Frequently Asked Questions About Becoming a Private Investigator

How do I become a private investigator?

That's a complicated question with several parts that greatly depend upon in which state you plan on working. You have two options; You either work for a licensed private investigations agency or you go to work for yourself and obtain your own PI company license. Either way, you there are two considerations you must address at some point:

The first consideration is licensing; All but only a competent of states require a state-issued license to be a private investigator. Each state has different background, education and experience requirements that may vary from simply attending a state-approved training course to pre-licensing education, exams, years of work experience and obtaining a sizable professional liability insurance policy with "errors and omissions" coverage. To make matters just a little more confusing, there are some cities that require private investigators to either register or obtain a municipal license in states that do not otherwise require them.

The second consideration is training. Private investigation specific training is the most important investment you can make in yourself! Since most new PIs do not have the ability or are not ready to start up their own investigations company you will most likely be looking for employment with an established agency. As an owner of an established and well respected detective agency I get resumes all of the time; The first thing I look for before considering a candidate is to ask the question, "How has this person invested in themselves before asking me to invest in them?"

What if I Do not have the minimum experience required by the state to obtain my own company license? How will I ever break into the industry?

If your goal is to personally own your investigations agency, no problem … every state that requires experience also has a program in place to see that new investigators have access to eventually obtaining their own license. For example, in Texas where we hold an agency license those who are too new simply go to work for an established company until they have the required number of hours to be able apply for their own license. In Florida (where we also have an agency license) they specifically provide internship licenses. Again, every state is a little bit different but thousands of successful private investigators are working today and tens of thousands have come before us; We all had to get started someplace … you can too.

Also, consider your own background and employment related experience carefully some of it may apply. I have known loss prevention agents, security guards (in particular roles), accountants, firemen, bail bondsmen, alarm installers, teachers, and even a librarian use their previous employment experiences to apply for their own agency license.

What type of training should I be looking into?

Any amount of training is great though most PI companies do not place a whole lot of credibility with the courses from PCDI, Harcourt, and Thompson Direct. You could honestly do much better and at less cost.

Instead, look for academies or training programs that have been created by private investigators. Who knows better about what a new or an aspirating private detective needs to know than an investigator who has been in the field for a reasonable amount of time?

Also … look to see that the sponsoring company is active in the industry as well. Are they still providing regular private investigative services to a robust clientele? It's sad, but many PIs who wash out over a very short period of time in the business look to teaching. In reality, you will learn very little from those who could not make it themselves; Success breeds success!

Lastly, I have a little secret I would like to share with you …

Look over the education provider's entire website and see if you find boastful claims or where the company is bashing other educators. This is a very tight-knit industry and you will find that students who complete training programs from educators that spend time "bad mouthing the competition" have a terrible time getting a break simply because of the animosity created through their educator's use of negative advertising. I know that seems irrefutable but it is a reality in this business. This does not mean, however, that you should dismiss the negative press but the first thing an excellent private investigator learns is how to evaluate a claim, identify the source and make a judgment based on additional facts and research. Some statements will have merit while others will not; It's up to you to make that decision.

What is the difference between a private investigator and a private detective?

Nothing. The terms are used interchangeably but some states choose to use the term "detective" while most use the term "investigator."

I really just want to help my friends and family to find old friends or people who owe them money. Do I need a PI license?

That's a great question. Generally speaking, in those states where it is a requirement you will need to obtain a license if you hold yourself out for hire or accept payment from another person or business and participate in or provide the following services:

O Surveillance

O Obtaining or furnished information related to a crime or the identity, habits, business, occupation, knowledge, movement, location, affiliations, associations, transactions, acts, reputation, or character of a person, group or company.

O Securing evidence for use before a court, board, officer, or committee

O Locating or recovering lost or stolen property and unclaimed funds.

O Determining the cause or responsibility for a fire, libel, loss, accident, damage, or injury to a person or to property.

Some states may specifically include such things as service of process, bail enforcement, personal protection and genealogical research under those activities that require a private investigator's license as well.

Do I have to have a degree in Criminal Justice from a college or university?

