In the past few weeks, I have received numerous calls from people that have never contacted a private investigator for any reason. They are nervous and sometimes embarrassed especially if they are calling about the possibility of their spouse cheating on them. The first comment they normally make is "I never thought I would be calling you. What is the procedure that I need to follow. Where do I start?" I thought that I would blog about this topic and try to give potential new clients an idea of what to expect when they call.
The first thing I try to do is to calm the caller down and tell them there is nothing to be nervous about and especially nothing to be nervous about. I assure them that anything they tell me will be in held in confidence, whether they employ my services or not. The next thing they want to to know is how much is it going to cost them. I then explain to them that it all depends on the type of case and if it is a cheating spouse, it really depends on the spouse in question and their activity. In some cases I have gone out the first time and caught the spouse. In other cases it has taken several weeks. Again it really depends on how often the cheating spouse attempts to meet up with their "friend". I ask the caller some details about what they already suspect. Do you have an idea who your spouse is seeing? Do you know if it is occurring during the day or at night.? Is it also taking place on the weekends. The more information the client has about their spouse's illicit activity will help narrow down the scope of the investigation and assist us in determining the best time to conduct surveillance. For example, one client may tell me that her husband seems to work late every Wednesday evening. So what that tells us, we need to concentrate on that evening, instead of conducting surveillance on other days and he may not be doing anything wrong. We save time and the client saves money. Other clients just have a feeling their spouse is cheating, but as far as any other information, they are clueless. When that happens I try to ask more detailed questions to try and narrow it down somewhat. I then ask them to consider using a GPS tracker on the vehicle. Even though there is a cost for the use of the GPS, it is way cheaper and cost effective than paying an investigator by the hour to watch the spouse for 8 hours and he does nothing. The GPS shows us their patterns of travel and then we can set up our surveillance around that information.
Another question I ask the caller is if they can provide a photo of their spouse and a physical description. They can email that to us. I ask for the description of the vehicle they drive and the license plate number. I also ask what their spouse's normal routine is so if I see anything on the GPS that doesn't fit, then I know we may have to respond. I also explain to the caller that I, like most investigative companies require a retainer before beginning the investigation. Usually this is in the amount of $1,000 to $1,500. I always advise my clients that I will not go beyond the retainer amount unless they authorize it, so they will not be hit with a large bill that they were not expecting. The client always knows where they are regarding the budget. I also require the client to sign a written contract which depicts the date the investigation is to begin along with the amount of the retainer paid at the time. The contract spells out the services and the hourly rate that will be charged including an additional charge if a second investigator is needed for the surveillance. In addition if court testimony or conferences with your attorney are needed, the normal hourly rate is charged. The contract will also stated that within 7 days of completion of the investigation a written report, video and photographs obtained will be provided to the client or their attorney.
I hope this answers most of the questions that a new client may have. If not just ask.