I have done a previous blog on this topic, but I think it is worth going over again. What do you look for or consider when you are thinking of hiring a private investigator to work for you?
First look at their background and experience. How long have they been in business? What type of Investigator are you seeking? Are you looking for one to conduct surveillance on a cheating spouse or are you needing someone to assist you in your defense of a criminal charge? There are numerous PI's out there that say they can work a criminal case, but they just don't have the training or experience. Do they have a law enforcement background in conducting investigations like, murder, robbery, rape, child molestation? If so then you should be ok, but if they were just a police officer on patrol or a deputy working the streets and writing tickets and answering calls, then they don't have a clue on how to conduct a criminal investigation. Interviewing witnesses and victims is a skill that is learned over many years and not something you learn in a classroom or in a book.
Also be aware that the person you talk to over the phone is not necessarily the investigator that will be working your case. So, ask who will be working your case. Ask to meet with them. Check on their background and experience. If a company tries to rush you into signing a contract and paying a retainer, then I would have second thoughts about hiring them. We never pressure our potential clients into signing a contract or paying the retainer. We always tell them to think about it and call us back if and when they are ready to proceed. There are some companies out there that have a clause in their contract that your retainer is nonrefundable. If so, stay away from them. We state in our contract that whatever is not used in the retainer will be refunded to the client. Also make sure the contract does not give the Investigator the ability to exceed the agreed retainer without your approval. You would be surprised that there are some companies that do that and then hit you with a big invoice. When you say you didn't approve that, then they will withhold the report and any video obtained until the invoice is paid. So please read the contract and ask questions. Most companies will ask for a retainer between $1500.00 and $2500.00. That is a reasonable request.
Another thing you can do is a Google search of any reviews that may have been done on the company. Also go to the Secretary of State web site and make sure the company is licensed in the state of Georgia. You can also see if there has been any disciplinary action taken against the company by the state. Also go to a website ripoffreport.com. Put the company name and or Investigator in there and see what may pop up.
Ask for references. Companies should not provide references from a previous individual client unless that client has agreed to provide a reference. However, the company can provide a list of attorneys they have done work for in the past and they can tell you about their services and how the PI company performed for them.
One thing to be cautious about is when you call a company, make sure they are located in Georgia and licensed in Georgia. There are several companies that have web sites and advertise on the internet they do work in Georgia, but they are located somewhere like New York or New Jersey. These companies normally have high hourly rates than most PI's, because if you hire them, then they contact a PI in Georgia to do the work. These companies usually charge $150 or more per hour and then try to find a PI in Georgia to do the work for $50 an hour. Just remember you get what you pay for. In addition, you don't even know who is working your case. So, all I can say is be careful if you decide to take this route.