Private investigators have quite a strange job--they're collecting information for clients that many people would find quite uncomfortable. Whether they're spying on cheating spouses, trying to collect debts, or working for insurance companies, P.I.s try to get to the heart of the truth. What they find isn't always what they expect and can often be quite strange.... These are the weird stories of private investigators' cases that they want to share.
"I was tasked with doing surveillance on a wealthy geologist, who was in a very minor car accident but was collecting $5k+ month from the insurance company in lost wages because she supposedly couldn't work. These cases were my specialty and I almost always got my person using my shady tactics.
In this case, the subject was a 60-year-old Chinese woman. The footage that helps me 'win' these cases, is catching people doing physical labor, like yard work, as proof they are capable of working. I thought this old lady would be hard to bust, but in the first hour she carried huge garbage bags of cans and bottles to the recycle depot, loaded about 20 large phone books into her trunk, took out the trash which looked heavy as heck, then went to a hair salon and was tossing her head all around (she claimed a neck injury) to show the haircut she wanted. One hour of surveillance (some people take months!) and she was done! No shady tactics required. The insurance company should've given a bonus for that one."
"I had a case referred to me by an attorney I worked for involving a woman who was convinced that her condo maintenance man was going into her home while she was gone and moving things around. She had bought the condo from him originally. In other words, it was his former condo.
I met her to discuss the case and she seemed rational, she was an attractive older woman, the guy would obviously be familiar with the condo layout and would have access, and well, I've seen weirder things. So we proceeded. She agreed to let me install a hidden camera setup with a motion detector. She was to call me if anything happened to make her think he'd been there. A couple of days go by and she calls. I go by and get the tape (this was before digital recording) and check it out. There's nothing on it but her. I meet her to tell her this and she says, 'He must have some machine that makes him invisible. He's a space alien, after all.' She had not previously mentioned this vital tidbit of information.
I told her that that level of technology was beyond my ability to deal with and that we should talk it over with her attorney to determine the best course of action going forward. I called the attorney to let him know that our client had some issues, and we were able to get her some psychological help.
But most importantly, her check was good."
"I've been a P.I. for about 3 years - mostly for disability fraud, no cheating wives or anything. Coolest and strangest thing I observed was a low-level criminal (who was supposed to be disabled), who would spend all day going from Walmart to Walmart.
In each Walmart, he would fill the shopping cart full to the brim with energy drinks (Monster I think), walk briskly out the door without paying, throw them in his trunk, and take off like a crazy person.
At the end of the day, he sold a trunk-load of energy drinks to a corner store and I videotaped him walking out with a wad of cash.
Definitely not as exciting as the movies, but it was a fun day for me."
"I'm a private investigator.
I've been one for a long time. I gotta say that most cases I work on are pretty boring. The job is full of mild 'gotcha' moments, but they're a product of long, lonely hours on surveillance just to get a guy shoveling some dirt while collecting injury compensation benefits. A PI's greatest tools in the universe are Google and a telephone. I can call and ask anyone anything under the guise of anything I want. I even call the people I'm investigating sometimes or correspond via email when I need answers or information. It's ridiculous the amount of information people volunteer about themselves after some good-natured banter.
Also, I'm sure most of you know this trick, but you really can go anywhere with a clipboard, high viz vest, and a hard hat.
The BEST case I was part of involved a security guard my firm hired to do night watch on an electronics store. I was part of a small firm that, at the time, provided security guards and private investigators. One night, we get a call from the guard. He'd had the poop kicked out of him and been tied to a chair. He'd escaped and called the cops and the office to report a robbery at the store. Three attackers managed to pry the back door open and subdue the guard and proceed to rob the place of about a $100k worth of stuff. The guard told a compelling story and looked like garbage.
It took the police all of two days to track down the stolen items. The thieves weren't being very careful when it came to offloading the goods. The thieves turned out to be the guard's brother and cousins and it was our guard's brilliant idea for them to come and rob the place and make it look like an armed robbery. What an idiot. We still laugh about it.
It must have been one of those thoughts that sounded brilliant and sophisticated in his own head, only to have the epiphany that it was moronic hit him with same Mack Truck like intensity a little later on.
It was unusual to have such a dumb movie heist plot happen with people I worked with."
