Have you ever felt like you were being watched? Like a member of the "Big Brother" house? By the looks of it, the idea isn't so far-fetched. The following stories prove that you may be being followed by a private investigator and 'you ain't even know it.'
(Content has been edited for clarity.)
"I tried running away from my problems when I was 17 and moved to a different country without telling anybody (nobody whatsoever). I got a job and started a new life. When I found out, I realized the private investigator knew everything, all my previous addresses in the country, all of my job history, partners, pretty much everything about my entire 'new' life.
I would not recommend anyone do this - my family were heartbroken that I'd just disappeared. It took a long time to repair the damage."
"I hired a private investigator to see if a man was real.
My dad, we will call him Henry, died when I was 15-years-old. This was devastating, mainly because my mom and I never really got along. I moved out as soon as I was 18. I asked for all of my important documents, including my birth certificate, but she never agreed to give those to me. So I took it upon myself to request a birth certificate from the state. I got it, and under the father's information, there was a name 'Michael.' When I confronted my mom about it, she said that she made up some man's information.
So I hired a private investigator to see if Michael was real. In the end, he was not."
"My ex-hired a P.I. against me to find any and everything he could to try and twist it around and make it look like I was an unfit mother. He was trying to win a custody battle. The investigator sat outside of my house, taking pictures and videos. He followed me in public and took videos and pictures there too. He gleaned anything he could from social media. My friend tagged me in a post that said something like, 'Drinking Friends, ASSEMBLE!' and that was presented as evidence that I was a heavy drinker. I am the designated driver more often than anyone!
We ended up settling before the trial came, so thankfully this folder of photos of me attending a street dance, GASP dancing, and printouts of any references to any drinks made on Facebook did not get presented in open court for me to defend. Unfortunately, he does present this 'book of shame' to parent mediators, counselors, and anyone else he thinks should believe that I'm an alcoholic jerk. This left me with lingering paranoia and distrust. I have had to leave public venues for fear that I'm being watched. Nothing has damaged me more than this."
"I had a private investigator hired against me, and they found out everything. Tattoos that aren't visible, the address I lived at in a different country, medical records from an accident that happened six years prior; so many random things that aren't publicly available.
I'm a bartender. When I was buying my house the loan I was applying for switched midway through and I needed money to pay my bank account. One of my well-off regulars loaned it to me, complete with a contract and a payback date. He drafted two, crumpled one up and tossed it. His wife found it and hired one against me. She confronted him about it. I'll spare you the details of the argument, but he told me the next day and was listing off all the facts she told him about me. None of which he previously knew. He had no idea I was 23 at the time, so there's no way he knew the rest of what he was telling me.
It never actually was said that she thought he was cheating. Her reasoning as to why was why would he loan money to a 23-year-old bartender. I asked him why he didn't tell her in the first place and his response was it was his money, and it was not her place to stop him from trying to help out someone. It was a loan and not a handout, so he didn't feel like he needed to discuss it with her.
They had a weird marriage. He never really spoke ill of her but did things to upset her. For instance, if he bought an airplane and it pissed her off, so he bought another one (true story).
From what I took of their relationship, the problems they had were because he had a social life outside of her and she refused to go out and make friends of her own. She stayed at home bored all day and resented every effort he made to encourage her to take up a hobby.
So I doubt she was concerned about him cheating on her, but I never had a conversation with her, so my opinion on that is biased, as is my opinion on their relationship.
I think she was more concerned about protecting his money, and making sure he wasn't disillusioned by some young girl trying to sugar daddy him up.
I didn't find out about it until after the loan was paid back (four weeks after the initial contract was tossed in the trash). So I have no idea when she found it and when the guy stopped following and investigating me.
Finding out about It did creep me out though. I went through like two weeks before I found out feeling like I had someone following me and I even mentioned it to my regular. What's worse is knowing whoever it probably came in and sat at my bar and had a conversation with me. I am an open book and will answer most questions thrown at me but never about my tattoos if I don't know you. So that one shook me the most."
"I have never hired a private investigator, but a friend of mine's dad was a process server and private investigator, and I helped him from time to time like Veronica Mars. The most common clients are trying to catch their spouses cheating or trying to find someone committing worker's compensation fraud.
Those that are trying to catch their spouses cheating fall into two categories. Those that already know their spouse is cheating (that want definitive proof for themselves or for a divorce) or people who are overly paranoid and have the disposable income to drop a few grand, often multiple times a year.
The first ones are not very hard to catch. Unless the affair started at work or was someone they already knew, they likely met their partner on some website. You would be amazed at what a reverse image search can pull up. A little social engineering/trickery and you can friend them on facebook and see all the pictures they post. Run it through a google RIS (radiological information system), and you can find just about any screen name they currently use. Then run that through OK Cupid, Fetlife, AFF, etc. and you've got yourself a great start.
