Can private investigators really find out everything about your past?

You see it all the time in the movies. A company or individual wants information on someone, so they hire a private investigator to root out every secret that the person has ever held. In the movies, the private investigator can find every skeleton in their subject’s closets, but in real life, the steps they must go through in order to discover your secrets are a little more realistic. Exactly what tools can a private investigator use to dig up dirt in this modern age? What security services can you utilize to protect yourself?

Database searches

Most of the time, a private investigator starts with a plethora of database searches because, as it turns out, most information that a snoop will need is available via public record. Court proceedings, bankruptcies, land ownerships, marriage licenses, name changes and more are available to the public for free. In most cases, your private phone number and home address can be found in these databases as long as the private investigator has your full name and your state of residence. 


Once your private investigator knows where to find you, all they need to do is go on a stake-out depending on what they’re tailing you for. If you’ve recently logged a workman’s comp claim for your broken leg and the snoop sees you walking sans limp to your vehicle, it might be all the information he needs. Trained private investigators can use anything from your presence at home to the dewdrops on your car as evidence, so it’s mostly an observational science as opposed to an omniscient view of every secret you’ve ever held.

People you know

You don’t realize it, but the little tidbits of information that you give your friends and family every day can be invaluable to a private investigator that’s on your trail. An investigator can call your grandmother and pretend to be a potential employer that’s just calling for a reference. If they can assume an identity to milk your relative for information, they’ll do it. If your loved ones are getting more and more calls about you, you may be under investigation.

Your personal computer

Your own computer can prove to be a veritable mother lode of information about you. If a private investigator were to gain access to your system either physically or remotely, your search history, visited sites and even your private e-mails are available at their disposal. If you keep any other sensitive documents or pictures saved on your computer, you may be putting your security at further risk.