Guns, Gams & Gumshoes

A blog for PIs and writers/readers of the PI genre

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Private Eye Fiction Groaners

Posted by Writing PIs on March 17, 2013

A little research can go a long way to creating plausible PI characters (image licensed by Colleen Collins)

Here at Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes, we’re not only private investigators who also write (one of us is also a trial attorney), but we enjoy reading the private genre, too.  But sometimes we read something so implausible, we groan out loud.

A year ago, we wrote about a few private eye bloopers that ripped us right out of the stories — something writers strive not to do to their readers. Some bloopers require some common sense to correct, others a little research on the writer’s part. Today, we add to that blooper list.

Without naming names or titles (in fact, we’ve disguised some story attributes so authors/books aren’t identifiable), we’ll discuss a few instances where we groaned out loud…and sometimes gave up on the story altogether.

The PI Isn’t Licensed Because…You’re Kidding, Right?

We’ve read stories where the private eye character isn’t licensed in a state that requires licensure.  In the recent HBO series Bored to Death (which supposedly is being made into a movie, and we hope this rumor’s true) the private eye is unlicensed in New York, a state that requires PIs to be licensed. The PI character Jonathan Ames kick-started his private eye business by placing an ad in Craigslist. As real-life PIs, it bothered us that Jonathan continued to work undercover and unlicensed show after show…finally, a reference was made that, yes, he was unlicensed and courting legal trouble if were to be caught.

That was enough for us to buy into the story’s plausibility.

Then recently we read a story by an author writing a private eye series with a major publisher.  The private eye is unlicensed in a state that requires licensure. Okay. The PI character admits she is unlicensed, but gets around this problem by not advertising herself as a private investigator but as a legal researcher. Okay. Then, out of the blue, the PI character explains why she never pursued a private investigator license: Because to obtain a license in that state, an applicant must either have a legal degree or past law enforcement employment.

Hello?

Neither of us had ever heard of any state making such a requirement, but to double-check, we reviewed that state’s regulatory requirements for PI licensure. It took us all of 5 minutes to fact-check this. In this state, as with other states, a law enforcement background can be helpful (often, an applicant with that background gains credits toward earning a PI license). But there is no requirement to have been employed in law enforcement, nor to have a law degree. The writer seemed to think it necessary to add this made-up reason, but the character has already explained she wasn’t advertising herself as a PI. At the very least, any PI, PI-hopeful, person who might work with or hire PIs (paralegals, lawyers), law enforcement officers thinking of working as PIs after retirement would find this added reason silly.

If you’re writing a private eye story, and you’re not sure about licensure, below is a link (courtesy of Pursuit Magazine) that provides links to each state’s licensure requirements.  Note: Some states, such as Alaska and Alabama, do not have PI licensing requirements, although the state will require a business license and some cities impose additional PI licensure requirements. Also, in Colorado, there is a voluntary licensure program–the keyword being voluntary–but there is no requirement to be licensed.

Listing of PI licensure requirements by state: Pursuit Magazine: PI Licensing

Clueless, Really?

We just read a novel, actually one that is part of a series, where the private eye team met with an individual.  As readers, we had

PIs don’t leave their partners clueless (image licensed by Colleen Collins)

no idea who this individual was, but considering the fictional PI team was hot on the trail of a case, obviously this person was someone who might have pertinent information about a suspect or the crime itself, or maybe was an eye witness, or…well, we were ready to find out.

Imagine our surprise when one of the PIs had no idea why the meeting was taking place! The individual with whom the PI team was meeting asked the clueless PI (very loosely paraphrasing the dialogue here), “You don’t know who am I?”  The clueless PI answered, “No.”  The individual turns to the other PI and asked, “Your partner doesn’t know why the two of you are here?”  to which the first PI quipped something like, “Yeah, I don’t like to tell my partner everything — it’s good for [the clueless PI] to be surprised.”

What?  A PI team goes to a meeting with a possibly important resource/witness/contact, and one of the PIs is purposefully left uninformed and clueless?  This was one of several clueless episodes in this story, and the one that made us finally shut the book for good.  There is no way one of us would drive the other to such a meeting and not brief our partner on the ride. It’s to the benefit of any case we’re working that we’re both as informed as possible.  We both have our strengths, our styles of interviewing/investigating, and if we’re both well informed, we’ve just doubled our chances to unearth that telling detail, maybe even solve the case.

