Frequently Asked Questions

These are real questions I get… and my answers.

Is Private Detective work dangerous?

If done right most P.I. work is not too dangerous. However… things can turn on you in seconds.

For example: On a good surveillance, your subject will never know you’re there but, if they find out, well… that’s gonna’ be unpleasant.

With process serving, the subject definitely knows you’re there and frequently is not happy to see you.

You always need to be prepared for danger although 99% of the time you will be quite safe.

 

Do Private Investigators work criminal cases?

Private Investigators do work criminal cases in the US, but usually it is when the police don’t have the ability or interest in a given case.

For example: Filing a false Worker’s Compensation claim is a criminal offence, but it’s usually a private company that’s a victim of the fraudulent claim that hires an investigator because the state is to overwhelmed to place the necessary resources into catching the fraudster in a lie.

But any time a Private Investigator is hired to, he or she can collect evidence of a crime and present it to the police or Prosecuting Attorney.

 

I’ve been a cop / Private Investigator / etc. for years. Is there anything in your courses for me?

Depending on how long you’ve been working as an investigator, you may find a lot of information you already know because these are designed to teach everything from A to Z presuming the viewer has only a strong desire to learn and no knowledge base to start from.

For example, the surveillance course has all the basics (how far to set up from the subject, what lane to drive in when following someone on the express way, etc.), but also a lot of tips experienced guys understand as giving them a slightly better edge than they had before getting the course.

Many experienced investigators are interested in this “incremental improvement” that leads them to mastery. (That’s one reason I continue to get training myself!)

 

Will your courses count toward education or experience requirements for me to get my Private Investigator’s license?

IMPORTANT: I’m not sure if any state currently recognizes my courses as meeting their mandatory training and if that is the sole reason you are getting them, I highly recommend you check with your state before ordering any training.

 

Should I continue in college and get a degree or should I save the money and start getting real world experience?

It may not seem like the easy thing now, but I highly recommend staying in school and getting your degree for a couple of reasons.

First, the people in your classes (and even your profs.) are the people you are “growing up with” in the investigative world. I don’t mean age-wise. I mean knowledge and experience-wise.

You are a peer with your classmates now and a few years from now you will still be their peer when you’re helping each other with cases.

It’s pretty nice to know you can call a senior fraud investigator at a major bank when you have a question. Obviously, I am not talking about anything illegal or unethical but, when you’re stuck on a case, being able to call a friend and say, “I’ve got a routing number on a check but it seems to be to the wrong region. What do you think?” and having them tell you some common piece of info every bank investigator knows that you don’t (eg. what the fist few digits on the routing number really mean) can be invaluable.

Or maybe a classmate ends up in the Prosecuting Attorney’s office. Or District Manager at some large international retailer. These are helpful friends and contacts to have. A lot of cases get solved that way.

Secondly, the college degree opens doors. Is that a cliche? Yup. Is it true? Yup. ESPECIALLY when your starting out and have no experience.

Also, don’t rule out working in Loss Prevention while you go to school. I did and it was my ticket in to P.I. work because I worked traditional Loss Prevention for the company but, also worked as an investigator putting together criminal histories on repeat offenders, address histories to prevent certain types of Theft by Deception and known associates for check fraud. (And many other things.)

 

What should I study in school?

For education I highly recommend getting a well rounded education. You’ll need to talk to all kinds of people as a Private Investigator. In the morning you may be talking to a millionaire lawyer in a fancy office and in the afternoon you’ll be talking to a crack head on a stolen bicycle.

A solid, well rounded education will help to equip you to deal with the variety of subjects and people you’re going to meet.

 

Do your courses contain any exercises or training aids to foster development of investigation skills?

Yes.

First, use yourself as the subject. What I mean is many people are uncomfortable going into the Clerk of Courts Office and asking for a criminal file (or copy of a traffic ticket, civil complaint, etc.). So I recommend looking up and pulling a copy of your own traffic ticket. This is common and the clerk won’t think anything of it. If you don’t know exactly how to do it, they will walk you through it and (although they never ask and don’t care) if they would ask you WHY you want the info, you simply say it’s for your own records.

Second, I recommend using the techniques I teach to look up a figure from your local news. Maybe the guy you read about that the police arrested getting stuck in a chimney trying to burglarize a house or the guy who was arrested for having 76 out standing parking tickets. What ever you’re interested in.

In the Investigator’s Ultimate Guide to Surveillance I teach two ways to practice your surveillance in the real world that will build your surveillance skills. These are the methods I used to train students when I taught Private Investigations in the classroom at a local community college.

 

I am hoping to gain not only knowledge, but also experience that will at some point be of use in this profession. If not directly, are there any referrals to aids or methods to ensure the grasp of the concepts that you cover?