Before things like google RIS or if RIS didn't turn anything up, I would manually search the websites to try and find them. If you know the city they live in, their birthday/age, if they have pets, and have pictures to compare you can find a lot of profiles of spouses trying to cheat.
My friend's dad didn't let me do much surveillance, so I mostly searched for things online, but I did spend some time sitting in parking lots, or in restaurants waiting for the person to leave. I would text him when they did, and he would do the actual following. This worked because nobody thought two 18-year-old guys sitting in front of target smoking and listening to 90's alternative rock would be tailing them. People who commit affairs don't worry once they leave their neighborhood.
The people that were paranoid were repeat customers. They would want to know about every person their spouse conversed. If a wife had a business lunch the husband would be sure she was cheating on him. If a husband had to work late, the wife was sure he was meeting his mistress. They almost never amount to anything, and often we would find evidence that the client was the one engaging in an affair. Still, they were the client, and it was an easy way to make regular cash, so we never let either party know the client had a side piece.
The worker's comp/insurance fraud ones could sometimes be heartbreaking. Say a dude hurts his back and can't lift more than five pounds. They would want pictures of him picking up a gallon of milk at the grocery store as it's over five pounds. Or a grandmother putting a grandchild in a car seat. You follow them around enough and you will catch everyone doing something a doctor doesn't want them to do. Half the time you would see the pain on their face as they lifted a gallon of milk or a bag of potatoes, but that doesn't appear in a picture. I hated helping out with these types of cases.
There were some fantastic stories. One woman, we were hired to investigate was married to a guy that made a decent living. He wasn't rich, but he likely made around $250,000 a year. He started to suspect his wife was cheating on him, so we tailed her for the weekend. Didn't take long to discover she was selling herself on craigslist. While my friend's dad caught over 13 men come in and out of her motel room that weekend, I found her ads online.
We caught a lot of guys hitting adult shop glory holes or adult theaters for a little man-on-man action.
There are some strange fetishes out there. There was a couple that would hire us once a year to catch the wife getting trained at a sleazy motel and the curtains open. The guy tried to play it off like he was trying to catch her. 'I found a motel key that said room 109. I leave for work at 8 a.m., and my neighbor says she usually leaves at 9 a.m. every Tuesday. We even caught him in the corner touching his wife getting intimate with others in a few of the pictures. If a dude wants to pay us a grand to take photos of his wife we'll play cameraman. It's easy money, and the risk that an altercation happens is almost nothing.
Honestly, I miss it. My friend's dad didn't pay us much, but there was a rush to it. Most of the time it was boring as but there was always a rush. It's where I discovered my fetish for exhibitionism and voyeurism. You still feel dirty though. A couple of years back I was investigating something on adult friend finder and found pictures of a close friend from high school that I liked. Her husband had uploaded photos of her, including her face, to try and meet women. A lot of guys will do this, use pictures of their wives to try and set up a threesome, and then tell the other girl the wife wants him to meet with her first. My friend had no idea they were on there. Some of them were very graphic. It killed her marriage and her friendship with me. I didn't care about what she and her husband did in the privacy of their own home, it was nothing I hadn't done with girlfriends, but she couldn't look me in the eye after it. We hadn't been close after high school, but it killed any future friendship, which makes me sad. When I did tell her, she admitted that he had cheated on her in the past, before they were married, and that he gave her herpes. I have no idea why someone would go back to a relationship knowing the partner gave them an incurable transmitted disease because of infidelity."
"My mom's biological father was cut out of her life when she was 3 or 4 years old. She never knew him, and my grandmother tried to keep his existence limited after she married the man who I consider my grandfather. My mother knew basic information about him but no history about his life, medical history, how he looked, etc.
After my grandfather passed away, my mom began looking into it more and hired a P.I. Ultimately, after sending many emails to random people with little luck, she was able to get in contact with his first cousins. She discovered that both her biological father and his brother (whose children she found) had died, but her aunt and one of her sons lived one county away.
I ended up going with my mother to meet her cousins (both cousins were in town as well as their mother). It was weird. She has features that didn't come from my grandmother present with her cousins. It was a funny experience to meet them and talk about their uncle (mom's father). Apparently, her father was a jerk and ended up dying alone. The cousins weren't close to their father either. I think my mom still gets emails from them every so often to be kept in the loop with some family happenings."
"My aunt planned to hire a P.I. to find her daughter but died before she could.
Her ex-husband absconded with their daughter years ago. The kid was no older than 3 years old.
My aunt wanted to find her daughter and raise her. But never really had the money and her ex kept moving around and never stayed in one place very long.
