Stupid Process Servers and Fake Bounty Hunters.

Stupid process servers and fake bounty hunters did something I hope you would never consider doing as a legitimate process server or private investigator including a citizen’s arrest fail and kidnapping!

Let me share with you this real-world case study.

The facts of this case are 100% true, but please allow me to speculate for a minute on the back-story that led to this debacle.

I suspect it was a domestic case and probably these two stupid process servers were hired directly by the client in the case and not by a law firm.

Imagine a woman seeking a divorce and she has some friends (or friends of a friend) who say, “Yeah, we’ll serve that guy for you”. Next they’re appointed as process servers by the court because it is not that heavy of a burden to meet, right? And they go out to serve process on this guy.

Somewhere along the line, they discover this guy has some outstanding misdemeanor arrest warrants and apparently, because they don’t know any better, they just think they can make a citizen’s arrest on this guy!

You cannot do that! Nowhere in the United Sates can you do that!

If you have any questions on making a citizen’s arrest, check out my book How to Make a Citizen’s Arrest. But know right now, you can’t just decide you’re going to pick-up somebody on an outstanding misdemeanor warrant!

So these two “process servers” detained this guy, restrained him, drive him down to the county jail, hit the buzzer and said, “Good news, we got this guy for you”.

It only takes the sheriff’s deputies moments to figure out this is completely wrong.

I honestly don’t know if they let the guy with the misdemeanor warrants go free. I kinda’ like to think they did. But they (100% for sure!) arrested both the “process servers” for kidnapping.

Your job as a Process Server

You can’t go picking up people with outstanding warrants as a process server. Your job as a process server is to deliver the court papers. That is it.

If you really want to draw out the process step-by-step, your job is to…

1. Pick up the court papers,
2. Deliver the court papers and
3. File the Return of Service with the court so they know you have delivered the papers.

That’s it!

How to avoid the slippery slope of process serving disaster.

So how do you avoid falling into a trap like this? Maybe you are a person like me and you’ve got nothing but good will. Your intentions are good. You’re just trying to help out the underdog. How do you avoiding making a mistake or “going too far”?

This is one area where free online videos can help you. Study them and learn what are the “industry standards”.

Learn what process servers do in the normal course of conducting business. Find out what private investigators are doing regularly. Security personnel, loss prevention officers, learn the standard practices in your industry. Then – if you find yourself tempted to step too far outside those norms – you need to really question yourself about what you’re doing.

Don’t get me wrong, I believe you have to set yourself apart from other process server companies or private detective agencies. And part of that may be understanding precisely where the legal line and the ethical line is and being willing to tip-toe right up to (but not over!) that line.

You may have great success in being able to get the job done when other companies (maybe bigger companies are a little more risk adverse companies) are reluctant.

That’s a big part of how I built my business.

I built my business by being able to do those extraordinary things that are legal and ethical.

Don’t miss this…

Don’t miss the fact that I did a lot of marketing too!

I tell you that all the time. You’ve got to send out letters, use social media or whatever’s appropriate to get the word out about your services and how you benefit your clients.

So while the marketing is important, you can also get clients by being willing to do the extraordinary things that are still perfectly legitimate to do.

In The Investigator’s Ultimate Guide to Process Serving, I have got a section on “Going Nuclear” and doing these extraordinary things to get a refuser served. I teach the almost television-like or movie types of things I’ve used. And if they’re legal in your area (and primarily, I’m talking here about using pretext or permissible deception to lure your subject out or to get the papers to them) then it’s allowed within your state and using those methods wisely and judiciously can set you apart in the market and give you success where other people fail.

There are a ton of professionals that cringe at those kinds of tricks because they worry about going over the line into the rogue semi-bounty hunter nonsense that I’ve just discussed. But, this is precisely why combining the free online resources and paid training from a professional whose been there and done that can be so valuable!

A Rule of Thumb

Watch out for people who are teaching theories or teaching things they’ve never done.

If they’ve never had skin in the game on something they’re trying to teach you, then that’s a real problem.

I understand people can read a book and cobble together a few PDFs into “lessons” about what theoretically works.

Heck, most of the time, they might be correct… maybe. Their “book report advice” may even be harmless – hopefully – but if they’re trying to teach you anything that’s in the extreme (and most effective!) realm of what we do or if they’re teaching how to have success when other people fail, then you’ve got to be really careful about who your teacher is.

A key piece of advice.

