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How To Hire A Licensed New Jersey Private Investigator.

What You Need To Know While Searching For The Best New Jersey Private Investigator.

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How To Hire A New Jersey Private Investigator And What To Look Out For

It Is Imperative You Believe The New Jersey Private Investigator Retained is Honest

The majority of people in New Jersey will never have to consider hiring a Licensed Private Investigator.  However, for those “private citizens”  (this article is not for corporate concerns) that have a need to retain an Investigator, hiring the right Private Investigator is a decision that will be critical to the successful outcome of the investigation of your case. As a Licensed Private Investigator I have been contacted by all sorts of potential clients, some who are extremely knowledgeable about my investigations background and others who simply clicked my phone number on my Google Advertisement for the New Jersey Private Investigation Services I provide.  I always encourage potential clients to perform their due diligence before selecting a Licensed New Jersey Private Investigator.  I am going to break this article down to a series of lessons, suggestions and pitfalls you should take into account when considering hiring a Licensed New Jersey Private Investigator who meets your specific needs.

Lesson 1: Hire a Licensed New Jersey Private Investigator who is honest with you. After interviewing the Investigator you may initially come away with that “gut feeling” that he/she is looking to rip you off. You will read this more than once in this article, there are many unscrupulous Private Investigators in New Jersey, do not get stuck with one. As a part of doing your due diligence I suggest contacting the New Jersey Better Business Bureau for a review of the Private Investigator you consider retaining . I must caution though, if you see complaints do your best to assess fairly, there is always the possibility that the complaint is unfair and not valid; any complaints uncovered should be used as only one of the factors you include in order to make your decision, the existence of a complaint should not be the sole reason for deciding against the hiring of an investigator.

In addition, review the Private Investigators Internet footprint and assess how the Investigator is reviewed on Google Business. However, I have a cautionary note with these type of reviews, it is not unheard of for dishonest Private Investigators to personally review themselves multiple times while using different alias email addresses, of course the reviews are all positive. Google does their best to detect these types of unscrupulous business practices, by carefully scrutinizing the reviews you can pick up on the phony ones rather quickly. If you detect that the Investigator you may consider hiring has posted any phony reviews I suggest you do not walk away but run away from that Private Investigator.

Watch Out For The Bait And Switch Subcontract #1

When selecting a Licensed New Jersey Private Investigator, the Investigator’s background and training is immeasurably important when determining which Investigator you should hire and who to pass on.  For instance, if you need a New Jersey Private Investigator in order to investigate and reconstruct a serious motor vehicle accident this author (Bob Cowan) would not be the person you would want to retain for such an investigation because I lack the specific expert training needed to perform such an investigation.  If you called asking if I would handle your motor vehicle accident investigation, I would be upfront with you and explain that I did not possess the requisite training to investigate the accident.  I would then make efforts to make a referral to you with regard to a competent New Jersey Private Investigator who possess the skill set needed to perform the investigation.

Lesson 2: Most New Jersey Private Investigators I have met are honest hard working people, however, several times I have been retained as the follow-up Investigator because the job either got screwed up or the previous Investigator had already been paid and was not giving the Client the attention to the case and the access they deserve. With that said, one serious issue you need to be concerned about is the unqualified investigator who agrees to take the Motor Vehicle Accident Investigation I described above (this example applies to most areas of investigation). The Investigator will agree to take the investigation from you, he will then ‘Sub-Contract” it out to a qualified New Jersey Private Investigator while he (Investigator #1) Skims Thirty Percent or more of the fees which he had charged to you, the client. As the investigation commences and the client calls Private Investigator #1 for updates, the client is told he has to wait for reports from the primary Investigator. Why on earth would anyone want to interpose a “Case Manager” between himself and the Primary New Jersey Private Investigator, I certainly wouldn’t. As a Client I would want to be able to pick up the phone and talk to the primary Investigator working my case, it is as simple as that; I want to talk with the Investigator who is handling my case and receiving one hundred percent of the fee I am paying.

