Private Detectives: Hired for the silly and serious cases. It's not like the movies, but their profession should never be underestimated. While there are long hours, and a lot of sitting, the end goal is always achieved for the client no matter how silly it might be.
This story tells the most interesting and weirdest cases private detectives have dealt with, and how they gathered the necessary details to uncover the goal. The cases range from insurance fraud to Walmart theft.
Also shares how common folks took on the role of a PI to help them get the information they needed.
Something Is Not What It Seems
“I’m a PI.
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 been beaten up, tied to a chair, escaped, and called the cops and the office to report a robbery at the store. We had not really seen anything like this before. 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 electronics. The guard told a compelling story and looked awful, so we believed it, but something did seem a little off.
It took the police all of two days to track down the stolen goods. The thieves weren’t being very careful when it came to offloading the product. Clearly, they were first timers, and didn’t know how to cover their tracks. The thieves turned out to be the guard’s brother and cousins and it was our guards brilliant idea for them to come and rob the place and make it look like an armed robbery. Pretty creative, but what an idiot. We still laugh about it.”
My Neighbor Knocks Over My Trashcans
“Guy calls me to help catch his neighbor who is knocking over his trash cans at night. We set up a small night vision camera to catch the guy. Watch the video the next day – it is the wind. The client freaks out, says that his neighbor could have had an invisibility field or could have been moving too fast (like the Flash) to show up on camera. Wants to pay us thousands of dollars to rent a heat-seeking camera or one that can shoot thousands of frames per second… Turns out lots of crazy people call PIs to investigate the TV controlling them, alien abduction, etc.”
“Then He Does One Thing That Makes His Claim Fall In The Toilet And Flush Itself Down”
“I work for a company that investigates cases of possible insurance fraud. Basically someone has some type of accident and are saying that they can’t work, need compensation, etc – that is where we come in and investigate what is true and what is not.
So we have this case where a man is saying his back is terrible. He is saying that he can hardly walk, can’t work at all, needs constant assistance for everyday life, stuff like that. We send an investigator to secretly tape them and provide footage of them going around their everyday life to see if the claims are true, pretty normal thing for us to do. Basically we want to make sure that we are getting all our facts straight and have a solid case to present.
A few days later the investigator comes back with footage of our guy in his everyday life to help us prove our case. I pop this DVD in my computer and can’t believe my eyes. This guy is walking, bending, twisting around, 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.
This type of footage helps to make my job easier and needless to say after we showed him the footage he withdrew his claim.”
His Gut Told Him Something Was Wrong, Very Wrong
“Took a job in California following this guy that had been creeping around this lady’s house. Followed him and ended up in a warehouse right outside LA where he met a group of men.
I decided to follow them as they left in a van and end up going on an adventure that ended in Utah. Most people would’ve stopped well before that, but it was billable time and my gut told me something weird was going on.
It was early morning the next day and I end up having to break off following them as they pulled off the highway and into the hills and there was no way to follow right away.
As soon as the sun was up I followed the trail their van had left for about thirty minutes and ended up at cement shack in the middle of nowhere.
I hid my car around a bend and took my camera to take photos of the outside of the building.
I stayed for most of the day before anything happened but finally the first guy and his companions come stumbling out, dragging a rope as the group headed to the van.
Then the first kid comes dragged out. Hands bound to the rope. The rope continues as ten kids are eventually hurried out in a chain gang and thrown into the van.
I wasn’t shocked but I was disgusted and the entire time I was snapping photos with my Nikon trying to get clear photos of not just the men but the children. I waited until they left then drove as fast as I could to the sheriff’s and presented my findings. The group was found and eventually led to the apprehension of some very prominent people in the world of human trafficking.
I always think it’s strange how one seemingly odd stalker’s mistake managed to bring down an entire ring of traffickers.
I ended up eating most of my expenses, but I consider it one of my life’s achievements so it balances out”
The Walmart Thief
“I’ve been a P.I. for about 3 years – mostly for disability fraud, no cheating wives or anything. Coolest/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. At the end of the day he sold a trunk-load of energy drinks to a corner store and I video taped him walking out with a wad of cash. Definitely not as exciting as the movies, but it was a fun day for me.”
Things Went Too Far
“It was one of my last cases that I worked on. It was for a child custody/paternity case. This case was the one that made me rethink what I was doing and I got very disturbed by what I was asked to do. This is the case that made me stop being a PI.
