How do private investigators work?

How Do Private Investigators Work? 5 Things They Can & Can’t Do

Hiring a private investigator is not illegal in the UK. Many among the general public have a preconceived notion or misunderstand what is legal and what is illegal when it comes to private investigations, especially about hacking into phones, wiretapping and eavesdropping. 

Like any other civilian, there are rules and laws that private investigators have to respect to operate legally. PEL Investigations hold ethics and legality as their top priority alongside their clients’ needs, so it’s important to have a grasp of how private investigators acquire their intelligence and, more importantly, what they can and can’t do. 

Private Investigators in the UK

A private investigator helps individuals, organisations and solicitors resolve sensitive or difficult problems by discretely gathering evidence and intelligence. To obtain information, private detectives and PIs use professional (and legal) methods, including GPS tracking, monitoring surveillance and enquiries.

For corporate investigations, a private investigator will rely heavily on powerful software that can access and collect data otherwise unavailable to businesses and companies in need. This data is collected, analysed and preserved before being presented to the client. At times, some advice is offered when appropriate.

The thing to keep in mind is that PIs aren’t quite what Hollywod and gritty dramas present. In reality, licensed private detectives and investigators don’t usually get into fights or beat police officers to exciting leads. Rather, through the diligent combing of records and long surveillance tasks, they tackle insurance fraud, infidelity, and corporate impropriety, using expertise from their backgrounds in the military, law enforcement, security industry or loss prevention.

As in many other countries, private investigators hold no superiority over other civilians and, when requested, they must produce their license and identify themselves. 

What Private Investigators Have Acess To

Private investigators offer a wide range of services. These are just a few of PEL Investigations most commonly solicited services:

The way experienced investigators gather their intelligence depends entirely on the nature of the case. The methods of investigation agencies are varied, although usually boil down to enquiries, surveillance, and due diligence: thorough research of public records and in-depth internet research (including social media), usually using powerful in-house software not available to the public.

Public records that private investigators typically use can include tax records, criminal records, real estate transactions, voter registrations, business licenses, records of births and deaths, vital statistics and court records.

5 Things Private Investigators Can & Can’t Do

  • Private investigators cannot tap phones (making the content of another person’s call available to someone not involved in their conversation) unless the contents of the call are required for a legitimate criminal or civil investigation
  • They cannot share with third parties any information disclosed in confidence.
  • They can record conversations without the other party’s knowledge if it is within the public interest to do so. For example, you may record a conversation in the belief you are helping to circumvent a crime, which in court would be more serious than the civil offence of eavesdropping.
  • Private investigators are allowed to use live GPS tracking, follow someone in a public place, use public open-source records to look for people and perform background or history checks.
  • Private investigators are not allowed to bug/tap phones, tamper with mail, hack computers or emails, trespass on private property or access sensitive private information by any means.

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