No, though some states may accept a degree in Criminal Justice, Administration of Justice or Police Sciences in lieu of the minimum experience requirements. One recent study conducted on behalf of the Virginia Department of Justice concluded that almost 57% of all private investigators do not have a college education.

If I do not have a college education do I have to have a background as a police officer or other law enforcement related profession?

No. Most private investigators do not have a law enforcement background before entering into this industry. It is true that many private investigators may have once had a career in criminal justice but the bottom-line is that private investigation and law enforcement is very different and my experience has been that very few who make the transition from law enforcement are prepared for this Type of work, either technically or creatively, on their own. Most of them recognize this and seek industry specific training as well.

What type of person makes a successful private investigator?

This business requires a rare blend of logic and creativity; It's rare because logical people tend to not be very creative and vice-versa.

I would say that any successful detective must first have the ability to communicate. This means that he or she must have the ability to connect with people of all walks of life, regardless of economic status, ethnicity or education. It also means that the investigator must have the ability to clearly present a simple fact or a complex inquiry in writing. The end result of an investigation is the investigative report, which is given to the client upon conclusion of the assignment; This is especially our work product. If you can not write reasonably well, your reputation will certainly suffer as a result.

Secondly, great investigators have a burning desire to answer any question that is put to them only after a careful and determined effort to identify the facts and circumstances that contribute to a complete and unbiased explanation. We are in the business to provide facts, not opinions; We let our clients draw their own conclusions from our report. Oftentimes in order to get to those facts, we must be relentless in our pursuit of information. This is where logic meets creativity. Dead-ends often only require a different approach!

Lastly, I believe that every investigator should possess a varied set of experiences and knowledge. One characterization of the private detective industry I can make is that by and large we represent a vastness of experience, skills, and trades. One of the most accomplished investigators I have ever metlisted "Mom" on her resume. When she decided to become a private investigator she had no appreciable skills that she could put in her resume but through her own experiences she had developed an intuition that was almost never wrong and she could simplify complex problems into there most basic parts. I have personally hired a plumber, building contractor, car salesman, and a host of other seemingly unrelated career types into my own company, CompassPoint Investigations, because they had certain intangibles that made them great in this business!

The bottom line is that anyone can train to become a wild successful private investigator, just like one can train to become a barber or an attorney, but an aspiring detective has to bring some things to the table that can not be easily taught: creativity, logic , The ability to communicate and an insatiable curiosity!

I have a criminal conviction in my background from many years ago. Will this affect my ability to become a private eye?

Every state that requires a license to be a PI also requires a background investigation as a part of the licensing process. I believe that a felony conviction will be an automatic disqualification in almost every instance (although I know a felon who has a PI license issued by the city of Columbus, MO.), While misdemeanors may be considered depending upon the crime, its seriousness and The amount of time that has passed since the conviction; Again this will vary by state.

Will my military discharge affect my ability to become a private investigator?

In some cases a discharge that is anything but honorable may prevent you from becoming a PI. Just as in the answer to the criminal conviction history above, some states require PI applicants be free from negative military discharge classifications- Bad Conduct Discharge, Less than Honorable or Other Than Honorable service characterizations are grounds for denial of a PI license in several states and Jurisdictions.

Perhaps the Florida Division of Licensing put it best: "Private investigators and private investigative agencies serve in positions of trust. Untrained and unlicensed persons or businesses, or persons not of good moral character, are a threat to the public safety and welfare. Investigative industry is regulated to ensure the interests of the public are adequately served and protected. "

Can I just specialize in a particular type of investigation or will I have to do the surveillances and cheating spouse investigations too?

I absolutely recommend that investigators find their niche and specialize in only a few types of investigations! There are several important reasons for this, which I discuss in my training programs, but it can be summed up this way: when you are the most notable investigator in your region of the country for a specific type of investigation, you will find additional additional Opportunities to make a lot more money than if you advertise yourself as a "jack of all trades." This has been proven across the country time and time again and is a major topic of discussion in our coming private investigation marketing manual.

What types of assignments do private investigators typically take?