This piece of advice will serve you well: When you’re considering something that’s outside the “norms” of the more conservative people in our industry, take a moment and remember…

Do the right thing even if it is the hard thing.

Committed to your success,
Larry Kaye,
Private Investigator (Ret.) &
#1 Best Selling Author

If you like these helpful tips and sources, then don’t miss out on my free special report If You Want To Be a Private Investigator Give Up… Unless You Do These Three Things. If not, you can get it right here…

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Committed to your success,
Larry Kaye, P.I.

How to bill your clients as a Private Investigator.

This week I answer a viewer email from a newly licensed PI about how to bill clients for skip tracing, surveillance and even process serving.

Background Checks

For background checks I offered different “standard” packages to Human Resources Departments or I would work with them to develop the specific/customized pre-employment screening they wanted.

Obviously, in certain cases or for other clients who just needed one background check, I did the specific in-depth checks they needed.

For these corporate clients, I sent a bill at the end of the month, due 30 days net.

Mobile Surveillance and Stake-Outs

On surveillance cases I charged by the hour with a three hour minimum. I charged a part or all of the cost as a non-refundable retainer. That held the time spot for the client and I would refuse any other work I was offered during that time. It was non-refundable so I kept the retainer even if the client changed their mind or backed out for other reasons.

I was always VERY clear with the client that no matter what (and I would give common examples) came up or changed, I would keep the retainer because I was turning down other work to keep that time open for the client.

For a normal 3 hour surveillance (the minimum time I worked), the retainer was the full three hours. So essentially the client paid up-front for the entire surveillance.

For longer surveillances (EG. 5 to 8 hours), I would usually charge half the total cost as a non-refundable retainer. This ensured I got paid something in case the client decided after the surveillance that they didn’t want to pay the balance. (I never got stiffed by a client on the bill, but maybe it was because I only worked for people who had enough money to pay the retainer up-front!)

Process Serving

For serving legal process, I charged by the service pack and billed these law firms at the end of each month, due in 30 days net.

If you like this real-world information, then don’t miss my free special report If You Want To Be a Private Investigator Give Up… Unless You Do These Three Things. You can get it right here…

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Committed to your success,
Larry Kaye, P.I.

You can, but will you? Surveillance and Child Safety Seats.

This week I answer a reader’s question right out of the mailbag about surveillance and child safety seats in your surveillance vehicle and it also considers the idea of using a pretext while conducting surveillance.

This week’s question comes from an investigator who does surveillance. He has a child so there’s a child safety seat in his car and he was wondering – is it good to leave it in his surveillance car because people who see it would never think you’re an investigator if you’ve got a child safety seat in the back of your car or… should you take it out because people who see it will know you have a child and may expose a bit of a weak spot in your life a bad guy might exploit.

His specific concern is if you get a crazy or disgruntled subject of your investigation who might decide to “get even with you” through your family?

If you’ve followed me for any length of time you know, I’ve said I’m very much in favor of using props when you do surveillance – props that enforce the pretext that you’re using.

Of course, if you’re doing surveillance in the back of a van and you park your van in the proper spot, (be sure you park in a proper spot!) then you’re just gonna be in the back of the van and maybe you don’t need any pretext props up front. Maybe if you’re posing as if it’s a construction van, then you might have a hardhat on the front seat just to “sell it” a little bit more. But, otherwise, set up in the back of a surveillance van, you may not need any props.

However… If you’re posing as something where you’re sitting in the front seat of a car you should have the appropriate props so if someone comes up to you and you say, “Hey I’m doing XYZ” and they look at the things in your car- they’ll say to themselves, “Well, yeah, that makes sense, you’ve got exactly the things I would expect that person to have.”

So in that context, I think a child safety seat is kind of a neat thing because if you’re doing surveillance and there’s a seat there, it can throw people off (or persuade them) that you’re just sitting there because your car broke down and you’re waiting for a ride (if that’s your pretext). Maybe you’ve even got an empty bag from a fast-food kid’s meal on the floor in a back. That’s a prop that may help sell the pretext.

If you don’t have any children in your life then a car seat back there might be the perfect pretext in certain circumstances. A perfect prop because there is no downside. They’ll never be able to get to your kid if you ain’t got a kid.

But, looking at the downside if you do have kids, the idea is if people see a child safety seat, they know a little bit more about your personal life and that’s not good for you if they want to seek revenge.