Watch Out For The Bait And Switch Subcontract #2

When hiring a Licensed New Jersey Private Investigator DO NOT FALL INTO THE GEOGRAPHICAL BAIT AND SWITCH SUBCONTRACT!!!  Many Licensed Private Investigators own their own Private Investigation Firms and will take any job regardless of where and how far the investigation is located from their office. How do most New Jersey Investigators that engage in this practice handle this?  Simple, the Private Investigator will simply Sub-Contract the Investigations out to other Investigators who are geographically closer while skimming the requisite thirty percent plus as a “case management fee”.

Lesson 3: Please recall my prior discussion, why would you want to place a middleman between you and the Primary Private Investigator handling your case.

As a matter of full disclosure I will accept geographically remote investigations most anywhere in The State of New Jersey, but there is a difference. Because of my background and experience my services are in very high demand; I investigate mostly divorce related matters such as Cohabitation, Child Custody and the occasional Infidelity if it fits into my schedule. The difference with my taking a geographically remote case and the way most other Private Investigators handle a remote investigation is the fact that unlike most of my peers I most always work my own investigation. If I agree to take a case that is 80 miles away, it is on me, I will be there to work the case. If there comes a point where I need to secure accommodations for part of the investigation I will do so and that will be at my expense unless otherwise agreed upon, if I have to sleep in my car, I will and I have done so. Another difference between my investigation style and other Private Investigation Firms is the fact that I only commit to take two to three cases that run concurrently, cases such as Cohabitation and Child Custody, if I have the time I will also work an Infidelity Case which are most often short term. If I am interested in a potential Client’s Case and currently not able to take the case due to scheduling conflicts and/or other time constraints, I will be upfront and advise potential clients of an approximate start date for their investigations; some clients have waited and others have accepted referrals from me.

Be Very Wary Of Bargain Basement Pricing

As I had previously discussed it is extremely important while searching for the Licensed Investigator that is a perfect fit for you, that you conduct a due diligence search of the Investigator’s Background. With that said, once you narrow your choices down it is important not to get stuck on price, if you see an investigator whose pricing is much lower than other investigators it is important to be hesitant before proceeding. There is a good chance the Investigator you are looking at charges bargain basement prices because he or she has no business and needs the work;  quite frankly the investigator may not have work because he or she may be just unqualified. Of course, just because an Investigator charges lower prices than competitors in the same market does not mean the Investigator is not competent, it just means you should approach your decision cautiously while considering price as only one of the factors you need to consider. By way of example, when I started my Private Investigation Firm my pricing structure was significantly lower until such time as I determined the market as well as my value to clients. The Investigator could be on his or her way to becoming one of the premier Private Investigators in New Jersey, all I am trying to relate is the fact that pricing should be only one of the factors you consider when deciding on which Investigator you should hire.

Lesson 4: Perform a complete and thorough due diligence search on the New Jersey Private Investigator prior to retaining him or her to handle your investigation; be very cautious of Private Investigators with very low rates.

Ask The Prospective New Jersey Private Investigator A Lot Of Questions

While you are conferring with the Private Investigator that you are considering retaining to conduct your investigation it is important to ask as many pertinent questions prior to signing a retainer agreement with the Investigator. Make an outline of questions you want to discuss with the Investigator, such as (not an exclusive list):

1.  Ask him or her how many years of experience in the field of investigations, aside from their experience as a Private Investigator, i.e. law enforcement background, military background, perhaps a background in private investigations by joining a family private investigation firm, etc. Be very cautious with Investigators claiming to have received their “experience and training” through the family business, this type of training and experience can easily be created from whole cloth.

2.  Ask the Investigator if he or she is licensed in the State of New Jersey and how many years of experience he or she has as a Private Investigator. More importantly, if you have any doubts as to the honesty of the Private Investigator’s answers to your inquiries ask the Investigator for his Private Investigator License number which is issued by the New Jersey State Police Private Detective Unit; you can then contact the Private Detective Unit of the New Jersey State Police at

3.  Inquire of the prospective Investigator if he or she specializes in any particular type of Investigations, such as cohabitation, child custody, employee misconduct, computer forensics, infidelity etc.

4.  Request the Investigator to provide you with the “GENERAL DETAILS” of a recent investigation he or she brought to a successful conclusion. Most competent investigators will be able to bring you up to speed on general details of an investigation without breaching client confidentiality.

