By Christopher Donato, CCIP
When a prospective client calls me up on the phone, this is usually how the conversation starts:
Me: Hello, DonatoPI how can I help you?
Caller: Hi, is this a private Investigator?
Me: Yes, it is, how can I help you?
Caller: I’m calling to find out what your prices are for an investigation.
My next question usually is, “What type of an investigation were you looking for?”. You see, EVERY investigation is unique and for me to give out one price for all my services, would be cheating you and myself.
Investigative services are billed out on an hourly or flat-rate basis. Depending on the service type, there may be other costs involved such as mileage, court costs, and other field expenses like tolls, parking, etc. To avoid complicating matters I like to give my clients a flat-rate fee. I utilize my experience and figure that X amount of hours’ surveillance in a given area from the office plus tolls, mileage, etc. and quote that figure. Or, in the case of a background investigation, I always quote a flat-rate fee instead of breaking down everything involved in searching the web, courthouses and proprietary databases; it’s the most cost-effective route for the client.
What I can tell you is that if you’re price shopping, you’ll always be able to find a lower price. If you’re shopping for results, then you’ve come to the right place! I am licensed, insured, professional, I am active in the state PI association, I hold industry specific certifications and am very experienced at what I do!
So hopefully, this gives prospective clients a little insight on what Investigative services cost and “how much” you can expect to pay. Remember, “one price” does NOT fit all!
By Christopher Donato, CCIP
As a Licensed, New Hampshire Private Investigator, one of the questions I get asked is, “What exactly do you do”? Well, if you’ve ever asked that question, this article is for you.
Private Investigators collect information. We often analyze information to solve cases and uncover facts. Private Investigators often offer protective services, pre-employment screening, and investigate peoples’ backgrounds. Cyber Investigators can investigate identity theft, online harassment and copyright infringement. Legal Investigators can assist attorneys in criminal and civil cases, help prevent insurance fraud missing person cases and child custody disputes. Domestic Investigators are often hired to investigate whether their spouses have committed infidelity.
Private Investigators utilize many different methods and tools. We generally use computers to find information about our subjects, cameras to obtain evidence, audio recorders for statements and GPS devices to help our clients keep track of things they care about. Some days are spent in the office writing reports, making phone calls and performing administrations tasks, and other days are spent in the field conducting surveillance, obtaining statements or visiting courthouses. In some cases, Private Investigators will work “undercover” to monitor people or procedures without being identified.
Some, or most Private Investigators will have certain areas of specialization; for example, surveillance, computer forensics, cyber investigations, fire investigations are some areas of specialization. We often work from vehicles, internet café’s, offices or in some cases, patios in the backyard.
Most importantly, it is paramount that Licensed Private Investigators obtain ongoing education in the laws of the state(s) they work in, areas of specialization and ethics. All evidence that is collected must be obtained legally so it can be admissible in court.
So, there you have it, the Reader’s Digest version of what we do in our profession.
Small businesses face many threats on a daily basis, and sometimes they are not as well equipped to handle these threats as major corporations. This could be due to the lack of resources, or due to a lack of time. Whatever the case may be, it is always important for small businesses to keep themselves aware of how they can lower risk and battle internal threats. The steps outlined below are a great starting point for any small business that wants to lower the risk of internal threats to their company.
1. Conduct Stringent Background Checks
Small businesses put a lot of stock into their employees, especially in the early stages. This is mostly because they want to see them grow, just as much as the company grows. However, one of the most prominent internal threats to small businesses are the employees themselves. Small businesses need to make sure that security is a priority early on in the hiring process because this will help reduce the risk of internal threats down the line.
A stringent background check will take a look at the potential employee's employment history and educational history, as well as other additional factors. The main purpose of this is to see if the candidate that you want to add onto your small business is trustworthy. Outsourcing this work is a great example of how a private investigator can help your small business.
2. Train Your Employees
Proper and effective employee training programs are a good way to lower the risk of internal threats to any small business. This training will help employees know which actions they should avoid and will help them avoid putting the business at risk. This training should cover how they should respond to physical security threats as well as cyber security threats.
For instance, employees should be trained not to allow unauthorized individuals into certain parts of the company. They should also know how to react in emergency situations to that they are not putting themselves or their colleagues at risk. Furthermore, employees should be trained enough to know when not to open suspicious email attachments or anything else that will compromise your cyber security.