"So at my mate's work, there was this guy who I met a couple of times. He was fine, not a guy I particularly liked, but not someone I would go out of my way to avoid.
Anyway, he worked at a car dealership and workshop as a technician. From talking to him, I always got the impression that he was the type who wanted to do as little as possible to get the job done, and would brag about how he took a sick day just to go out on the town for the day (which was a double headshake as he had a three-year-old kid).
One day, he was in the workshop and a part of the ramp that he used swung around and hit his ankle (well, technically it hit his boot). Now, I've been in car workshops many times (I worked parts at a different dealership when I was in my teens and helped my dad with MOT testing when I was young too), and I saw the bruise (not a big bruise, but there was a bruise), so I don't doubt that it hurt. But I've seen technicians hurt themselves way more (literally blood streaming down their arm hurt) who had to be told by the company owner to go get stitches and not come back until they had, and when they really got hurt, they took a few days off, then came back in to help with paperwork and stuff so that the others weren't having to take up all the slack of them being off.
Well, this guy got himself signed off for a month by a doctor because of the damage to his ankle. After a month he came back, supposedly to do the paperwork and stuff like the others do. He did three days then claimed that walking the 30 yards from his car to the office he was in was too hard, even with a walking stick and boot. (Worth noting, I haven't seen him since that first month off, which was over a year ago).
Anyway, he got himself signed off again and decided to sue the company, claiming that the damage meant that he had to wear one of those boots for a broken ankle all the time, couldn't take more than three steps without a cane or crutch, couldn't pick up his daughter or play with her anymore, etc. Well, the owner of the company (along with basically everyone else who knows him) was pretty sure that he was lying about how bad this damage was, so the company owner hired a P.I.
Within a week, the PI had photos of him walking down the street carrying his daughter, filling up his car with petrol, playing football, and most hilariously, there was a day where he was coming in for a mediation meeting with the company (basically, the company owner, the company lawyer, him and his union rep to discuss a settlement). The guy goes in, the union guy was backing him up. This guy says, 'I won't take less than $50k, otherwise, I'm taking you to court.' Remember - this is for a bruised ankle, not broken or anything - bruised.
Well, the PI had already sent the pics and videos right up to when the guy walked in the door to the owner, who had them queued up on a laptop. Turned out that the guy had driven from his home to a road about three streets from the building, got out, got the boot out of the back, put it on, put together a crutch, then carried on to the meeting. All of which was on camera. I guess putting the boot on while in the car was too awkward so he did it with his foot hanging out.
Owner spins the laptop and says, 'Funny, all of these were taken in the last week, and this is a video of you coming here today... you seem fine.'
Well, evidently the union guy was completely in the dark, he thought the guy's injury was real because he went dead silent then just laid into the guy about wasting time, money, and resources people with genuine injuries needed.
So after a year of not working, he had no job, no union membership, no settlement, and no friends left at the place (they were initially supportive, but then they cottoned on that if the company settled, the money the company would end up paying either to this guy or the insurance company would come out of the profits which determined their bonuses and pay rises, they suddenly became a lot less supportive)."
"I don't have my license but I work in a PI office. I'm the only administrative staff member. It's basically me and my Vietnam Vet boss in a Ron Swanson-April Ludgate kind of situation. A story he told me recently comes to mind.
He and his partner were once hired to sweep a house and look for any valuables. They agreed to the case before knowing the full extent of the damage to the home because the lawyers were willing to pay well and our caseload was small at the time.
The home was owned by a man who inherited a large fortune because his father had invested in a little movie that went on to become one of the biggest horror franchises of all time. The son never worked a day in his life. He had a big mansion out in the boonies. No one ever saw him or his wife because they spent all of their time inside.
The home was now empty because he went nuts and murdered his wife and their dog. He was serving life in prison and the family's estate needed the home cleared.
When my boss and his partner got in there they realized how bad it was. For years, this guy and his wife had been shooting up in the house. Every square inch of the mansion was covered in trash. After binging on illicit substances, the two would puke and then just cover the vomit with trash and leave it there. The same went for the dog waste. This went on for years. In addition to the puke and animal poop, there were needles littered through the trash. My boss had to buy hazmat suits to sweep the home and look for valuables. Apparently, there was a ton of diamond and gold jewelry just thrown right in with the filth.