Wow, the options are endless and the subject really describes its own entity section! I have listed the most obvious types of private investigator assignments in an article you can find by going to my Articles Page. I will eventually briefly describe each type of investigation in the next couple of weeks. Continue to check in as we are constantly making additions.

What type of investigation or specialty assignment pays the most?

I do not know that anyone can answer that question definitively, but I will say that surveillance is typically the most lucrative type of assignment a private investigator can get because it is solid, billable, blocks of time. I am aware that there are particular types of investigations where investigators are making anywhere between $ 300 and $ 500 an hour for activities like forensic computer evaluation, security consulting, automobile repossession, and a few others specialties. I personally have made $ 10,000 in an hour on several occasions in 14 years doing bail fugitive recovery work, those types of paydays are few and far between. Overall I average almost $ 150 an hour while engaged in bail enforcement, not too bad by most people's standards, though many investigators just do not have the stomach for that type of work. It can be extremely dangerous, it is a very competitive field and you get paid only if you can complete the case.

Is private investigation dangerous work?

Obviously, there are some PI jobs that are more dangerous than others like contractual repossession or bounty hunting but, generally speaking, private investigation is not a dangerous job. We all have heard the stories of PIs getting spoken while on surveillance by an irate cheating husband or being chased out of a yard at the business end of a shotgun while serving a subpoena. Most episodes of Magnum PI had Tom Selleck dodging bullets, too. Certainly, scary things can and do happen on rare occasions but like all war stories, the ones that seem to get a lot of attention play out more like fiction than reality. Safety is always at the forefront of every trained investigator's mind.

How To Start Investing For Financial Independence, Part 1

Today, I am going to start a multi-part series about how to go from being a beginning investor to being "financially independent" in a steady and predictable way. At our website, we get tons of e-mails about how do I start, how do I start with little $ 's, etc., etc., etc. If you are asking this question, congratulations because you are ahead of most. All of us have been there at some point.

I must warn you …. What I am about to share here for free is what "gurus" across the nation charge thousands of dollars for in weekend seminars. The "secrets" disclosed are going to seem pretty simple because quite frankly, there are no secrets. The methods used here have been done for centuries and there is no real reason to complicate them. Let's apply these principles to see how fast someone might become financially independent without betting the farm.

Realize that everyone has wildly different starting points and different financial goals. For this series of articles, we assume that an individual has access to at least $ 15,000 liquid capital (or home equity) to start, is at least breaking even with their current income income expenses, and has decent credit to obtain financing. Note there yet? …. See the footnote below.

To start, what you need is to make your money grow while keeping your current income stream, and current expense level in place. I can not say this more plainly ….. To change your current financial path, you have to us your money and your time to grow additional income streams that increase wealth. There is many ways to do this but we are going to use investing in real estate as an example.

Now for beginners, here is the really bad news …… As an investor, you reap rewards by placing your money in HARMS WAY. You do everything in your power to minimize your risk but bottom line is that real investors make money by taking CONTROLLED risks. As investors get better, they learn how to make fantastic investment returns doing things that all their friends and relatives thing is crazy ….. However, they know exactly what risks are small in comparison to the potential Rewards.

One reason people really like real estate investing is leaseage; Ie, you can purchase an expensive property using 0-20% of your own money while financing the rest. So if you put 10% down for example, and then the property goes up by 20%, you have made a 200% return (ignoring expenses, taxes, etc. for simplicity). Of course this works in reverse … If the property drops by 20%, you have lost not only your original investment but have to come up with another 10% as well ….. Ouch!

For someone beginning, here is what I would suggest:
1) Look for an opportunity that will return at least 150% in 2 yrs or less;

2) Be mentally and financially prepared if the investment does not work out;

3) Have VERY good reasons why you do not think you will lose money …… You may not make as much as expected but you would rather not lose money at this stage.

4) Be patient. This single result should not either make or break you but it is crucial to a longer term plan.

In our Mastermind Group, we are bringing out a land project (see related article Land Investing that appears to meet these criteria (each investor has to decide for themselves.) So let's say the purchase price is $ 150,000, with 10% down and another $ 3,500 In closing costs. With good credit, then the financing obtained would make the land payments for 2 years while waiting for growth.

