal cues. Sometimes, what isn’t said speaks volumes.
  • Cross-Referencing Details. When talking to multiple sources, consistency in stories is crucial. Detectives will cross-check facts and timelines to ensure they’re getting a coherent picture.

Interviews aren’t just about retrieving hard facts. They offer a window into the perspectives and emotions surrounding an event or individual. And for a seasoned private investigator, these insights can be the pivotal pieces in solving the puzzle.

Surveillance in Private Investigation

SpaceHawk GS Tracker GIF

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 who 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. Here’s what goes into effective surveillance:

  • Strategic Positioning. Picking the right spot is crucial. An investigator must have an unobstructed view, yet remain inconspicuous. Whether it’s from inside a vehicle, behind tinted windows, or in plain sight as a pedestrian, the choice of vantage point is paramount.
  • Technological Aids. Tools like GPS trackers, high-resolution cameras, and listening devices can augment an investigator’s capabilities, providing real-time data or capturing evidence for later analysis.
  • Rotating Surveillance Teams. Staying undetected often means switching things up. By rotating surveillance personnel, there’s less chance of someone recognizing a pattern or the same face lingering around too frequently.
  • Continuous Documentation. Noting down observations, times, locations, and interactions ensures that no detail is overlooked. These notes can be crucial when piecing together timelines or corroborating other evidence.
  • Staying Adaptable. The unpredictable nature of surveillance means investigators must be ready to change plans on the fly. If a subject changes their routine or heads to an unplanned location, the detective needs to adapt without drawing attention.

In essence, surveillance is about gathering pieces of a larger puzzle without disturbing the picture. When done right, the subject remains oblivious, while the investigator garners the insights they need to crack the case.

Working Alongside Law Enforcement Offices

Police Chase

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. Here’s how this collaboration elevates investigative outcomes:

  • Access to Restricted Databases. While private investigators have resources, law enforcement often holds exclusive access to certain databases. Sharing this information, within legal boundaries, can provide vital leads.
  • Shared Manpower and Resources. With combined forces, the scope of surveillance and investigation widens. More ground can be covered in less time, increasing the chances of timely discoveries.
  • Validating Findings. When private investigators uncover pivotal information, law enforcement can validate its accuracy. This mutual fact-checking ensures that the conclusions drawn are watertight.
  • Legal Oversight and Protocols. Law enforcement ensures that the investigation adheres to legal standards. Their involvement guarantees that evidence is collected in a manner that stands up in court.

In essence, this collaboration is about leveraging each party’s strengths while offsetting their limitations. It’s a partnership that, when navigated correctly, leads to quicker, more comprehensive, and legally solid conclusions.

Related Content: Hiring Someone For Child Custody

Hiring A Private Detective To Find A Person Of Interest – How Do They Work And How Much Do They Cost?

Depending on several 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.

Private Investigator National Average Hourly Rate


Hourly Rate Range


Low-End Rate


High-End Rate


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

Source: Thumbtack


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.

Missing Persons Statistics

When it comes to missing persons, the numbers can be quite staggering. In 2019, California had the highest total number of missing person reports, reaching approximately 2,135 individuals, according to the online resource Vivint. However, in terms of missing persons reports per capita, it was the state of Alaska that had the highest rate, with 42 missing people reported for every 100,000 residents. These statistics highlight the significant impact of missing persons cases across the country.

In that same year, according to Statista, a total of 609,275 individuals were reported missing in the United States. This number represents the magnitude of the issue and emphasizes the importance of taking immediate action when a person goes missing. The urgency to locate and reunite these individuals with their families and loved ones cannot be overstated.

These statistics serve as a reminder that every missing person case is unique and requires a tailored approach. It reinforces the need for efficient and comprehensive strategies, such as engaging the services of missing person investigators, to maximize the chances of a successful outcome.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Are The Reasons To Hire A Private Investigator To Locate A Person?

There could be various reasons to hire a private investigator to locate someone, such as finding a friend or family member, conducting an asset search or legal investigation, conducting background searches, or investigating employee theft.

How Much Information Do Private Detectives Need To Locate A Person?

The amount of information required depends on the complexity of the case. However, any information that you can provide, such as the person’s name, age, last known address, and social media profiles, can help locate them.

What Methods Do Private Investigators Use To Locate A Person?

Short answer: Private investigators can use various methods to locate a person, including conducting database searches, skip tracing, social media investigations, asset investigations, and conducting surveillance.

Do Private Investigators Need A License To Conduct Investigations In Michigan?

Yes, private investigators need to be licensed to conduct investigations in Michigan. You can check the licensing status of a private investigator or join our team by contacting ASG Investigations, a Clinton Township private investigation agency.


PIs are extremely resourceful in helping you locate missing loved ones or any lost person who has gone missing. Private detectives are skilled individuals who increase the chances of finding your person of interest. When hiring a private investigator to locate someone, you have various options for any price point, including fixed rates or hourly wages. However, it is crucial to hire a licensed and reputable individual when hiring a private investigator to find someone.

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.

Matthew Henson
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