When considering hiring a Private Investigator, one of the factors that needs to be taken into account is the familiarity and the experience of the investigator with the specific case type. Domestic, Insurance, Corporate, and Legal investigations all have their own set of challenges and require different approaches even when they use the same investigative tools such as surveillance, for example.
What is surveillance?
Surveillance is an effective method of gathering video or photographic evidence of an activity or a relationship that can be used in a variety of cases, among which, insurance and adultery investigations are the most common.
For insurance fraud cases, the end goal of surveillance is to disprove the nature and/or the extent of the injuries that a person claims to have. Capturing a video of the claimant lifting heavy boxes while stating that they can’t work due to a back injury, is a simplified example of the evidence that the insurance companies want Private Investigators to obtain.
For adultery cases, the end goal of surveillance is to capture evidence of a cheating spouse. Obtaining video or photographic footage of a partner meeting with someone else in a romantic capacity while they said they were someplace else and/or with someone else, is the typical evidence desired by the other spouse.
Aren’t all surveillances the same?
A common misconception from clients who inquire about surveillance is thinking that, as the popular media made it seem, the investigator simply arrives on location, gets into position, and waits for something to happen and captures a few pictures or videos. Which appears to be a simple and straightforward process that applies to any type of surveillance case.
Unfortunately, it is not as easy as portrayed in the movies. Each type of surveillance has to be approached differently. An insurance investigator who is familiar with the tricks that a claimant may employ in a fraudulent insurance case, and who may be familiar with the best tactics to get the required evidence for the insurance company, may not be familiar with the tricks used by cheating spouses, nor would they be familiar with how to proceed and how to remain inconspicuous in close proximity to their subject during nighttime.
Can’t an investigator be good at both?
While it’s certainly possible for an investigator to be good at both or even all types of surveillance, they can’t be great at all of them. A jack of all trades is a master of none. And as such, for results that go beyond just “good enough”, it is important to seek a specialist in a specific field who will be familiar with all different aspects of a particular case.
What are the differences?
Typical insurance surveillance takes place around subjects’ homes and the locations of their known appointments (ex: doctor’s office), with a few trips to a store in between; where an investigator can catch the subject doing something that contradicts their claims. Those types of surveillances almost always take place during the day (there are exceptions of course) since people are more likely to go to their appointments, do things around the house or go to the store during daytime hours. Consequently, due to good lighting conditions and visibility, the investigators can stay in their cars and take excellent video or photographs, using regular equipment, from a safe distance; which greatly reduces the chances of being uncovered.
The challenge of insurance cases is that the subjects who submit fraudulent claims, usually suspect that the insurance company will hire someone to conduct surveillance on them, and as such, they are more likely to employ tricks to deceive the investigator and/or do counter-surveillance maneuvers to confirm their suspicions.
Only a seasoned insurance investigator who is familiar with those tricks will be on a constant alert for them and will be able to react quickly and effectively to counter them when required; something that a non-insurance investigator, will unlikely to execute successfully due to their lack of experience and specific knowledge of the case type.
Adultery cases, on the other hand, take place mostly in the evening, in either extremely public places such as restaurants and bars where it’s easy to lose track of the subject in the crowd; or in extremely private places such as hotels or residences, where the access is restricted. Thus taking clear photographs or video footage from a distance is impossible.
Following someone in the dark is also more challenging and requires the investigator to get very close to the subject, both in a vehicle (as to not lose them in the traffic) and by following them on foot when they exit their cars. Staying close to the subject while remaining inconspicuous is extremely difficult and requires great skills of blending in with the environment and as well as having appropriately concealed and specialized, equipment that an insurance investigator may not have.
Subjects in adultery cases will often behave cautiously in order to avoid running into acquaintances while being out with someone other than their spouses, but they rarely expect Private Investigators to follow them. Therefore, unlike with insurance cases, there is little to no risk of counter-surveillance manoeuvers that may expose the investigator. However constant proximity to the subject that is required to effectively follow them to a location and capture footage constitutes a real challenge; especially for someone who is only used to conduct daytime surveillance.
Picking the right investigator for the right surveillance job.
Adultery surveillance cases are very different from insurance surveillance cases, not only in their end goals but especially in the methods, strategies, and tactics that have to be used by the investigator. The techniques used for insurance cases will not work for adultery cases (and vice versa); hence it is important to find an investigator who specializes in the particular type of investigation. The knowledge and the experience of a specialist will increase the chances of a successful outcome of surveillance and obtaining the information desired by the client.