3. Limit Employee Privileges
Small businesses shouldn’t feel bad about limiting employee privileges. I know that it sounds like you will be inconveniencing your employees, but that is not always the case. Limiting the privileges of your employees does not mean taking away their lunches or anything outlandish. It simply means that you only give them the data and tools necessary for them to complete their jobs in an efficient manner.
In this day and age, cyber security and physical security overlap in many ways and one of their main commonalities is information. Information is important, and safeguarding it could be the deciding factor in whether or not you keep your small business safe. It is important for small businesses to compartmentalize information and release on a need-to-know basis. The hierarchy of information distribution will obviously change when an employee is promoted, demoted or terminated from the company.
4. Utilize Access Control Systems
Access control systems are the unsung heroes of just about any business. Many small businesses do not like to take advantage of access control systems because they think it sounds like security overkill. However, if the size of your company is on the bigger side of a small business, you should definitely utilize access control systems to mitigate the risk of internal threats.
Access control systems are an additional way of limiting employee privilege and access to certain aspects of the business. However, they have some additional features that small businesses can put to good use. For instance, access control systems allow you to keep track of the parts of the company that every employee has accessed. This simple trait makes it much easier to monitor actions of employees and hold people accountable. It also reduces the risk of any unauthorized action going undetected. Small businesses can request the services of a locksmith to help them better implement commercial security and access protocols. This can be done by installing commercial grade locks or improving the locks and access control systems already in place.
5. Implement Proper Response Protocol
Learning how to properly respond to a perceived threat to your small business will help reduce the risk of internal threats. The ability to identify a threat takes a different set of skills than the ones that are necessary to properly respond to a threat. A small business has to be able to have measures in place that outline how they should respond to any given threat. For instance, if a company gets wind of a potential internal cyber threat, there should be a detailed list of actions that outline how the threat should be handled and dealt with.
The same concept should apply to physical security as well. Internal threats can sometimes stem from the fact that there are no response protocols in place. One common instance is the fact that some small businesses do not have emergency plans in place for when something goes wrong. The lack of these plans places your business and your employees at risk, and this can also be viewed as an internal threat to your small business. Similarly there should be measures in place that detail how crimes like internal theft should be handled. Criminal investigation will demonstrate to all employees your intention to protect your business, and hopefully get to the source of how your company is being threatened.
Most people tend to take security measures for granted, but small business cannot afford to make this same mistake. It is imperative to be mindful of the fact that the way you handle your security and potential threats. This is directly tied to the success of your company and the safety of your business. The steps listed above are a great way to help small businesses reduce the risk of internal threats. However, the most important factor is understanding the role of security. Once that is done, small businesses can focus on everything else it takes to build a great and successful company.
Ralph Goodman is a professional writer and the resident expert on locks and security over at the Lock Blog. The Lock Blog is a great resource to learn about keys, locks and safety. They offer tips, advice and how-to’s for consumers, locksmiths, and security professionals.
By Christopher Donato, Donato Investigative Group
Donato Investigative Group is a New Hampshire, Private Investigation services business. We are a small company, in fact, a one man show! When I market my services to national insurance companies, a lot of times they tell me they refer their business to “national companies”. That’s fine, if in most cases you’re not too concerned about the outcome. You see, those big national companies hire inexperienced, hourly, (generally low paid) employees that don’t necessarily put forth the effort, and cannot apply the experience and skill it takes to give the client what they pay for. Account managers, case managers, supervisors, all people in the chain of command at a big national company; all concerned with one thing: the company’s bottom line, NOT yours!
I pride myself on the fact that I personally handle each and every case myself. I do not assign cases to employees, I don’t even have employees. I ONLY use vendors in situations that require it, generally computer forensics, or cell phone forensics as those are two disciplines that require specific training and education. I conduct all my own marketing, sales, most of the accounting, website development, blogging, I answer the phones, reply to emails, etc. etc. In a nutshell, I understand what it takes to run a business, and most importantly I understand the value of reputation and giving the client what they pay for! I don’t guarantee results, but I guarantee my efforts; and you as the prospective client will get the highest level of effort because my name is on EVERY case!
So, before you hire a “big national” company, think of how many hands your case passes through before it even hits the rooky investigators desk, and how much dialogue gets lost in those hands. Best wishes, and as always, Donato Investigative Group is available toll-free for no-charge consultations.
