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  • 101 Things a Private Investigator Can Do

    by Brian Willingham

    Post image for 101 Things a Private Investigator Can Do

    Below, we have put together a short list of things a private investigator can do.

    The fact of the matter is that each case we get is different and needs to be approached differently, so it’s difficult to describe what a private investigator can do in a short sentence.

    Ultimately, what we find is “information” or “facts” but that’s not nearly as entertaining as #101 on our list; “We will tell you what those bastards are up to!”

    101 Things a Private Investigator Can Do

      1. Find a current address
      2. Find historical addresses
      3. Find a date of birth
      4. Identify known aliases
      5. Identify and/or confirm a Social Security number
      6. Locate birth records
      7. Locate death records
      8. Locate marriage records
      9. Locate divorce filings
      10. Dig through someone’s trash
      11. Locate a beneficiary for a probate proceeding
      12. Research current and / or historical property holdings
      13. Identify mortgage information
      14. Identify secured lenders
      15. Identify related party property transactions
      16. Determine current market value of real property
      17. Locate bankruptcy filings
      18. Retrieve and analyze bankruptcy records
      19. Uncover improper relationships
      20. Locate federal civil lawsuits
      21. Locate federal criminal records
      22. Retrieve and analyze federal civil and criminal records
      23. Retrieve mug shots from arrest records
      24. Provide independent analysis
      25. Locate state and local criminal arrest records
      26. Retrieve and analyze review criminal records
      27. Provide peace of mind
      28. Locate home phone numbers
      29. Locate cell phone numbers
      30. Identify owner of home or cell phone number
      31. Determine owners of corporation
      32. Retrieve and analyze corporate records
      33. Locate current or former executives
      34. Interview current or former executives
      35. Find and retrieve judgment and lien filings
      36. Research familial history
      37. Connect the dots
      38. Locate witnesses for a civil or criminal lawsuit
      39. Interview witnesses for a civil or criminal lawsuit
      40. Find assets
      41. Find current or historical boat registrations
      42. Find current or historical aircraft registrations
      43. Search for hidden assets
      44. Conduct business intelligence
      45. Discreet intelligence gathering
      46. Determine connections between parties
      47. Locate bank account information
      48. Locate current or former employees of a company
      49. Interview current or former employees of a company
      50. Locate significant inheritances
      51. Show you the big picture
      52. Identify a will for an estate
      53. Locate probate records
      54. Identify foreign assets
      55. Locate regulatory records
      56. Identify regulatory actions
      57. Identify professional licenses
      58. Determine prior disciplinary records for professional licenses
      59. Analyze state and federal political contributions
      60. Analyze state lobbyist records
      61. Analyze federal lobbyist records
      62. Identify potential whistleblowers
      63. Vet expert witnesses
      64. Interview industry sources
      65. Gather competitive intelligence
      66. Identify related party business transactions
      67. Retrieve and analyze non-profit financial filings
      68. Knock on doors
      69. Obtain and analyze Department of Labor Form 5500 Filings
      70. Submit FOIA / FOIL requests to government agencies
      71. Obtain driving record history (in applicable states)
      72. Find current vehicle registrations
      73. Find historical vehicle registrations
      74. Make you look brilliant
      75. Determine current market value of motor vehicles
      76. Assist with jury selection
      77. Background checks on prospective jurors
      78. Analyze documents for potential fraud
      79. Identify Risks
      80. Identifying corporate relationships
      81. Give you a competitive advantage
      82. Identify Uniform Commercial Code filings
      83. Foreign corporation research
      84. Help you manage sensitive situations
      85. Overseas litigation research
      86. Identify stock ownership
      87. Find facts
      88. Locate online resume
      89. Identify online networking profiles
      90. Locate historical video or news footage
      91. Conduct historical newspaper research
      92. Conduct mobile or stationary surveillance
      93. Perform clandestine operations
      94. Find undisclosed ties
      95. Identify and retrieve U.S. Tax Court cases
      96. Locate a missing person
      97. Identify and confirm education history
      98. Identify and confirm previous employment history
      99. Scour the Internet
      100. Research presence on social networks or message boards
      101. We will tell you what those bastards are up to!
    • Call to Action!