When you do the practical exercises I described above, you learn first-hand how to do investigative work. The Investigator’s Ultimate Guide to Process Serving is designed to get you that experience from paying client. Process serving is a much easier job to get then P.I. work but involves many of the same skills. Having Process Server on your resume may very well get the attention of the detective agencies you want to hire you.

 

Larry, do you offer expedited shipping?

All of my courses are now streaming. That means you can get access as soon as you pay!

 

In your opinion, what might be an appropriate way to get a foot in the door of this industry, given my state’s licensing requirements for Private Investigators.

In any state I think the easiest way in to the business is through serving process because so few people will hire someone with no experience. However, the TRULY easiest way in is to get hired straight into an investigators position!

This can be easier than you might think. I did it by starting out as a Loss Prevention Officer. I got hired with only a little security work in my background and was able to start doing investigative work for the company that they didn’t even know was possible. I started putting together address histories on the bad guys and rings of professional shoplifters. I began to pull criminal histories and other info that was helpful to us in Loss Prevention. I basically used the skills I teach in The Investigator’s Ultimate Guide to Missing Persons and Fugitives to turn my routine L.P. job into that of the in-house Investigator to meet my states licensing requirements. That’s exactly how I did it. (It took years, but I loved my job and eventually got my P.I. license!)

 

Are there any experiences or credentials that you feel are vital in the eyes of an agency as a potential employer?

As a potential employer I ALWAYS look for experience. Without experience, I would need a really good reason to look twice at an applicant. Maybe a Criminal Justice degree, but still, that only gets the resume a second look and not much more.

That’s why I’m such fan of Process Serving. If you’re up against an experienced investigator, Process Serving experience may or may not be enough, but… when an applicant’s got NO investigative experience, then Process Serving gets the applicant on the radar!

Now, the employer may say, “I can hire the experienced guy, but he wants $20 an hour. But this Process Server only needs $12 / hour. He/She must be clean, honest and on-time. He/She has some experience dealing with subjects and attorneys. What the heck, let me give this guy/gal a call.”

 

Can you recommend a database to use for skip tracing and background checks or even for preparation before a surveillance?

For Private Investigations I recommend starting with getting actual documents from their primary source rather than just paying a few bucks (or a lot of bucks!) to a database service.

The database services are great and quickly generate a lot of information to evaluate, but going and getting the primary document is really, really valuable. Especially starting out.

Most records of tremendous value are kept at the county level. (eg. divorce records, misdemeanor criminal records, felony criminal records, etc.)

Some really good stuff is kept at (or reported to) the state level. (eg. birth records, death records, state prison records, etc.)

Learn the websites and offices for these things in your area.

WARNING: There are a TON of worthless, scam websites offering to sell you public records. These are almost always the top search results on-line. Don’t fall for them! Make sure you are at your TRUE county website.

There are few things more valuable than pulling the records and holding them in you hands. Reading them. Understanding what’s there and not there. The website version of the same document will usually have LESS information than the original!

HUGE TIP: Make sure you truly understand what’s in the database you’re looking at and what’s NOT in the database. And know… these things change.

For example: Last year the state’s on-line database of inmates may include RELEASED inmates as well as those currently incarcerated. This year you may find only currently incarcerated inmates listed. The released inmate info is still available (somewhere – maybe by visiting the Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections main office or by a request via snail mail) but, as a professional investigator you gotta’ know these things and the “database” services may not tell you all this!

I could say a ton more on these things and I do in my Public Records Mini-Course, but this is a good start for you.

If you have a question that’s not answered here, please email me at contact info

28 thoughts on “Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Hello

    Does your process serving course teach me how to locate people’s POE and how to gain clients, such as attorneys?

    And does it help with sending out mailings to attorneys?

    Thanks

    • Hello Michael,

      Place of Employment (POE) is arguably one of the most difficult things to get on people.

      As I’m sure you know, there’s no database of this information and for some people it changes pretty frequently.

      My process server course has a section on skip tracing and (if I remember correctly) I talk briefly about using professional licensing to find a work address. However many (most) jobs do not require any kind of licensing.

      So… to get POE you have to use many sources and sometimes that includes pretexting or even surveillance.

      The best resource I can recommend for getting POE’s is private investigator Robert Lightfoot’s book titled Place of Employment The Skip Tracer’s Bible

      It has a lot of skip tracing fundamentals you may already know, but it has a chapter on pretexts that’s quite good.

      How to gain clients…

      This is the hardest part of ANY business.

      That’s why I include a section on getting clients in my training.

      I like to use direct mail to contact law firms and in my course I explain exactly what letter I send them and which law firms are most likely to hire you.

      But make no mistake, this is the hardest part!

      One firm that uses you a couple times a week is a good start.

      I hope this is helpful to you.

      Please feel free to contact me any time.

