One of the first questions potential clients want to know when they call us is:
What do you charge for (insert service name here)?
This question is not easily answered. Why? Simply because you are speaking with an investigative professional, and we, like your attorney, mechanic, contractor all have pricing guidelines. Here are a few pricing formats that private investigators use:
Hiring a private investigator is much like hiring a professional service provider like a mechanic, lawyer or contractor. Hourly rates are the most common fee arrangement. Any professional service provider charges an agreed-upon hourly rate and within an agreed upon budget, you probably do too. [See our hourly fees below.]
Often, our sources have fixed rates that they charge the investigator, like gathering criminal records. Each county or state has it’s own fee structure, and it is non-negotiable. Certain data sets that we access as licensed investigators, which are not available to the public, can run in the hundreds to thousands of dollars. A skilled investigator will know how to access the information you need to suit your best interest, but, those fees are generally not included in our hourly rate, and they are passed along in detail on our invoices.
Some investigative tasks that are more simple and well-defined, such as a phone number trace, service of process, or a single county criminal search can be billed at a flat fee. For example, something like a single-step background check or locating a person may have a flat fee. [See some of our fees below.]
We rarely work a case on a contingency basis. However, any professional service providers can work on a contingency basis. For example an attorney can collect a percentage of the final settlement or a marketing consultant can collect fees based on an increase in sales. However, in many states, contingency fees are not allowed for private investigators.
The Bottom Line
The old idiom “you get what you pay for” is absolutely true when it comes to hiring a professional service provider. Investigators charge according to the case complexity and proximity to the client. However, beware of comparing one provider with another on the basis of fees alone. The lowest hourly fees frequently is charged by an inexperienced investigator and does not always indicate the best value because they make take longer to complete your task. In this case, it is vital that you are comparing apples and oranges when shopping for an investigator.
Many online sources available to the public for a small charge claim to conduct a “national criminal records check”, but if you read the fine print, this claim is an utter falsehood. If you are facing an issue where truth, integrity and legally sourced information is needed, an improperly conducted investigation may leave you with a false sense of security at best, and at worst, actually damage your case.
So, what can I expect to pay?
Background Investigation / Due Diligence Background Check
Our background investigations start at $450-$800. Most background checks merely scratch the surface of a person’s character profile history. We dig deep to find historical issues, identify and review court cases, scour news archives, public records and archives. We find unreported bankruptcies, discrepancies, secret companies, tax disputes, financial means, legal disputes, criminal indictments or charges of harassment or drunken driving. Not everyone has a history that they are trying to hide, but if they do, we will find it.
Our asset investigations start at $1200. Our asset investigations are designed to dig beyond the obvious. You might find private art collections buried in public filings, shell companies, real property hidden in family names or large inheritances in probate filings. We use a variety of methods and sources that legally uncover asset information through open sources and other non-traditional methods. Bear in mind, we will not utilize illegal sources, and you should not hire a PI that hints that they will.
Finding a Person
Skip tracing, or locating missing persons start at $750. We are assuming that you have already spent spent countless hours scouring the Web, spent some money using one of the many online databases, or have searched Facebook until you turned blue in the face. It’s not always easy finding a person. If it was a matter of Googling the person’s name, you probably wouldn’t be contacting a professional.
Frankly, most inquiries are not always simple or well defined. In that case, our hourly rates start at $225. People don’t come to us for off-the shelf ideas. We help you find creative and ethical solutions to your specific problems. If we can’t help you, we’ll tell you. Or help you find someone who is better suited. We are not in the business of making promises we can’t live up to.
What is Your Budget?
One of the first questions we are going to ask you is “what is your budget.” It tends to make people nervous, but it’s really meant to get a sense of what type of solutions that are within your range. If you have a simple matter that is easily handled by our office, a small budget will get you what you need. But, complex matters can be far more expensive. In either case, we operate with the spirit of transparency and trust with our clients, which is why we have won multiple awards for our services. Honesty is what you are looking for and what you deserve. We will partner with you to get you where you need to be. That’s what we have done for our clients since 1997.