Private investigators use a range of techniques to get you the answers you need.
It is very much the case that in today’s world, the digital trail has replaced the paper trail. This means that many of the clues or evidence we need for investigative work can be found online. Various apps used on our phones, tablets and computers are no exception.
Here’s an overview of some of the apps a private investigator may use to gather evidence.
If you’re ready to explore how our UK investigators can help you, call 0330 223 2933 to speak to a member of our team.
Social Media Apps (All Of Them)
Social media apps such as Facebook, Twitter (X), Instagram and WhatsApp can provide a goldmine of information, from revealing basic details such as birthdays and family members all the way through to time-specific check-ins that provide real-time location data.
Whilst they’re not a substitute for in-person observation or checking official records, social media apps leave endless clues for any private investigation. That’s because the way we communicate is increasingly online, making it difficult to hide evidence, even when someone may think they are being covert about their actions.
Many apps can give information about messages shared between different people, including when these interactions took place. As private investigators, we can look beyond the obvious details to pick out hidden information. For instance, tagged locations, check-ins, likes, and even metadata contained within images. Depending on the investigation we are carrying out, these types of clues can give us definite answers, or at the very least further information to reach the next stage of our enquiries.
For example, a common scenario within injury/insurance fraud is when personal injury claimants are caught on Facebook engaging in highly energetic sports activities. This is despite the individual claiming to have suffered severe injuries that limit their ability to carry out everyday tasks.
The devil is in the detail, so the more specific you can be as a private investigator, the less likely you are to run into problems. You can type an address or a postcode into any smartphone and within a matter of seconds view a high-resolution satellite image of the location, but how accurate can a postcode be? What3Words allows you to share a unique reference (three words) that can pinpoint any 3-metre by 3-metre area, anywhere on the planet.
This is particularly useful when working in rural areas that often lack door numbers and where a single postcode can cover vast areas of land. Describing where a covert camera needs to be installed or where it is possible to obtain a line of sight can be easily communicated with a What3Words location.
The days of analogue radios are all but a thing of the past. With today’s network radios, a surveillance team can communicate with each other using encrypted communications anywhere on Earth. Traditional radios relied on UHF (ultra-high frequency) and VHF (very high frequency) signals, so there was a limitation on how far a transmission could be picked up by another radio. Network radios, on the other hand, have no limit on distance, as the transmission is essentially a phone call through a channel that remains open instead of requiring the receiver to ‘pick-up’.
In addition to distance limitations, there was also a concern that analogue transmissions could be intercepted, and even when encrypted it was often possible for scanners to pick up a scrambled transmission. This would still provide the listener with an indication that people were transmitting using radios nearby.
Zello is an app that allows Apple and Android users to communicate with other radio users over the data network. This alleviates the limitations of distance and also adds an increased level of security, as the transmissions are much more difficult to identify or intercept.
Clients often hire a private investigator because communication has broken down between them and the subject, or the subject is being dishonest with them. It is for this reason that the information the client provides and the situation the private investigators find can be vastly different.
When starting an investigation, it is essential to be prepared. For example, knowing which vehicle a subject is going to use can provide a surveillance team with valuable information about which way they are likely to travel or where they need to position themselves to gain a good view. If an investigator is unsure which vehicle a subject is using, they may be able to eliminate some by performing basic checks to check if a vehicle is taxed, MOTd and insured.
In addition to these basic checks, it can also be very helpful to confirm partial registration plates. It’s imperative that the evidence we provide is as strong as possible and verifying a registration plate can strengthen evidence. When the view of a vehicle is limited, it is easy to confuse letters or only record a part of the registration. By putting the potential details into Vehicle Smart, an investigator can confirm that the make, model and colour are consistent with the details the DVLA holds for the vehicle.
Finally, it can be helpful to establish whether a vehicle is due to go to a garage for an MOT inspection before deploying technical monitoring equipment.
Reveal PI – Hire A UK Private Investigator
It’s not possible to reveal all of our secrets in a blog, since the work of a private investigator is incredibly thorough and complex.
But what is important is that if you need answers to a personal or corporate investigation, private investigators may be able to help you. This is especially the case when any apps or other methods you’ve used so far have failed to get you the evidence you need.