(Making Your Game Plan)
This article will dive deeper into developing your plans to become a Texas Private Investigator. It answers the question, “How to become a PI?”
Let’s review one thing first—any serious investigator will be good at SURVEILLANCE or OSINT or both. So start there. There are opportunities to develop these skills with online training courses such as NPSI.com, TALI.org, and many other places. StriderPI.com, my company, has specially-designed starter courses for new PI’s. We are currently the only PI School offering in-person training, which, in my humble opinion, is the only real way to learn PI skills. Find something that works for you and get started.
Now let’s think about your long-term plans to become a PI. The PI’s TRAPEZOID shows that, aside from the two foundational skills of SURVEILLANCE AND OSINT, a rookie PI needs an investigative specialty. Whatever that is, be it criminal or insurance fraud or missing persons, there are several skills necessary for success.
For example, I know one PI who started fixing computers after high school. He then installed and trained people on basic software, such as MS Office and Movie Maker. Eventually, he began learning code and developed a tool for online research. Then he met a PI, a former IRS agent, who needed a “computer guy.” They teamed up, and although this particular PI never leaves the office and may not take enough baths, he’s very good at OSINT. If it’s valuable enough, it is possible to become a PI with a unique and limited skillset.
Now, how to become the PI that you want to be? I recommend meeting as many PIs as you can and asking them:
- How did you get into this niche? (Insurance fraud, missing persons, criminal defense, etc.)
- What skills do you think are necessary for success?
- How would you recommend I get started?
Let me share my specialty and the skills that helped me become a PI focused on financial crimes. Financial crimes include commercial fraud, probate fraud, major theft, trust fraud, investment fraud, and executive malfeasance. Here’s the PI’s TRAPEZOID that shows my path. Keep in mind that other financial investigators succeed with a completely different path but eventually become CFE’s.
“C.F.E.” stands for “Certified Fraud Examiner.” It’s a useful certification for those in my field. In addition, I have over 15 years of international financial experience, including at Deutsche Bank. Before I became a PI, I was often sent to address claims of fraud or theft in companies owned by my clients.
A FINANCIAL CRIME CASE INVOLVING INHERITANCE THEFT
Let me tell you about one case that involved inheritance theft and probate fraud. The boyfriend was the only one present when his girlfriend died. He took her ATM cards. He moved her china set and jewelry to his apartment. He told the mortuary that she had no family members, but she had two adult children. He may have given an old Porsche to a friend of hers to keep her quiet while he made away with over $250k.
The bank did not want to cooperate, which often happens when we ask for information about the bank accounts. Even though we had the power of attorney, executor status, etc., the bank initially refused. Banks often do this.
But we persisted, utilizing subpoenas to force the bank to turn over information to show that the ATM cards had been used. Drawing money from the bank accounts of a deceased person when you are not the Executor (or even the heir in this case), is a felony. So we persisted. This is essentially the secret to financial crime investigations—it requires teamwork between the PI and the attorney. Investigate—subpoena—surveil—brainstorm—repeat. This strategy is known as “Peeling the Onion.”
HOW TO BECOME A HOMICIDE PI
Here’s another example from one of our Strider PI’s. “Lambo” was a former Patrol Sergeant, then Detective, and eventually a S.W.A.T. Team Leader. His path is shown below. He’s Strider’s Major Case Investigator for crimes such as homicide, sexual assault, burglary, etc.
Lambo is also a surveillance instructor. You’ll probably meet him if you attend Strider’s Private Investigator Training (aka “S.P.I.T.”). Whether with us or another organization, take some PI courses and get moving. Private Investigations is not a Walmart job, you need PI training!
If you were not in law enforcement, it will be a challenge to become a homicide investigator but working for one can be a good start. Every PI I have met had a different path to get to where they are. All you have to do is find your own.
So if you want to become a private investigator, start with your skillset. Examine it. See how you can add to it. I have a PI-in-Training who drives for Uber and Lyft. It turns out this is a great way to learn about the city, talk to all types of people, and observe both vehicle and human movement and interaction. This may sound like a strange strategy, but he’s become an excellent driver and knows the city better than anyone. He’s often one of our drivers for mobile surveillance follows.
As we’ve said before, start by learning surveillance. You can work as a PI with only that skill. It’s useful as part of larger cases run by other PIs, but it’s also something that many clients request directly. For example, they may want surveillance of an employee, warehouse, spouse, child, or a dangerous person in their environment.
Depending on the specialty you desire, build a diagram like the ones we have shared here for the kind of Private Investigator you want to become. Then figure out how to get the skills, certifications, and experience necessary to achieve your dream.
Becoming a private investigator is a journey of a thousand steps. But it’s a great journey, more fun than most any job on the planet. See you out there!
Missed our first posts on How to Become a P1?
Dave Amis is the author of this article. As a Texas Private Investigator, he specializes in major financial crimes, including probate fraud, inheritance fraud, white-collar crime, and executive malfeasance. Previously he was a CEO and a venture capitalist, served as a Sheriff’s Deputy and Police Academy Instructor, worked at several financial institutions including Deutsche Bank, and co-authored 27 CLOSE CALLS, a book on how to be safe from serial sexual predators. He lives in Cedar Park, Texas, where he rescues German Shepherds.
This article is not legal advice. Consult an attorney for any important legal questions.