By: Christopher Donato, Donato Investigative Group
Fluff, Powder, Windrow, Rime; call it whatever you want, it’s S N O W ! ! Yes, this is New England and it falls freely from the sky a good three months out of the year; sometimes more! As a Private Investigator in New Hampshire, I must deal with it and try to use it to my advantage whenever possible. What does that mean? Well, it does present its challenges, for example, it takes up a lot of space on the sides of the road, making stationary surveillance particularly challenging or impossible. Also, you cannot see through the snow, so when it’s piled up so high, what was once a viable vantage point in any other season of the year is now no good. Mobile surveillance is challenging in the snow also, driving is dangerous, and places that were once great spots to make a U turn, are now piled in a foot of snow, so even with a four-wheel drive with ground clearance, you’re leaving tracks in places that you may not want to!
So, what do we do in the snow? Locates, interviews, witness statements, spot-checks, etc. Yes, for all the same reasons it is challenging for us, it’s just the same for everyone else; well at least those that aren’t skiers, snowmobilers, or snow shoer’s. Generally speaking, people like to stay in this time of year which makes catching people in their warm, snow free house for statements and interviews easy. As for the skiers and snowmobilers? Well, you better hope that you’re not out on Workers’ Comp., because you never know who’s watching!
In closing, winter is just another season of the year, and being a New Englander from the Mid-West, I have been dealing with snow all my life, and use it to my advantage in this profession. So, snow? Keep it coming, well, at least until March 21st, then GOOD RIDDANCE!
By Christopher Donato, Donato Investigative Group
As a self-employed, licensed New Hampshire Private Investigator first and foremost, I am a business man. What that means is, I can be the best Investigator, but without practicing and implementing all the different, challenging facets of operating a business, I would have nothing. From website creation and maintenance to working the cases & billing and everything in between, you must have a business person mentality above all.
It’s not just about doing the job that you’re hired to do, it’s everything else that’s involved in operating a successful business while still providing the best possible product to the client; that’s where it can get challenging! I’ve found that structuring your day into time-frames that allow you to complete various tasks to be productive is best practice. Emails in the early morning, followed by any web-based work, phones in the mid-to-late morning, field work in the early afternoon, then client meetings after that work for me. However, not all days are the same so that schedule can change and often does.
In closing, every business owner has their challenges, but I believe we can all agree that above all, it’s not about WHAT we do, but HOW we do it! Clients are the life-blood of my business, but without the behind-the-scene mechanics, I would have no clients!
By Christopher Donato
Over the five years that I’ve been in business as a Licensed, New Hampshire Private Investigator, one thing has occurred to me: never take on a case that I don’t feel I can provide the best possible result for my client. I know what I can and cannot do and I subscribe to the philosophy of over-delivering and under promising. I am a LICENSED PROFESSIONAL INVESTIGATOR.
As such, it means that when you hire me, you’re getting someone that has been vetted by the State of New Hampshire, Department of Safety (State Police) for qualification standards and has the EXPERIENCE to either provide results to a problem you have, or properly refer you to another QUALIFIED professional that can help you. You see, I like to think I’m handy around my house, but if you give me a construction project and give that same project to a qualified professional, well…. I’ll give a MUCH different result and, not necessarily better!
Private Investigators provide a wide array of services. Donato Investigative Group provides, In-depth Background Investigations, Interviews, Locates, Surveillance and Aerial Imagery, and we do it with years of experience to provide the client with the best possible results.
In closing, just because someone has a computer with an internet connection, a camera or can strike up a conversation with strangers in the grocery store line, doesn’t make them capable of doing the tasks required to be a LICENSED PRIVATE INVESTIGATOR. It’s best to let the professionals do what professionals do.
How one service of your PI business can encompass many other skills
by Christopher Donato, Donato Investigative Group
As a Private Investigator in New Hampshire, I often find myself utilizing all the skills I’ve learned over the years no matter what service I’m performing. Although I feel it’s important as a Private Investigator to offer specialties in certain areas, many times I find myself utilizing other skills obtained in order to provide my clients with the best possible work product or result.
For example, as a Judgment Recovery specialist, simply collecting from the debtor through the court system is only the beginning of the process, or should I say the end. Before you can even get a penny from the judgment debtor, you first have to find them! People who know they’re wanted for some reason can make it very difficult to be found; so a Private Investigator must utilize Skip Tracing techniques. Once the individual is found, we must then determine what their ability to pay is. Utilizing the many exclusive databases available only to PI’s we can obtain their financial viability, because you simply cannot get blood from a stone! Sometimes in order to determine specifics on debtors, surveillance may also be necessary.