Our client was denying that the child in question was actually his and was fighting the child support case. He believed that the mother of the child was a serial adulterer. So much so that he spent THOUSANDS on the case for us to make sure there was evidence to support his claim.
The icing on the cake was when my case manager told me that the client wanted video evidence that the child did not look like him. The client told us that we had to record the child at play.
So here I am, beside a playground, in a completely limo tinted car, videotaping a 9 year old. I couldn’t have felt worse about my life choices. To this day I have never felt like such a creep before. I hated that case and the case manager.
Two weeks later I handed in my resignation.”
When Your Own Parents Hire A PI
“A roommate I had in college was a strange guy. This guy came from the other side of the country. He went out at all hours of the night, never showed up for class, slept during the day, and drank more energy drinks than is healthy. His parents were worried about him, apparently, and hired a PI to trail him.
Now, living in a college dorm in a part of campus where only freshman live makes an adult who isn’t janitorial staff stick out like a sore thumb. So, I picked up fairly quickly that this guy was hanging around the dorms. Thought he was just cruising for some freshman, and didn’t bother him.
A few weeks later, I was walking back from the dining hall, and he approached me (it was a public place) asking if we could talk somewhere private. I was weirded out and told him we could talk right here.
He told me he was a PI hired by my roommates parents to trail him because his parents were concerned, and he wanted to ask me about my roommate’s dorm habits. We then went to the coffee shop to talk about my roommate.
My roommate apparently liked to go walk on the beach at night for stupid amounts of time, hang out at Steak and Shake playing games on his phone and Nintendo DS for hours on end, and cruise thrift shops for some reason. I told the guy that the dude just slept and didn’t even have any personal effects in the room besides his clothes.
The PI and I both realized that this kid pretty much had no direction or motivation in life, and his parents usually pushed him to do everything. He said that this kid’s behavior was the most bizarre pattern of activity he’s pretty much ever seen.
To explain the kid’s actions, college was the first alone time he’s ever had, and he was savoring it doing whatever he wanted. I ended up feeling for the guy and reached out to him. He changed majors from engineering to a psychology degree because he wanted to learn how the mind worked, and he suddenly became super-interested in college. Ended up being a cool guy once he realized he was not in his parent’s grasp anymore.”
Mom By Day, PI By Night
“Not a PI but want to be after this: I’m a single mom of two toddler boys. I put my kids into a county daycare program. The program’s provider services are then to do background and licensing checks, etc, before they approve the care. 2 months into using this daycare service, I pick up my boys after work and my 1 year old has clear handprints and bruises on both sides of his face, bruised ears, lump on the back of his head and a cut. The women working at the daycare kept telling me that he ran into a sliding glass door, but the injuries did not look consistent with that story. I took him straight to the ER, called social services and the police. At this point I was wondering where I was sending my children, and what kind of daycare this really was. The doctor’s official diagnosis was that he was ‘repeatedly slapped and choked by an adult’. Days pass with no call from the police, no calls from child protective services, and nothing from the daycare licensing office. So I wanted to take matters into my own hands and I started 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 do my own due diligence for my son.
I file the report myself with licensing and when they asked for her name I give it to them, but they have no one by that name in their system. I give them the address of the daycare, but that was also not in their system. I’m beyond confused as I KNOW this is a licensed daycare facility because it was approved for use by the county. I call the county program, also during this time I cut off the care for my boys and said while I am at it, could they provide me with the license number they have on file for the woman who ran it as well as the address she provided them with. They give me the license and a different address than the woman 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 have on file for that license is the same address she provided to the county program. This is illegal and fraud. I ask them how I can get copies of records on this license number and it turns out there is a website that will provide all information in the last 4 years attached to the license. So I start digging. She was on the license at one point, before being removed in OCT 2017. She had 3 cases of abuse that were all dropped. I continue 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. Turns out it’s all her 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! 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 surveillanced her house and saw things that led to a raid. They found lots of illegal substances and unlicensed weapons and arrested her husband, and seized their cars and phones and intercepted all mail. All of this while she is still running her daycare and being fined a few hundred every day she is opened. She didn’t have a care in the world and she was acting like nothing was wrong.
Later on, they arrested her for 3 felonies! With fighting this we have been able to reopen other cases that have been dropped, and get justice for 2 other babies as well! Her bail is set for $200,000. Once I took matters into my own hands I got the answers that I wanted and needed.”
