Source: Five Types of Private Investigators (Source)
General Private Investigators
Primary or general private investigators gather different types of information for clients with different needs. Private citizens may hire them to trace missing family members or to gather for information for child custody battle or a contentious divorce case. Business owners may need financial information about someone who refuses to pay a debt, or they may want help recovering stolen property. General private investigators use traditional techniques such as surveillance, background inquiries and online research to piece together answers for their clients. For cases that require special skills, a general investigator may oversee the investigation but also call in specialists to assist. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2010, the median salary for private investigators was $42,870.
Private investigators sometimes are needed to help people prepare for court cases. They collect evidence through interviews, surveillance, and through background checks of other parties involved in the litigation. Investigators involved in trial preparation must understand the rules of evidence and court procedures to ensure that the information they gather is obtained legally and can be admitted in a court of law. According to the BLS, the average salary for legal investigators was $54,600 as of May 2011.
Corporate or financial private investigators specialize in gathering information for business and industry. Corporate managers considering an acquisition or merger may ask an investigator to review the history, financial performance and past clients of the company in question. Business leaders rely on the information investigators uncover to protect their interests and investments. Businesses also use private investigators to conduct background checks on new employees. They may also be responsible for reviewing financial, computer and telephone records and conducting other types of internal investigations if there is a suspicion of employee fraud or theft. The BLS lists the average salary for management and business investigators as of May 2011 as $50,050.
Workman’s Compensation Investigators
Workplace injuries can be costly for insurance companies that pay claims, and for business owners who face steep premium hikes in the wake of an accident. Private investigators routinely check out workers compensation claims when there is a suspicion that an employee is faking or exaggerating an injury. Investigators may interview neighbors and acquaintances about a victim’s activity to see if his behavior contradicts any claim of disability. They may also conduct background checks looking for prior claims, medical history and financial problems that might have triggered a false claim. Surveillance and gathering photos and video of injury victims is typically part of the job. According to the BLS, the 2010 median salary of insurance investigators was $58,620.
The digital age has opened the door to new types of conflicts and crimes, and some private investigators now specialize in cyber investigations. Cases can range from tracking the source of anonymous cyber bullying to solving an incident of identity theft. Cyber investigation requires technical training on tracking and retrieving information from computer hard drives, and many community colleges now offer certificate programs in computer forensics geared toward private investigators who must follow certain rules of evidence when gathering data. According to the BLS, cyber investigators earn an average salary of $72,860 as of May 2011.