How to avoid bad private eyes before you start

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Every time you hire a contractor you want them to do a good job. This is true whether you need a plumber, cleaner or private eye to find missing people. There are too many horror stories about substandard work and unfair fees.

There are plenty of excellent private investigators in Australia. We’ve had the pleasure of working with many of them. But sadly, shady operators exist in every industry. By the time work starts, it can be to late to do much about it.

So how can you avoid a bad private eye altogether, before you even start your investigation?

1. Check if the investigator is a genuine business

First make sure the private eye is at least a genuine business.

Run their trading name through the ASIC Business Name Register. Does everything look right and match what you see on their business website? This basic check will show you if the investigation agency is at least a registered business.

Steer clear if they aren’t registered. There are plenty of other investigators out there who operate professionally.

The ACCC also has more guidelines on identifying a genuine business.

2. Check the license of your investigator

The police regulate and license Australian private eyes. Check the license of your investigator with your state police force .

If you’re in Victoria, go to the Register of Licence, Registration and Permit Holders. Enter the private eye’s personal or business name. Are they licensed for the work you need them to do?

Move on if they’re not licensed. They can’t legally operate as a private investigator.

The Victorian police licensing division is strict. If a private eye is on the register, the police are satisfied that they are trained and allowed to hold a license.

3. Consider their online reputation

Another piece of evidence is the private eye’s online reputation. Search for them and see if they show up on the major review sites. An agency’s customer reviews could help you decide if they seem trustworthy.

But online reviews and star ratings aren’t always reliable. Misinformation, false reviews and fake Facebook likes are rampant. How can you tell if a private investigator’s reviews are genuine?

Consider the nature of the reviews. If they have a huge number of reviews or likes in a short period of time, that might indicate something is off. Overly positive reviews that sound like advertisements are another red flag.

Checking a private eye’s business registration, licensing and reviews isn’t foolproof. But it can help you weed out disreputable operators before you even start your investigation. And that might save you time, money and frustration.

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