When you think of intelligence gathering, images of agents dressed in black often come to mind. But that image is a stereotype from days gone by. Today’s private investigators are using the power of technology to gather intelligence for their clients.

Private investigators are masters in the art of intelligence gathering, with a tool-box of tried-and-true tools to help them gather all the intel they need. So, what tools do private detectives use to collect information? Usually, investigators use a multi-pronged approach for gathering intel, using a combination of “old-school” methods and new technology to find out the information that they need to break a case.

Method #1 Search Online Databases

There are a select number of professional, proprietary databases that are only available to licensed private investigators. These databases are rich sources of information and are comprised of credit headers, public records and algorithms, license plate scanners and much more. Shameless Plug: At BrightStar Investigations we use CLEAR, which is the platinum standard of investigative databases.

Method #2 Digging Through Garbage

Digging through garbage is a traditional intel technique that PIs and detectives have been using for decades. What kinds of information can we find in your garbage? Surprisingly quite a bit, including telephone records, credit card statements, medical records, former addresses and even DNA from your discarded toothbrushes and cups. Sometimes, the things that we find in garbage provides the “smoking gun” that we need for the investigation.
But isn’t it illegal?  Surprisingly no. The US Supreme Court had a landmark ruling concerning the ascertain of ‘Abandoned Property’ (Trash) in 1988 in California v. Greenwood.

From the Investigator: I’ve found some interesting things in the trash. I try to not think of it as trash, but rather as abandoned property. Getting trash is definitely an adrenaline rush – one night I pulled the trash from suspected drug traffickers at 3 in the morning with a bullet proof vest on. Where will I pull trash next? Who knows. But if you want the dirt, I can get it – literally.

Method #3 Scour Social Media 

In today’s social media-driven culture, everyone lives their entire lives online. Whether it is Facebook, Twitter or even Instagram, social media platforms provide a virtual smorgasbord of information.  Skilled social media and internet investigators can even uncover information that is supposedly private. Social media searches can be valuable in business investigations, as well. Private investigators are often hired by companies to watch social media for evidence of employee misconduct, insider leaks, and competitor information.

Method #4 Speaking With Sources

As private investigators, we learn to get comfortable talking to anyone—whether it is a homeless person on the street or a top CEO. It is amazing the kind of invaluable intel you can gather just by talking with people. Any skilled PI can get sources to divulge a number of details just for conducting a simple interview. Talking directly to sources can result in valuable information that cannot be found anywhere else, including online or in proprietary databases. That is why we make sure that we find sources whenever possible.

Method #5 Deep Cover

Deep cover is a method that can be employed to gather intelligence. Deep cover can involve befriending or engaging the target directly.
From the Investigator: This approach should be approached carefully, and is not a method that I suggest unless the situation is right. Maybe the target is a bartender. It might be time for me to go have a drink and chat him/her up. Perhaps the target is part of an organization – one of my investigators might join.  Every situation is different.
Bottom line: We never want to interfere with anyone’s life, we just want to find out everything about it.

At Brightstar Investigations, we are proud to utilize both “old school” techniques and modern technology to gather the intel we need to make our case.  Call us today to learn more.