    { 59 comments… read them below or add one }

    Jessica February 19, 2014 at 1:12 am

    Hi there,

    My husband is in the interview process for a job. They are conducting a background search through a private investigative firm. Years ago, he was involved in a lawsuit (nothing illegal) at the car dealership he worked out of. Someone said that he and boss were guilt of racial slander. It was settled out of court and the final document said it was all confidential and no one could discuss it. Will that be something they will find out about?

    Reply

    Brian Willingham February 19, 2014 at 3:12 am

    It’s unlikely Jessica. While some of the facts of the case will be in the case file, settlements, and especially confidential settlements, are unlikely to be part of the case file.

    Reply

    Charity January 4, 2014 at 12:18 am

    I just went though a nasty divorce ( 1 year 3 days) and my ex got away with covering up the fact that we had cash savings (not in a bank). Im wondering if a PI can investigate into income vs. as many expenses as possible to come up with even a rough assessment of what would be in cash savings? Im talking of following food stamp transactions(how little we spent on food/month -he is very controlling), utility bills, SS checks that were saved up a cashed at the same time(some times it was 3 at a time, not sure if there is any way of tracing this kind of thing or not because I already tried to go though the bank and the transaction doesn’t go on the account if its just cashed), all transactions with with hospital bills, everything. Also wondering if a PI can track down info about someones mental state from when they were back in school, like 30 years back, at the age of 13-15 or so (he was told by his school to go to counseling), as well as finding out what is on the one mental eval that he did have?

    Reply

    Charity January 4, 2014 at 12:31 am

    I came up with Income vs. Expenses and because they were such low numbers the court said that under normal circumstances it would be impossible to save as much as I was clamming. What the Judge does not get is my ex is obsessed about money and control and thats why our bills were so low…etc…I really dont care about the money as much as I do that there are 2 kids involved and they have given him more say even though I am the custodial parent, and this could be detrimental to the children. The money thing is the only way I have to prove that I do know what Im talking about…the court did not seem to take into consideration what I was saying at all. Im not mad about it as much as I am scared for my children. This man is abusive and controlling and thats why I was not willing to go back to him after the 4th assault.

    Reply

    Brian Willingham January 4, 2014 at 5:44 am

    It’s nearly impossible to get to that level of detail of income vs. expenses without access to all of his financial information with his permission. If you want to go to that level of detail, I would strongly consider hiring a forensic accountant.

    Reply

    Chapter 13 lawyer Lehigh Acres December 16, 2013 at 6:33 pm

    Hi! Someone in my Facebook group shared this website with us so I came to take a look. I’m definitely loving the information. I’m bookmarking and will be tweeting this to my followers! Excellent blog and fantastic design.

    Reply

    Brian Willingham December 17, 2013 at 9:14 am

    Thanks!

    Reply

    Estero bankruptcy attorneys December 16, 2013 at 4:18 pm

    Do you mind if I quote a couple of your articles as long as I provide credit and sources back to your site? My blog site is in the very same niche as yours and my users would truly benefit from some of the information you provide here. Please let me know if this alright with you. Thanks a lot!

    Reply

    Brian Willingham December 16, 2013 at 4:28 pm

    As long as you give a link back to the site, that is fine. Thanks!

    Reply

    MoHawk December 13, 2013 at 1:43 am

    I was suspended from work, because our company investigator said he has proof of me stealing on video, but never showed what video. Claims that the get away car in the video look and match the one that belongs to a resident I am living with, and so I’m involved. He did let me glance at a black and white picture of a car in motion that seems to be it. Question is can I ask to examine, justify, and dismiss his claims and dispute his accusations, or do I get a lawyer?

    Reply

    Brian Willingham December 14, 2013 at 8:02 am

    That’s more of a legal question. I don’t know the answer, I am afraid.

    Reply

    Monika Blood November 11, 2013 at 1:53 am

    What I’d like to ask is are private investigators available to the public?