The Crazy Ex-Wife
“I was a PI for quite a few years. Had a client blow almost $35k on surveillance on her ex-husband. There was no point to it at all. They were long divorced, he had a girlfriend, the kids were grown. No more financial ties or anything. She just wanted to know what he was doing. Not gonna turn down the work, but geez it was a waste of time. At least working for insurance companies there was a sense of gratification when you caught someone scamming the system.”
“I Don’t Doubt That It Hurt”
“So at my mate’s work, he worked at a car dealership/workshop, there was this one guy in the 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.
Anyway, 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 is boot). 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.
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 3 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) were pretty sure that he was lying about how bad this damage was, so the company owner hired a PI.
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 3 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.
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, resources that people with genuine injuries needed.
So after a year of not working, he had no job, no union membership, no settlement.”
“After I got out of the Navy, I worked for one of the top PI firms in Houston. Because of my electronics background, I’d usually go along on the jobs where we were checking for bugs and hidden surveillance devices.
We got a call from a client who was sure that his office was bugged because his client knew everything that he was doing before he did it. His office was a mobile trailer that was on his client’s site. He was a subcontractor for a big oilfield construction company.
We did a full electronic sweep and found nothing (this was back in the early nineties, didn’t have to worry about burst transmissions, etc.) No devices implanted in his phones. He insisted on a full physical sweep of the trailer, inside and out. So we crawled under the trailer and got a ladder and inspected the roof. Still nothing.
We’re getting ready to leave and he says: “Look, I’m not crazy. Pick up the phone, press 9 to get an outside line, and you’ll start hearing all sorts or clicky sounds.” Turns our his office phones were routed through the corporate PBX of his client. They didn’t have to bug his office, they could just pick up an extension inside the main building and listen in to whatever they wanted. We weren’t even sure if it was illegal. We advised him to install a private phone line that he paid for if he wanted private conversations. We ended up billing him like two grand for that visit.”
Inside Strategies On Tracking People Down
“I I worked as a Skip Tracer for a credit card bank back in the early 2000s.
I was a bill collector, basically, but because of my ability to track people down who had ‘skipped out’ on their debts, I was put on a task force to go after accounts that exclusively had zero contact information.
My favorite one was when I tracked down a guy in the middle of South America doing his religious mission. He had access to a phone literally one hour of one day a week. My job was to call around and get information on how to reach him — as long as I didn’t break FDCPA, the bank let me do my thing.
When I got the guy on the phone he was flabbergasted that I was able to track him down and he wanted to know how, so I told him. I don’t lie, but I always lived in that area between vague and specific.
I called his mom, who told me about the mission he was on. Then, when I called again, instead of asking which church he was through, I had instead found a local church and said, ‘Oh, he went down there through [SUCH AND SUCH] church, right?’
Oh no, not that one. It was [OTHER CHURCH]. ‘OH OF COURSE! [OTHER CHURCH]! That was with pastor Smith! No? Oh, Pastor Davis!’
Then, called [OTHER CHURCH] and asked for Pastor Davis. Explained that I had just talked to his mom and she suggested I talk to him in order to get a phone number. Pastor Davis supplied me with the phone number and the day and hour that the debtor would be there.
It took me a couple of tries, but I eventually got him on the phone. He gave me permission to talk to his parents regarding the debt, I called them, explained what was up, and they worked out a payment arrangement.
I think he owed around $10k to the bank, which was on the low-end of accounts that I worked.
I was good at what I did, man. We’d toe the line when it came to breaking the law, but we got results. This was before the social media explosion, too. I can’t imagine how much easier it is now that everybody volunteers this kind of information.”
It Doesn’t Take A PI To Figure Out What Is Going On
“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, 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.”
He Was Just For The Boys
“My friend hired a PI to keep an eye on her husband as she suspected he was cheating on her. She claimed he was going on vacations and spending a lot of time out of the house. The husband had a trip planned to somewhere in the Caribbean with several buddies, or so he said, and my friend authorized the trip for the PI so he could go keep an eye on him and possibly gather more useful information. After a little casual watching, not like in the movies where PIs ‘hide in the bushes’ to watch the husband in the act, the PI realized the husband was not cheating. He realized that he really does spend a lot of time with his friends, and that vacation was really a vacation for the boys, no cheating involved. Next, the PI did what most wouldn’t…he befriended the guys and hung-out with them for the rest of the trip.”