Thanks to Hollywood blockbusters and binge-worthy TV shows, there are a lot of myths about what private investigators can do embedded into our culture. However, some are simply not rooted in what private investigators actually do on a day-to-day basis. Here we list out 4 common misconceptions so you understand what a private investigator can and cannot do before you hire one.
1) Private investigators can’t trespass
A private investigator is not allowed to unlawfully enter a property, house, or building. Private investigators cannot enter a residence or business without consent, and if they are asked to leave they must do so immediately. Logically, this also bars private investigators from using forced entry or lock picking to get inside.
2) Private investigators can’t hack, wiretap, or illegally monitor
Equally, private investigators are also unable to obtain information by hacking into someone’s phone, placing a tap on their phone line, or in any other way illegally monitoring their conversations. If there is a reason to believe it would be worthwhile, then it would be due to a suspected crime, and again they would turn to the police for support where appropriate.
3) Impersonate Law Enforcement
Private investigators are not permitted to wear a badge, uniform, or use any logo or phrasing that could suggest that the investigator is a police officer or government official. Ultimately, this helps to prevent private investigators from misleading individuals about their association with the law. Anyone attempting to properly impersonate a police officer is committing a crime – something which would seriously undermine their professional work.
4) Access Protected Information
Although private investigators are legally entitled to find the location of the information, which can be useful if a subpoena is required, private investigators cannot obtain federally or state-protected information without the consent of the individual or a subpoena. These restrictions apply to a variety of documents, including:
- Financial Records: Account specific information like transaction history can’t be obtained without either a court order or permission from the card or account holder
- Phone Records: Through legal investigative methods, an investigator can determine what carrier or person is associated with a given phone number, however, phone records are deemed to be private and protected by both federal and state statutes, so a private investigator cannot access these records without a court order or subpoena.
- Bank Accounts: Again, a PI can identify the location of bank accounts associated with a specific person, but they cannot access the specific information regarding these accounts.
If you’re interested, we’ve also written an article on other things to look out for when hiring a private investigator in Singapore.