Listen: 3 Tips for Every Domestic Surveillance
When it comes to domestic surveillance, and in this case I’m specifically talking about investigations having to do with infidelity, there are plenty of tips and resources that are important. However, as a private investigator I have found that the following 3 tips are among the most significant.
1. Updating the Client (Exercise Extreme Caution)
Although these cases may be somewhat routine to you – it’s life and death when it comes to the client. And there’s no telling how people will react. I refer you to the cautionary tale of David and Clara Harris and the events that occurred July 24th, 2002. For some background, the Harris’ were wealthy Orthodontists that owned a chain of locations in the Houston, Texas area. Clara hired a local private investigation company because she suspected David of having an affair. Which, as it turns out, was true. David had been seeing his former receptionist, a woman named Gail Bridges. On the day in question, the private investigator followed David to the Hilton Hotel in Nassau Bay, Texas when he met up with Miss Bridges. What transpired next is a bit fuzzy, but Clara received a telephone call, presumably from the private investigator, and was told David would be with his mistress at the hotel. Armed with that information Clara jumped in her Mercedes with David’s teenage daughter from a previous marriage and sped to the hotel. Clara arrived just as David and Gail were walking through the lobby. And she lost it. She nearly pulled Miss Bridges shirt off in the altercation that ensued. Both parties were escorted out of the hotel. Clara returned to her vehicle and David walked Gail to her car. David then began walking back to his vehicle when he was struck and run over by Clara in her Mercedes. In fact, Clara circled the parking lot three times; each time running over David and killing him. The private investigator got it all on video. In the subsequent trial Clara was found guilty and sentenced to 20 years in prison. The moral of the story: exercise extreme caution when updating the client. If you find your client’s partner in a compromising position you may want to wait 48 hours or until the end of the investigation to provide the results.
2. Be Absolutely Clear What You Can and Cannot Do
It’s critical at the outset that the client has a perfect understanding of what you as a private investigator can do, and what can’t do, in relation to their case. They need to know up front that there are no guarantees; that surveillance does not always turn out the way we want it to; that we can’t predict the outcome of an investigation. Unfortunately, books, television and movies have contributed to myths and misconceptions about what private eyes do. Clients have a vision in their mind of exactly how their investigation will turn out. And more often then not they view the case turning out in their favor. They know their husband is cheating. They know their girlfriend is seeing another man. They just need a private eye to gather the evidence. Of course, the reality is that things don’t always turn out that way. Sometimes the partner isn’t cheating. Sometimes the terrible, rotten spouse – is still a good father. If you don’t prepare your client ahead of time for the possibility that the case may not turn out how they expect it to, they will hate you for it. And that may cause another whole set of problems. And finally…
3. Get Paid UP Front
When it comes to domestic cases, always, and I mean always get paid up front. This seems simple enough, and it is. If a client with a domestic case does not want to pay my full retainer up front…I walk away. I simply refer them to someone else. When a client first makes contact they’re generally in a state of confusion and fear about the changes that have occurred in their life. They need help. They need solutions and they’re desperate for answers. Once you, as a private investigator, have conducted the investigation and provided closure the client’s conflict has come to its fruition (and this is where tip #2 comes in as well).
I always get paid up front. I offer a free consultation to clients, but once I decide to take the case I don’t move a muscle until I receive the full retainer up front. Learn this and learn it well: If you conduct an investigation for a domestic client that is not resolved in the manner in which they expected (and you did NOT get a retainer up front), you will find that their willingness to pay you has decreased considerably, in inverse proportion, and with the same intensity to how excited they were to have originally hired you. Translation: You’re not getting paid. Always get paid up front.
Until next time,
This is Scott Fulmer, the Utah Gumshoe, reminding you that the game…is afoot!
About The Utah Gumshoe Podcast
The Utah Gumshoe Podcast follows the real-life exploits, riveting case stories, investigative tips and insightful advice of Scott Fulmer, The Utah Gumshoe. Scott is a 20 year veteran Utah private investigator, surveillance expert and President/CEO of intellUTAH, a private investigation firm based in Salt Lake City.
He has written numerous articles on investigative and surveillance techniques that have appeared in PInow.com and other industry journals. He is a decorated combat veteran of the Persian Gulf War where he served with the famous 2nd Armored Division (Hell on Wheels). Whether you're a novice or an experienced investigator this is the podcast for you.
Articles from Scott Fulmer