What are the Different Types of Detective Services?

Karyn Maier

A private detective or investigator may be contracted to perform a variety of detective services, depending on the client wishing to retain them. For that matter, there is no one typical type of client likely to become in need of such services. In fact, insurance companies, law firms, commercial enterprises, employment agencies, and private employers are just some examples of the kinds of clients that use these services. Of course, many husbands and wives also request detective services to track down a spouse that has abandoned the marriage or who is suspected of committing adultery.

A surveillance investigator may observe a person who is seeking compensation for an injury.
A surveillance investigator may observe a person who is seeking compensation for an injury.

In terms of the domestic front, private detectives often do a lot more than merely locate an absent spouse, or provide proof of infidelity. In many cases, it may become necessary to place the subject under surveillance in order to determine where they are currently living and working for the purpose of enforcing the collection of child support or alimony. Many single mothers and fathers also find themselves in need of professional help to locate and return children that have been illegally abducted or taken to another country by the other parent. In addition, the collective results of these types of investigations often serve as evidentiary factors when child custody or marital property is in legal dispute.

A surveillance investigator might investigate claims of infidelity.
A surveillance investigator might investigate claims of infidelity.

Aside from cases of marital and parental conflict, investigators may provide services to those wishing to locate other types of missing persons, such as a runaway teenager, a long-lost heir, or other displaced relatives. However, private detectives and investigators are equally adept at tracking down other people attempting to remain “lost,” such as errant debtors or criminal witnesses. Of course, some people simply wish to attain detective services for more mundane reasons, such as reconciling with an old friend or flame.

Find out how you can save up to $257/month with these easy tools.

Many detective services run toward aiding in the prosecution of civil or criminal matters, as well as implementing measures to improve security. For instance, many investigators regularly conduct employee background checks. They may also engage in collecting evidence of theft, vandalism, sabotage, fraud, or security breach based on the forensic analysis of computers and other telecommunications devices, or the results of a coordinated surveillance operation. Another activity that falls under this category of services is the deployment of electronic countermeasures to detect the deliberate interception of communications and data for the purpose of gathering competitive intelligence.

It may seem like success in this business hinges on the ability to spy with the competence of James Bond and apply deductive reasoning skills that rival that of Sherlock Holmes. However, the day-to-day undertaking in this field usually involves more subdued tasks until the occasional stake out or undercover opportunity becomes available, such as skip tracing, process serving, vehicle registration checks, or even posing as secret shoppers to ensure employees properly observe dress codes and customer service procedures.

You might also Like

Discussion Comments


I had a friend who was a photographer for a local newspaper. A couple of the detective agencies in the area where he lived would sometimes hire him to take pictures. He would go with one of the detectives and then take pictures of a husband or wife with his or her girlfriend or boyfriend.

My friend said it was really easy work and he was paid well. Normally, the assignments didn't take long because the detectives had already done all of the leg work.


When I was younger, I worked as a night auditor at a motel. We were the cheapest decent motel in town, so many of our guests were local college students and other locals who were doing more partying than sleeping when they spent the night. Since we also served a good number of travelers, we commonly got complaints about people making too much noise.

At some point, the manager hired a security company. The company would send one security guard to our motel on Friday and Saturday nights when we were busiest and when we had most of our complaints about noise.

In addition to providing security guards for businesses, the company also offered detective services. One of the security guards who worked with us on weekends also worked as a detective sometimes for other clients. He said what he mostly did was work for businesses that suspected employees of stealing. The detective would go to work at the business pretending to be just another employee and then try to figure out who was stealing.

As jobs go, it wasn't glamorous, but the guy said he enjoyed the work, and he liked the variety of moving from assignment to assignment instead of always working at the same place and doing the same job.

Post your comments
Forgot password?