FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
HIRING A P.I. FOR A PERSONAL INVESTIGATION
Where do I start?
The first thing to do is to determine if you really even do need to hire a private investigator.
Many times, when people call and share their situation with us, it becomes eminently clear that what the caller suspects is obviously taking place.
Now, I have to remind myself that things are more clear to me for a number of reasons. First of all, I’ve been dealing with these exact types of situations for several years. We’ve come across most of the deceptions, schemes, rouses and lies that people use to pull off and cover-up their activities. At the same time, I have the added benefit of perspective. Having been in a situation, myself, where my wife was cheating on me, I realize that, being human, emotions insert themselves in tense situations and can cloud our judgment. Hell, my wife had been having an affair for almost a year before I figured it out and accepted it for what it was…and I was already a real police detective! Looking back, I’m astonished that I hadn’t put it together earlier, especially looking at some of the red flags that were, in hindsight, slapping me in the face.
The point is, I think a part of my brain didn’t want to find out or know the truth, so I ignored the red flags and heard what I wanted to hear in what she was saying, ignoring (or as psychologists call it, “deleting”) what I wasn’t ready to deal with.
So, back to my point, once you do accept that something nefarious is afoot, try to determine exactly what, if anything, is to be gained by getting proof at all. We often have to point out to people that call into the office that they already have all the proof they need.
What can I expect when I call your office?
When most people call our offices, it is their first time ever dealing with a private investigator, so they really don’t know what to expect. I think a lot of people expect to hear a recording (usually a tool of 1-man shows) and others expect someone to answer by identifying ourselves as “Integrity Investigations.” To be fair, in our evolution as a company, we’ve used both of the above processes to handle incoming calls, but here’s what you can expect these days:
When you call, you will most likely get a live person answering (Don’t be surprised). The only exception would be when we are tied up on all of our lines with other callers, or when it is after 10pm.
We usually answer, “This is ____. How can I help you?” This is for a reason. We have had situations where our targets found our number in our client’s phone log and they called it to see who answered. How do we know this? Because the caller then, in a less than friendly tone, says, “Who is this?” We remind them that they called us and ask them who they were trying to reach and every now and then we will hear something like, “This number was in my husband’s call log. I demand to know who you are.” Well, the fact is, if they’ve made it this far, the cat is usually out of the bag as far as the target knowing that something is awry, but at least we now know that they know, so we can adjust our approach appropriately (and let our client know).
If you call during business hours, your call will be answered by someone in our office, most likely a receptionist. They will ask you how they can help you and if they determine that you are looking for an investigator, they’ll ask what kind of situation it is and direct you to an investigator (usually a supervisor). They will also ask you for your name (You can just give them your first name, or even make up a name). You will then be directed to someone you can discuss your case with.
If you call our offices during non-business hours (after 5pm or on a weekend/holiday), your call will most-likely be forwarded directly to a supervisory investigator. Know that if you call during non-business hours, the person you are speaking with might be taking your call on their cell phone, so they might be in a grocery store, or you might hear their dog bark if someone knocks at their door.
A few other things to understand before you call:
Anything discussed on the call is confidential. The fact is, we could/would/should lose our license if we violated your confidentiality. You don’t even have to give your real name when calling. We understand that you have probably recently been lied to, ripped off, cheated on or screwed over in some manner and that you aren’t very trusting of anyone right now. Your confidentiality is important and there is no reason for you to share any personal information before you make the decision to hire an investigator. However, we will need your real information if we both decide to move forward with an investigation.
In most cases, we can have a 5-10 minute conversation on the phone. You will most likely have some questions for us and we will probably have some questions for you to help us both better understand the issues. If it makes sense at that point to move forward, we can make an appointment to meet in our office to discuss the issue further, face to face. (In some circumstances, if we both feel comfortable, we can move forward with the process on the telephone)
We don’t take every case. First of all, we only handle a certain number of cases at any given time. Experience has taught us that when we exceed that number, the quality of our services drops, and that is unacceptable. If we can’t handle the case at that time, we will let you know and either fit you in when we have an opening, or else refer you to another reputable and competent investigation company. Additionally, we do not handle cases for criminal defendants. That means if you are under indictment or are in prison, we will not handle your case. We also will not take your case if we suspect that you are involved in criminal activity, or if we suspect you are being untruthful with us. We have been in business for over ten years and we are fortunate enough to be in a position where we can be more selective of the investigations we handle. We also will not conduct investigations for persons who have any kind of court-ordered protection or restraining order filed against them.
