When you say private investigator, you almost always think about Sherlock Holmes, Magnum PI or maybe even Jessica Jones if you are a Marvel fan. They are portrayed as bad-ass, no nonsense individuals, some living the glamorous lifestyle with an abundance of technology at their fingertips. Solving crimes comes easy to them and they can seem to do whatever they want, even break the law. However, real private investigators are not as lucky as their tv & film counterparts. There are rules that need to be followed and you just can’t go hacking into computers and shooting people at will. In an effort to dispel any other misconceptions, here is an inside look of what a private investigator can and can’t do.
Access to nonpublic information.
Private investigators cannot access private, confidential documents and records. They are not the Police, CIA or the FBI. They don’t have the authority to do it. They can however, locate WHERE the information might be, this is helpful to give you leverage in a case or simply to provide info for future warrants and subpoenas. Some private detectives, since they are usually ex law enforcement, still have contacts inside various law enforcement agencies which can help them get the information they need.
Listening to private communication on phones.
This happens a lot in movies and television, you see a private eye just casually bugging a phone and listening in, this is not true. In many states, the law outright prohibits this. Again they are not Law Enforcement, only they have the power to do this. If they gather evidence this way, it might not be admissible in court. This would benefit no one.
They drive really fancy cars
Just because you read about this in books and see it in movies and television. It doesn’t mean that it is true. It is a fact that most private eye’s are living normal lives. Also, if they do love driving in fancy cars, it would make no sense, as it will most likely attract more attention. As a private eye, you want to be as discreet as possible, especially when doing surveillance.
They wear trench coats and deerstalkers.
Yeah, nobody wears deerstalkers, and it is not part of any private detective uniform. Only Sherlock Holmes wears these. Trench coats, possibly, but they wear what normal people wear to work. Also they need to be discreet, wearing deerstalkers is not discreet.
Have access to private bank accounts.
Let’s just make this clear, private investigators don’t possess a magic key that can open any bank or investment accounts and have no legal authority to access them. All bank accounts are private and protected. The Right to Financial Privacy Act specifically prohibits institutions from disclosing bank records and account information without the following:
- Customers written consent
- Search Warrant
- Court Order
- Other formal demands, with limited exceptions
Have access to private credit information
Without notifying the individual who owns the account, private detectives cannot access any credit information. The FCRA or Fair Credit Reporting Act, limit how an individual gains access to credit information of another individual.
The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) is a federal law that regulates the collection of consumers’ credit information and access to their credit reports.
They give you “comprehensive background reports” that you can easily purchase online.
While it is true that you can purchase these types of background reports online for cheap. Information on these reports are usually just info that are publicly available online that are compiled by a machine. These computer generated reports are not as good, or detailed as one that a seasoned private investigator can give you. When a private eye gives you a comprehensive background report, they do mean comprehensive. It’ll include almost anything you can or didn’t think of including hidden criminal records.
Now that you are aware of what a private investigator can or can’t do, it’ll be easy to separate fantasy and reality. You can now be realistic on what you can expect out of them should you, in the future, need their services. Private detectives in Long Island offer a wide variety of services, and some are not being portrayed in tv or in the movies at all. If you are in a situation that you think you need help with, try calling up a private investigator. You’ll be surprised at how much they can be of help to you.