What is Return of Service? How to file Proof of Service with the court.

Today I’m going to answer the process serving questions, “What is Return of Service?”, “How to file Return of Service.” and “How to fill out Return of Service or Proof of Service.”
What is Return of Service?

Return of service (also known in some areas as “Proof of Service”) is the piece of paper (or sometimes two sheets) that tells the court you served the person you were appointed/hired to serve.


What does Proof of Service look like?

Example of a Proof of Service form.

Proof of Service (AKA: Return of Service) form example.

Proof of Service is usually one or two pages that have the case number and information on it and a few or several boxes to check-off depending on your particular service of process.


How to fill out Proof of Service

Of the check boxes you see on the form, one box is for if you served the person personally.

Another box is in case you served him/her by Substitute Service.

Another box is in case you couldn’t serve the papers.

There might be other boxes for other situations as well.

Simply look at your options and check the one that applies to you then sign and date the Proof of Service.

WARNING: This is a sworn statement that you actually served the person at the time, place and in the manner you are attesting to. Do not lie on this or any sworn statement!

How to file Return of Service

When you get the pack of papers to serve, hang onto the page or two that is the Return of Service (AKA Proof of Service). You don’t deliver that Proof of Service page to the subject.

After you serve the rest of the pack, fill out the Return of Service and take it down to the courthouse. You will usually bring it to the Clerk of Courts office for the court that issued the summons, subpoena, orders, restraining order or other paperwork in the pack.

Simply give the Proof of service to the clerk working at the counter. The clerk will punch it with a date/time stamp to prove when you filed it.

Pro Tip: You can get a copy of the filed Return of Service right then and there. Law firms love to have a copy in their file!

In The Investigator’s Ultimate Guide to Process Serving, I teach all of this and a TON more. I teach you everything from A to Z about how to serve process including how to get clients if you want to work for yourself!

If you like this helpful information, 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.

The 2 reasons I don’t recommend Private Investigator Databases (or anything else)!

Here’s the problem I’m having and I’m really hoping you can help me with it. I don’t have anything I can recommend to you for your private investigator, process server or security business!

I have two problems with it and it drives me up a wall because I’ve been struggling with this for years.

Number one, it’s hard to find something good to recommend.

The second problem I struggle with for why I can’t recommend anything to you is that so many places who are willing to pay me a little cut if I recommend their service or product, will just bombard you after the purchase and try to up-sell you. They’ll sometimes scam you or end up being a complete rip-off with no real value for the follow up things they push to sell you!

If you have anything you think I should be recommending to P.I.’s, process servers or security personnel, please send me an email!

You can find my email address on my “About Larry” page. Thanks!

Committed to your success,
Larry Kaye,
Private Investigator

P.S. – Don’t miss my special report, If You Want to Be a Private Investigator Give Up… Unless you Do These Three Things. You can get it for free right here…

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The Secret “Integrity Handshake”

This week I’m going to share with you what I like to call the integrity handshake, or “The Secret Handshake of Integrity” for private investigators – or anyone really!

I’m going to share with you two embarrassing things, truly embarrassing. There’s no reason for me to tell you about them except as an example for you of the way things go in real life sometimes.

The Secret Integrity Handshake

I’m not sure that I invented that phrase. If I got it from anyone, I think I might have gotten it from John C. Maxwell, who has written several books. I’ve got several of his books and they are all excellent. I suggest you look at the different titles he has and pick the one that fits where you are in your business or life at this time. Get that book and read it. You really can’t go wrong with anything that he’s written.

But the whole idea of The Integrity Handshake revolves around when you don’t know something. When you don’t know something, what should you say? How should you handle it? To me, the proper answer, when you don’t know the answer, is, “I don’t know”. And that is the Integrity Handshake. When you don’t know the answer, admit it. Say, “I don’t know”.

Talking With Potential Clients

I mean even if you’re talking to a client or (and this is really when it’s hard to do), admit if you don’t know something. But it is hard to do because, after all, you’re supposed to be the expert! You’re experienced. You’ve got your license. They’re looking to hire you and pay you money to do what you do best (probably what you love to do!), and then they ask you something and you just don’t know the answer. That’s when, “I don’t know”, shows them you have the integrity too admit it. It says you’re not going to try to fake it. It says you will be honest with them. It shows integrity!

That’s why I call it the secret integrity handshake.

Let’s face it. When I ask a question to someone I want to hire, I may not know the answer to the question, but I can tell if they’re faking it! And I’ll bet you can too!

I mean, I don’t know how to play piano, but I can tell when someone hits the wrong note!

Maybe the client asks you to do something and you don’t know or understand what it is. Just ask. Clear it up. Let me give you two examples of times I didn’t know the answer.