What forms of payment do you accept?
We accept several different methods of payment, including Credit Cards (Visa, Mastercard, American Express) personal checks, money orders and cash. We also accept PayPal payments.
Be wary of businesses that only take cash.
Also, although PayPal can be an effective way of making payments under the radar (this is another form of payment we accept), be wary of companies that use this as a primary way of accepting credit cards. It’s expensive and usually a sign that the vendor doesn’t have good enough credit to qualify for a regular credit card processing merchant account.
Can you get started on my investigation right away (tonight)?
In most situations, this is determined by our current caseload. In order to maintain a certain level of excellence in our investigations, we only handle so many cases at any given time. Although not the norm, if the circumstances are that we do have an open slot for an investigation, we can usually get started that very day.
How many investigators are needed for a personal investigation?
In most cases, only one field investigator is needed for a personal investigation (infidelity, child custody, etc.). There are situations where we recommend two investigators, especially if the investigation will be taking place in New York City and in certain situations where the personal safety of the investigator may be a concern. This will all be discussed in an advance before the investigation is initiated.
Can I just drop into your office to discuss hiring you?
In most cases, no. An appointment is necessary to discuss your case. Although our offices are staffed with administrative personnel, our investigators work out of several different offices and are not available for walk-ins.
How will the charges appear on my bill if I pay you with a credit card?
If you pay with a credit card, the charges will appear as billed by “Integrity Investigations.” We’ve tried circumventing this, but the credit card companies are very strict about it, for obvious reasons. As an alternative, some people will buy a pre-paid card at WalMart and others will have a friend or relative make the payment.
Do you give free consultations?
We will take 15 minutes to discuss your case on the phone for free. However, for those who feel that they need to sit down and have a face-to-face meeting with us in order to feel a certain level of confidence, we can meet you at our offices to discuss your case. We do charge a $350 fee for a 1-hour, in-person consultation, however this fee is waived if we both agree to move forward with the investigation.
What is the benefit to having a private investigator prove that my spouse is cheating on me?
In some cases, it doesn’t make sense to pay for an investigation. In other cases, clients just want concrete proof so that they can gain some peace of mind. Additionally, being able to move forward in a tenuous situation, basing your decisions on facts, rather than “feelings or emotions,” can make decisions easier to make.
Many of our clients have told us that the evidence we’ve uncovered in the course of our investigations has given them a lot of “leverage” in their divorce proceedings.
In other cases, concrete proof was the only thing that could force the unfaithful spouse to finally come to terms with the situation and admit the truth so that the healing process could begin to move forward.
I think my spouse is cheating; are there certain warning signs that I should look out for?
Although there are common warning signs exhibited by many cheaters, it is not full proof. Some cheaters will exhibit no warning signs while some may exhibit many; Generally speaking the more warning signs your spouse exhibits, the more likely that he/she is cheating. The best indicator, however, is your instinct.
Will you provide me with copies of the video and photos?
Yes. You will be provided with copies of any video as well as photographs, and if requested, a detailed report.
Will you follow my spouse inside places and film with a camera? How do you do that?
Once again, this depends on the circumstances of the investigation. We do have and utilize state-of-the art covert cameras for getting video of persons in restaurants, bars, etc., however we do not enter hotel rooms or residences to get video (unless we are invited in).
How quickly can you start an investigation?
In many cases, it is determined by our current caseload. In order to maintain a high level of quality in our investigations, we only handle a limited number of cases at any given time. With that being said, if you decide that we are the right private investigator for your situation and we accept the case, we can sometimes start as quickly as we receive the retainer deposit.
Are my communications with you kept discreet and confidential?