Now let's say after you did your analysis, looked at what had happened in the past, looked at why you thought more and more people would want this property, etc., you decide that you think this property will average 20% / Yr escalation over The next 2 years. MORE IMPORTANTLY, you decide that barring a major meltdown in the market, you think there is little chance that you can not at least break even after 2 years.

So if you end up being right about the growth, then you might net a tidy $ 43,000 (before taxes) or so after everything is considered. After long term capital gains at 15% let's say, then you just picked up about $ 36,000 of the "market's money". That is money that if you take a loss on the next investment will not be nearly as painful as if you lost your original money. When you combine this with your original investment amount, you now have around $ 55,000 of operating capital for step 2.

Realistically, you can not predict how much you will make from the investment. When I invest, I try to establish in my mind what is reasonable. Frequently, I have been surprised to the positive and made much more than expected. Sometimes I have made less. The key being put to yourself in a low risk situation where you have a strong reason to believe the market will go in your favor.

To accomplish this first step, let's look at what you really had to do:

1) Had to be willing to put $$ in harm's way;

2) Had to educate yourself enough to evaluate the risk and the opportunity;

3) Had to find the opportunity or be in a position to have the opportunity presented to them;

4) Had to act.

I would like to comment on the education side. As a former professor, I have seen very smart people spend 1,000's of hours and 10,000's of thousands of dollars educating themselves to "earn a living"; This is a great move in many cases. On the other side, I have seen very smart people who want investing to be a major source of income but will not spend any time or any money educating themselves.

To me, this is a recipe for disaster. By the time we finish this series, you will see that with a few simple steps, implemented over time, many people can easily produce more money than their regular job. Tomorrowmore, many people will put 100's of thousands of dollars at risk but know almost nothing about what they are doing. If you chose the path of making your investment dollars grow steadily with time, I hope this does not end up describing you.

** Footnote: If you are not yet at that level, here is what I suggest. First, read Michael Masterson's book called "Automatic Wealth". This is an excellent book on how to quickly change your financial position while staying employed. Next, I would read Van Tharp's new book called "Safe Paths To Financial Freedom". Van uses a very different thought process from many and so adds a great deal of rounding. Like anything else, you will not agree with everything written in these books but they provide some great thought processes. When you have some capital and are cash flow positive, they come back and revisit this article.

Intelligent Ways Of Investing

Let's say you've got your hands on a pretty large sum of money. The first thing you bought to do is handle any withstanding debt that you may have; Then, you should establish a sum of money that you need for immediate expenses and small extravaganzas. As for the amount you have left, it's best to invest it in order to start producing revenue for the years to come.

One of the best investment opportunities in the world is gold. This precious metal has a consistently high value and is considered to be an actual hedge against inflation and other similar processes, so it's rather safe to buy even in these times of financial uncertainty. You can purchase it in whatever shape suits you best, whether it's bullion, stocks or derivatives. However, keep in mind that the first two are longer long-term oriented, while the last one can bring you quick profits, but is pretty risky at the same time. Just make sure you have the appropriate storage means, so that you will not be exposed to the risk of being robbed.

Another good idea would be to acquire stocks or shares in a company. If the firm obtains profits, your investment will increase in value; Contradarily, if it goes bankrupt, your shares will also plummet to the ground. This is why it's very important that you first take some time and analyze the current situation of the company in which you're about to invest. Make sure you take a look at its policies towards investors, as well as any other matters that may be of interest to you. This way, there will not be any unpleasant surprises for you down the way.

If gold and stocks are not exactly your thing, there's always the alternative of buying real estate. This kind of purchase can be quite expensive, so it's not something to do on a whim. Still, some people say it worth the trouble, since it can bring you a much larger amount of income in the following years, especially if you decide to rent it or re-sell the property when prices have gone up.

Finally, be aware that most experts agree it's best to create a diversified portfolio of investments. Use part of your money for larger purchases, such as real estate, another part for stocks and shares, and the rest for commodities. This way, you will be "covered" no matter what happens to a particular market or to the economy itself.

