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How Does a Private Investigator Dig Up Dirt?

The majority of information that private investigators get comes from searching databases.

There are several databases that private investigators use to gather data. Public record searches reveal any court judgments or cases, bankruptcies, land ownership, name changes and marriage and divorce licenses. Phone numbers and addresses, both past and present, are available through public or private record searches. Database searches are where private investigators begin their information, pulling as much information as possible to help them determine the next steps in the investigation.


Private investigators can pull a wealth of information off of their subjects' computers.

If access to the computer is available, it's a great way to get a personal look at the subject's life. Information including personal accounts, browsing activity, online friends and communities and chat room logs are all great ways for a private investigator to dig up dirt on the person she is investigating.


There are two types of surveillance that private investigators use: low-tech and high-tech.

Low-tech surveillance involves simply watching the subject from a distance. This type of surveillance is great for knowing who the subject meets, where he goes and what he does. High-tech surveillance involves using technology to get more information, such as long-distance microphones, heat sensors phone taps and hidden cameras.


A private investigator tails subjects to find out where they go, who they go with and what they do. Following their targets requires extreme caution and patience.

Private investigators also must know the law in their state regarding following other citizens. Trailing can take up days or even weeks of an investigator's time.


In order to confirm details the private investigator finds through database searches and other means, interviews are necessary.

This includes interviewing employers, friends, family and others, sometimes without letting the subject know an investigation is ongoing. In these situations, many times investigators go undercover, taking a different identity to protect the privacy of the investigation.

Bills and Accounts

When trying to dig up dirt on someone, a personal investigator can use bills and account information to reveal otherwise undetectable information.

Phone calls, payments to bank accounts, sources of payments and suspicious activity are all viewable on statements. Because accounts are personal, investigators have to get them from the person themselves, someone else on the account or through the legal system, which is difficult.