This isn’t PI rocket science.  Even in the business world, who wants to purposefully take a clueless person to a meeting?  Or how about leaving your car for repair at a shop and not tell anyone what you want fixed or looked at in your car?

Enough said.  Onto the next PI peeve.

Cell Phone, Really?

If your private eye uses a phone, research the technology rather than make it up (image licensed by Colleen Collins)

It’s fairly safe to say that the majority of current-day PIs have basic-to-advanced technological skills. For example many of us rely on our smartphones to do a handful of investigative tasks that used to require a bucket load of equipment. For example, at our agency, we use our smartphones to record and transmit witness interviews, take photos, even scan and transmit documents.  Cool stuff.

Here’s our techno-peeve: We recently started to read a story set in 1990 where the PI didn’t answer her cell phone because she’d forgotten to charge it. Uh, what?  Cell phones were in common use in 1990? To be fair, we researched cell phones on the Internet. According to “The Evolution of Cell Phone Design Between 1983 and 2009,” the first truly portable phone was the Motorola MicroTAC 9800X made in 1989 — a monster affair with a ruler-size antennae.  According to Wikipedia, the 9800X’s price tag was between $2,495 and $3,495.  This wasn’t a rich PI by any means — in fact, this gumshoe had to scrimp on food and other essentials to make the monthly rent. Seriously doubt this fictional PI could afford a cell phone that cost several thousand dollars. Heck, even today, my business partner and I wouldn’t blow that kind of money on a cell phone!

By the way, the next cell phone was the digital hand-size mobile telephone called the Motorola International 3200 made in 1992, two years after this story took place.

It’s a small point, maybe, but cell phones are such a part of our world today that this inaccurate factoid stood out like Philip Marlowe at a nunnery. Wouldn’t have taken much research for the writer to realize the PI probably used a landline in 1990. Still can’t figure out how this slipped past the editor…maybe he/she was too busy on their cell phone to notice.

Have a great week, Writing PIs

All rights reserved by Colleen Collins and Shaun Kaufman. Please do not copy/distribute any images noted as copyrighted or licensed. Images noted as in the public domain are copyright-free and yours to steal.

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Private Eye Writers of America Announces Nominees for 2012 Shamus Awards

Posted by Writing PIs on June 4, 2012

Each year the Private Eye Writers of America (PWA) recognizes outstanding achievement in the private eye genre in short stories, paperback originals, first novels and hardcover novels. This year one of the Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes co-authors, Colleen Collins, chaired the PWA hardcover competition, which although challenging (each judge read 63 novels!), was also a rewarding and edifying experience.  Let it be said, there were many, many wonderful books.

The official announcement for the top five contenders in each category is below.  Congratulations to the nominees!

Private Eye Writers of America

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                       June 2012       

 

CONTACT: Gay Toltl Kinman, Shamus Awards Chair  gaykinman@gaykinman.com 

 

PRIVATE EYE WRITERS OF AMERICA ANNOUNCES

2012 NOMINEES FOR SHAMUS AWARDS

The Private Eye Writers of America (PWA) is proud to announce the nominees for the 31st annual Shamus Awards, given annually to recognize outstanding achievement in private eye fiction. The 2012 awards cover works first published in 2011. The awards will be presented at the PWA banquet, to be held Friday evening October 5, 2012 in Cleveland, Ohio, during the Bouchercon World Mystery Convention. For banquet details, contact Robert J. Randisi at rrandisi@aol.com.

