Q and A

Q and A

By Steve Goodenow, CLI, CFE

Q - Are all private investigators the same? 
A - No! Like any profession, private investigators (private detectives, legal investigators, etc.) offer different types of services, have different training and experiences and serve different clienteles. Some are former law enforcement officers; others have no law enforcement experience while other combine experience and training to assist clients resolve cases that are difficult and perplexing. 

Q - How can I find an investigator that helps me resolve my issue? 
A - It is important to first make sure that a private investigator is properly licensed. The State of Hawaii requires that private investigators be licensed by the Board of Private Detectives & Guards. Second, it is important to determine if the investigator has the experience and training to help the client resolve the issues that need investigating. 

Q - How do you determine if a private investigator has the needed experience and training? 
A - First determine how long the investigator has been in the profession. Successful private investigators stay in business and have a track record of successful cases. Look for investigators that are members of professional organizations. Many of these organizations offer training and testing. The National Association of Legal Investigators (NALI) and the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE) are but two of the national organization that have training seminars and offer professional certificates. 

Q - What are the certification programs of NALI and ACFE? 
A - NALI offers the Certified Legal Investigator (CLI) designation. ACFE offers the Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE) designation. Both designations require continued education to maintain the designation. Not only is testing a requirement to obtain the designation, but continual training is mandatory to keep the designation. As an example, Steve Goodenow holds both the CLI and CFE designations. Steve passed the CLI test and has maintained his accreditation since 1983. When the ACFE was formed, many qualified investigators joined and were given the CFE designation. With the designation came a continual education requirement. Steve has met this requirement since 1991. 

Q - Are professional organizations important to an investigator? 
A - Absolutely! Often I am asked to work on assignments that are out of state or in foreign countries. The contacts I have established with over 50 years of investigation experience enable me to aid clients by resolving issued through out the world. The investigative network established through NALI, ACFE, World Association of Detectives (WAD), California Association of Licensed Investigators (CALI) and others has afforded my clients the ability to seek out information through out the world. 

Q - Besides networking, what benefit to the client is there for their investigator to be involved in professional organizations? 
A - Many! Not only do professional organizations offer networking opportunities and educational training to their members but most produce high quality publications with articles on investigation matters. They also have Codes of Ethics which govern the members of their organizations. 

Q - I'm not interested in ethics just results! 
A - A competent private investigator not only seeks out information not readily available to the general public but does so in an ethical and legal manner so as not to produce more trouble than results. I always tell my clients that I will be willing to testify in court about any investigation I conduct. The violation of someone's privacy or using illegal methods to get information can cause the client to suffer both monetary and legal consequences far greater than the problem that was asked to be resolved. 

Q - How much does an investigation cost? 
A - It depends on the case and services requested. Most investigators charge by the hour plus expenses. Some give a price for producing the information requested. 

Q - How do I protect against unreasonable billings? 
A - Ask questions and establish a budget! - Investigations can be time consuming. It is often difficult to bottom line costs and time. Ask your investigator for a budget that will not be exceeded without the client's approval. Once a working relationship has been established with an investigator, telephone calls, emails or meetings can expand the scope of the investigation. 

Q - How can I be assured that my investigation will remain confidential? 
A - I often recommend to my clients that they contract my services through their attorney to maintain Work Product Privilege. In reality, a court of law can break the privilege but it is rare. Ask your investigator if they have any conflicts or appearances of conflicts. Perhaps the appearance of conflict is the most telling. Does the investigator have a relative under investigation? Has the investigator ever worked a case for the party under investigation? Ask questions and develop trust is the best way to insure confidentiality. You don't want a book or television script to get aired on your case. 

Q - How can I be sure I've gotten the best investigator for my issue? 
A - Although they are all in the construction industry, you don't hire a plumber to fix an electrical problem! Not all investigators are alike and have the same type of practices. Hawaii requires licensing. Make sure your investigator or detective agency is licensed. While Hawaii does not require E&O or liability insurance, reputable investigators have insurance. Ask about similar cases. Talk to professionals that work with investigators such as lawyers, accountants and insurance claims staff. Find out who they use and recommend. Remember that all cases are different. A good investigator tailors each case to his client's requirements. 

Q - Is a private investigator a professional? 
A - Only if that investigator does comply with state licensing statues, complies with codes of ethics, is certified, and continues their education. Most important of all, a professional investigator treats clients with respect and courtesy. 

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