The L Steps – 6 Steps of Real Estate Investing

Real estate investing in Miami real estate is now becoming popular again as there are many properties in foreclosure, short sale, bank reo's, and government foreclosures. With such an overwhelming inventory of homes available for sale a real estate investor must be able to determine which one to purchase. Investors must follow six steps in order to learn, understand and achieve Miami real estate investment success.

These are the six L steps to Miami real estate investing:

1. Location – Location, location, location is still the key of buying Miami real estate. Buying Miami real estate just because the price is low in a declining area is big mistake that should be avoided. Look for homes in an excellent location like, good schools, economic stable and growing neighborhoods, near shopping centers and malls, near bus stops and metro rails, near hospitals and restaurants. Sometimes it is better to pay a little more for a property in a good location than getting a bargain in a place where it is very hard to sell or rent the asset. Location is often overlooked in purchasing real estate as many investor think they can exceed a bad location if the price is low enough. Out of two homes that are exactly the same, the one in the best location will command a much higher sales price and rental income. Location is the number consideration when purchasing Miami South Florida real estate.

2. Long Term – Real estate investing is a long term proposition. Do not think you are going to be a millionaire over night. It takes years of hard work and dedication in order to succeed. Hold any property at least one year before selling it. Capital gain taxes will be greatly reduced. Consider renting the property for at two or three years. The rental income generated will help you to properly repair and renovate the property. Many investors purchased properties in the middle of real estate boom with no money down and no equity. These investors were thinking of flipping the houses fast and making a killing in the process. Many homes now in foreclosure are due to investors that were caught in the middle and now realize that real estate investing is very hard to time. Long term Miami real estate investing is the secret to a successful real estate career.

3. Lease Option – Never rent a property with a lease option to buy. Either sell or rent it straight out. A lease option is usually a disaster for both buyers and sellers. The tenant will demand a large discount of the rent to go towards the down payment and closing costs. The problem is that tenant will not buy the property at the end of the lease and the landlord / seller will have wasted a lot of money in rebates given to the tenant / buyer. Demand a 20% or 30% deposit from the tenant / buyer and a clause in the contract that if they default on the purchase they will lose the deposit. This technique will force the buyer / buyer to purchase the property or lose the deposit. The risk of losing the deposit will eliminate the tenant from taking advantage of the landlord by walking out of the contract after receiving a monthly rental discount.

4. Local – Buy real estate close to where you live. Do not buy real estate in another state or in another country. Keep real estate investing local. Buy in your own county and in your city. The more you know about the area where you are buying the better the decision will be. The investor should always be close to the investment property. The Miami real estate investor should inspect the property often to determine any repair, roof and other problems. The landlord must inspect the property every month when collecting the rent. Check for the number of tenants actually living in the property, check for damages and destruction of the property and overall condition of the place. The investor / landlord will not be able to inspect and determine the condition of the property if it is located far away. Keeping real estate local is an essential step in real estate investing.

5. Leverage – Most real estate books and seminars tell you to use other people's money when purchasing real estate. This technique is not the best and buyers should try to buy the property in cash if at all possible. Buying a house in cash will help you get a better deal and allow you to negotiate from a position of strength. A cash buyer will always have the upper hand in negotiating with banks, property owners, and other sellers. Cash buyers will not suffer and go into foreclosure if the market turns and they are unable to sell or rent the house right away. Like Dave Ramsey always says "cash is king and debt is dumb". Buying an investment property in cash is an excellent way to avoid Miami real estate investment errors.

6. Learn – Research the property and learn everything about it before you buy. A mistake in Miami real estate investing can be very costly. Usually you make your money when you buy not when you sell. Buying the property at the wrong price the wrong place and at the wrong time could be detrimental. One mistake could wipe you out and put you out of business before you start. Ask questions to the experts, real estate agents, appraisers, mortgage brokers, and other real estate investors. Learn, research, educate yourself in all aspects of real estate investing before you purchase the asset.

It is definitely a buyers market in Miami-Dade County. Miami real estate investors have more choices than ever before when it comes to real estate investing. Investors must follow the L steps, the 6 steps real estate investor guide to successful real estate investing in order to achieve their investment goals in the Miami real estate market.