Communities and people have the need to both protecting themselves and our assets from terrorists, crooks, and exploiters of computer vulnerabilities, resulting in a continually growing Investigative and Security Services industry. Are you fascinated with the investigatory skills you see on CSI? Do you follow the crime stories before the sports when read or listen to the news? A “yes” to any one of these, or all of them, suggests that being a private or professional investigator (PI) could be a livelihood for you.
You will need enthusiasm, because investigations are often slow and methodical, and your innate excitement with this work will help to carry you through. Private investigators provide services to a wide array of clients: corporations, private individuals, attorneys, accountants, employment agencies, collection agencies, even newspapers. The field is wide open and can be well paying.
You can be an independent or you can be an employee of an investigation firm or a corporation that keeps you on full-time to investigate fraud, theft, backgrounds, and more. Businesses and their human resources departments require investigations of a number of kinds. Prospective employees are the most fertile source of need. In these matters an HR department wants to know about criminal records and driving records; they want references checked, personal and professional; and they want credentials, degrees, licenses, and certifications verified.
Background checking is also needed by companies considering doing business with another company or individual, by landlords screening tenants, and increasingly by couples who want to do a premarital check on their prospective mates. And if the marriage doesn’t work, people often hire PIs to locate assets that one spouse hides from another in a divorce case. Salespeople and corporations are now hiring PIs to search the Web for information, which includes tens of millions of blogs, online resumes, and entries on Facebook, Twitter, or in blogs that can be used to develop profiles on prospective or actual customers.
Each of the checks enumerated above requires knowledge that you can learn by experimentation on the Internet, online or live classes, or by on-the-job training. You will learn that most states sell their driving record files, that criminal records are not so secure, and that there are online resources that specialize in each of the categories of information. Clients pay PIs to pull all this information together into one document that presents the data they’re looking for.
The Magnums and the Sam Spades of the old days were frequently beat up, shot at, and tied up. The work you’ll be doing is not at all like that. More often than not, you will spend most of your time online and on the phone. However, as an independent, you can choose the type or types of investigation services you want to offer.
There can be field work. The employee out sick who is suspected of not being so sick may need to be photographed. The compensation case with the injured back might be videotaped doing roof repairs or playing football. And, of course, there’s surveillance to catch cheating spouses. These can be accomplished with a long lens or a good zoom lens, video cameras that can be attached to sunglasses or hats or look like pagers, and concealable GPS tracking devices.
Then there’s investigating counterfeited goods, such as clothing, cosmetics, handbags, movies, software, and watches, and preventing (or doing) corporate espionage to obtain secrets about what business competitors are doing. “Competitive intelligence is the future for companies to understand their competitor so that they can custom design their own company to be more unique,” according to Dakota Michaels of the Spy Academy.
You will need good people skills to be effective at some of this work. Reference checking is all about how you ask for information that could secure a reference that is less than glowing—information your client needs to know. If you’re going to be an independent, you’ll need to market yourself, too. For all types of investigation, top-notch computer skills are required.
One of the more rewarding investigation businesses is the one that locates people. If you wish to specialize in finding natural birth parents or relatives who have not been heard from in many years, these are both areas that offer significant personal rewards. You will need excellent people skills to manage your clients and cajole agencies that don’t want to share information, and you will need an understanding of laws in different jurisdictions if you have to leave your computer and go looking for someone.
Professional investigation is a growing field; our litigious society requires that employees be hired with extreme care, and our mobile society creates new missing persons every day. If you open this door, you will find the potential for fascinating and sometimes exciting work. With so much of the work shifting to the Web, a great deal can be done at any time of the day or night, leaving you much flexibility.
A related career is security consulting. Some security consultants sell products from which they earn commissions; others provide expertise and are paid by the hour or on a per-project basis. They write plans and design and install systems. Areas of specialization include customer theft, product piracy, electronic theft, electronic security systems, employee theft, intangibles like client lists and proprietary technology, real estate and tangible property.
A search on the Web might lead you to think a security consultant advises on alarm systems, but in actuality security consulting embraces a variety of types of expertise and activities. Security consultants assist clients in protecting their employees, building and facilities, client lists, and proprietary technology through:
Site consulting – Evaluating the design of buildings and spaces
Technical security consulting – Specifying, selecting, and installing specific security technologies and products.
Systems design – Specifying security needs at the design phase (remodel or initial construction), which may include designing security software and hardware.
Security consultants are also called as expert witness in trials involving mishaps like fires, thefts, and break-ins where security breaches are an issue. They also teach and train others, including law enforcement officials, about their field of expertise.
Security consultants’ clients include architectural firms, contractors, companies building new buildings, museums, banks, stadiums, city and municipal governments, schools and universities, computer facilities, and many other types of employers.
PI Magazine has dozens of state, regional, national, and international associations serve this industry.
For an initial free consultation to explore this or another sustainable livelihood that bests suits your personality and your community, contact us.
Comments on the substance of the blogs are welcome. If you have other questions, please contact me directly for a consulting appointment.