2012 Shamus Awards Nominees

BEST HARDCOVER PI NOVEL

Bye Bye, Baby by Max Allan Collins / Tom Doherty

1222 by Anne Holt / Scribner

When the Thrill is Gone by Walter Mosley / Riverhead Books

A Bad Night’s Sleep by Michael Wiley / Minotaur

The Highly Effective Detective Crosses the Line by Richard Yancey / Minotaur

BEST FIRST PI NOVEL

The Plot Against Hip Hop by Nelson George / Akashic

Claire Dewitt and the City of the Dead by Sara Gran / Houghton Mifflin

The Ocean Forest by Troy D. Nooe / Ingalls

The Shortcut Man by P.G. Sturges / Scribner

The Stranger You Seek by Amanda Kyle Williams / Bantam

BEST PAPERBACK ORIGINAL PI NOVEL

Quarry’s Ex by Max Allan Collins / Hard Case Crime

Threat Warning by John Gilstrap / Kensington

Serial by John Lutz / Kensington

Long Pig by James L. Ross / Perfect Crime Books

Fun & Games by Duane Swiercyzinski / Mulholland

BEST PI SHORT STORY

“A Bullet From Yesterday” by Terence Faherty in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine (Jan.)

“Mr. Monk & The Sunday Paper” by Lee Goldberg in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine (July)

“Who I Am” by Michael Z. Lewin in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine (Dec.)

“Vampire Slayer Murdered in Key West” by Michael West in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine (Sept. / Oct.)

“Dancer in a Storm” by L. A. Wilson in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine (Jan. / Feb.)

PWA was founded in 1981 by Robert J. Randisi to recognize the private eye genre and its writers. 

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Military Justice, Historical Research and Contest to Win a $10 Amazon Gift Certificate

Posted by Writing PIs on May 28, 2012

Shaun Kaufman and Colleen Collins, the Writing PIs

Today at Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes we have a smattering of links to share, from Shaun Kaufman‘s educational article on military justice to tips for historical research.  Last, there’s a fun contest running through June 4, 2012 where the lucky winner gets a $10 Amazon gift certificate!

“Remembering Military Justice” by Shaun Kaufman

This article outlines key differences between civilian and military criminal defense. To read, click here.

Historical Research Tips

Below are some articles on researching history — handy info for writers, researchers and those interested in investigating people and events in the past. To read an article, click on the link.

Tips from a PI: Historical Research Sites for Your Stories by Colleen Collins

State Historical Society of North Dakota: Research Tips for Beginners

History Detectives: Historical Research Checklist

From Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes: Historical Research Links

Win a $10 Amazon Gift Certificate!

Today through June 4, 2012, Mrs. Mommy Booknerd’s Book Reviews is running a contest for The Zen Man by author-private investigator (and Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes’s co-author) Colleen Collins.  For more information on how to enter the contest, click link below (hint: if you post a comment to this Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes’s blog, you get bonus points!):

Contest: Win a $10 Amazon gift certificate

Have a great week, Writing PIs

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Top Mistakes Writers Make When Depicting Crime Scenes

Posted by Writing PIs on May 18, 2012

Today Novel Rockets, one of the Writer’s Digest 101 Top Websites for Writers, has posted an article by Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes’s PI, Colleen Collins: “Top 5 Mistakes Writers Make at a Crime Scene.”  Besides offering a PI’s perspective on crime scene faux pas, Colleen interviewed other experts for this article: Joe Giacalone, veteran NYPD detective sergeant and commanding officer of their Cold Case Squad and author of  The Criminal Investigative Function; David Swinson, retired Washington, DC, detective and author of A Detailed Man; and Denver criminal defense attorney Shaun Kaufman.

Below we post an excerpt.  To read it in its entirety, click on the “To read the full article, click here” link at the bottom of the article.

Top 5 Mistakes Writers Make at a Crime Scene

by Colleen Collins

Incorrectly describing a crime scene can hurt the credibility of a story

Next to confessions, crime scenes contain the most first-hand evidence explaining the who, what and whys of a crime.  Unfortunately, sometimes writers get aspects of a crime scene wrong, which puts a dent in the credibility of a story.

David Swinson, a retired Washington, DC, detective and author of A Detailed Man (available in most bookstores and Amazon), calls these dents “Aw c’mon, man” moments.  “I have been to countless crime scenes,” says David.  “When you respond to a scene that is related to a violent crime, especially homicide, even the smallest mistake can ruin the outcome of the case. I’m especially tough on some authors who write crime fiction — it’s what we in law enforcement call an ‘Aw c’mon, man’ moment.’”

Let’s look at the top five mistakes, or “Aw c’mon, man” blunders, in no particular order, that writers make at crime scenes.

