Mark Stephens

When you hear the term ‘Private Investigator," it often drudges up memories of old black and white, low budget movies about sleazy Private Eye’s and their dirty work.. But with many respected former law enforcement officials, police officers, detectives, federal agents, and even attorneys running their own investigative firms now, the image of the Private Investigator has become that of the "Professional."

If you have the need to hire a Private Investigator, don’t be  afraid to investigate the investigator. Ask to see their credentials, a resume, and references. You might also ask for examples of their prior work and to provide a record of their insurance policy. Check them out with the Better Business Bureau and the Texas  Commission on Private Security (http://www.tcps.state.tx.us/).

So, why would you need to hire a Private Investigator? Here are some of the reasons.

Domestic Issues

In domestic issues, private investigations firms often handle such diverse situations as background checks on potential suitors, baby sitters, nannies, maids, cleaning crews, yard workers, and as anyone else who might have limited or direct access to your home. Because someone prints out a flyer and says they have a business, most of us just take it for granted and believe they are legitimate. What do you really know about your maid or your grounds keeper? Do you truly know enough about them to give them access to your home? The answer is undoubtedly NO! In case after case, where a theft occurs, the culprit turns out to be a member of the cleaning crew or the grounds keepers. Taking proactive measures to protect your loved ones and the property you have worked so hard to earn can be accomplished through a simple, inexpensive background check.

There are a lot of parents who would like to check on the friends of their teenage children, especially the ones wanting to date their daughters! Do they have criminal histories? What does he their driving record look like? Are they safe or potentially dangerous? Single adults might want to check on their potential dates as well.

Then, of course, there are divorce cases and pre-divorce cases. There are investigators who will stretch the law to get the proof they need for their client. These actions could seriously damage the client’s court case, as well as jeopardize the investigator’s license.

Unfortunately, divorces are a reality. And often, both parties will hire investigators to dig up the dirt. In these types of cases, a Private Investigator could provide surveillance, during which photographs or videotape of the offending party could be obtained. The illicit paramour would be completely investigated. Friends, neighbors, former lovers or spouses, all could be interviewed. Many of these cases also involve child custody cases, where one parent is trying to prove they are more fit to be a parent than the other while other times there are allegations of abuse that require investigation.

Also, with the aging of the Baby Boomers, more people are hiring Private Investigators to check up on their loved ones in nursing homes or hospitals to make sure they are receiving the care they deserve.

Database Services

There are a lot of database services on the Internet that claim to be comprehensive. They claim that you can find out anything about anybody. The truth of the matter is that a lot of them aren’t worth a wooden nickel. Not only are they inaccurate, but the information they provide is not current. The best and most accurate databases require an Investigator’s License to access them. It’s always best to pay a little more for accurate information than to pay for information that turns out to be worthless.

Criminal Investigations

The top Private Investigators have established excellent working relationships with the local area Law Enforcement Agencies and District Attorney’s offices. They are able to conduct the investigation, track down and interview potential suspects and/or witnesses, obtain the evidence required to prove a criminal act, and work with the proper authorities to file criminal charges and bring to justice the culprits. The clear advantage to this type of investigation is that the client does not have to wait for an understaffed police agency to work their way down to that particular case. It can be worked immediately, while the leads are still hot.

If you have money or property, it is wise to protect it. From huge corporations, with millions in assets, to the garden tools in your garage. From homebuilders and construction companies to the guy down the street with his own lawn service. It is all vulnerable and a good Private Investigator can not only advise you how to protect your valuables, he can help track them down if they do get stolen and catch the bad guys in the process.

Pre-Employment Screening

The best defense is a good offense. Learn about your employees before you hire them. You could he liable for their actions if you didn’t properly check their background. There is a trend of lawsuits being filed against employers for not properly screening their employees. From allegations of theft to sexual assault. The question should not be, "Can I afford background investigations on people I hire?" It should be, "Can I afford to hire people without checking their background?"

Civil Litigation

From corporate espionage to personal injury, Private Investigators are hired by civil attorneys to perform a myriad of services. Many times, they perform research or litigation support. Many good investigations firms can produce a profile of potential jury members, which can provide critical information to an attorney. Law firms will hire Private Investigators to track down witnesses, interview potential witnesses, document the scene of a crime, reconstruct an accident scene, or conduct surveillance. For example, in many personal injury lawsuits, the injured party may not be quite as injured as they claim. They may claim they’re too injured to work, but can often be found playing sports. Proper documentation of that kind of conduct can literally save millions of dollars. Insurance fraud is a huge business and you and I are the ones stuck paying the bill. The same can be said for Worker’s Compensation cases. The fraud is abundant, and a good Private Investigator can help sort it out.

Security Consulting

The work of a Private Investigator goes hand in hand with that of a Security Consultant. Who better to offer advice on security matters than those who have to investigate breaches of security? Since Private Investigators have to sniff out the bad guys and discover the new and innovative ways they create to bypass security procedures and commit criminal acts, they are often in the best position to offer ways to prevent such acts and combat those who will inevitably try to test the system. This is applicable for both commercial and residential security.

Asset Searches

Many times, in both civil and criminal cases, the need arises for a search of an individual’s or a company’s assets to uncover hidden items. A good Private Investigator will be able to locate and identify anything from secret bank accounts to airplanes, automobiles to boats or yachts, or even expensive artwork and rare coin collections.


Because their services and specialties have become so diversified, anyone, including you, could eventually need the services of a Private Investigator, whether it be for personal or business reasons. The profession, as a whole, has become more professional and there are a number of reputable investigative firms out there. And a good Private Investigator could be worth their weight in gold. CS

Mark Stephens is owner of Mark W. Stephens & Associates, LLC, a professional investigations firm. He can be reached via email at mstep@markwstephens.com

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