Every case is kept strictly confidential. All calls, including the initial consultation, are confidential even if you decide not to retain us. Every case is handled in a very discreet and professional manner.
Do you handle cases of child custody?
Yes. We handle all different aspects of child custody disputes; from proving that someone is actually working (or has an income), to proving that a parent is exposing a child to a potentially harmful or dangerous situation. This could include situations where alcohol, drugs or physical, mental and/or emotional abuse are involved or even a young child being left unattended.
I’m thinking of doing the surveillance myself. Is that legal?
If it is your spouse you are following, it is probably legal. However, if it is an ex-spouse or ex-boy/girlfriend, you are probably criminally stalking that person. The other issues to keep in mind when considering this option, even if you are on solid legal ground, the person you’re trying to surveil probably knows you and/or your vehicle and they might recognize, or become aware of you. And at the point that they discover you, the gig is up…hopefully after you got the concrete proof you were after, but you will have shown your hand. It is usually better to keep your cards close to the chest until the right time (or, at least until emotions have cooled down).
Even though I’ve performed countless surveillances, I’d think hard before trying to do surveillance on someone who knew me. In most cases, you are too close to the action to think objectively, rather than emotionally. I guess it all depends on what the stakes are in the situation.
I don’t know where to turn. What is my next step to take?
The very first thing you can do, if you are comfortable with it, is to anonymously and confidentially give one of our offices a call. The main office number is 216-221-1000, but you can call any of the office numbers and be connected to an experienced investigator who can take a few minutes to get an understanding of your situation and see if we can’t maybe help out. Additionally, any time you see the blue “Help” tab/button on the right side of our web page, you can click on that and have an anonymous “Live Chat” with someone in our offices.
Can I use the evidence in court?
Our services are legally admissible in court; in other words our reports can be used in court as evidence to help prove your case. We also offer courtroom testimony.
GPS TRACKING SERVICES
Is it legal to put a GPS tracking device on someone’s vehicle?
The short answer is “It depends.” It depends on several factors…whose vehicle you’re putting it on, whose putting it on the vehicle, where on the vehicle it’s being installed, where the vehicle is when it is being installed and a host of other dynamics regarding the case. In many situations, it may be illegal for you to install the GPS, but legal for a private investigator to do it
In what situations do you employ GPS trackers?
In cases where the subject of the investigation typically drives a vehicle, if at all possible, we usually suggest starting out the investigation by putting a GPS on the vehicle to get a good feel for what their habits and patterns are before we go out and conduct surveillance. This is a more cost-effective and safer way of gaining intelligence. Furthermore, when it comes to the actual surveillance aspect of the investigation, it minimizes the risk of either losing the subject in traffic or worse, getting burned by the target.
Why not just buy my own GPS tracker?
That’s certainly an option. Be advised though, if you’ve done any research on the topic, you will see that there are dozens of different types and brands of GPS tracking devices available. A few of them are good, but most of them are not. We’ve tested most of the different types and narrowed it down to the most accurate and dependable devices available. Furthermore, we continue to test newer models as they become available.
Other issues to consider, are those dealing with how immediate your need is and how tech-savvy you are. After you research which unit to buy, order it, have it shipped, receive it, put it together, charge the batteries, set up an account and then figure out how to mount it to the car and then how to access and monitor it through your computer (without screwing any of these steps up), you’re then probably ready to try it out.
Just as important as what kind of GPS unit you use is where and how you place it on/in a vehicle. Believe it or not, a matter of six inches or a difference in 45 degrees angle of placement can make the difference between whether you’re going to get a strong enough signal or not. Different makes and models of cars have different “best spots” for placement for reasons ranging from issues of electrical interference, to what the car is made of…and if you don’t have a signal, you may as well not even have the unit.
Additionally, there are many situations where it may or may not be legal for you to utilize a tracking device. Law enforcement and licensed private investigators have been granted special rights when it comes to issues, such as conducting surveillance and tracking people. As mentioned above, if you don’t have a PI license or aren’t a police officer, you very may well be guilty of criminal stalking, trespassing, invasion of privacy or even criminal mischief.