Using incorrect terminology. One popular misconception is that the words cartridges and bullets are synonymous. A bullet, the projectile that fires from a rifle, revolver or other small firearm, is one part of a cartridge. Two other words that writers sometimes use interchangeably: spent bullets and spent casings. A spent bullet, sometimes called a slug, is one that has stopped moving after being fired. Spent bullets are often pretty distorted after hitting objects on their way to a resting place. A spent casing is one from which a bullet has been fired. Although spent bullets and casings might be found at a crime scene, casings are more likely to be lying in plain sight.

Mishandling evidence. “First rule of any crime scene investigation,” says Swinson, “is when you observe what is obviously evidence, leave it where it is. Don’t move it!”  An “Aw c’mon, man” crime scene scenario for Swinson: “Spent casings are visible on the floor beside the body, a semi auto is a few feet away, and a little baggy that contains what appears to be a white powdery substance is near the weapon. The detective picks up the gun and inspects it and then picks up the baggy, opens it and smells or takes a taste using his finger. This makes me crazy! A detective would never pick up crucial evidence before it is photographed or, if necessary, dusted for prints. This contaminates evidence and can jeopardize the prosecutor’s case. And a detective would never, ever pick up what might be illegal narcotics and taste it!”

To read the full article, click here

Related articles

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Surveillance Rule Number 1: Blend In

Posted by Writing PIs on May 15, 2012

Your Writing PIs

Last month we gave several presentations at the Pike Peak Writers Conference, a fun, informative annual conference held in beautiful Colorado Springs, Colorado. We taught two workshops for writers: “Surveillance 101” and “Missing Persons 101.”

Today we’ll share a few of our “Surveillance 101” slides on the topic of “blending in” while on surveillance:

Rule Number One: Blend In!

Types of clothing to wear on surveillance, based on locale, weather, length of surveillance

Choose an Appropriate Surveillance Vehicle for the Locale

Tips for Picking Effective Surveillance Vehicles

More Tips for Effective Surveillance Vehicles

We loved The Rockford Files, but this is hardly an effective surveillance vehicle!

Have a great day, Writing PIs

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Private Investigators: News, Resources and Some Fun Stuff

Posted by Writing PIs on May 13, 2012

Here at Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes, we write a lot about serious issues.  Today, we’d like to offer a smattering of items, from investigation news, handy resources and even some fun stuff.  Yeah, fun stuff.  It’s Mother’s Day.  Time to smile a little.

Private Investigators in the News

Click on a link to read article:

Private Eyes Spy on Staff (The Portside Messenger)

Private Eyes Spy on Exam Sheets: Private Detectives May Be Called in to Catch Any Internet Cheats (The Connexion)

Piles of junk prompt St. John’s to hire private eyes (CTV News)

Private investigators are selling access to financial and criminal records (The Guardian)

Handy Resources

Click on link to read more about service/product.

Read-Notify: Track your email. Know when emails you’ve sent get read, even from what city.

Convoflow: Harvest real-time social media conversations.

Changedetection.com: Be automatically notified when any web page changes.

Google Keyword Tool: Evaluate the usefulness of keywords before using them in websites and blogs.

Fun Stuff

Click on a link to check it out:

Quick Quiz: Check Your Knowledge of the FBI in Pop Culture (Brought to you by the FBI)

FBI Widgets (Want “10 Most Wanted” on your Cell? An “FBI History” widget? A “Wanted by the FBI” module?…All brought to you again by the FBI, who’re showing you they can be fun, sorta, too).

Inside Private Eye: A video look at the inner work of the satirical UK publication Private Eye

“Another Whacko Process Service: Is It Time to Quit?” On a sister site, one of the Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes’s PIs debates the process-serving biz after escaping a woman wielding a frying pan.

Have a great Mother’s Day, Writing PIs

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Story Foibles in Private Eye Fiction

Posted by Writing PIs on May 3, 2012

Here at Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes, we’re not only private investigators (and one of us also a trial attorney), but we also love reading the private eye genre.  Lots of great authors and books out there…and then sometimes we read something so implausible, so silly, we relate to Dorothy Parker who once said, “This is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force.”

Without naming names or titles (in fact, we’ve disguised some story attributes so authors/books aren’t identifiable), we’ll discuss a few instances lately where we wanted to throw a book with great force.

Clueless, Really?

