Background Checks and Private Investigation

A computer keyboard with a search button shown
To even the untrained eye, it should be obvious that background checks can prove useful in the profession of the private investigator. That being said, the PI must always be certain never to overstep their extremely limited authority. Doing so can lead to both criminal charges and civil liability, on top of rendering information useless for a case in any supportive capacity. In case you’ve ever wondered if hiring a PI to conduct a background check made sense for your situation, this article should prove as a valuable resource.

What is a Background Check?

There are a wide range of investigations encompassed by the term “background check.” It really is something of an umbrella term, and as such it covers a broad expanse of legal quagmire. An employer, for instance, may conduct background checks on entry-level applicants for a job, looking into their credit history and their criminal background. They must tell the prospective employee that they are doing so, and whether or not the background check may impact the decision to hire them.

A landlord, or a property management firm, may also conduct background checks. These often tend to be slightly more thorough, particularly in the case of the latter. They might encompass things like a person’s character or lifestyle, and their overall reputation, and involve personal interviews with people who know or have worked with said individual in the past. Employers may also go this far with a background check. When such a check is undertaken, they must inform the employee in advance of exactly how far it goes, what is being investigated, and again, whether or not it may have an impact on the hiring process.

Additional depths of information, such as bank records and other financial statements, cellphone records, motor vehicle records, and property ownership records may be uncovered in background checks conducted by law enforcement agencies. These are beyond the scope of most civilian agencies, but a private investigator can access some of these records… conditionally. Generally speaking, the more sensitive and personal a record might be considered to be, the more restricted access to it will be.

Murky Waters: The Use of Background Checks in an Investigative Capacity

A private investigator in Chicago may conduct a background check based upon an unusual level of access to certain government databases which are otherwise off limit to most individuals; this ties in to a private investigator’s licensing requirements, which often involve either law enforcement experience or experience within a licensed private investigative agency. This is especially important given recent events in the city.

To conduct such a check legitimately, the individual being investigated is supposed to be either the subject of a paid investigation, or else so closely tied to the investigation as to merit the invasion of their privacy. Obviously, the private investigator does not inform an individual that a background check is being conducted, but “subject of an investigation” can be somewhat vaguely defined. For example, many private investigators (agencies, in particular) sell their services for the performance of background checks based upon the extent to which they have access to information that a background checking agency would not. They may sell their services in this capacity to employers as well, at which point the individual being checked may not be aware of it, but is technically the subject of a private investigator’s case.

Many people are of mixed feelings as to whether or not this is appropriate behavior, but ultimately it would be hard to restrict without a broad, sweeping reform of private investigators’ legal permissions. Ultimately, it falls to the individual to determine how they are willing to use the information to which they have access.

This content was last updated on December 1st, 2015

4 Things You Will Learn as a Private Investigator

computer-hackerSome people would immediately think that being a private investigator would let you become a badass potential. But what they didn’t know that being a private investigator in real life is so different compared to what they see on TV shows and movies.

Just keep in mind that a private investigator’s job in real life is much more complicated than what it seems. Here are the things that private investigators experience on their job in real life:

1. Everything you know about surveillance is wrong.
Surveying a person of interest is way harder than what you see on TV. In real life, there are lots of circumstances that can make the surveillance go wrong. Even if you do survey and follow the person in his car, there’s a chance that the chase will be cut off such as in traffic. So there’s a chance that your suspect will get away and may even alert him that he’s being monitored by a private investigator or detective.

Cool new technologies may make surveillance easier in the future.

2. Technology has its limits.
Using the technology to track, trace, and monitor your suspect is not always as easy as it looks Even though that you have implanted the right devices on their person, it will be rendered useless if you are unauthorized to use it. Also, don’t always assume that the technology you are given is not as close as to what James Bond is using but it can be enough to conduct a stealthy surveillance.

3. The cops are not your friend
If you’re doing some crazy stuff in conducting your investigation, just keep in mind that the police will stop you if necessary. They will turn you in if they see that you are breaking the law. This will cause some hindrances towards your investigation and there’s a chance that your suspect will get away from it. Just keep in mind to always follow the law and be mindful of your surroundings. The police are not your friends.


4. Everything cool from the movies is illegal.
So you think that private investigators in movies are cool, eh? Well, don’t get your hopes up because every bad-ass thing they do in there are for the sake of entertainment and they are even deemed illegal in real life. Just know that there are people around who won’t think twice in stopping you if ever they have no idea of what you are doing. Just know your limits and avoid doing some crazy stuff unless it is necessary.