A Real-World Private Investigator Example

One time, I was at a Private Investigator Conference. They have seminars and the speakers, and whatnot. We were at a break. So me and another P.I. were in the hotel restaurant eating lunch. I forget if he was ex-cop or an auxiliary officer at the time, but he was a private investigator as well.

Of course, at these conferences, you end up, sooner or later, sitting around telling war stories with each other about cases you’ve worked.

As he was telling me about a particular case he worked, and he said, “We went up to the guy, we tossed tin, he tried to run and we had to go and catch him and wrestle him to the ground.” I didn’t quite know what he meant by “toss tin”. In fact I thought he was saying “toss ten”. But I understood what he was talking about generally.

A little while latter, he used the phrase “toss tin” again. I had to stop him and say, “I don’t know what that means, ‘toss ten’.”

He said, “Oh, we showed him our badges. Our little ‘tin’ police badges. We flashed them to the guy. We showed him our badges”.

That’s what he meant by tossing tin.

Where I worked we just called it “badging” the person. As in, “I badged him” meaning, “I identified myself by showing him my badge.”

It wasn’t any kind of problem for me not to know what “toss tin” meant. It doesn’t make me less of an investigator. It doesn’t make cases I’ve worked any less valid. We just had different terminology.

But, what if…

Imagine for a moment, if I had been foolish enough to try to play along as if I understood!

What if I had tried to “one-up” they guy with my own stories saying, “Yeah, you know, we used to toss ten or sometimes toss eleven or twelve.” Ouch! How ridiculous would I have looked if I had tried to pull something like that! I would not have looked like a professional and I would not have impressed him. In fact, it would have shown him I was a “wanna’ be” and not anyone to be talking to! If I had done that, he should’ve immediately picked up his lunch and walked away!

So look, there’s nothing wrong with admitting that you don’t know something. That’s the integrity handshake.

A Case Study

Let me give you one more example. This one is important to you in particular because it had to do with a potential client.

This was when I was trying to get into process serving. I was actually marketing myself as, “I’ll serve process for you”.

I’m really good at finding people. I’m an excellent skip tracer. I can find people. So I marketed my services to law firms saying, “I will find and serve anybody. Your toughest case, whatever you’ve got.”

So, I get a call from a law firm. They bring me in. They’re ready to hire me. They’ve got some service packs right there in front of them for me to serve! They said to me, “Here they are. Make sure you file the return of service down at the courthouse.”

Now, I’m new. I don’t understand what they mean by “file return of service”.

I understand how to serve process. I’d done enough research, but I’m still kinda’ feeling my way in the dark on this!

When they said, “file a return of service”, I just turned to them and said, “I’ve never filed something with the court. I don’t know what that is.”


I understand now what an outsider, rookie, “I don’t know what I’m doing” question that is.

At the time, I didn’t realize what a super-simple, basic thing that was and that everybody (EVERYBODY!) knows how to do that except for me.

But, I asked the question and I’m glad I did because they said, “Oh, you take the ‘return of service’ page, bring it down to the clerk of court’s office and you give it to them. They’ll punch it in the time clock. You can get a copy of it if you want.”

Okay, no problem. I can do that.

But when they first said, “file with the court”, in my mind, I immediately imagined I was going down to the courthouse and had to go to the file rooms. I imagined I had to do all this kind of crazy stuff.


If you’re worried about any kind of stuff like that and you’re interested in process serving, get my Investigator’s Ultimate Guide to Process Serving. I explain everything in detail. You’ll know it all so you won’t have that embarrassing moment like that.

The Lesson

I mean, I’m literally standing in front of a client who’s ready to hire me and hand me the paperwork. They said something I didn’t understand and I had to say, “I don’t know”.

Was it a deal breaker? Nope. Did they still hire me? Oh yes! I worked for them forever. I worked for them for a years!

Don’t be afraid that you’re going to lose business because you don’t know something. To be honest with you, if you do miss out on that case, that’s the way things go. God makes everything work out for the good of those who love him. This time, it wasn’t meant to be.

That client was not meant to be your client. Move on. Learn more. Keep marketing, but if you don’t know something, admit it. When you do admit it, the only thing it tells that other person, if they’re even slightly reasonable, is you’re somebody they can trust. You’re not going to try to pull the wool over their eyes or pretend to be something you’re not!

If you’ve had a circumstance like this or you want to add something to the conversation, drop it in the comments. In the meantime, remember, do the right thing, even if it’s the hard thing.

If you like these helpful tips, 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. You can get it right here…

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

How to keep your clients happy as a Private Investigator.