We just read a novel, actually one that is part of a series, where the private eye team met with an individual.  As readers, we had

PIs Don’t Leave Their Partners Clueless

no idea who this individual was, but considering the fictional PI team was hot on the trail of a case, obviously this person was someone who might have pertinent information about a suspect or the crime itself, or maybe was an eye witness, or…well, we were ready to find out.

Imagine our surprise when one of the PIs had no idea why the meeting was taking place! The individual with whom the PI team was meeting asked the clueless PI (very loosely paraphrasing the dialogue here), “You don’t know who am I?”  The clueless PI answered, “No.”  The individual turns to the other PI and asked, “Your partner doesn’t know why the two of you are here?”  to which the first PI quipped something like, “Yeah, I don’t like to tell my partner everything — it’s good for [the clueless PI] to be surprised.”

What?  A PI team goes to a meeting with a possibly important resource/witness/contact, and one of the PIs is purposefully left uninformed and clueless?  This was one of several clueless episodes in this story, and the one that made us finally shut the book for good.  There is no way one of us would drive the other to such a meeting and not brief our partner on the ride. It’s to the benefit of any case we’re working that we’re both as informed as possible.  We both have our strengths, our styles of interviewing/investigating, and if we’re both well informed, we’ve just doubled our chances to unearth that telling detail, maybe even solve the case.

This isn’t PI rocket science.  Even in the business world, who wants to purposefully take a clueless person to a meeting?  Or how about leaving your car for repair at a shop and not tell anyone what you want fixed or looked at in your car?

Enough said.  Onto the next PI peeve.

Cell Phone, Really?

It’s fairly safe to say that the majority of current-day PIs have basic-to-advanced technological skills. For example many of us rely on our smartphones to do a handful of investigative tasks that used to require a bucket load of equipment.  For example, at our agency, we use our smartphones to record and transmit witness interviews, take photos, even scan and transmit documents.  Cool stuff.

Here’s our techno-peeve: We recently started to read a story set in 1990 where the PI didn’t answer her phone because she’d forgotten to charge it.  Uh, hello?  Were there cell phones in common use in 1990?  To be fair, we researched cell phones on the Internet.  According to “The Evolution of Cell Phone Design Between 1983 and 2009,” the first truly portable phone was the Motorola MicroTAC 9800X made in 1989 — a monster affair with a ruler-size antennae.  According to Wikipedia, the 9800X’s price tag was between $2,495 and $3,495.  This wasn’t a rich PI by any means — in fact, this gumshoe had to scrimp on food and other essentials to make the monthly rent.  Seriously doubt this fictional PI could afford a cell phone that cost several thousand dollars. Heck, even today, my business partner and I wouldn’t blow that kind of money on a cell phone!

By the way, the next cell phone was the digital hand-size mobile telephone called the Motorola International 3200 made in 1992, two years after this story took place.

It’s a small point, maybe, but cell phones are such a part of our world today that this inaccurate factoid stood out like Philip Marlowe at a nunnery.  Wouldn’t have taken much research for the writer to realize the PI probably used a landline in 1990. Still can’t figure out how this slipped past the editor…maybe he/she was too busy on their cell phone to notice.

Have a great week, Writing PIs

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Stop Giving Away Your Personal Information to Google

Posted by Writing PIs on April 7, 2012

Unless you’ve been living in a black box, you’re aware that Google has been blithely tracking user activity on the Web. Below are a few recent articles on this subject (click on link to read an article):

Google Caught Tracking Safari Users: What You Need to Know

Google announces privacy changes across products; users can’t opt out

Did Google intentionally track you?

A warrior’s forum member had this stringent advice for stopping Google from tracking your web activities:

if you want to avoid Google knowing anything about you, stop using Google’s services. Like in Orson Well’s 1984 big brother wants to know everything. The more information you allow Google to know, they more control they gain over your life.

Okay, but some people do like to use Google — after all, it’s still the most comprehensive public, and free, search engine available. Fortunately, there are other options, as well as preventative measures, that people can take to protect Google from tracking their web activities.

How Trackable Is Your Browser?

Panopticlick, a research project of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, tests your browser to see what information it shares with other sites. The service is free and anonymous.