    Example: Using a private investigator to look for my old friends from elementary school.

    Reply

    Brian Willingham November 11, 2013 at 10:28 am

    Yes Monika. Individuals can utilize a private investigator too; even to find your old friends.

    Reply

    SusanD November 2, 2013 at 11:53 am

    I am going through a very nasty divorce. My husband is trying hard to find anything and everything on me to be used in court. I left him due to abuse. He subpeonaed my work and daughters school. Now he has a PI trying to see if I’ve comitted adultery by going to neighbors family to question them. I have not committed adultery but I am feeling very harassed. My question, so I can stop being so paranoid, is…can the PI hack into my computer (I’m not living with the husband so no one has direct access to my computer or phone), and can they hack into my phone? Can they read emails and or texts? I am constantly feeling like I’m on stage and want some peace of mind. Also, if they can…is it legal?

    Reply

    Brian Willingham November 2, 2013 at 12:39 pm

    The truth is that any motivated party can hack your email and hack your phone and get your texts and messages, but it’s completely illegal. Having said that, it’s not easy and requires some serious technical skills not to mention money.

    Reply

    Cindy October 27, 2013 at 6:24 pm

    Can you find out if someone filed tax in the last 4 year?

    Reply

    Brian Willingham October 28, 2013 at 6:00 am

    Tax returns are not public information, however, the government will ultimately go after the person and a lien or a tax court case will be publicly available. This may take many years, however.

    Reply

    Patricia Powers October 4, 2013 at 1:42 pm

    Can you try to track down a missing will? The will in question left property to the man’s sons but, with it being missing, it is all going to the current wife (not the mother of the children) by intestate succession. I am an attorney/family friend trying to help the sons.

    Reply

    Brian Willingham October 5, 2013 at 2:39 pm

    Thanks Patricia. As you know, wills are not legally required to be filed anywhere, so tracking them down is nearly impossible. If it was a matter of trying to track down someone who may have witnessed the will, or an old attorney, that would be a different story. Unfortunately, you have a tough situation on your hands.

    Reply

    Orlando Private Investigator October 1, 2013 at 12:36 am

    Brian, as a PI myself I have to congratulate you on your superb list! There are things a Private Investigator can do that I never even thought of – and I’ve been in the business for over 20 years!

    Take a look at my website – maybe you’ll think of a few more things for your list.

    Regards,

    Donna Smith
    All Pro Legal Investigations
    http://www.allprolegal.com

    Reply

    Brian Willingham October 1, 2013 at 8:19 am

    Thanks for your comment Donna. Best of luck to you.

    Reply

    Shayla September 24, 2013 at 9:33 am

    Hi…If I wanted to find all the info concerning me on the internet, pictures, or things that were posted about me, would I use a PI for that? I know there are things about me on the net, but I don’t know where to go to retrieve it. Would I use a PI for that? Thanks

    Reply

    Brian Willingham September 24, 2013 at 9:34 am

    Yes, that is certainly one way to go about it.

    Reply

    Shayla September 24, 2013 at 9:43 am

    So how would they go about it? Would I have to provide where I knew the info to be? Or would the PI be able to go by my name and photos? Would I have to provide some info?

    Reply

    Brian Willingham September 24, 2013 at 9:49 am

    You don’t *have* to provide them with anything, but understand that you are paying them to find information. I would provide as much information as you can.

    Reply

    Shayla September 24, 2013 at 9:56 am

    So how would you go about starting to find the info you needed? What if you’re not up on the latest sites and the people who posted it, knew that? Then how would you start? The PI, I do understand I would need them for the bigger things, but how do you start with the smaller things?

    Reply

    Brian Willingham September 24, 2013 at 10:01 am

    Why don’t you give us a call so we can discuss this in more detail.

    Romanian detective September 10, 2013 at 8:55 am

    Hello there Brian! Very interesting article about 101 Things a Private Investigator Can Do. You did think about much many a lot of issues which a private detective can do for his customers. Romanian detective agency RDA congratulates your work!