      -Larry-
      Larry Kaye
      John 14:21

  2. I am based in the uk and regularly view your online posts. Now having almost completed 2 courses in private investigation, I need to get some marketing advice. On getting more work in, it’s all very well teaching you how to be a pi. But none of the training providers teach you how to bring the work in? Your advice is greatly appreciated. I do have experience, but want to gain more work??

    • Ozzy,

      Getting clients is the hardest part of ANY business.

      First off, I always say keep your day job while starting any business.

      The key thing to remember is that you’re considering opening a business and opening a business always cost more than one estimates. Always.

      Like I said, the hardest part is getting clients. For this you need to consider if you have a marketing budget and what it is.

      Here’s a very, very rough rule-of-thumb if you have no idea how much to budget for marketing. Consider 5% of what you expect or hope to gross each month.

      Different industries use different formulas and a new business always requires more marking than an established business. Once you have your clients (law firms) 5% per month should be plenty.

      Plus, remember, “marketing” is not always “advertising”. Posting “solutions” to your potential clients’ problems (on facebook or your website or whatever) helps them find you as a resource.

      I used to like to (snail)mail to my existing and potential clients any article I had published. You may want to send them well written articles you’ve written, even if they’re “just” published at your website.

      Constant reaching out to them is key.

      Also… make them a strong offer! Something like: “I will find him or you pay nothing!”

      If you have private process servers where you are, THAT’s the key to getting in quicker!

      Another thing to budget (for life in general!) is having an emergency fund of $1,000 cash to cover the unexpected. Then building your emergency fund back up again right away after using money in it.

      I hope this is helpful to you.

      Please feel free to contact me any time.

      -Larry-
      Larry Kaye
      John 14:21

      P.S. – This video may help also…
      https://shadowanyone.com/business-advice-for-private-investigators/

  3. Hi Larry,
    My question: I would like to be a PI, I live in Arizona. The states requirements say that you need to work for 3 years full time doing investigation for a company. My question is this. If I have my own company as a Process Service will that help me in anyway for qualifications for a PI?
    Thank you

    • Hi Leslie,

      The short answer is… probably not.

      My process server course is designed to get you experience a detective agency would find desirable so they will hire you.

      The work you do for that detective agency will count toward your license requirements in most states. (Be sure to check with your state for details.)

      There is a small chance they would count some of your process serving experience toward a license, but that’s a long shot.

      The only other real advantage is, while process serving you may learn things that help you on your state licensing test.

      It’s tough to get your foot in the door in this industry. That’s why I designed the process serving course. However…

      You may be able to get experience working as an “in house” investigator for a bank, insurance company or other business. Working as a Loss Prevention Officer for a retailer may count as experience depending on how much investigation you do in that position.

      Please let me know if there’s anything else I can answer for you.

      -Larry-

  4. How do you get all the criminal record of a person?

    Do I have to go to the websites of all the counties that that person had resided before? I might not get all the criminal records, some might be committed in county that the person did not reside in.

    The person that I am investigating have had committed grand theft, felony, drug and petty theft, he has to pay $20,000 restitution, I would like to know what cases this restitution are associated with.

    Is restitution associate with each case or sum of all the cases? Is it at county level or state or federal level?

    • Henry,

      For the best criminal records search, yes, you do need to look in each county.

      Some kind of “statewide” arrest records search may help you find a county you might miss, but the key here is getting a really solid address history of where he has lived and worked.

      If you have skip tracing skills you will find those useful in building an address history on your subject.

      Restitution is usually associated with each individual case.

      Here are two videos I would suggest for you.

      1. The Big Lie about National Criminal Records Checks.

      2. Common Mistakes.

      Best Wishes,
      Larry
      John 14:21

    • Originally I designed the course so a person could open their own process serving business. It was only later I discovered how may people wanted it to lean the basic and advanced level “how-to’s” of process serving for when they applied for a job with an existing company!

      Getting a job as a process server is the same as applying for any other job. The only real advantage my course offers before you’re hired is that you get a real inside view of the work. That means when you go to the interview you understand what they mean when they talk about “filing return of service” and other things common to this business, but not generally known by the public (and maybe not understood by other applicants).

      Once you’re working for a company, the specifics I teach (like how to track down a skip or tricks for serving a refuser) will help make you one of the best process servers working for the company.

      I hope that’s helpful.

      Thanks for the question!

  5. This is some really good information about private investigators. It is good to know that you can use private investigators if the police are really busy. That does seem like a good thing to be aware of when you need help.

  6. Hi Larry,

    Any suggestion(s) on where do I go to get the necessary help regarding someone whom I found to be a online fraud and scammer?
    I filed a report with the Federal Trade Commission and the FBI a while back but to date no response.

    Thank you and kind regards.

