7 Myths About Private Investigators

Surely we all have our preconceived notions about private investigators: the glamorous lifestyle, the abundance of technology, and the fancy cars. However the life of a PI is not as fancy as it is portrayed on television and film. In an effort to dispel private investigator myths, here is an inside look at the truth about how PIs live and work.

Myth 1: PIs have access to information that is not public.

PIs cannot access information such as police intelligence, CIA or FBI intelligence records, or sift through confidential documents. However, most PIs can locate information you are looking for might be located to give you leverage in a case or provide information for future warrants and subpoenas. Private investigators may also have connections with law enforcement officials or others in the industry who can help to get the information you need.

Myth 2: PIs can always listen in on private communication on telephones.

Although it happens in the movies, in many states, the law prohibits private investigators from bugging telephones or listening in on private telephone calls.

Myth 3: All PIs drive fancy cars. Another one of the common private investigator myths is that all PIs drive fancy cars, just because spies and private detectives do in the movies.

In fact, most PIs live a normal lifestyle away from the glitz and glam of Hollywood. In fact, driving a fancy car could actually detract from a PIs ability to do a job since the fancy car would be more likely to be seen or attract attention when trying to do surveillance.

Myth 4: PIs wear deerstalkers (Sherlock Holmes-type hats).

Most people are aware of these hats that are associated with Sherlock Holmes: a brim in the front and another at the back of a plaid hat. This, however, is not a part of the PI “uniform” – in fact, PIs dress like most people do for work.

Myth 5: PIs can access private bank accounts.

One of the private investigator myths that persists in our culture today is that PIs have a magic key that opens any bank account that is protected. PIs cannot access most bank accounts or the account information without written consent of the person who holds the account.

Myth 6: PIs can access an individual’s credit information.

Simply put, PIs cannot access credit information about an individual without notifying them. The passage of The Fair Credit Reporting Act in the United States went even further to limit how easily an individual can obtain credit information about another individual.

Myth 7: PIs put together the “comprehensive background reports” that you can purchase for $20 online.

Many people who order a comprehensive individual reports or comprehensive background reports online would be interested to know that these inexpensive reports are usually compiled with basic information that is available publicly online. PIs are usually not at the other end of the transaction actively compiling information; instead, that “top secret” info is generated by a computer. When you purchase this inexpensive report, you are actually just paying a computer to do work you could search for yourself.

What a private investigator can do for you – Now that you know the truth about these private investigator myths, you can be better equipped to understand what these investigators can and cannot do. Private investigators can be extremely helpful in any legal situation since they can advise you where to find information and can compile relevant information that will help you build a stronger case. If you choose to hire a private investigator, make sure to get a detailed report of what he or she can do for your case: do not assume that the profession is how it is portrayed on television!

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