What does an Online Private Investigator do?

Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis
An online private investigator is skilled in using the Internet to dig up information, such as people’s credit histories.
An online private investigator is skilled in using the Internet to dig up information, such as people’s credit histories.

An online private investigator provides research services for clients using Internet search techniques. Typically less expensive than regular private investigators, these professionals are skilled in using the Internet to dig up information, including credit histories, background checks, and other information. An online private investigator can do much of his or her work from a home or office, allowing for considerable job and lifestyle flexibility.

Private investigators usually have legal or law enforcement training.
Private investigators usually have legal or law enforcement training.

Private investigators generally have legal or law enforcement training. Some were originally law officers or detectives that have retired or prefer to focus specifically on investigation. Depending on the region, a PI may or may not need certification or a license to work. Some experts suggest checking local laws to see if certification is required, and many recommend avoiding hiring a non-licensed detective in an area that requires a license to avoid fraud or theft.

Online private investigators typically do not perform physical surveillance.
Online private investigators typically do not perform physical surveillance.

Although the traditional image of a PI is a person in a trench coat looking at clues carefully with a magnifying glass, this is a rather outdated and romantic image. Much of PI work is done online, since most records and information are now stored electronically. An online PI specializes in this type of work; while he or she can't provide live surveillance or follow suspects at the clients will, they are masters at hunting down electronic information and the digital paper trail a person leaves behind.

Online private investigators may examine previous arrest records.
Online private investigators may examine previous arrest records.

Some of the jobs an online PI might take include hunting down missing people, doing background checks, and finding court records. Much of this information is available online through vast databases, online records, and even simple searches. Within hours, a skilled online private investigator may be able to hunt down information that would take another person weeks or months of searching.

Online private investigators can collect incriminating computer evidence, such as emails, that point to infidelity.
Online private investigators can collect incriminating computer evidence, such as emails, that point to infidelity.

An online private investigator may operate a regular office, but many choose to find and accept work through an Internet site. For a set fee, a client may request one of many services, such as a background check on a spouse or employer. An online private investigator may refund all or a portion of the fee if the information can't be found. Depending on the service requested, the client may receive copies of all discovered information, from prior addresses to marriage or arrest records.

Online private investigators may search through a person's social media accounts for more information.
Online private investigators may search through a person's social media accounts for more information.

An online private investigator must be prepared to walk a very fine ethical line in some cases. While finding publicly available information, such as court records, is certainly legal, other practices may not be. Breaking into a person's encrypted email or bank account is illegal in most places, leading many private investigators to find ingenious ways around some privacy issues and laws.

Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis

With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica is passionate about drama and film. She has many other interests, and enjoys learning and writing about a wide range of topics in her role as a wiseGEEK writer.

Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis

With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica is passionate about drama and film. She has many other interests, and enjoys learning and writing about a wide range of topics in her role as a wiseGEEK writer.

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AusCovert

Private investigators can collect evidence that can help win lawsuits, save a corporation from false insurance claims and deter individuals from doing business with the wrong person. There are many categories of individuals, companies and industries with comprehensive experience and training that can benefit from hiring private investigators.

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    • An online private investigator is skilled in using the Internet to dig up information, such as people’s credit histories.
      An online private investigator is skilled in using the Internet to dig up information, such as people’s credit histories.
    • Private investigators usually have legal or law enforcement training.
      Private investigators usually have legal or law enforcement training.
    • Online private investigators typically do not perform physical surveillance.
      Online private investigators typically do not perform physical surveillance.
    • Online private investigators may examine previous arrest records.
      Online private investigators may examine previous arrest records.
    • Online private investigators can collect incriminating computer evidence, such as emails, that point to infidelity.
      Online private investigators can collect incriminating computer evidence, such as emails, that point to infidelity.
    • Online private investigators may search through a person's social media accounts for more information.
      Online private investigators may search through a person's social media accounts for more information.