5. Request that the Investigator provide you with the “GENERAL DETAILS” of an investigation that did not end up successfully; even if only measured by the goals set by the client.  Pay particular attention to the manner in which New Jersey Private Investigator handles this question.  I know many New Jersey Private Investigators falsely advertise their success rate is 99 percent. This is virtually impossible because there is the real possibility that whatever the client suspects’ is happening might not really be happening. Case in point, I recently finished up a three week infidelity investigation where one spouse suspected the other spouse was cheating, my investigation concluded that there was no infidelity going on.   Be wary of investigators that offer as gospel ridiculous solve rates, you can only achieve a successful resolution to a case if in facts which the clients suspicions are based on has a foundation in fact.

Lesson 5: The time for asking questions of the New Jersey Private Investigator you retain is BEFORE hiring him or her not afterwards

Ask The Prospective Investigator About Equipment He Or She Is Able to Deploy Into The Field For The Investigation

The type of equipment an Investigator is able to deploy in an investigation is of paramount importance to the successful outcome of your case. Is the Investigator capable of putting out a dedicated Surveillance vehicle into the field if needed for your investigation? When I say “Surveillance Vehicle” I do not mean a four-door sedan that looks like an undercover police car in which the investigator appears to be an undercover cop and sits in the vehicle that looks like a police car across the street from the surveillance location causing the entire neighborhood to be suspicious of the Investigators presence. When I refer to a dedicated “Surveillance Vehicle” I am referring to an unassuming van or other type vehicle where the Investigator can conceal himself or herself in the rear of the vehicle and park in a suburban neighborhood for an entire day without being noticed.

What type of cameras does the investigator deploy in the field? Does the investigator provide both time and date stamped video and photographs? Believe it or not, there are many Investigators who do not even own proper cameras and would try to do a cohabitation investigation with a cell phone equipped with a camera. What kind of reports does the private investigator provide you with and how often? Do you talk to the Investigator actually working your case or are you only permitted to talk to the Investigator “managing your case”. Does the Private Investigator sub-contract “Your Investigation” out to other investigators? Does the Investigator charge you to talk with you on the phone?

Lesson 6: Do not under any circumstance retain an Investigator for an investigation involving any sort of surveillance unless that Private Investigator is able to deploy a proper undetectable surveillance vehicle into the field. If your Investigator is “made” by the target of the investigation immeasurable damage will have been done to your case for the present time as well as far into the future.

Additionally, be very wary of Investigators that subcontract your case out to other investigators while they claim to “manage” your case.

Check out your New Jersey Private Investigator’s Website

Does the Investigator you are considering hiring have a professional website? One of best measures in determining the competence of an Investigator is to review his or her website. An Investigator who puts up a substandard website for public consumption is strongly indicative of someone who is lazy, non-caring or both, while demonstrating they just don’t have the ability to put a professional face to their business; I can assure you if you retain a private investigation firm with either no website or a substandard website, do not think for a moment the work product you obtain from these investigation firms will be any better than their website.

Lesson 7: Before retaining an Investigator to handle your case follow these seven lessons and you will most likely have a successful investigation completed by a competent New Jersey Private Investigator.

Where To Acquire Licensing Information Or File Complaints On New Jersey Private Investigators:

If however, you run into problems or have complaints with a New Jersey Licensed Private Investigator, or even an Investigator you suspect may be operating in New Jersey without being properly Licensed you can report this directly to the New Jersey State Police as follows:

Report of Complaints/Violations

If you suspect anyone of operating an investigative or security agency without a license; or suspect any licensed Private Detective Agency, Security Agency or their employees are committing criminal acts or other violations please contact the Private Detective Unit via telephone at 609-633-9352 or e-mail us at our website:

An Additional Avenue Of Complaint Would Be The New Jersey Licensed Private Investigations Association at


About the author:  Bob Cowan is the owner of Cowan Investigations, a full-service New Jersey Private Investigations Firm. Bob is the former Chief of the Jersey City Police Department and has 35 years of experience as a police officer in New Jersey’s second-largest municipality.

If you wish to speak with me regarding this article, or if you need a consultation regarding it’s contents please do not hesitate to call me at 732-837-8444, seven days a week 8:00am to 8:00pm.  

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