    Reply

    John September 2, 2013 at 1:11 pm

    Is it legal for someone with independent experience in low risk bodyguard ing, and extensive home study in the PI field to offer services and/or work at events and promotions without licensing in the PI profession?

    Reply

    Brian Willingham September 4, 2013 at 1:02 pm

    I am not sure I fully understand the question, but if you are conducting private investigative work, most states require that you have a license.

    Reply

    Mark August 7, 2013 at 11:57 am

    Is it possible to obtain any video surveillance or photos taken during the investigation from the investigator you have hired? I recently hired an investigator who took some photos to show me the specific activity and he refused to release them to me. Is this a common practice? I was only shown the photos but given a written report.

    Reply

    Brian Willingham August 8, 2013 at 4:21 pm

    It is not common practice for an investigator to refuse to provide photos and video.

    Reply

    K.C. June 26, 2013 at 6:08 pm

    Hi,

    I am a former PI. I quit a few years ago to switch careers & I moved to another state. I am now having a lot of problems finding a job. It’s been 7 months now that I haven’t been working & all I can do is just keep looking for a job. I keep wondering if my former career as a PI has Human Resources personnel afraid to call me up even for an interview due to my former career choice? I worry that some people may be concerned that I am still a PI or that I am a sneaky type of person which I am not at all. What do you think? I just can’t figure out why nobody is interested in hiring me or even calling me for an interview? I’ve considered not listing my PI experience on my resume, but I find that career experience to be very helpful because I learned so much with that job. What do you think?

    Reply

    Brian Willingham June 27, 2013 at 12:16 pm

    Personally, I don’t think it would affect your resume. While there are certainly some stigmas with the investigative field, it also shows that your are resourceful and skillful.

    Reply

    Connie Robertson June 23, 2013 at 12:48 pm

    I found your list very interesting. There were a couple of things that I had never considered before. We are currently working on finding my daughter-in-law’s brother who was adopted and also two nieces that were adopted at birth. There is very little information on these three people, making it difficult to find them.

    Reply

    Christopher May 31, 2013 at 2:09 am

    If you have information that you want to know and you want to be certain about something then a private investigator is the one to contact to. They are capable of providing details that you need even in the tiniest angle.

    Reply

    Michael May 22, 2013 at 5:07 pm

    Question.

    If one was charged with misdemeanor for possession of marijuana, went to court and received a small fine and a traffic violation instead. Would a PI be able to see the initial charge? or simply the end result.

    Reply

    Brian Willingham May 23, 2013 at 3:08 pm

    If an investigator, or anyone else for that matter, pulls the records from the court, it will reflect the marijuana charge. In some cases, people are only interested in the final result, however, and probably would not go to the extent of pulling the records.

    Reply

    Michael May 24, 2013 at 12:01 am

    Where would they simply find the result without pulling the records?

    Reply

    Brian Willingham May 24, 2013 at 6:41 am

    The answer depends, but in some cases, investigators rely on databases which may not tell the full story. It is much easier and more cost effective to rely on the databases than to go to the court and review the records. It’s not a good practice, but it happens often.

    Reply

    Patricia May 19, 2013 at 8:03 am

    A PI came into the office that I worked with 3 other people. They said they were interested in the property which was for sale and asked if he could take a few pictures. I said yes. He pulled out a video camera, panned the room and anchored on ME! He stayed on me for like 20 seconds (long time). I was on the phone and put up my hands to say “Hey, what are you doing??

    He shut off the camera and they left. I have a law suit against a Pharmacy company, I know they hired him.. Is that legal?

    Reply

    Brian Willingham May 20, 2013 at 2:50 am

    As long as they were not breaking and entering and were rightfully let into the office, there is nothing illegal about it.

    Reply

    Mark May 13, 2013 at 5:37 pm

    This is a fantastic list. It covers a number of things that I had no idea private investigators were even able to do. #74 is my personal favorite!

    Reply

    Brian Willingham May 14, 2013 at 2:04 am

    Thanks!

