In order to get the best result with your investigation, do the following:
BE CLEAR ON YOUR OBJECTIVES
A lot of clients are not sure what they want. I always encourage people to call and we can talk it through. But at some point we need crystal clarity. For example, one client wanted us to do background on a particular person. She said she only needed a phone number. But after discussing it, we learned that what she really wanted was access to court records that only that person could provide.
ASK THEM HOW MANY CASES THEY HAVE DONE OR HOW MANY YEARS THEY HAVE BEEN IN THE BUSINESS
Ask them how a case, such as yours, normally gets resolved. Ask them what they have seen in similar situations. If they do not have good experience to draw on, they may not be the right PI for you. PI’s are not all the same and they have different specialties, different skills, and different attitudes.
SET A BUDGET
Decide what the case is worth to you. You don’t need to tell the PI, although you can. Ask them how much they want as a retainer and how likely that is to resolve the issue. Most PI’s will say, “I can’t make guarantees.” Persist. Ask “But how much do people normally end up paying you on a case like this?”
To help you budget, I will provide some numbers from my experience, but you are not allowed to quote me with other PI’s! You’ll give me a bad reputation. Here they are:
- Fidelity (aka infidelity but I’m an optimist): $1000-$2,500 often gets a result if you can provide a time and place, otherwise $1,000 per day for a 12-hour surveillance
- Criminal Defense $1,500-$3,000 for simple cases, up to $50,000 for complicated ones
- Background Investigations $500-$5,000 – it’s all about how deep and far back you want to go, 2 years? 10 years? 20 years?
- Missing Persons – $1,000 to get on the ground and maybe get a solution if it’s hours old, $3,000-$5,000 for a 24-hour search. If the person is days gone and trafficked, $50,000-$150,000. (Most people need a gofundme campaign for this)
- Civil Investigations – simple cases $1,000-$3,000, complicated cases can be very high depending on how much is at stake
- Trust or Estate Investigations – if the criminals are local, $2,000-$5,000 but if out-of-state, up to $10,000. If on-going, $2,000-$5,000/month.
What can be learned from these numbers? It usually takes a $1,000 just to get on the ground and understand the case. At that point, a good PI will give you a report and some options to go forward. So be prepared to spend at least $1,000 and much more if you have a major or serious case. If you have large legal fees, spend 25-50% on PI’s can sometimes be a game-changer for your case and worth the money ten times.
GET AN AFTER-ACTION REPORT
Ask for this upfront. Most PI’s will charge an extra hour of work to do a report. That’s reasonable and worth it because then you know exactly what they did. This will keep them on track and dutiful about your case. It will also help you feel more comfortable about the progress and results.