Keeping your clients happy as a private investigator or process server is vitally important to making money and making more money as a P.I.

Obviously, it’s so much easier to get repeat business from your current clients than to constantly be trying to find new clients!

Initially, it may seem like there’s some bumper-sticker answers to this question. Something like, “Find the guy they hired me to find.” or “Bring back the video evidence that they hired me to get while I was on surveillance.” or “Serve the process server packs I told them I would serve.”

And, yes, doing the job and being successful at the job is part of it. But, let me suggest you think of it this way…

Make a big promise and keep the promises you make.

Look, when you’re trying to get business (marketing), you’re contacting potential clients and existing clients. Whether you’re doing that through social media posts, direct mail, face to face, phone calls, or whatever, you need to get their attention and you do that with a “headline”.

Imagine a sales letter. Across the top is a headline.

In the old days, the big words across the top of the letter might be the stationary letterhead showing your company name and address. It’s printed on the paper. Then you take that paper, put it in the typewriter and type the letter. That’s not the way it is anymore.

If you imagine a modern sales letter that you might get in the mail, or even the type of thing you see online, that big print on the top (the headline), is frequently a promise. And a lot of times it’s the biggest promise you can make to your client!

If you think about this in any other industry, it becomes very clear and you can see it clearly.

Imagine some crazy weight loss supplement some company is trying to sell. (By the way, you can’t buy a pill, take it, and lose weight. It doesn’t work that way.) But, you’ll see this also with all sorts of supplements and things like that. The headlines for those pills might me something like “Lose 13 pounds in 7 days, even if you’ve never worked a diet successfully before!” (Or Something like that.)

Notice that headline is “The Big Promise” that this diet pill is making!

That kind of promise is what a person is interested in when they want to lose weight. They don’t care that National Supplement Weight Loss Conglomerate of America, LLC makes the pill. Nobody cares about their company name. All they want is to lose weight fast and easy. All they want is the promise. They want to know, “What’s in it for me?”

Bring that home to our industry.

Think about it in terms of what we do. Then approach the client and make a promise.

You have services you offer. You may have guarantees that you offer. If that’s the case, that’s the promise you’re making to the client!

Let’s look specifically at process serving for a moment, because I can give you a very good, concrete example.

Real-World Example

Some law firms have trouble with their process servers not filing their return of service promptly. I have seen this firsthand and how it can bite a law firm in the rear end (in court during a case!). It can bring everything to a screeching halt until it can be fixed. That’s not where any lawyer firm wants to be. Especially in front of their client!

Your client (the law firm) wants a solution to this problem!

They just want to push a magic button and make the thing happen.

If they know all they have to do is say, “Here’s our service packs. Call Larry and have him serve ’em.” then they’re happy because they know it’s taken care of! They don’t have to worry about it!

I’ve had law firms as clients who I don’t think they even call me by name. It’s just, “Call our guy. Call our guy and get these things served.” I’m the solution to their problem. And you need to be the solution to the problem your client have.

What kind of promise does that look like?

For a law firm that’s having problems with their process server because he or she’s not filing return of service promptly – and that is, by the way, in inexcusable in my book – you can send them a letter, with a headline, that says, “Return of service filed on time, every time.” Or, “Never again worry that return of service hasn’t been filed.” Or something like that. Clean it up, work with it a little bit. But, make them a promise they care about!

An Important Side Note

By the way, if you don’t know what I mean when I’m talking about “filing return of service”, I’ll put out a video explaining this, but, also, I teach all about it in The Investigator’s Ultimate Guide to Process Serving. Soup to nuts. Everything you need to know to successfully server process and add more profit to your bottom line is in there.

What if they already have a P.I. or Process Server?

I get emails all the time from people who say, “Hey, Larry. I’m having trouble getting new business because every time I reach out to a law firm, they’ve already got a process server. They’ve already got an investigator.”

Here’s what to do… Keep knocking on those doors. Keep sending them letters. Keep contacting them, because…

1. They may not be super happy with their process server or their current investigator. And…

2. Even if they are happy, things happen.

Process servers move on to other jobs and a spot opens up for you.

I got a big break once when a law firm’s Private Investigator, God help him, had a heart attack. He couldn’t work anymore for this large law firm so they gave me a call!

There’s a little behind the scenes story with that. I didn’t end up working for them, and that’s a whole other story about whether or not you should take criminal defense cases.

My point is, here’s a company that had an investigator. They were very happy with his work, but when that investigator had to step aside, I was their first and only call because they had been getting letters from me every month or so in the mail, reminding them that I’m here and making them a big promise!

After You Get Hired

Once you get hired, you keep the promise.

