Mobile Apps for the Modern Private Investigator

photo by Ryan McGuire

From real-time video streaming to caller-ID spoofing, these apps add a host of high-tech tools to a PI’s back pocket.

When I first got my P.I. license, I was amazed most investigators didn’t seem to be using the computer that they carried around in their pocket all day. I started searching for tools that I could use to help me with my investigations. I found plenty of great apps—some of which I won’t go into, as they’re pretty widely used at this point (such as Evernote and Dropbox). Here are a few of the less obvious (and most useful) ones—apps that I now employ on an almost daily basis.

Bambuser

Have you ever had a client request a real-time video stream? If you do, this is the easiest way to go. Install the app on your phone, set up an account, and give the client the username and password to the website. Press “record,” and your video will be streamed to the site. They will be able to view a real time stream along with GPS locations of where the camera is streaming from. Available on Android and IOS.

Caller ID Faker

There are several of these “spoof call” apps out there. They allow you to change the phone number that appears on the caller ID of the number you are calling. Most of them have a fee in one form or another but often they allow a short call at no charge. Check local laws to make sure it isn’t illegal in your area. Available on Android only.

Cam Scanner

Have you ever needed to make a copy of a document or receipt? Cam Scanner will do that quickly and easily and convert it to a PDF file for you. Available on Android and IOS.

Easy Voice Recorder

This is a great audio-recording app that has several widgets for your home screen so that you don’t have to open the app to start recording. Available on Android and as Speakeasy Voice Recorder on IOS.

Expensify

This one is a must-have if you track your expenses. It allows you to enter each expense along with a photo of the receipt. You then tell it what category and job the expense is associated with. After the job is complete it generates a PDF report with all expenses categorized and photos of the receipts attached for your records. Available on Android and IOS.

Glympse

Glympse allows you to send a text link with your current location that expires in a preset time. This can be handy when working with multiple investigators or for safety purposes when things go wrong. Available on Android and IOS.

Pocket

How often do you run across an article or news story that you want to read but you don’t have time, and when you go back to read it later you can’t find it? With this app, you share the pages to Pocket, and it keeps all of them in one place for you in an organized easy to read format. Once read you can archive them for future reference. Pocket is one of my most used apps. Available on Android and IOS.

Solocator

This is a camera app with a few added features. It allows you to snap a photo, and depending on the settings you choose, it shows the time and date stamp, GPS coordinates, and compass on the photo. Available on Android and IOS.

SVR Pro 2

A great covert video camera app! You start the app by pressing an unassuming widget on your home screen. When you want to start or stop recording video, just press the volume keys on your phone. You will feel the phone vibrate as it starts and stops recording. The only downside is there is not a time and date stamp, but Video Timestamp will take care of that for you. Oh, did I mention that SVR Pro 2 records video while you use your phone for anything else, including making a call? Note: The screen on your phone will not show the video as it is recording, so it takes a bit of practice. Available on Android only.

Time Calculator

This one is a calculator app that allows you to add not only standard numbers but days, hours, minutes and seconds. It also has a function to convert any one of those to any of the others. Available on Android and IOS.

Video Timestamp

This fairly new app allows you to take any standard mp4 video file recorded with your cell phone and add a time and date stamp to it. It keeps the original file and generates a new file with the stamp. It also allows you to choose where you want the stamp to appear on the video along with the color. Available on Android only.

PI Camera

This new app is as easy to use as it gets. The volume keys are your zoom controls, with an option to either save or email each photo that has a time and date stamp. The word from the developer is that a video version is in development. Available on Android only.  
A version of this article originally appeared on the Private Investigator Tips blog.
 

About the Author:

Joey Cruse owns Ouachita Investigative Services, a West Monroe, Louisiana firm specializing in insurance and civil investigations. He has conducted thousands of hours of surveillance and investigations since receiving his license in 2009. Joey has over 20 years experience in audio & video production including over 10 years at a NBC affiliate where he served as Operations and Production Manager.