The Business/Legal Investigator

April 20, 2009

In This Issue:

Seven Guidelines for Choosing an Investigator
by David B. Watts, CLI, CFE, FCI


This is our second informative E-newsletter reaching out to businesses in Lee and Collier Counties. Our purpose is to acquaint you with some of the hidden snares and pitfalls encountered in the business world today. We are not lawyers and do not dispense legal advice. We are, however, experienced private investigators with a sincere desire to be of service to our commercial clients here in Southwest Florida. Our E-Newsletter will appear every 4 to 6 weeks and offer suggestions that help clients avoid problems, but once they do appear, we show how to handle them. Each issue will cover a topic of particular interest to the business community. Last month we forwarded the 2008 Report to the Nation on Occupational Fraud & Abuse. If you did not receive that issue, contact us via phone or email and we will see that you do. In this issue, we offer Seven Guidelines for Choosing a Private Investigator.

There may come a time in the operation of your business affairs when you feel the need to engage a private investigator. Your interest may range from simply doing background checks on employee applicants to suspicions of fraud or theft. Whatever the reason, the decision you make in choosing the right investigation agency is very important and should not be undertaken lightly.

Most of the recipients of this issue are members of The Greater Fort Myers Chamber of Commerce and we are delighted to be members, as well!

David B. Watts, CLI, CFE

d/b/a of Interprobe Affiliates, Inc., a Florida Corporation
FL License No. A89-00394


1) You want to be sure that your case will be held in utmost confidence.

The investigator should volutarily mention during your initial contact that everything you say is in confidence. Let him bring it up first, so that you know he is sensitive to the trust you are placing in him. A good investigator should put you at ease on this subject.

2) Be sure that the investigator is familiar with the type of inquiry you need.

As in other professions, private investigators tend to specialize. Get him talking about his experience with your type of case, so you can feel he really knows what to do and how to do it.

3) Dont't be afraid to ask for references.

Professionals in any discipline should be proud of the work they do and would want to provide references. Review the investigator's website, as well. Most professional investigators have law firms as clients. A telephone call or two should give you all you need to make your decision.

4) Professional investigators are licensed and insured.

Nearly all 50 states require that private investigators be licensed. They must meet certain licensing standards and their activities are monitored to protect you from being a victim of unfair business practises. A private investigator that maintains liability and business insurance exhibits good judgment....someone you want on your side.

5) Look for someone who is experienced.

This is not the time for on-the-job training! You need someone who is familiar with the law that applies in your case, as well as the procedures to get you the best possible result. Also be aware, that those who take shortcuts or try to circumvent the law can involve you in more trouble than you need.

6) You should look for the investigator's memberships in professional associations.

Memberships in state and national professional associations such as The Florida Association of Licensed Investigators, The National Association of Legal Investigators or The Association of Certified Fraud Examiners assure that your investigator is serious and dedicated to his profession. Certifications are just another indication of a commitment to provide the best possible outcome for your case.

7) Finally, always ask and understand the financial arrangements.

Most private investigators work on a retainer basis. That is, an amount is decided upon in advance of the work to be performed and paid in advance. The amount is based upon the type and amount of investigation anticipated. The investigator's hourly rate and expenses are made clear before commencement of the work. It is wise to set plateaus, so that you can stop and evaluate the work-to-date against the billing at that point. Then you make the decision to go further or, indeed, stop the investigation if you feel it appropriate. In any event, you should be in control of the expenditures. You should receive an accounting and any unused retainer should be returned to you.


While no one can guarantee a positive outcome when it comes to investigation work; if you adhere to the above, you will likely have the best possible investigation available. Best of all, if the facts favor you, you will prevail.

Whether utilizinge our investigative service or that of another agency, we urge you to procede with caution and implement these seven guidelines!

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Getting the facts…that’s what we do!