Private Investigator Myths Debunked

private investigator myths

Debunking, Err, Rather Elaborating On 5 Myths About Private Detectives

In the vast landscape of detective stories, private investigators often strut onto the scene with a fedora, trench coat, and a magnifying glass, ready to solve mysteries in the blink of an eye, with style and swagger. However, the reality of private detective work is usually far from the glamorous and exaggerated portrayals we often see in literature and the movies. Let’s embark on a journey to dispel five common myths surrounding private detectives, separating fact from fiction.

Myth #1:  Private Detectives are All Sherlock Holmes Wannabes

While it’s tempting to imagine private investigators as modern-day Sherlocks, complete with a deerstalker hat and a pipe, the truth is far less theatrical. Private detectives are skilled professionals who utilize a combination of investigative techniques, technology, and legal expertise to gather information and solve cases. Sorry to burst your bubble, but most PIs spend more time sifting through paperwork than donning disguises and engaging in undercover operations. There are times, however, when private investigators will alter their appearance slightly. For example, if an investigator has been in the presence of their Subject, multiple times during a surveillance period, they might put on a ball cap or change their shirt, giving the appearance that they are a different person. Private investigators will sometimes change vehicles or even rent a vehicle, in order that the Subject won’t see the same vehicle behind them over and over. There’s actually many techniques private detective utilize in order to “hide in plain sight”.

Myth #2:  Private Detectives Always Work Alone

Contrary to popular belief, private detectives don’t always operate solo. While they may have moments of solitary stakeouts or deep investigative dives, collaboration is often key to cracking a case. From working alongside law enforcement agencies to partnering with other professionals such as forensic experts or legal advisors, private investigators understand the value of teamwork. So, sorry to disappoint the lone wolf enthusiasts out there, but private investigation is more about collaboration than solo heroics. With that said, there are times when a private investigator MUST go it alone. These sorts of cases require a certain level of discretion that could be difficult to maintain with multiple operatives. Wow, that sounded so “spook”… Spook is a term that has been given to certain government agency “officials” that conduct operations that are, well super secretive. I, however, prefer to work alone as much as possible. There’s many reasons for this, but mainly I want to keep all the praise for myself. Just kidding…lol

Myth #3:  Private Detectives Have Access to High-Tech Gadgets and Secret Government Databases

Ah, the allure of spy gadgets and top-secret databases! While it’s true that technology plays a significant role in modern-day investigations, private detectives don’t have unlimited access to futuristic gadgets or classified government databases. In reality, much of their work involves utilizing publicly available information, conducting interviews, and employing traditional surveillance methods. So, if you were hoping for a glimpse of James Bond-level gadgetry, you might be in for a disappointment. All of the gadgets that private investigators use are available to the general public. You can find the covert video cameras, secret recording devices, GPS trackers, and more all over the web. Most are made and come from China, BUT some of us know how to make or fashion some of the tools available into a form factor that fits our needs for a particular case. For example, we may need a camera that won’t be detected in a hotel hallway. A perfect camera might be one that is built into a smoke detector or a motion sensor. Well, if there’s not one, on the market, that looks like the one’s the hotel uses, we may just need to make one that fits in better. We no longer think of GPS trackers a being high-tech, but it is certainly one of the private investigator’s favorite pieces and most used.

Myth #4:  Private Detectives Spend Their Days Solving Glamorous Mysteries

Who wouldn’t want to imagine private detectives solving glamorous mysteries in exotic locales? While there may be occasional cases that offer a hint of excitement, the majority of a private investigator’s workload is far less glamorous. From conducting background checks for corporate clients to tracking down missing persons or gathering evidence for legal cases, the day-to-day reality of a private detective is often more mundane than thrilling. So, if you were expecting a constant whirlwind of intrigue and excitement, you might want to adjust your expectations. We have conducted investigations in many countries and in most of the states, within the US. It is always fun and a change of pace to work these cases, but it can still be rather boring. Remember, we are catching cheaters, finding skips, busting insurance fraudsters and the like… Their lives can be just as mundane as anyone else’s. The real thrills are in trying to get as close as possible without being detected and of course scoring the “money shot”. Surveillance can often be described as hours upon hours of watching and waiting, punctuated by seconds of extreme excitement and rushes of adrenaline.

Myth #5:  Private Detectives Always Get Their “Man”

In the world of detective fiction, the hero always catches the villain, justice is served, and the case is neatly wrapped up with a bow. However, real-life investigations are rarely so tidy. Despite their best efforts, private detectives don’t always succeed in solving every case or getting the “smoking gun” evidence the client expects. Factors such as lack of evidence, legal constraints, or the elusive nature of the Subject can all contribute to the occasional unsolved mystery. So, while private detectives may strive for a Hollywood-worthy resolution, the reality is often far more nuanced and unpredictable. More often than not, however, if there is wrongdoing, it will be detected, noted, and evidence collected. The #1 reason that a case goes unsolved is because there was nothing to be solved to begin with. For example, a man may come in for a consultation because he believes his significant other is cheating. He has no real evidence of it, but says somethings are just not right in his relationship. We’ll get to work on the case and soon learn that his significant other isn’t seeing anyone one else, rather has just checked out of the marriage or relationship. For whatever reason, this happens to be the case with more men clients than women. Women’s gut instinct – that 6th sense – seems to be right 99.9% of the time. Whereas with men, their suspicions are correct only 80%-85% of the time. This is just my observations over a 19 year career.

The #1 reason that a case goes unsolved is because there was nothing to be solved to begin with.

BONUS Myth:  All Private Investigators Are Prior Law Enforcement

Indeed many private investigators used to be police officers or federal agents, but that is not always the case. And it is important to recognize that just because a private investigator has a law enforcement background or a degree in criminal justice, it does not mean that they are good private detectives. Many prior law enforcement, now turned, PI’s have a hard time transitioning from their public personas to private ones. Private detectives have to be just that – Private. We can’t go around waving a badge and demand information or access to things like sensitive data or surveillance camera footage. It takes a certain finesse, a swagger, if you will. Convincing people to trust you is an art. Persuasion is a skill that is used frequently as a private investigator. Hiding in plain sight requires cunning and skill. The art of NOT being detected needs to honed. In my experience, the best private investigators are those that have no prior law enforcement experience. The best private detectives are unassuming, smart, and witty.

the best private investigators are unassuming
The BEST Private Investigators Are Unassuming

Women’s gut instinct – that 6th sense – seems to be right 99.9% of the time.

The world of private investigation is far more complex and diverse than the myths and stereotypes would have us believe. From debunking the notion of lone wolf detectives to dispelling the illusion of glamorous mysteries, it’s clear that private detectives are more than just characters in a novel or film. So, the next time you encounter a private investigator in fiction or real life, remember to look beyond the myths and appreciate the reality of their profession.

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