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Private Investigator To Find Someone

How Do Private Investigators Find Someone – Fact Sheet For 2023

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 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 carry out the investigation 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. 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.

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 be helpful in locating 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 that 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.

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