A Few Tips for Protecting Your Browsing

Also, check out “Related Articles” at the bottom of this post.

Why Not Use a Proxy Service?

Although a proxy service, such as Anonymizer, hides a user’s IP address, it doesn’t necessarily anonymize the user’s personal information found in HTTP headers.

Have a great weekend, Writing PIs

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Four Do-It-Yourself Private Investigation Articles

Posted by Writing PIs on April 16, 2011

Updated May 17 2012

With some ingenuity, perseverance, and know-how, there’s some investigative tasks you can do on your own, such as learning upfront what information might show up on you employment background check and protecting your personal information from appearing on the Internet. Below are a few articles with some sleuthing tips–just click on the article title to read it.

“How to Know Ahead of Time What’s On an Employment Background Check”

“How to Protect Your Home Address So Others Don’t Find It”

“How to Find a Cell Phone Number from an Email Address”

“How to Find Someone: Free Online Research Tips”

Have a great day, Writing PIs

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Ten Reasons to Hire a Private Eye

Posted by Writing PIs on October 7, 2010

Private investigators provide a wide variety of services to individuals, businesses and law firms

Updated June 12, 2012

It’s a misconception that hiring a private investigator is just for those who suspect cheating by a significant other.  While that is a valid purpose, there are at least ten other really good reasons to hire a PI — some might help resolve big issues in one’s life, while others might provide relief with an everyday concern.  At our investigations agency, Highlands Investigations, we often help people with many of these tasks.

Ten Reasons to Hire a PI

10.  To research your geneaology. This can help you determine diseases you’re prone to, your inheritance status, discover long-lost relatives, and more.

A PI can help ascertain whether or not to file a lawsuit

9.  To ascertain the suitability of business partners. A PI’s research into criminal convictions, civil lawsuits, administrative disciplinary actions and lawsuits, etc. gives you a solid ground for making a decision to either invest or partner with someone in a business.

8.  To double-check your nanny’s background. A PI can check a potential nanny’s employer references, driver’s history, criminal convinctions and more.  Even if a company states they do background checks, there’s nothing wrong in hiring your own PI to verify their facts…and maybe find new ones.

7.  To research financial assets before a lawsuit. A contractor did a shabby job remodeling your bathroom, and refuses to fix the problem despite numerous phone calls from you–and now you’re thinking about filing a lawsuit.  It’s a good idea before you hire a lawyer and file that suit to check that contractor’s assets (in other words, is he worth suing?).  A PI can easily check the contractor’s net worth, which gives you a good idea if the contractor can pay you should you win the case.

6.  To verify that special someone’s story is true before going to the next level.You’ve met someone special, they say

Sometimes people hide certain facts that a PI can help uncover.

and do all the right things.  It’s too good to be true, and you’re ready to make the big commitment.  Take a moment and put your head before your heart.  Hire a PI to verify Mr. or Ms.’s story is factual — did they really get a graduate degree from Northwestern?  Do they really own a vacation cabin in Lake Tahoe?  Are they really divorced?  A PI can find this out and more.

5.  To check who owns that phone number. How many times have you gotten phone calls that show up as “Unknown” or “Unavailable” in your caller ID?  Most PIs for a reasonable price can quickly confirm the true identity of the caller’s name.

4.  To serve court papers. If you are in a small claims lawsuit and need to have someone served lawsuit papers, hire a PI to do the process service.  Typically, PIs can accomplish difficult and/or time-sensitive services more quickly than county sheriffs, who are overworked and sometimes understaffed.

3.  To find old friends. Although there are all kinds of pay-per-use public databases on the Internet, they often provide outdated or wrong information about people’s addresses.  A PI has the experience, techniques, and access to proprietary databases to help you locate old friends, high school sweethearts, long-lost relatives and others.

Pet detectives often use search-and-rescue-trained animals to help locate lost pets

2. To find a lost pet. Did you know there are PIs who specialize in finding lost pets?  They use many of the same skills as PIs who find people, and they also understand animal psychology, behavior, and habits.  Many pet detectives (yes, they’re really called that) also have search-trained animals to help them track others’ lost pets.

1.  To repair identity theft. If your ID has been stolen or misused, a trained PI can help you correct your credit history, document the fraud to your creditors and banks, and clear your name in records.

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