At one point they found a table behind a door that was missed by the forensic crew completely covered in the wife's blood from where he had mutilated the body.
They also found an entire room full of a many thousand dollar kilns and ceramics supplies, all untouched. I guess the guy decided he wanted to become a master potter before quickly abandoning that pursuit to become a murderer.
They could only access the home through one exterior door that wasn't blocked. When they eventually walked around the exterior of the home they found that the guy had purchased himself a shark cage. As in, he decided he wanted to become a shark photographer, and ignoring the fact that he didn't live right on the ocean, BOUGHT a shark cage and stuck it in the yard. Eventually, people started to invade the grounds and steal stuff from the home and one day the shark cage just disappeared.
My boss has other crazy stories from working private security for Paris Hilton, Snoop Dogg, and the Girls Gone Wild guy and we have a few instances of having to serve papers to crazy people. This job is never boring."
"I work for a company that investigates what looks like insurance fraud. Like, someone has some type of accident and are saying that they can't work, etc.
So we had this case where a man was saying his back is terrible. He claims he can hardly walk, can't work at all, and needs constant assistance for everyday life.
We get an investigator to provide footage of them going around their everyday life, pretty normal thing for us to do.
So I pop this DVD in my computer and start to watch, he's walking, bending, twisting. All things that make it look like he isn't injured but then he does one thing that makes his claim fall in the toilet and flush itself down.
He did a backflip. He stood on a bench at a park and flipped off. Needless to say, after we showed him the footage he withdrew his claim."
"We had an office on the ground floor of a building near the county courthouse with a door that opened to the street. This meant we actually got a fair amount of foot traffic. If I had nothing going, I closed the office around 5 pm. Around 4:45 pm, a lady comes in asking all the usual questions. 'Are you REALLY a PI?' 'What cases do you take?' 'How much do you charge?' Yada Yada Yada. I spend 10 minutes going through all that. This lady seems pretty wound up, which is not unusual, people don't come in looking for a PI when everything is great. Often it's because they are having one of the worst experiences of their lives and are desperate for help and haven't gotten it elsewhere.
I ask her to tell me what brought her in today and be as detailed as possible. She tells me that someone stole her ideas and now she's being followed. I'm thinking, 'Great, potential intellectual property case.' I ask her to start from the beginning, what were these ideas? She starts telling me about her last gynecological exam. I immediately stop her and ask her what this has to do with her ideas being stolen. She flips out.
She begins screaming about how the doctor implanted a listening device inside her and that's how they are stealing her ideas. I do my best not to react. She screams, 'You don't believe me either! But I have proof!' She runs out of the office and comes back a minute later with a large envelope. She pulls out x-rays of her pelvic region and shoves them in my face.
'See! Right there, that white spot on my ovary, that's the listening device!' I agree that there is a small white dot, but tell her I'm not a doctor or an expert in listening devices and can't confirm that it is one. In reality, it didn't look like anything to me, I know it wasn't an electronic device of any kind, let allow one that can capture your ideas and transmit them to vans that were following you around now.
She goes on to tell me how the doctor was in on it and they were stealing her ideas and making them into TV shows for Telemundo. This is the part where I tell you this middle-aged, blonde-haired, blue-eyed lady didn't speak a word of Spanish.
I ask her about the vans that were following her. They were different colors and often different drivers. But they were definitely following her around and that's how they were collecting her ideas. I'm looking for a polite way to tell this lady I won't be taking her case, but she won't let up and insists I do something about it. I finally catch a break. I tell her the retainer amount I would need to get started. She responds, 'Well I don't have that kind of money. When we win in court, you can have half the settlement.'
In the state I live in, only lawyers can work on contingency. Meaning their payment is contingent on them winning the case. P.I.s and all people that might work for these lawyers still have to be paid no matter what. I tell the lady this. I thought she was about to explode. I tell her I can't break the law, but if she were to find a lawyer willing to take up her case, I could work for that lawyer as their PI.
She calms down and says thanks for hearing her out. I say no problem. I ask her if there was a family member she could call or a doctor she did trust that she could see. She tells me she's not crazy and storms out. I felt horrible for her, she was obviously living in terror and needed professional help. This was the first time I encountered the seriously mentally ill. In retrospect, I should have called the police and tried to have them intervene, I regret that. I can look back now and cut myself some slack for being young, and caught alone and off guard, but I still wish I would have done more. At the time I just wanted to get her to leave peacefully.