    Reply

    Sofia May 2, 2013 at 9:57 am

    Hi, I found this site very informative and comprehensive. I have a situation where I just found out that my mother had an affair with a married man and I was a product of that affair. At the time, my mother lived in Italy (I was born in Tuscany) and the man who is my biological father lived in the US. This man already had a family of his own, with an adopted daughter and a biological son, who would be my half brother. I am not sure of his name, as I found out that my father lied to my mother about his last name. Currently, I live in the US and both of my parents are now deceased, which makes this even more challenging. If I were to pursue my curiosity and try to find my brother, what would it entail? Would it be smarter to hire a PI for their expertise? Thank you and have a wonderful day!

    Reply

    Brian Willingham May 6, 2013 at 3:41 am

    I would certainly discuss your situation with an investigator and see if it’s possible to find your brother. Based on what you provided, it’s certainly going to be challenging, however.

    Reply

    Dalia April 21, 2013 at 7:15 pm

    this is more of a question then comment. Do you also work on looking up information on other people for personal reasons? I lost contact with my father since I was 5 and I want to find him now.

    Reply

    Brian Willingham April 22, 2013 at 7:21 am

    Absolutely! You can find out more information in the links below:

    Using a Private Investigator to Find a Person or Witness
    How Much Does It Cost to Find a Person

    Reply

    Remy April 12, 2013 at 10:25 pm

    can you elaborate on #47.

    can a private investigator find out, say, what I bought with a debit or regular credit card way back in 1996? or is that out of their reach and pretty much illegal?

    And if it ain’t illegal, damn, it should be. :)

    Reply

    Brian Willingham April 13, 2013 at 11:52 am

    Sorry, that would not be possible, or legal.

    Reply

    Sandra Kareem February 7, 2013 at 9:39 am

    Hi,
    I think this is a very useful site to educate people on the various assignments a PI can do.
    Do you do work outside the US? I am currently in Oman and require info on someone living in Morocco.
    Thank you.
    Sandra

    Reply

    Brian Willingham February 8, 2013 at 7:43 am

    Thanks Sandra. We have worked with people all over the world, but not specifically in Morocco. You may want to check on the World Association of Detectives site (www.wad.net) if you need someone in-country.

    Reply

    Lorene Spears December 7, 2012 at 9:36 am

    Great site. Do investigators in Intelligence firms need to be licensed? We were assigned professionals (a number of retired key government personnel) by a prestigious law firm in WDC while plaintiffs in a lawsuit. We paid them approximately $190,000 but are now filing a Federal lawsuit for legal malpractice against the law firm-also encompassing the Intel firm. A colleague brought up a good point, in that we never thought to ask if they were licensed. Is that necessary? Our former lead investigator is located in Texas and so are one of the firms, the others in WDC and Virginia; but these people were former high level officials, so we just trusted them. Thanks ever so much. Lorene Spears

    Reply

    Brian Willingham December 10, 2012 at 3:38 am

    It’s a bit of a grey area, Lorene. It would depend on the states that the business was being conducted and the local regulations with regard to investigative firms. I suggest that you review the local regulations involving private investigators in Texas and D.C.

    Reply

    Dom November 14, 2012 at 6:36 am

    Fantastic blog you have writen here just shows some of the things private investigators can and cant do. Where are you based?

    Reply

    Brian Willingham November 14, 2012 at 7:55 am

    Thanks Dom! We are based in New York, just north of New York City.

    Reply

    Neelam Kamble November 6, 2012 at 7:20 am

    I really enjoy visiting your blog! your interesting system to see things is what keeps me interested. Thanks so much

    Reply

    Brian Willingham November 6, 2012 at 7:22 am

    Thanks Neelam! Glad you find it helpful.

    Reply

    Andrea December 13, 2011 at 12:11 pm

    This list of things that a private investigator will do is very interesting. Out of all the things on the list, I didn’t realize that #75 and #76 is something they would do. I am currently looking for a private investigator in new york who can hopefully perform the majority of whats on this list. Thank you for sharing.

    Reply

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