In regard to the above, we have the best available GPS units ready to go. We know how to install them quickly, how to use them, how to monitor them and most importantly what the law is when it comes to using them. In most cases, we can have a unit installed on a vehicle within hours of receiving your call. It usually takes less than one minute to install the unit. We won’t need access to the inside of the vehicle, meaning we can put it on while the vehicle is parked in the driveway overnight, while parked in a lot at work, or even when the subject leaves the vehicle in the parking lot of the grocery store to go shopping. We have other methods, too, but would probably be better left off of this web page.
One final advantage to having a professional install and monitor the device is that once we see and know where the problem is, you will have a professional and experienced investigator, armed with professional cameras suited for the situation, whether it be night vision, long-range or covert cameras ready to pounce once the opportunity arises. Our investigators have computers in the vehicles and can zero right in on situations to obtain the concrete proof and evidence that will give you the peace of mind you deserve.
What it comes down to is how important it is to find out what you’re after and how serious you are about getting to the bottom of the issue without taking unnecessary risks.
How does the GPS work?
The GPS unit sends either a cellular and/or satellite signal to satellites orbiting around the earth and the information is returned back to our servers here on earth…all in the blink of an eye.
Our trackers will show you real-time views of where the vehicle is at any given time or they will show historical re-plays of exactly what path a vehicle followed, with exact times and locations all recorded.
Can I get access to view the GPS tracker on my own computer?
We grant computer access to clients on a case-by-case basis. For obvious reasons, we can’t give access all of our clients.
For those situations, our clients are given a link to our IntegrityGPS website along with a unique username and password to use for access. We also have a mobile website portal so that clients can get real-time access on their iPhone and Android devices.
How will you get the device on the vehicle?
Every situation is different. We can sometimes do it while the vehicle is parked in the driveway, at work or in the street. In other situations, we will wait until the driver leaves their home or work and parks in a public place. When they leave the vehicle, we will quickly install the device.
What should I do if he/she finds out?
This is a very common concern. When we first started using the GPS trackers, we would lay awake at night worrying about these devices being found. Experience has taught us to relax. Of the thousands of tracker investigations we’ve handled over the years, our GPS devices have only been discovered a small number of times. In those cases, it was usually because our client tipped the target off by either telling a friend who told someone else (or who was actually the one the target was messing around with) or when a client let the target know of too many things that they could not have known otherwise; the car was taken into a garage with the specific purpose of looking for a tracking device.
In any case, we will give you specific, carefully thought-out responses to have ready in case your spouse confronts you about a GPS tracker.
I think someone is tracking my vehicle...how do I find out?
Being as experienced as we are at installing GPS trackers on vehicles, we also know where to find and recover them. We also have a GPS detector that is used specifically for “sweeping” vehicles for GPS devices. We have a flat fee we charge for searching a vehicle for GPS trackers.
Can you do a social media search?
Yes. Our office investigators have specialized training and much experience in conducting social media research. We cannot, however, recover deleted posts from social media outlets. This information is sometimes recoverable by an attorney who knows what he’s doing with a subpoena.
Can you do a background investigation on someone without them knowing about it?
Yes. This is usually how we handle our background investigations.
What does a background investigation include?
A background investigation can include everything from just finding out where someone presently lives (what we call “a locate”) to a full-blown background which can include everything including asset research, where someone is banking (“a bank account search”), criminal and civil court records, public records checks, going through someone’s garbage (a very dirty job, but often very productive and informative), GPS tracking and even manned surveillance.
Do you conduct pre-employment background investigations?
In most cases, the answer is “no.” We are not geared to do background “checks” where we would be restricted by the regulations and rules of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). There are a few exceptions, however. One would be, where the Pre-employment background investigation is for a position where the candidate is going for a job where the annual income will be greater than $75,000. In this case, the FCRA makes an exception. We can also conduct background investigations in connection with “due diligence” of potential business partners, vendors, etc.
We use Corporate Screening to conduct all of our pre-employment background investigations. They have been around for over 25 years and their client list is nothing short of impressive.