Look, nobody is hiding the secrets to business success from you. The things you need to do to be successful are out there. If you don’t know them, maybe it’s a secret to you, but the information’s out there.

A Secret

If there are business success secrets, maybe this is one of them… Make a big strong promise to your client, and then keep that promise.

They’ll be happy and they’ll hire you over and over again.

The other nice thing is this “marketing secret” goes hand in hand with what I tell you every week, and that is… Do the right thing, even if it’s the hard thing.

If you like these helpful tips, 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. You can get it right here…

Get Instant Access to Your FREE Private Investigator Report!

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

P.S. – In summary: Make a big promise to your client then keep the promise. That’s what’ll keep your client happy. That’s what’ll keep them coming back to you.

Do you need experience to be a Private Investigator?

The question I get over and over again is, “Do you need experience to be a private investigator”. Yes. Of course you do. Yes. Er… well… No. Not always.

Does that clear it up?

Look, if you want to get your private investigator’s license and open your own detective agency, then yes, in most states in the United States (and many places in the world) you need to have experience in order to get that license. There are requirements to get your Private Investigator License.

Those experience requirements can vary greatly from state to state. However, if you’re not yet interested in getting your private investigator’s license or you don’t have the experience necessary to get your private investigator’s license, you can work as an investigator, even a private investigator, without a license under a few difference circumstances.

Three Examples

Government Agencies

Number one is if you’re working for a government agency that conducts investigations.

I’m not necessarily talking about being a police detective or a federal agent, something like that. Many government agencies have investigators including the Bureau of Worker’s Compensation, Department of natural Resources, Social Security Administration, Food and Drug Administration, IRS and a ton of others!

Many (maybe most?) government agencies have investigators that work for them. Your state’s illegal dumping and recycling programs probably have investigators that go out and do investigations. All sorts of government agencies have an investigative person, branch, or division to look into compliance issues and violations of their regulations.

If you work for two, three or four years with the Department of Natural Resources “Fraud, Waste and Abuse Division”, if there is such a thing in your state, you may find yourself with two, three or four years of full-time experience as an investigator!

Maybe it’s not called “investigator”. It may be called something a little bit different. Maybe it’s called “compliance officer” or “auditor”. That means, when you file your application with the state for your private investigator’s license, you have to make sure that you’ve explained, even though it’s called compliance officer rather than investigator, you have done the investigative work required by the state to qualify. You need to have the experience in investigations, not necessarily a particular job title.

Private Sector Investigations

A second place you can work as an investigator without a private investigator’s license is when you work “in-house” for a company. This means actually being an employee of that company and not just a 1099 outsider.

Many companies have an investigative division. All banks have investigative and fraud divisions. Social media companies have a security and investigative division. Larger retailers have loss prevention or asset protection departments. Heck, I got my start in loss prevention.

Usually you can work within a private company as an in-house investigator, detective, compliance officer (or whatever they might call it in there company). You’re preforming investigative tasks and building up the experience that the state needs to see.

Again, you can be hired directly into a company with no investigative experience if you meet the requirements they have for that job. Some places may want a little bit of investigative experience or skip tracing experience, but you’d be surprised. Look online. Apply for the jobs.

In my opinion… If you meet eighty percent of the requirements they say they need for that job, go ahead and apply for it. Give it a shot. A lot of places are looking to bring on somebody who’s clean, honest, and on time. They can train you in investigations, but they need somebody who’s ethical and going to do the job well.

No matter what job you’re in now – I don’t care if you’re flipping burgers, folding sweaters at a retail store or working in construction – whatever you’re doing now, do it well!

First of all, that’s the right thing to do. Secondly, you want a letter of reference from your current boss when you do apply for a job that’s more within the investigative industry.

Working in a Detective Agency

The third place you do not need a private investigator’s license to work as a private investigator is actually for a detective agency.

Private investigators, and I used to be this way myself, are looking to hire people as private investigators.

So, here’s how it works… I held the private investigator’s license, but I had registered investigators working for me (my company). They were private investigators. They were doing private investigator work and getting that experience. They were not licensed by the state. They were registered with the state under my license. Your state probably has a similar setup.


There are ways to work as a private investigator, gaining that private investigator experience, without actually getting your license.

Do you need a license to be a private investigator?

Yes, if you want to open your own detective agency.

No if you just want to be working in this industry.

As always, keep the things you do above board and ethical.

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

By the way, if you’d like more information about becoming a private investigator, I do have a free report over titled, “If You Want to be a Private Investigator, Give Up Unless You Do These Three Things.” If you’ve read this far, that report will definitely be off interest to you.

You can get it right here…

Get Instant Access to Your FREE Private Investigator Report!

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Committed to your success,
Larry Kaye, Private Investigator