That was the most bizarre thing that ever happened to me during my time as a PI, but there were a couple of close runners-up.
"My law firm had a bad faith insurance case several years ago. A guy had gotten hurt at work. He claimed he was disabled because he hurt his back, and could not lift anything or really engage in any type of physical activity.
His disability insurance carrier failed to handle the claim and pay him what was owed.
There was a potential for relatively large damages. In fact, the carrier filed in the court case what is known as an 'Offer to Confess Judgment.' It's a way of agreeing to let judgment be taken for that amount. The plaintiff can accept the offer or reject it. However, if he rejects the offer, he is responsible for the defendant's attorney's' fees if the verdict ends up being less than the amount of the Offer to Confess Judgment.
The offer, in this case, was $750,000.
He rejected the offer.
A few weeks later our PI found out that the plaintiff bowled every week. The PI got video of the plaintiff bowling and copies of his score sheets going several years back through the date of the accident. It was clear he really was not disabled.
He also found that plaintiff had been in a car wreck and was making identical injury claims to the other driver's insurance carrier.
We filed a motion with the court to dismiss the lawsuit based on fraud and perjury. The court set the motion for a hearing, but before that happened the plaintiff dismissed his lawsuit."
"I'm a single mom of two toddler boys. Their dad moved out of town forcing me to put them in daycare, which I tried to avoid at all costs. Since I am a single mom, I qualified for a program that pays for the care. It's a county program. I was to find the daycare, put them in contact with the program, the program's provider services are then to do background and licensing checks, etc, before they approve the care.
Two months into using this daycare service, I pick up my boys after work and my one-year-old has clear handprints and bruises on both sides of his face, bruised ears, a lump on the back of his head, and a cut. One of the careworkers kept telling me that he ran into a sliding glass door! I took him straight to the ER, called social services, and the police. The next day, I took him to his doctor and the abuse center for evaluations. Their official diagnosis was that he was 'repeatedly slapped and choked by an adult.' Days passed with no call from the police, no calls from CPS, and nothing from licensing. So I start to call around myself. CPS dropped the case as it did not happen at home and licensing was never forwarded the report. The police told me it would be a while before someone gets to my case.
So I did my own due diligence for my son. I filed the report myself with licensing and when they asked for her name, I gave it to them, but they had no one by that name in their system. I gave them the address of the daycare, which was not in their system. I was beyond confused as I KNOW she is a licensed daycare facility because she was approved for use by the county. I called the county program and cut off the care and said while I was at it, could they provide me with the license number they have on file for her as well as the address she provided them with. They gave me the license and a different address than the one I have been taking my son to. I call back Licensing and they put in the license number and it is not registered to her, but to her sister. Someone I have never met before.
The address they had on file for that license is the same address she provided to the county program. This was illegal and amounted to fraud. I asked them how I can get copies of records on this license number and it turns out there is a website that will provide all the information in the last four years attached to the license. So I started digging. She was on the license at one point, before being removed in October of 2017. She had three cases of abuse that were all dropped, and was finally removed last October when a baby died in her care! I called the police and they still tell me to wait! I was furious as to how this could all be missed. I continued to dig and do an online search of the license number. Multiple ads pop up. There are at least three daycares and three different addresses using this one license number (license for family daycares are for one address and persons named on license only). They're all sisters.
So after three days, I take to Facebook and post the photos and my rant and they go viral. The police station called me the next morning! Different detective -- different station. The people made such a fuss and called so many times that they found someone to handle the case immediately. I handed them everything I found and said, 'This should save you some work.' During the investigation, they ended up finding things that got the FBI involved. They surveilled her house and saw things that led to a raid. They found lots of weapons and illegal substances and arrested her husband and seized their cars and phones and intercepted all mail.
All of this while she was still running her daycare and being fined a few hundred every day she stayed opened. She didn't have a care in the world. They arrested her yesterday for three felonies! While fighting this, we have been able to reopen other cases dropped and get justice for two other babies as well! Her bail is set for $200,000 but her husband's was much higher and she bailed him out instantly. Guess you can afford it when you run an illegal business and a daycare at once!"