Can you take my fingerprints for a job application and send them to the F.B.I. and/or B.C.I. (a web check)?
We no longer provide this service. Our friend, Teddy Perez, at Precision Security Agency is able to provide this service. His offices are located at 13705 Madison Avenue in Lakewood, OH 44107 and his office can be reached at 216-441-0492.
COMPUTER & CELL PHONE FORENSICS
What kind of information can you retrieve from a smartphone/computer?
In most cases, we need to have our hands on the actual device, whether it is the computer or the cell phone. In those cases, we can usually recover most, if not all, data that was ever on the device, including deleted materials. All situations are different though, and there are times where our technicians are unable to recover information from a device.
Can you retrieve text messages?
Yes. See above.
Do you need the device to retrieve information?
Yes. In certain circumstances, your attorney should be able to use his subpoena power to get text messages from wireless carriers through the court.
I think someone is listening in on my phone calls. Is this possible? Can you see if it is bugged?
Yes. It is possible that someone could have your phone “bugged” or “tapped,” however, it is very unlikely. If it is bugged or tapped, it is probably either by a federal law enforcement agency with a Title III Wiretap warrant. Which would mean that you are being looked at criminally, or possibly by the CIA or NSA, in either of these cases, we can’t or won’t help you.
I have tried out some of the services and devices that are advertised on-line to “listen in” on phone conversations, to see if they actually work, and so that I could help my clients defend themselves from these types of intrusions, but I haven’t come across anything legitimate yet.
I think that my house is bugged. Can you do a bug sweep to find it?
Yes. We do conduct bug sweeps both for corporations and for individuals. Be forewarned, though…it is expensive. Our technician has over $25,000 worth of electronic equipment and 25 years of professional experience to deal with these types of matters. You should also know if and when we do find a listening device, we are compelled to report it to a law enforcement authority.
Do you handle Criminal Defense cases?
No. We do not work for criminals, criminal suspects, or the lawyers who represent them. I am currently a police officer and to do any type of criminal defense work would be in direct conflict with not only my professional obligations, but also with my personal principles.
This is not to be confused with the fact that we can and will investigate criminal matters from the prosecutor’s side of the table. If you take a look at our “Integrity In the News” webpage, you will see that we have actively investigated, prosecuted and sent to prison, numerous criminal offenders through the private investigation role.
COSTS & FEES
How much does a private investigator cost?
There are several variables involved with this answer. At our company, we charge $175/hour for most field work, including surveillance. Other services such as background investigations, computer/cell phone forensics exams and GPS tracking are charged on project-based fees. You can check our Rates & Fees page or call our offices for further details or questions.
How much can I expect to pay for a cheating spouse investigation?
Each case is different and there is no way of determining how much it will cost without finding out more details regarding the situation. The more upfront and reliable information you can provide us ahead of time, the more directed and efficient we can start out. We provide the best investigative services and there simply is no other agency that will give you the results that we will without getting caught. You will get what you pay for and if the investigator is caught, you probably will not get a second chance. We do not provide the cheapest service, however we guarantee to provide the best service available when it comes to surveillance-types of investigations.
How much is the retainer?
In most cases, we do require a retainer deposit, which ranges from $3,000-$10,000 ($1,500 for GPS tracking only). Investigative services are then billed against the retainer. At any point during the investigation (and at the completion of the case) we will inform you of the balance.
How much do you charge per hour?
How much we charge per hour depends on several factors. Ranging on what kind of investigative work we are doing, to how many hours you are paying for upfront, in your retainer.
Some services, such as asset research, GPS tracking and computer or cell phone forensics are handled as flat fees, whereas any time we have to put a person in the field, an hourly rate will usually apply.
Do you accept credit cards?
Yes. We do accept MasterCard, Visa and American Express.
What other forms of payment do you accept?
We accept check, personal check, business check, money order and cash.
Do I pay for your services before the work is done, or after?
Payment is made in the form of a retainer, which is made up-front.
What is a Retainer Fee?