  7. Good morning Larry,

    I am 59 years old. For the past 23 years I have been a full time paramedic working on the ambulance as well as in a couple busy emergency departments. It is time I wind down my work in ems. Since I was 10 years old I have had the big desire to become a private investigator. That desire continues to have a hold on me today.

    I live in Texas where a license is required. Fortunately there is an avenue through the criminal justice department of the University of North Texas where I can obtain the required hours and knowledge to sit for the state exam.

    One concern I have is if I am too old, without experience, to become a PI and enter this field? I have the desire but totally lacking the experience. My ultimate goal is to have my own agency. I do have two attorney’s who will give me some business to get started as soon as I obtain my license. Also, I have a PI/Legal Investigator friend in a city here in Texas, about two hours away, who has a PI firm but does not have the time to take care of it. He said he will give me his business when I am ready. He has a nice list of clients, but his legal investigator work at the law firm is very time consuming.

    If you can share any thoughts on this topic, I’m all ears.

    Thank you, Larry!

    • Hey, Mark.

      As far as too old, well, a lot of people think that, but I don’t. I have a video kinda about that.

      I do also have a video on working places that don’t require a license.

      If you want to get your foot in the door and can’t find any other way, process serving may be a service you can offer law firms.

      In the mean time, learn as much as you can from legitimate sources. Heck, there’s a lot of skip tracing you can do from you computer and on the phone. If you’re good at that, your P.I. buddy may just ask you to help with some of that work.

      I hope that’s helpful.

      Peace,
      -Larry-
      John 14:21

      • Hi Larry,
        Thank you for the reply and video links. I appreciate your advice.

        Process serving is something I am definitely looking into as I work toward my PI license.

        Much thanks again,
        Mark

  8. Hello Mr Larry Kaye,

    Thank you for the reply and for the suggestions. I recently moved to the U.S and I am looking for a new career path. I have 15 years experience with Immigration and I am very good at researching and finding loopholes in cases. Is there a way I can get into background research only for a PI firm? Or do you recommend I go the entire PI?

    Thanks again for all the great advice.

    Kind regards,
    M. Lee

  9. Hello Larry,

    I am close to beginning a journey I have been wanting to do since I was a kid and that is to enter the private investigations field.
    I am in my 50’s which is not a concern for me, but I’m not too thrilled to be doing too much surveillance. A little bit but not interested in making that my area of expertise. I understand there are many areas of specialization. Along with process serving, what areas of PI work would be something I could do without too much surveillance?

    Thank you Larry,
    Steve

    • Oh, gosh, there’s a ton of stuff, Steve.

      Skip tracing, accident investigations, witness interviews, criminal defense work, child custody investigations, civil litigation work and much more.

      There are plenty of services attorneys need P.I.’s for besides surveillance.

      For many P.I.’s surveillance is something they offer to help bring in revenue until they can establish a client base in the specialty they enjoy the most.

      Great question!

      All the best,
      -Larry-
      John 14:21

      • Good morning Larry,

        Thank you for taking the time to respond. And thank you for your insight.

        I am very interested in several of those areas of specialization and look forward to finding my niche.

        Keep up the good work!

        Steve

    • Andy, I supposes you could, but I don’t know if you need to. I’m not familiar with Texas law.

      I will share this… getting your P.I. license is a bit of a pain in most locations and then you have to adhere to requirements most people don’t have to follow (like reporting registered employees quarterly, maintaining special insurance, etc.) My feeling is, if you don’t need a license, why bother with it?

      Of course if a license is required, there’s simply no getting around it.

      I guess it kinda’ comes down to: Do the right thing, even if it’s the hard thing.

      I hope that helps!

  10. So I have been watching your videos for a bit now, and I like what I am learning. I would like to purchase your “The Investigator’s Ultimate Guide to Missing Persons and Fugitives” course but I do not see a link to it on your website, and I can’t seem to find a contact pages to reach out, so I am left with posting a reply to your FAQ’s in the hopes you will see it. Please let me know if this course is still available.

    Thank you,
    Gary

    • Regrettably, the skip tracing course is too out-dated to sell now. The crux of it was to use public records to track down leads on your skip.

      If I were to hand-pick the two resources I think would be of greatest value to you I would suggest…

      My book 51 Weird Private Investigator Tricks that Actually Work. It contains a lot (maybe most) of what the older course had that still applies today.
      You can learn more about it here: https://www.amazon.com/Weird-Private-Investigator-Tricks-Actually-ebook/dp/B07RV4HXB9

      Also my Public Records Mini-Course really takes a deep dive into those records for skip tracing or even background checks. You can learn more about it here:
      https://shadowanyone.com/public-records-mini-course/

      I do have other courses you can lean about here at Shadowanyone.com, but that ebook and mini-course are two economical ways to evaluate if this training is right for you.

      I hope that’s helpful!

      All the best!
      Larry
      John 14:21

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