Here’s two things to consider…

On surveillance, the person you’re watching should never know that you’re there – if you’re far enough away, if you’re at the appropriate distance from where you should be. Yeah, maybe a neighbor might see you and come out or say something, but (since they are not the subject of your investigation) that’s probably not gonna be the person who gets angry at you and loses their mind.

I will give a shout out to Andrew over at, he has an excellent video about a smart phone app that allows all neighbors in the local area to share information with each other. He has an excellent video on why nowadays – even if you’re far away – the fact that you are there can “leak out” to the neighborhood. But really the subject of your investigation should never know you’re there and that means having a child safety seat in your car shouldn’t give them a single clue about your personal life. They won’t know you have kids because they’re never gonna see the child car seat.

Finally, it’s very unlikely that you’re gonna run into a problem where somebody tries to hunt you down or get even with you. It can happen… I’ve had a few times in my life – not as a PI but as a loss prevention officer – where somebody tried to follow me. That’s happened. But the idea of someone tracking you down and getting even, while it could happen, really statistically unlikely, and you should find some comfort in that.

How to protect yourself?

I have another video that talks about using a layered approach to privacy and security.

Also, I have a podcast that covers that as well. Episode 3.

So don’t drop your guard but don’t freak yourself out either.

In the meantime, remember to stay safe and always do the right thing even if it’s the hard thing.

Committed to your success and safety,
Larry Kaye, P.I.

Private Investigator Podcast Episode 5 now available.

Private Investigator Podcast

Private Investigator Podcast

My Private Investigator Podcast is available and Episode #5 is now available covering two strategies for gathering intelligence as a private investigator and even marketing advice!

In a nutshell, I explain the old Soviet style intelligence gathering mentality with the Cold War intelligence gathering strategy of China. In other words the idea of one big coup (Soviet Method) verses collecting a ton of small pieces and putting them together to understand your opponent (China’s Method).

But, more importantly, I teach how this effects you as a Private Investigator using paid databases and using other lesser used (and vastly underestimated!) sources and methods.

Whether you’re interested in the “Big Picture” or looking for some nity-gritty tips, this episode is for you!

Committed to your success,
Larry Kaye, P.I.

1 Common Bad Guy Lie and What It Means.

If you work in the security industry as a security guard, loss prevention officer, asset protection agent or even a private investigator doing security consultant work, you know how difficult removing trespassers form private property can be; especially chronic problem people like aggressive panhandlers.

How do you get a a trespasser to leave private property?

Many times a security guard will start out by saying to the trespasser, “You got to leave or I’m calling the police”.

The problem with this is…

1. They have heard this 1,000 times before and nothing has ever happened to them so, they aren’t motivated by this threat.

2. They know there’s a good chance you aren’t actually going to call the cops.

3. They know from vast experience they will be long gone by time the cops show up (even if you do really call them).

So, as a security professional, you have started out the interaction with this trespasser by playing your trump card! You’ve gone right from doing nothing to doing the most you can do! If you don’t get voluntary compliance from the trespasser, you have no further verbal move to get them to leave.

The Magic Words

Next time you need to move a trespasser off your property, try this.

1. Tell them, “You need to leave.”

2. If they refuse ask, “You got any warrants?”

3. They will probably say, “No!”

4. Then you ask them, “You want one?”

5. They answer, “No.”

6. You say, “Well, if you don’t leave, you’re gonna’ get one.”

In my experience they usually just turn and walk away.

Why this works…

Every bad guy who chronically trespasses to aggressively panhandle is a druggie who has been arrested on an outstanding arrest warrant at one time of another.

They associate “warrant” with going to jail.

Logically we all know it’s not happening today, but their association is so strong and unpleasant, the word “warrant” motivates them to act. In this case to leave the property you’re guarding.

Plus this is a phrase (“You got any warrants?”) they’ve only been asked when they are in a situation where they have lost (IE. Gone to jail). This makes all the difference compared to. “I’m gonna’ call the cops”. Every time they’ve ever heard that threat, they’ve “won” (IE. Nothing has happened to them).

This is subtle but powerful.

Use this trick wisely!

P.S. – Don’t miss my book 51 Magic Phrases to Get What You Want: The Secrets of Instant Influence for Private Investigators, Process Servers, Security Guards and You!
51 Magic Phrases to Get What You Want: The Secrets of Instant Influence for Private Investigators, Process Servers, Security Guards and You!