Number 1: License: This one is obvious, but the first thing you need to look for is licensing. The Private Detective business is highly scrutinized, especially in Massachusetts. The licensing agency is the Mass State Police and there is nothing cops hate worse than people pretending to be cops. So they have very strict requirements and procedures that one must follow or their license is in jeopardy. In addition, the special licensing division of the Mass State Police keep good records of complaints and/or subsequent suspensions or non-renewals. Most licensed PI's welcome this kind of scrutiny because it keeps investigators honest and keeps those wannabe PI's from taking advantage of someone who just needs help. If there is even a question of a Detective license status call the Mass State Police Special Licensing Certification Unit in Davers at: (508) 978-6127.
Number 2: Initial Conversation: One thing that irrates me to no end, (and this goes for any profession) is someone who takes work that they're not qualified for or has no training for this type of work. We call this the Starving Artist syndrome: they need the work so bad they say yes to anything. So, during the initial conversation does the investigator "yes" you to death? Are you asking them to do something that may be inappropriate or even criminal and their response is 'oh, yeah we can do that'. Or, are they asking you questions in return? This person is supposed to be a professional investigator and a red flag should go up when he asks you no follow-up questions. I cant tell you how many times I've been asked to locate someone and after my series of questions, (that include their relationship with the person, any restraining orders, and of course WHY they want to find this person), I told them sorry, that's not something I can do. And, how can I go without talking about the people that try to lie to me: 'I don't know if she got a restraining order against me..." Sorry Buddy. So, if the investigator's only response is “yes,yes,yes...what's your credit card number?” you need to look elsewhere.
Number 3: Specialization: Does this investigator or company specialize in the type of investigation you're requesting? Several years ago the PI landscape was covered in so-called Generalists who would conduct any type of investigation under the sun. One day their following a cheating partner the next they're conducting a corporate investigation of an employee stealing company funds. Even though these types of agencies still exist, (and are more than capable), investigators today are specializing in certain types of investigation. Several of my colleagues only conduct cheating spouse and domestic investigations, and make a very good living at it. However, even though I have a lot of experience in this type of investigation I do not specialize in it. My humble opinion is that a specialist conducts their type of investigation day in and day out, and her brain is constantly trained on its approach, sequence and conclusion and that experience is invaluable.
I hope these tips help you in your search for the perfect Private Investigator. And, don't forget to listen to your gut feeling. Like anything else you need to like the investigator because you’re going to trust her with some very sensitive information. Please feel free to contact me with any questions about private investigations or how to find a detective. I have many friends in the business and if I don't specialize in the investigation you need, I'll put you in contact with one who does. Please contact me through my website SuburbanPatrol.com and good luck!