Thinking About Hiring a Private Investigator? Here’s What You Need to Know

Many individuals who are looking for answers on another individual – for example a missing person, infidelity, suspected crime – may try to investigate the matter themselves conducting online searches, and planting camera equipment haphazardly. Although this may work for some, it is always best to in the very least, consult a Private Investigator, as it is their duty to know and understand the laws. Not only are they aware of potential legal issues with your surveillance plan, but they are also trained to gather information from a plethora of places in order to obtain the information that you are looking for.

In Ontario, Private Investigators must complete a mandated 50 hour course, and a test before they can apply for their licence. Once they’ve applied for their licence, the Private Security and Investigative Services Bureau will also conduct a criminal background check and clear PI applicants for their licence. This is also the same Governing body that enforces Private Investigators and enforces unwanted conduct or behaviour by PI’s.

A licenced Private Investigator can assist in a variety of different ways, such as missing persons, infidelity, suspected fraud within the workplace, insurance claims, and loss prevention, internal human resources matters, legal matters such as serving court subpoenas, and investigating people for lawyers that are trying to resolve court cases. Companies have also hired PI’s for suspected credit card fraud, theft of content (such as illegally playing fights in public places, such as bars and restaurants), and even as consultants on how to handle potential security breaches.

PI’s can use hidden or covert cameras, undercover cars, plain clothing, photographic equipment, recording devices, as well as internet searches, databases and connections to people the PI knows in order to completely and accurately obtain the required information for their client. It is the PI’s responsibility to gather information in a manner that adheres to PIPEDA (Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act). If they don’t however, although the client is not held responsible for this, any evidence gathered during the offenders investigation may be void and unusable in a court of law. Always research any consultant or investigator that you plan on hiring to ensure they have the experience and knowledge required to get the job done properly.

So, what if a PI is identified by the person they are investigating? Although an experienced professional understands how to ensure they are covert at all times, there have been times when a subject being investigated identifies a Private Investigator and asks them who they are. In this case, within Ontario, a PI does have to identify themselves as an Investigator. They also have a licence that they must carry with them at all times and must produce it on request, no matter who is requesting – the subject, a neighbour, the police, or anyone in the general public.

Most people who make an initial call for a Private Investigator will start with asking a few basic questions, one of which almost always consists of the cost of the Investigators services. Private Investigators work on retainers, meaning the client would provide them with an up front amount, typically between $1500 to $5000, and they work until that amount has been used, and if required, will request a retainer top up to continue the investigation. PI fees are much higher than a regular security guard, this is because of the vast amount of work, expertise and experience required to properly conduct an investigation.