A retainer fee is the traditional way of paying for services in legal-related fields. It is a sum of money paid in advance and is deducted from as professional services are rendered. Our retainer fees are based on our experience in handling similar cases and what we expect to provide in services. They can range from $1,000 up to $10,000, or anywhere in between, depending on the circumstances.
How much does a background investigation cost?
Our background investigations can range anywhere from $500 up to $2200, depending on what we’re looking for, how much needs to be verified and how much fieldwork is called for (GPS Tracking, Field Interviews, Trash Pulls, Surveillance, etc). Our background investigations are not to be confused with the “instant, on-line, Internet background checks” that can be purchased on-line. Check out our special consumer report which spells out the difference between a database report and a true background investigation.
How much does GPS Tracking cost?
We charge for our GPS tracking on a weekly basis, with a 2-week minimum of $1,500 for 2 weeks. Bundled/Package rates can be obtained with investigations that extend longer than a month and with some bundled investigative packages.
How much does a bug sweep cost?
Our Bug Sweeps, sometimes called TSCM (Technical Surveillance Counter-Measures) sweeps start at $750 for a cell phone or a vehicle sweep (for listening devices and GPS trackers) and start at $2,500 for homes and corporate environments. Other factors also figure in involving the size of the area to be swept and the number of phone lines. Once again, we’ve bundled some services together with other services with improved price points.
Why do you cost so much more than other private investigators?
We’ve determined our prices on the supply and demand of what we provide. Integrity Investigations is different than most other P.I. businesses in several ways. First of all, most P.I. businesses are unable to remain in business for longer than 5 years, for the obvious reasons of sub-standard service and inability to run a business. This doesn’t mean that the other guys were poor
investigators, but the best investigators aren’t usually the best at effective communication with clients or organized enough to run a business well. I would never have been able to stay in business since 2004 had I not been lucky enough to surround myself with a competent support staff and investigative team. I most certainly would’ve burned out a long time ago. We are more selective when accepting cases and clients, because we can be…when other P.I.’s have to take every case that comes along. Employing a top-notch support staff, keeping the best investigators on the payroll and having the best equipment means that investigations are consistently handled in a professional manner. It also means that our rates are higher than other P.I.’s, especially the ones that are so desperate that they have to lower themselves to offering their services at a discounted rate. We are not for everyone or every situation. Our clients are usually not the same people that look for the cheapest doctor for their open-heart surgery, the cheapest attorney for their divorce or drive the cheapest cars (even though the cheapest can usually still get the job done). I absolutely detest incompetence and tardiness. At the same time, I have no tolerance for people that don’t take my calls or at least return them in a timely manner. I have the same expectations for my staff and I think that that is one of the reasons people recommend us, refer us and return to us for business. You will rarely be greeted by a recording when calling our offices, and on the rare occasions that this does occur, a timely return call can be expected.
Do your services cost more if I need the work done quickly?
In most cases, the answer is yes, especially if we have to shift investigators’ schedules around and/or put other clients’ cases on hold.
What is IntegritySelect?
IntegritySelect is not currently open to new members. IntegritySelect is a select and limited number of clients with premium access to our services. It includes special pricing on routinely provided services such as home and office bug sweeps for hidden listening devices and covert cameras and vehicle sweeps for GPS trackers. It also includes armed driver/bodyguard services and activity check services.
How much does IntegritySelect cost?
Our IntegritySelect membership is currently at capacity and has a waiting list to get in.
Are there any other costs besides the hourly fee?
In most cases, no. We don’t add extra for mileage or meals. However, we do pass the costs along for airfare and hotel stays when necessary and for reports and videos, as they are very time-consuming to compilate.
Is there any way I can get a discount on any of your prices?
Discounts are only available to IntegritySelect members, or through the pre-purchase of bundled services.
Why don't you accept every client or investigation?
Mostly because difficult clients are bad for business. Secondly, because we don’t have to. There was a time when I took any case from anyone who had cash, but thankfully, those desperate days are in the past. We have never handled an cases for criminal defendants, or the people who represent them because of the conflict of interest (with my current employment as a police officer). It would also be a conflict for who I am and what my company stands for.