A private investigator provides specialised investigative services, from personal background checks to complex fraud detection. In this guide, we’ll delve into “what does a private investigator do”, exploring their investigative techniques, the laws that govern their work, and the skills they need to navigate the often clandestine world of private investigations.

Key Takeaways

  • Private investigators are professionals adept in locating information, resolving criminal or civil cases, and offering specialised services, such as missing person investigations, by employing surveillance, undercover work, GPS tracking, and accessing public records.
  • Operating within legal boundaries, private investigators can perform surveillance in public spaces and access certain records but are prohibited from trespassing, obtaining private records without consent, or enforcing the law like police officers.

To become a successful private investigator, one needs a combination of keen observational skills, sound legal knowledge, proficiency in technology, and strong people skills, with the possibility of enhancing credentials by obtaining a degree or certificate in private investigation.

The Role of a Private Investigator

Mirroring the capabilities of real-life Sherlocks, private investigators, also known as private detectives, are professional detectives aiding clients by:

  • Locating hard-to-find information
  • Aiding in the resolution of intricate criminal or civil cases
  • Undertaking preliminary research
  • Conducting online searches
  • Gathering information and uncovering evidence
  • Specialising in assisting in locating missing persons
  • Conducting research for legal, financial, or criminal cases

These professional investigators employ a variety of methods in their private investigators conduct, such as:

  • surveillance
  • undercover work
  • GPS tracking
  • accessing public records like property records, court records, financial records, and business licenses

Internet enquiries private investigators have elevated online research to an art form, adept at gathering data from various online sources.

Individual Investigations

Functioning similarly to personal detectives, private investigators help individuals with personal matters that range from locating missing persons to investigating infidelity or conducting background checks. A background check conducted by a private investigator is a thorough affair, encompassing information such as criminal records, education, and employment history. With their expertise and access to a wide range of resources, they provide personalised Personal Investigation Services tailored to individual needs.

Corporate Investigations

Within the corporate world, private investigators safeguard against internal malpractices. They aid businesses in revealing internal misconduct, theft, or fraud and gather evidence to deal with offending employees. Their investigations encompass:

  • Compliance
  • Human resources
  • Security
  • Cybersecurity
  • Health and Safety

Private corporate investigators, often employed by private investigation firms, utilise the same technologies, methods, and practices utilised by federal law enforcement and government agencies, focusing on corporate crime and gathering evidence of wrongful business practices.

Moreover, businesses can utilise the findings from private investigators to identify potential civil liability, detect employee theft or fraud, and uncover misconduct or violations of company policies.

Legal Investigations

Legal investigations also significantly involve the work of private investigators. They collaborate with law firms to gather evidence for legal cases and access hard-to-get information. They employ various methods to acquire evidence, such as undercover operations, examining computer systems, conducting interviews, and accessing public records. However, they must ensure that they uphold the privacy rights of individuals while collecting evidence.

Any evidence obtained through unlawful methods could be considered inadmissible in court.

The Daily Life of a Private Investigator

The daily routine of a private investigator is far from mundane. Their daily routine is characterised by dynamic planning and research, followed by fieldwork such as surveillance. The nature of their work is unpredictable, demanding adaptability and sometimes requiring work on weekends and holidays.

They employ a variety of strategies including surveillance, electronic surveillance with cameras and GPS tracking, interviews, and digital forensics to gather evidence. In terms of data analysis, they utilise tools such as GPS tracking, forensic software, and various surveillance methods to uncover hidden details and analyse social media activity.

The Legal Boundaries of a Private Investigator

Though operating in a grey area, licensed private investigators are still bound by law. They operate within defined legal boundaries. For instance, they are permitted to conduct surveillance, but they are not authorised to trespass on private property during an investigation.

Their responsibilities are separate from those of law enforcement agencies, focusing on collecting evidence and information within legal parameters, rather than directly enforcing the law.

Surveillance and Trespassing

During surveillance, private investigators can legally follow or monitor a person of interest and their vehicles from a public space. They can observe individuals discreetly as long as it is carried out from public premises. However, they are strictly prohibited from engaging in actions that constitute trespassing, such as unauthorised entry onto private property.

Accessing Personal Information

In terms of accessing personal information, private investigators function within clearly defined boundaries. They are permitted to conduct criminal record checks and access public records. However, they are strictly prohibited from accessing phone records or obtaining credit or financial information without consent.

Working with Law Enforcement

Private investigators can document crimes and contact law enforcement, however, their powers are limited. They do not possess the authority to apprehend or detain individuals. Their responsibilities are separate from law enforcement’s, concentrating on collecting evidence and information within legal parameters.

Nevertheless, they can conduct a citizen’s arrest, similar to any other individual.

Essential Skills and Traits of Successful Private Investigators

A combination of personal traits and skills often determines the success of private investigators. Some important traits and skills include:

  • Strong observation skills
  • Sound legal knowledge
  • Proficiency in photography and technology
  • Effective communication skills
  • Friendliness
  • Responsibility
  • Professionalism
  • Attention to detail
  • Patience
  • Adept people skills
  • The ability to think quickly on their feet

These traits and skills are invaluable for a successful career as a private investigator.

How to Become a Licensed Private Investigator

The journey to becoming a licensed private investigator involves gaining relevant experience, training, and obtaining a private investigator’s license, which demonstrates adherence to professional standards and regulations. Though no specific educational qualifications are mandated for private investigators in the UK, obtaining a relevant degree or certificate in private investigation can be beneficial for enhancing practical knowledge and skills in this field.

Choosing the Right Private Investigator

Private investigator reviewing legal documents

Selecting the appropriate private investigator can be quite challenging. It is important to consider factors such as experience, licensing, professional affiliations, and client testimonials.

Client testimonials offer valuable insights into the satisfaction levels of past clients with the services rendered by a private investigator.

Rosewood Investigations: A Trusted Partner in Private Investigation

Specialising in private and corporate investigations, Rosewood Investigations is a leading private detective agency that caters to the unique needs of individuals seeking answers, closure, or protection. We have a high success rate in solving cases and specialise in online dating inquiries, missing person investigations, and discreet private investigations.

Services Offered

Offering a variety of services such as:

Here at Rosewood Investigations, we employ skilled detectives who conduct covert surveillance to gather essential photo and video evidence to carry out their investigations.

The Rosewood Advantage

Rosewood Investigations distinguishes itself through:

  • Its personalised approach and professional standards
  • Commitment to client confidentiality
  • Exceptional customer service
  • Commitment to delivering the highest quality of service
  • Collaboration with clients to ensure comprehensive investigations.


Private investigators play a crucial role in various areas of life, from personal issues to corporate affairs and legal matters. However, their work is bound by legal and ethical guidelines, which they must follow diligently. The profession requires a unique blend of skills and personal traits, and becoming a licensed private investigator involves a thorough process.

When choosing a private investigator, consider factors like experience, licensing, and client testimonials. Rosewood Investigations stands out in this field, offering a variety of services with a personalised approach, professional standards, and a commitment to confidentiality and exceptional customer service.

Frequently Asked Questions

Private detectives can legally conduct surveillance, and background checks, and gather information during their investigations.

Yes, it is legal to use a private investigator in the UK as long as they operate within specific boundaries set by laws such as the Data Protection Act 2018 and the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000.

Hiring a private investigator can provide essential evidence and information, leading to a fair resolution for all involved parties.

To become a private investigator in the UK, you won’t need formal qualifications, but the Security Industry Authority may regulate this with an official license in the future. Relevant diplomas and specialised courses would be beneficial. You may also need to undergo self-defence training, obtain an investigator license, get a driving license, gain work experience, and find clients for your agency.