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Investigators Definitive Guide –How To Conduct Your Own Private Investigation

The allure of a private detective is sometimes too much for one to resist. The mystique and challenges seem downright intriguing. There is something about a mystery we all seem to love. That is why some have decided to become a private investigator in the first place, I know it is why I became a private investigator ––and I still get the fizz from solving cases.

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You Can Be Your Own Private Detective

How can you solve some of your own private matters? I am going to share some principles that licensed private investigators follow, and you too can use these same principles to help you uncover what you need to know. One of the first things you need to know in conducting your own private investigations is to get organized. The second thing is to follow the leads. And, the third thing you can do is stay on track ––don’t create multiple sidebars of activity.

Let's dive a bit deeper into these three aspects previously mentioned, and see if you too can learn how to investigate someone or something, privately.

Get Organized: It’s Time For You to Be Your Own Detective

Getting organized is the fundamental building block to successful private investigation. Many private detectives and investigators start with a consultation. So, step into the shoes of being a private citizen investigator and start with the consultation, even though this is an introspective consultation, you can still role play it out. Get out your note pad and pen and then follow these fundamentals:

  • Who? - Who exactly is involved. Stay succinct and keep to the facts.

  • What ? - What occurred, took place or what do you think happened. Keep it factual.

  • When? - Do you know when it occurred? If not, don’t make it up, maintain integrity of the matter.

  • Where? - Are you aware of where it took place?

  • Why? - Sometimes this is tough to answer, but you can place a small amount of conjecture here.

  • How? - Another tough one, because investigator may be hired for that very same question.

Stay with me is very important to go through these steps ––it is part of private investigators work to establish what is exactly known, and you too should follow the consultative process.

Getting Organized ––What Type of Case Is It?

Now that you have given yourself a consultation, and hopefully taken succinct notes, let’s now define what type of matter you are dealing with. Is it:

  • Infidelity

  • Background Check

  • Missing Person

  • Divorce Issue

  • Child Custody Issue

  • Criminal Justice Matter

  • Insurance Fraud

  • Computer or Device Forensics

  • Locate a Person

  • Asset Search

  • Due Diligence

You need to define the matter so you have a more clear picture of what you are dealing with. Putting it into a category will help you consider what approach is right, and what tools may be needed to carry out your investigation.

Write down what type of case this is such as: "INFIDELITY". Write it in big capital letters at the top of your consultation notes.

Getting Organized ––What If I Have Multiple Angles?

Sometimes cases involving multiple types of investigative avenues can skew the investigative process. But as a junior investigator, try to find a focus area that can help answer the questions of the case little-by-little. If you were to hire a private investigator, they would likely do the same. Find the focus and then create sub-categories that may be secondary to the primary issue.

Many investigators work this way. If you were to hire my private detective agency, we would identify the key issue or matter and then look to see if they branches (sub-issues) have any merit as we start down the main issue’s path.

Create a Mind Map

I encourage you to create a mind map. There are many programs available for mind mapping. It will help you visualize the investigation process and allow you to fill in gaps, easily and even more organized than hand written notes.

Don’t create your mind map until you have the notes ready from your consultation. It will give you enough information to create the map and start to visualize the matter at hand.

Getting Your Documents Together

Not only do you need to start to gather information, but you need to take what you may already have in the form of documents organized. On your mind map, I want you to create a “Documents” tree and list everything you have. It may look like this:


3 Emails of harassment

1 Police report

1 Voicemail - saved

1 Witness statement

1 Note from perpetrator

Whatever your matter is, a documents list will help separate fact from fiction. Also, having documents helps substantiate any claim you are making. Documentation usually helps when you are dealing with a matter where law enforcement may be necessary as they may need to substantiate any claim you are making. Also legal documents will help your attorney, should you have one, to gather evidence that is useful to substitute what you have already provided.

What If I Have Only Conjecture?

Conjecture is defined as an opinion based on guesswork. Let’s say for example: You have an errant husband whom you feel is being unfaithful. The facts are as follows:

  • He comes home late each night

  • He smells of alcohol

  • One time I smelled the hint of perfume

  • He now locks his phone

  • He takes his phone into the bathroom

  • He has taken weekend trips away from the family

Your conjecture is that your husband is likely having an affair, and if all these things are happening, you are probably correct.

Add to your mind map these bullet points under “CONJECTURE”. I would also date each issue separately so that you can look for patterns. Of course, this applies to all forms of investigation. Conjecture occurs perhaps in concert with cold hard facts, or may stand alone.

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