The same goes for Process Serving. Many people who know they’re going to be served with a summons make it very difficult for the Process Server (as mentioned in a previous article); therefore the Process Server must utilize locating techniques as well as surveillance and sometimes even background checks in order to successfully and safely serve the legal papers.
There are many other specialties in this profession that require using basic skills that every PI must know, repossession, locating missing persons, and interviewing are just a few!
A professional Private Investigator must not lose sight of the fundamental skills they’ve learned over the years just because they specialize in a certain area! In order to provide you client with the best possible product, you must use all the tools in your toolbox.
Why NOT to avoid the Process Server
by Christopher Donato, Donato Investigative Group
It’s a common misconception that by avoiding the Process Server, you are avoiding the associated lawsuit. I am here to tell you, that’s not the case. As a Private Investigator in New Hampshire, one of the many services I offer my attorney clients is Service of Process.
Avoiding the acceptance of legal papers may delay the litigation process some, but eventually the lawsuit will move forward. The best and most common form of Process Service is known as “Personal Service”, that’s when the legal documents are presented in person to the defendant or witness of a case. In situations where personal service is not an option, there is what’s referred to as “Alternative Service”. Alternative Service may include, “Abode Service”, which is when the documents are left at the persons last known address either to a competent adult or by other effective means. Another Alternative Service method is to simply mail the Summons by certified mail to the subject’s house. If either of these two “Alternative Service” methods prove unsuccessful, then lastly, the plaintiff can petition the court to get permission for “Publication Service”; that’s when ads are taken out in local newspapers or circulars. Usually, in order for any Alternative Service to be acceptable, it must be proven that a 3-4 attempts be made for Personal Service.
In short, avoiding the Process Server only prolongs the inevitable litigation and is NOT good practice. Simply owning up to the fact that you are being summonsed to court and required to appear will make your life and everyone involved much simpler. If after you are served you have any questions or concerns about the case, call the attorney’s number included on the documents and move on with your life.
So, You Think You Want To Be a PI?
By Christopher Donato, Donato Investigative Group
As a Private Investigator in New Hampshire, I occasionally get calls from individual’s requesting information on how they can become a “PI”. In New Hampshire, the State Police, Department of Safety is the licensing authority, the requirements as I remember them are experience and/or education, former law enforcement or firefighter; you can find the specific, necessary requirements on the state website.
When asking the caller why they’re interested in this profession, answers range from “uh, I don’t know”, “I’m good searching for stuff on my computer” to, “I know women (men) and I can bust them cheating”. Although the latter two answers can be beneficial, there is A LOT more to it than that. Private Investigation is one of the oldest professions around and Hollywood has made millions if not billions of dollars portraying what they think it’s like to be a PI. The truth is, it’s nothing like that.
As a Licensed Professional Investigator in New Hampshire, working as an agency owner or individual, you are a business person by virtue and an Investigator by profession. What I mean by this is first you must gather qualified leads, establish relationships, sell yourself and your services; then you conduct the work. Once the work has been completed, you must bill the client, collect the payment, maintain the relationships and start the process over again, if not simultaneously. Sales, Marketing, Information Technologies, Sales, Marketing, Bookkeeper, Sales, Video Editor, you get the point, most of what you find yourself doing are business related tasks. As an employee of an agency, or even a licensed individual, you can expect very early mornings, late evenings, long commutes, difficult traffic, irate & inquisitive neighbors, bad weather, working holidays, vehicle breakdowns and some bosses or clients that think you’re a magician.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to deter anyone from pursing their dream, I’m merely saying that if you want to become a Private Investigator, do it for the right reasons and not because you think it’s cool or because you watched a movie and think you can do it better than the Tom Selek; if that’s the case, move to Hollywood and become an actor.
My advice? Learn the state requirements, find out which one best applies to you and work towards getting your license. Join some forums, listen to industry podcast's, read blogs, watch vlogs, read books and join your state PI association in order to network and establish relationships. If you do, I’ll see you in the field or at an industry event!
Christopher Donato is a Licensed, New Hampshire Professional Investigator, Certified Cyber Intelligence Professional and FAA Certified Commercial sUAS Pilot.
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