After my aunt died, my mom received a call from my aunt's daughter.
It turns out her dad had dumped her on his grandmother like a week after he took her, and then kept running just to spite my aunt.
My mom never told me what happened."
"My dad took us in an abandoned building when we were younger. My mom was in the act of getting a divorce from him, so when she found out (months and months later after a tree fell through the place), she hired a private investigator to show the danger.
Well, white collar 'follows cheaters in malls' boy immediately walked in and fell through the floor into a basement with two feet of water because a tree fell through the place. He broke his leg and had to be helped out by a substance dealer who was laughing at him. My mother had to pay his hospital bills though."
"I didn't exactly hire one, but I had a P.I. come to my assistance free of charge.
A while back, I sold a motorcycle to a person who paid for it by check (I was young and naïve). So I told them to come pick it up with the title once the check cleared. A few days later it cleared, and I signed over the title, and he rode off. About three days later my bank said 'laugh out loud,' and the check bounced. I posted my situation on a local motorcycle forum. A forum member was a P.I. and took on 'my case' free of charge to serve up some justice. He got some basic information on the seller from me and used a family connection to the police to find the location of the bike.
A few days later, I get spy camera photos of the bike in a garage. The P.I. met up with me and we got in touch with the police to act as an intermediary so we wouldn't get hurt. We met up with the police outside of the house and confronted the 'buyer' and his psycho wife. Eventually, the cops told him to give me the bike back and told to get a new title for the bike (the buyer never processed the change of ownership) otherwise, they were going to arrest him. The psycho wife goes off, but the buyer relents.
The lesson learned in all of this cash is king when selling stuff on craigslist.
A couple of weeks later a random person contacted me saying that she found my forum post online. The same couple used check fraud against a few boutique baby stores (the lady that contacted me was one of those store owners). I guess people don't learn."
"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 engage in any 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 attorneys' 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 private investigator found out that the plaintiff bowled every week. The P.I. 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 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 upon fraud and perjury. The court set the motion for a hearing, but before that happened the plaintiff dismissed his suit."
"Someone I worked with was retiring and was going to spend her days being a P.I. which was pretty cool, I thought, and I asked her if she could help me with something that had bothered me since I was 12-years-old.
My father, who was living across the country at the time, flew to see me and my brother just for a day. I would find out years and years later that the reason he did that was that he had cancer, and wasn't sure if he was going to die or not - my dad doesn't talk much about anything. He's the weirdest guy, like ever. Which brings me to the conversation we had that day.
He told us that before he met our mom, he had knocked up this girl he worked with, and she kept the baby. He had no relationship with her at all or her mother. He claims he wanted to, but she didn't want anything to with him..although, knowing my dad, I'm pretty sure that's all b.s. I bet he just bailed. He said he just wanted us to know that we had a half sister and then he just like left. Like I mentioned before, weird guy.
So it was always in the back of my mind that I had a half-sister out there somewhere, and I was always curious about her, but my dad never brought it up again the few times a year he bothered talking to me at all. So I didn't know how I could find her. I tried searching the internet a few times...facebook and things like that but wasn't sure of what I saw.
Fast forward to when my coworker told me she was going be a P.I. It finally hit me! I told her the story. Asked her what she would need to figure out who she was, and she said just my dad's name and date of birth, and she might be able to come up with something. Not even two weeks later, my amateur P.I. buddy messaged me on Facebook and sent me to the woman she believes was my half-sister. I remember it because at the time I was out at a bar with my step-sister, and when we saw the photo we both looked at each other and were like 'that's gotta be her!' We just had a strong feeling. So from the time that my dad told me about her, to the time the P.I. had found her (about 14 years) I'd moved back to where I was born. From what I could see on Facebook my half-sister lived within 30 minutes, had just given birth, had a husband, and just overall seemed happy and calm.
So, I decided to reach out to her. I sent her a message on Facebook explaining who I was and I had no idea if she knew about me or not. I told her I didn't want anything and that I just wanted her to know, that I knew, that we probably had the same dad and then I waited. Wondering if I should be upset about something that I never had in the first place.
It took her almost a year to respond. The message went to some folder, and she never saw it, but then she did! She confirmed that she was my half sister! We exchanged a few messages back and forth before finally meeting for lunch one day. It was a little awkward at first, but we were both a little awkward. And that's what was so crazy to me. The uncanny similarities we had with each other. The whole thing has been surreal.
Since then we've met up for lunch a few different times, and went to a concert together. I've never told my dad that I have a relationship with her. I told my half-sister that if she wanted me to tell him anything, which I would or at least put them in contact with one another. But other than that, I don't see why I would. And he missed out big time because she's incredible. I wish I saw more of her."