Often, people with little or no experience working with private investigators will assume that we have unlimited power and resources to solve every case.

That’s just not true. Here are some things we simply can’t — and won’t — do.

  1. Access someone’s medical records. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act prohibits non-HIPAA entities from obtaining these confidential documents.
  2. Install a GPS tracking device on a car to follow someone’s movements. Unless the vehicle is owned by the client and we are given written consent, this is a federal violation.
  3. Obtain information by secretly wiretapping a phone. Federal law requires that at least one party must consent to being recorded.
  4. Get someone’s credit report. In disputes involving money, the client will want to find out what the other party is worth. Again, this is illegal without the person’s consent.
  5. Check the balance of someone’s bank account. The Gramm-Leach-Bliley prevents third parties from accessing bank information without consent.
  6. Make videos inside a private location. Recording on private property is an invasion of privacy. Recording in public spaces such as malls and parks are fine, however.
  7. Arrest someone. It’s against the law for private investigators to carry badges or otherwise present themselves as police officers, and they certainly can’t restrain anyone against their will.
  8. Breaking into private property. If a client wants to have another party’s home searched for evidence, that can only be done by police officers with the necessary warrants.
  9. Computer hacking. This can bring misdemeanor and felony charges to the private investigator.
  10. “Friend” someone on social media to gain access to their personal information. Unless it’s all out there in the public, this is — again — an invasion of privacy.

Steer clear of any investigator who would be willing to do any of the things listed above.

Besides the obvious legal ramifications, private investigators have reputations to uphold, and loss of proper licensing could result in a loss of their livelihood.